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The Friday Speed Read
Every week The Friday Speed Read holds a ballot in which the week’s biggest stories compete for your votes by making a series of outlandish claims about their importance and what they’ll do to save the NHS. Repetition of this process has not dulled its capacity for annoyance.
What’s the cure for Election Fever? Two paracetamol? A bath in a vat of ice-cold liquid apathy? A slow dance cheek-to-cheek with Priti Patel to a soundtrack of pre-Joshua Tree era U2? Yep, that last one should have your election enthusiasm waning quicker than the arctic permafrost. But no, to quote Diana Ross and her obscure song (that we’ve only found thanks to Google) Love Hangover, “Ah, if there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it, DON’T WANT IT; if there’s a remedy, I’ll run from it, from it” (sing along!) because who WOULDN’T want a General Election in the second of week of December?
So grasp onto your polling cards in white-knuckled anticipation as we present The Friday Speed Read Roundup of Election News You’ll Have Already Forgotten About – sponsored by Gaviscon.
Was this the week that Nigel Farage hastened his retreat to the lucrative right-wing after-dinner speech circuit? Don’t bet against it. Of the many items that are contained in the handsome British-made wooden box marked “Faragism” (liking pints; liking flat caps; disliking foreigners apart, we presume, from his German wife and dual-national children), astute political manoeuvring is notable by its absence. So, when on Monday of this week, Nige announced that contrary to everything he’d said up until that point, his Brexit “party” would not be putting up candidates in constituencies in which the Tories have sitting MPs, it looked like he was handing Boris Johnson something of an unexpected early Black Friday deal. “Cheers Nige!” said the Sun raising its pint; “Nice one Nigel…” nodded the Mail but with a post-ellipsis sting: “but it’s still not enough”. The problem, if you’re the Mail, is that removing the Brexit party from competing in safe Tory seats may avoid splitting the Leave vote but doesn’t help much in terms of winning a majority. Splitting the Leave vote in seats held by Labour is more likely to lead to another hung parliament . . . . you know what, that’s already too many words dedicated to Nigel Farage. Let’s move on.
Jeremy Corbyn has spent the week struggling to regain his mojo which was last seen in the heady days of Election 2017. Now that the nation knows his Brexit policy is simply and unequivocally H3PO4 + Ca(OH)2 -> CaHPO4.2H2O he can get on with convincing the electorate of his other exciting policies for a new, better Britain. And goodness me, did he have a corker up his sleeve? FREE BROADBAND FOR EVERYONE! Really? Everyone? Yep. EVERYONE. From the fish and chip shop on your road to your Great Aunt Sally in Bolsover. From MI5 HQ to Claudia from Strictly. It’s going to be amazing. Unless you are a broadband provider.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an election campaign if we didn’t have a whole series of outlandish promises made in the heat of battle that are as far from reality as Donald Trump’s sense of his own imperial brilliance. Here are some highlights from this week:
And in one final bit of #GE19 news for this week, The Liberal Democrats still exist. We think.
Away from the General Election it’s been a miserable week for people in parts of the UK who’ve had their houses flooded, many of them not for the first time. Boris Johnson received a very damp response when he pitched up in Stainforth, South Yorkshire to witness the clean-up operation. One resident told him with pleasingly Northern candour (if you’ll excuse the stereotype): “I’m not very happy talking to you, so if you don’t mind I’ll just motor on with what I’m doing.” The Telegraph’s front page on Thursday featured a stunning aerial photo of a Lincolnshire road disappearing into deep flood water. Visual metaphor anyone?
Floods have also come to Venice this week, a city that is so close to water that climate change threatens its very existence. And more rain is forecast for both the UK and northern Italy in the coming days. Nothing is going to get better anytime soon. A point made in original and effective terms by the Mirror on Thursday which replaced its usual red masthead with a green one and gave the front page of this “climate crisis issue” to a single photograph of a new-born baby. “Give me a world I can grow up in” read the headline. Let’s just hope we can.
In much less important news, Harry and Meghan and baby Archie won’t be spending Christmas with the Queen this year and instead are going to get stuck into the, much diminished, Quality Street tub with Meghan’s mother. Despite this yearly choice of one family over another being recognisable to millions upon millions of people all over the world, Richard Kay in the Mail, a man who loves the royals more than he loves his own internal organs, is very upset about it. “Doesn’t the Queen deserve better than Harry and Meghan’s festive absence?” he sobbed on Thursday’s front page. Hang on, what’s that noise? Oh yes, it’s the sound of a nation shrugging its shoulders (but loudly enough to hear).
A quick gallop through the fields of other news this week finds impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump (for his alleged request to the Ukrainian president to nobble Joe Biden in return for cash) beginning in the House of Representatives and being streamed live on TV (spoiler alert: he won’t be impeached no matter how hard we wish for it); 6,000 homes in the UK still have black and white TV licenses – which is surprising if not particularly amusing; a cash machine in Lancaster began dispensing toy £20 notes and the repeatedly denied Friends reunion might be going ahead after all. Who can wait for “The One Where Ross is Ignored by his Surly Teenage Son” which has sub-plots about Viagra, Monica being a Trump supporter and Joey’s troubled marriage to a 22-year-old Ukrainian model? We’ll be there for that.
And finally, John Lewis has made another Christmas advert. You’ll likely have seen it. It features a dragon called Edgar who can’t stop setting things on fire. Is it tear-inducingly good? Is it everything that’s wrong with modern Britain? Who knows? It might be both. But for want of a better ending, you can click on the picture below of John Lewis from Virginia who tweets every year to remind people he’s not a shop in order to decide for yourselves.