I’ve mentioned previously that I do like the cut of Keir Starmer’s jib: neat, trimmed, precise, perfunctory, measured. It’s patently obvious this is how Sir Kier likes it to be and a very definite style has emerged since he assumed leadership of the Labour party. He undertakes all tasks, from asking detailed queries of Bumble Boris at Prime Minister’s Questions to the sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey, with the minimum of fuss. Short, sharp and to the point. All good and undoubtedly an impressive start but is it enough?
This is going to surprise you. Last year the government did a beautiful thing and they did it for all the right reasons. Eschewing a barrow-full of tax receipts for the Chancellor’s coffers, they surprised everyone concerned, myself included, in reducing the fixed-odds-betting-terminal (FOBT) gambling stake from a maximum of one hundred pounds a spin to a relatively meagre two-quid.
For months now the debate has raged over whether Sweden was right to avoid the strict pandemic lockdown restrictions implemented by most other European governments, including our own. Now, with each country’s Eurovision scoring in and counted, does Sweden’s unique approach to coronavirus represent a shining example for the rest of the world or a cautionary tale?
Like many, I have some difficulty in translating the potential increases in global temperatures with my own experiences and expectations. When I read that the planet may warm by as much as four degrees over the coming generation, I can’t help but think that’s barely equivalent to a twist of the boiler’s thermostat or a woolly jumper staying in the drawer during the deepest, darkest winter.
During recent TV interviews ahead of the further long-telegraphed relaxation in the government’s rules, several ministers have urged us all to ‘get out there, get shopping and start spending’, explicitly implying it was nothing less than our civic duty to do so. Only, there were few things I wanted to do less.
As Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson reminds us: “Meet me in ‘The Station’, don’t be late. I need to spend some money and it just won’t wait. The wide boys are all spoiling for a fight, so take me to the dance and hold me tight. I want to see the bright lights tonight.”
Hailing from the frozen north, I remain delighted when I find any reference to the fine city of my birth. So, imagine my joy when I discovered the idiom ‘death and taxes’ was first penned by Christopher Bullock in his 1716 comedic farce ‘The Cobbler of Preston’: ’Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.’
Deep down I think I quite like Dominic Cummings and in the past I have certainly enjoyed several of his more caustic quips where he has undeniably spoken truth to power. A longstanding purveyor of the political dark arts, he didn’t beat around the bush when calling David Davis “thick as mince” and as “lazy as a toad”. To my mind he kinda hit Jacob Rees Mogg and the ERG squarely on the proverbial bonce by simply stating they were “useful idiots” to his Vote Leave cause.
The NHS has never been more in the spotlight than of late. And it’s completely understandable, essential perhaps, that in a situation where tens of thousands of people have died that we compare and contrast different countries’ approach to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our oft-pronounced belief is that the National Health Service is truly world-leading and the envy of all but does this stack-up in reality?
Can you believe Ridley Scott’s epic, Gladiator, is twenty years old this month? At that time swashbuckling sword-and-sandals movies had become an outdated homoerotic joke, ironically with the NRA’s Charging Charlton’s Ben Hur leading the fray. But then came Russell’s Roman renaissance and the joke was on us: Chariots! Colossus Colosseum calamities! Rippling man-flesh! Tigers! Tridents!