Sometimes a plan can be too successful. When Durham police announced on the day of the local election results that they would investigate Keir Starmer over ‘beergate’ – an event in April last year where Starmer was filmed drinking a beer with Labour staff, at a time when indoor socialising was banned – Tory MPs were delighted. After months of Starmer attacking the government for partygate and demanding Boris Johnson’s resignation, it was the Labour leader’s turn to face allegations that he broke Covid rules.
While Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer await the police’s judgment, there has been no end to the fines issued to others caught by their lockdown rules. At last count, some 136,000 fixed penalty notices had been issued in Britain. Durham police – a fairly easygoing force by Covid standards – have handed out just 1,090. Is it a bit mean to fine someone for having had a glass of wine or a beer at work? Perhaps. But no more so than the fines still being issued under the lockdown rules that Johnson and Starmer both voted through.
Vladimir Putin makes no secret of his love for Russian culture, and Russian literature in particular – a body of work whose achievements, Dostoyevsky once claimed, justifies the existence of the entire Russian people. But if that same oeuvre now inspires a man instigating unprovoked war, doesn’t that raise urgent questions about its contemporary validity?
For some, these concerns are best expressed via cancellation. In Wales, the Cardiff Philharmonic recently pulled the plug on performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Marche Slave and Second Symphony, the ‘Little Russian’ (an old and patronising name for Ukraine).
The election campaign is under way in Australia, barbs are being exchanged, candidates denigrated and abused, and promises – many of which are just fantastic in the literal sense of the word – are being made. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who is the leader of the Liberal party, is being challenged by the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese. Although Morrison has the edge over Albanese as preferred prime minister, neither is much loved.
The characters in Sarah Vaughan’s thriller Anatomy of a Scandal include rich Oxford undergraduates from Eton whose main preoccupations are drinking and trashing rooms. They are what it is fashionable to call ‘privileged white males’; while the typical female Oxbridge student is ‘slim, tall, well dressed. Entitled… they knew they belonged there’. The truth, however, is that although Eton is one of the top academic schools in the country, its ‘beaks’ are puzzled by the sharp reduction in the number of their brightest pupils gaining places at Oxbridge.
For years, environmentalists have campaigned for children to study global warming as a subject rather than simply as a part of geography. Their wish has now been granted in England with a new GCSE in natural history, starting from 2025. We know nothing yet about the syllabus but it’s quite the opportunity to ask what our planet’s problems really are, and how effective the net-zero agenda is as a solution.
Rather than be scared to death about the future of the planet, pupils should instead be encouraged to take a rationalist approach.
I think we’ve reached peak menopause. You simply can’t switch on the radio, open a newspaper or watch telly without some fiftysomething media babe banging on about her hot flushes, sudden rages and the feeling of going mad. Davina McCall has just made a whole TV show about it (Sex, Mind and the Menopause), and her book Menopausing is out this month. McCall has likened her symptoms to those felt by people with a brain tumour.
Lloyds Bank has been running a new advertising campaign which updates its long-standing black horse corporate branding. The horses no longer thunder along a beach, but interact with people who we assume are actual or potential customers. The soothing payoff slogan goes: ‘Lloyds Bank. By your side.’
The latest episode features a girl who slightly puts me in mind of our 17-year-old daughter. She happens to bank with Lloyds, but there the happy parallel ends.
Buffalo are now living in the fens of Kent. Why – have we slipped into the metaverse of Lewis Carroll? ‘He thought he saw a buffalo/ Upon the chimney-piece.’ But these are not African buffalo, those fierce beasts that recently charged but narrowly missed killing my wife at home in Kenya. No, these are the more docile water buffalo and so this story isn’t nonsense. ‘He looked again, and found it was/ His Sister’s Husband’s Niece.