The Prime Minister is thought to thrive on chaos. If so, then he should be in his element. Wholesale gas prices have risen sixfold, winter heating bills are set to be the highest on record. Millions of people across the country are wondering what they might have to forgo to pay for heat. Supermarkets are warning of food shortages. There are 100,000 missing HGV drivers. The army has been called in to help, but has only 150 tanker drivers available.
As the Tories faced multiple crises this week, Keir Starmer’s party was busy in Brighton doing what it does best: arguing with itself. The Labour conference has been dominated by internal rows about rule changes, a shadow cabinet resignation and whether or not Tories can be called ‘scum’.
Labour’s failure to focus on the chaos at petrol stations or chastise the Tories for incompetence was enough to baffle international visitors.
Whitehall is still adjusting to the government reshuffle. When I enter Dominic Raab’s new office and start to look around, he immediately points out that the art on the walls is not his choice but that of his predecessor. He was shifted from Foreign Secretary to Justice Secretary, a move widely seen as a demotion, only a couple of weeks ago. Decoration, he says, has not been his priority. The only personal objects in his office are family photographs.
Whenever I give talks to children about my books they always ask who inspired me to be a writer. I don’t really think anyone did. I was playing complicated imaginary games inside my head before I could read, and as soon as I could write I filled many Woolworths notebooks with my wobbly printing. But if pressed, I say that E. Nesbit might well have been an inspiration. I loved her books as a child and treasured a biography about her when I was struggling to earn my living as a writer.
In just a few weeks, Glasgow will be the focus of the world’s attention for the COP26 summit. For the Prime Minister, however, two major embarrassments await. Firstly, an environmental conference aimed at weaning the developed world off fossil fuels looks set to take place in the middle of a British energy crisis. Secondly, Glasgow — whose council is now run by the SNP for the first time — is a city in crisis where streets are overflowing with rubbish.
Jamaican police entered farms in the village of Accompong in August to destroy ganja crops. The village chief, carrying a rifle, drove them away. ‘This is a gross disrespect and violation of Maroon territorial jurisdiction,’ said the chief, on his Instagram. Richard Currie talks a lot about sovereignty: he was elected colonel, or chief, on a platform of taking back control. A breathless profile in the Jamaica Gleaner refers to him as being like a cross between the hero and villain in Marvel’s Black Panther, but Accompong, with its 788 inhabitants, is no Wakanda.
‘Programme starts at 3.45, so the film will start at 4.15, and it’s two hours and 43 minutes long, so we’d be out just before 7 p.m.’
This is the No Time to Die calculation, and I think many of us are doing it and wondering: ‘Can I face it?’ A dark afternoon spent in a state of total surrender to the longueurs imposed on us by a self-indulgent director? Thirsty from too much popcorn, leg muscles seizing up, not allowed to look at your phone, pressure on the bladder, Daniel Craig never smiling and the end nowhere near in sight?
After a year and a half of becoming accustomed to the daily hour-long episode of the Netflix or Amazon Prime drama we’re addicted to — just perfect between supper and bedtime — I think we’ve lost our taste for things being too long, especially when you’re part of a captive audience.
What’s behind China’s latest crackdown on crypto? For some time, Beijing has banned bitcoin and other cryptocurrency exchanges from operating within its borders. Last week, the Chinese Communist party extended the ban to criminalise anyone dealing in crypto. ‘Virtual currency-related business activities are illegal,’ declared the People’s Bank of China. The CCP would ‘resolutely clamp down on virtual currency speculation… to safeguard people’s properties and maintain economic, financial and social order’.
There aren’t many countries where Coca-Cola isn’t the most popular drink. Scotland is one of them. And unlike some of the others — such as North Korea or Cuba — it’s not because Coke isn’t sold. It’s because of the popularity of Irn Bru, Scotland’s ‘other national drink’.
Few soft drinks have such a devoted following as Irn Bru. It has inspired tattoos, poetry (‘a drop ae yer liquid gold’) and — in true Scottish style — its own batter.