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Best in Show
The Speed Read is written by a team of specially trained News Badgers who are kept in Romanesque luxury so as to be in tip-top shape to bring you the best and worst of the week’s headlines every Friday
As a rule, there are few sequels that are superior to the original. I realise that we could crack open a beer right now (actually, it’s going to have to be a metaphorical beer because as I write this it’s only 8.09 and even I have some standards) and discuss exceptions to this wild generalisation. Actually, some are beyond discussion: The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 3 (which has to count because it’s a masterpiece even though it’s a third part) but mostly sequels are rehashed, inferior versions of the original in which all of the heart-quickening joy and dizzying surprise has been replaced by avarice. There’s a reason that Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t paint: The Last Supper 2: This Time it’s Pudding.
All of which is an issue-avoiding way of reacting to the Mirror’s Friday front page which is heralding the arrival of the sequel that NO ONE wanted: “North in Lockdown 2.” There’s a knot in my stomach just writing that. A lockdown sequel: all of the misery of the original but without the Zoom calls, sour dough or the eating of coco pops while watching Joe Wicks leading other members of the nation in their morning workout. It’s a truly grim thought. Large areas of the north of the country are affected and while not imposing a return to the strict restrictions of March, households won’t be able to mix inside for the foreseeable future. Dare we suggest that the Prime Minister’s recent, bullish assertion that life in the UK will be almost back to normal by Christmas might not be as accurate as he may have wished?
If there is a “good news” aspect to the story (and those inverted commas are as irony-rich as I can muster) is that the ability to react quickly to local Covid-19 outbreaks should make a return to, god-forbid, a blanket national lockdown much less likely. Cold comfort perhaps for those in affected areas but a chink of light for the rest of us perhaps. As for the cause of the increase in cases, the government (in the form of Matt Hancock) was clear: people “not abiding by social distancing” which if you walk up any high street at the moment you can see is patently true. This ain’t over folks even if we all desperately wish it were.
After weeks of declining numbers, it seems as if Coronavirus is on the rise again across Europe. A handful of weeks after announcing safe “travel corridors” to numerous destinations, last weekend the government re-imposed a fourteen-day quarantine period for those returning from Spain. Thousands of tourists will be affected. Many who were in Spain for the announcement chose to return early; many more here at home abandoned their travel plans as holiday companies cancelled all flights to the country. It is what it is I suppose and if it’s going to help delay or even abate the dreaded “second wave” in the UK then it’s got to be worth doing even though, as Spain has angrily pointed out, Coronavirus rates are actually lower there than they are here.
In more Corona-news (I promise we’ll talk about something else in a bit) this week the government told us all to lose weight which, I concede, was good advice for several reasons, not least for the fact that it’s likely that obesity makes a bout of Covid-19 even worse than it would already be. Now, writing as someone who’s always battled excess weight to some extent and lived with the concomitant confidence issues (not that I am asking for sympathy; I do realise cheese is a BIG factor in this) I know that it’s not necessarily as easy to simply decide to get thinner. Decisions are important though and if you can’t be motivated by the potential of an easier time with Covid-19 then maybe you have to ask yourself what will? (It’s a question that I am definitely asking).
What’s of broader interest is the fact this pronouncement has come from the very top. Science has known of the dangers of excess weight for decades and its impact on your internal organs, blood pressure, not to mention your mental health, but it seems to have taken a personal intervention from the Prime Minister to get the issue to ‘urgent national agenda status’. Johnson is by instinct a libertarian: suspicious of government interference in the lives and choices of its people; free markets, free choices, small government and low taxes are his credo. Yet after coming close, just how close we’ll probably never know, to dying during his encounter with Coronavirus, it seems that he’s changed his position when it comes to weight loss. The self-confessed “bit of a fatty” now wants us all to be thinner. No one of any sense would wish Covid-19 on even their worst enemy but there’s an interesting and unsurprising revelation here: when politicians experience an issue or a problem personally, their tone and even their policies can change. Now, Rishi Sunak isn’t going to give up his billions and live on Universal Credit; Matt Hancock isn’t going to struggle to get an appointment with his GP but you do wonder what the impact on government policy would be if they did. It’s a powerful thing empathy; it can change lives.
Oh yes, as you embark on your weight-loss regime, remember that from Monday you can claim your discount from the government’s “Eat out to help out scheme”; participating restaurants include McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King . . . .
What do you do if you think you’re going to lose an election? Try harder? Ask your voters what’s upsetting them? Reluctantly concede that you’re not the politician you thought you were? Nope, it’s much easier than that: you simply postpone the election. So was the suggestion of President Trump on Thursday when he tweeted that the expected surge in postal votes in November’s election would make it the most INACCURATE AND FRAUDULENT (his caps) in history and should be delayed. Nothing to do with the fact that most believe he’s going to lose it of course (although given the absolute carnage that has been the year 2020 then a Trump victory cannot and should not be ruled out). A few points to note here, not least the fact that the president’s claim about widespread fraud would seem to be absolutely baseless and secondly (and mercifully) only Congress has the power to postpone an election and several senior Republicans have already said that it’s not going to happen. That said, a desperate Trump is an even more terrifying Trump so don’t rule out further attempts to delay what the majority of the world hopes with all its might will be the inevitable.
Anyway, the sun is shining and even if the weekend’s not going to be sunny as today we all have a DUTY to take some much-needed time to enjoy ourselves. So here are your instructions:
PROFESSOR GROOVE’S LISTENING NOTES:
We all need something more during these times of restriction and reflection. This slinky, understated strut of a track takes you back to rooftop bars in a far flung European city, where the summer heat is quenched with a cocktail of epic proportions. Measures are as follows: two thirds of a good time, a third of an even better time, and a dash of morning regret. Time to reminisce…
See you next week.