16 July 2018

Headline of the day

Bottom falls out of buttock implant market
The Times explains:
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported a 56 per cent fall in buttock implants in the last year for which data was available and an 11 per cent increase in breast reductions. However, buttock lifts rose by 11 per cent in the last year, a spokesman said, and buttock augmentation rose by 10 per cent. 
You can make up your own puns ...


Protest slogan of the day


14 July 2018

Quote of the day

Matthew Parris in The Times (here):
H L Mencken got it in many ways right, in one way wrong. On July 26, 1920 the greatest columnist in the history of English language journalism wrote this in The Baltimore Sun: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”


12 July 2018

Quote of the day

Theresa May, writing in The Sun (here) about her Brexit plan:
Does it mean an end to freedom of movement? Will we be able to sign our own trade deals? And will the UK be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court?
I’m very pleased to say the answers are very simple: yes, yes and yes.
Or more likely: probably not, probably not and probably not.


It could have been worse

Leave aside the bluster, and the NATO summit went off without any real damage.  The Guardian reports:
Donald Trump predicted he would have “an interesting time” at this week’s Nato summit. European leaders worried that the US president would go on the offensive against America’s traditional allies. In the end, nobody could say they were surprised.
Breakfast had not even been served in Brussels on Wednesday morning when Trump launched into a bitter tirade against an old ally, declaring that Germany was “totally controlled by Russia”. At a pre-summit breakfast meeting with the Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Trump accused Berlin of “being a captive of the Russians” because of its dependence on energy supplies.
Without waiting for the clicking press cameras to leave the room, he declared that “numerous of the countries” were going out and “making a pipeline deal with Russia where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia”. A two-minute clip posted on his Twitter feed broadcast the repetitive two-minute-plus tirade to his 53.4m followers.
But he didn't announce any US troop withdrawals nor did he decline to participate in military exercises.  Apart from spraying around gratuitous insults, he did nothing of any consequence.


11 July 2018

Read it and weep

BBC on-air salary list 2017-18

  • 1. Gary Lineker - £1,750,000-£1,759,999
  • 2. Chris Evans - £1,660,000-£1,669,999
  • 3. Graham Norton - £600,000-£609,999
  • 4. Steve Wright - £550,000-£559,999
  • 5. Huw Edwards - £520,000-£529,999
  • 6. Jeremy Vine - £440,000-£449,999
  • =7. Nicky Campbell - £410,000-£419,999
  • =7. Alan Shearer - £410,000-£419,999
  • =9. John Humphrys - £400,000-£409,999
  • =9. Nick Grimshaw - £400,000-£409,999
  • =9. Stephen Nolan - £400,000-£409,999
  • =9. Andrew Marr - £400,000-£409,999

09 July 2018

Quote of the day

Massie in The Times (here):
So we are to be a “vassal state” after all. That is one conclusion to be drawn from the prime minister’s capitulation to reality. Still, in the present political moment your team’s success is less important — and less thrilling — than your opponents’ defeat. This is how the game is played these days. No one particularly likes Theresa May’s new plan for Brexit but its appeal lies less in its detail than in the identity of the people who really, truly, madly, deeply hate it. I suspect, too, that a public that was bored with Brexit long ago will grudgingly sign up to anything that promises to put an end to the whole bloody, grisly drama.
And so say all of us ...


08 July 2018


This Sunday Times lady journalist gets carried away:
Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat is profoundly touching. It sums him up: it’s polite, almost formal, a bit old-fashioned — but precision-tailored, modern and right on point.
Its last button is jauntily left undone, as if to say: “See? I can be fun.” And that too is heart-rendingly sweet: this is not a man whose definition of fun involves anything louche or degrading.
Southgate radiates wholesome goodness, like sunbeams. He seems pure, in a way that’s affecting. “He’s so nerdy and passionate,” my football-mad eldest son texted me last week. “I love him.”
I also love him. We all love him. We love his modesty, his humility, his quiet hard graft, his talent and decency, the thoughtful earnestness you can see in his face. But it’s deeper than that: Gareth Southgate moves us. Imagine saying that about any other recent England manager.
Yeurrgh!   Pass the sick-bag.

Squaring the circle

Writing in the Observer, David Lidington, minister for the cabinet office, says: “Free movement will come to an end, restoring control of our borders. The supremacy of British courts will be restored, by ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ [European Court of Justice] in the UK – giving us back control of our laws. And there will be no more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU, giving us back control of our money.”
Aye well.

"Free movement will come to an end, restoring control of our borders."  But, according to The Independent (here), "Under the proposals, freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will end but a "mobility framework" will be set up to make it easier for people to travel between the two, including for study and work."  And, further, Theresa May has suggested EU citizens could be given preferential rights to come to the UK after Brexit."

"The supremacy of the British courts will be restored."  But the plan would involve "the UK adopting a "common rulebook" with the EU on the mutual trade of goods".  While "the jurisdiction of the European court of justice will end, ... the UK will pay regard to its decisions in areas where common rules were in force."  [The Guardian here]

"And there will be no more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU".  That depends upon your definition of "vast".  But you can be sure that the amounts payable will not be trivial.


06 July 2018

I can think of better ways to spend a Friday

Apparently the Chequers meeting will begin at 9.30 am and continue until at least 10.30 pm.

The Times reports:
Chequers has a swimming pool donated by Richard Nixon’s White House and a tennis court built by Tony Blair. Cabinet ministers will not have time to enjoy either today during Theresa May’s attempt to forge a workable Brexit negotiating position.
Arriving in Buckinghamshire by 9.30am, the 22 cabinet ministers, plus the extra six with attendance rights, have been told they are not likely to be leaving until past 10.30pm. On arrival, they will be given coffee in the great hall, but no breakfast, prompting some status-anxious ministers to wonder whether there is a secret breakfast for key ministers beforehand. Phones will be confiscated.
Greg Clark, the business secretary, is expected to spell out dire warnings of a hard Brexit made by businesses. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is expected to address services. Some discussions will be classed as political, meaning that civil servants will have to leave.
After lunch, the cabinet will have to get down to the task of coming to an agreement. The meeting will go on until the white paper is signed off or, perhaps, resignations take place. Should any minister quit, it is unclear whether they will instantly lose their ministerial car and have to walk up Chequers’s drive.
Imagine being shut up all day with a bunch of people, many of whom you don't particularly care for, and many of whom don't particularly care for you.  And you're expected to spend all day discussing customs arrangements, Northern Ireland border issues and potential trade agreements.

But they made this bed for themselves, so let them lie in it.

In case you're wondering, the outcome will just be more fudge ...


05 July 2018

Busy weekend for some?

Are we nearing the end-game?  The Guardian reports:
Theresa May’s fractious cabinet ministers are warning Downing Street not to skirt controversial issues, including freedom of movement and services, off the table at Friday’s Chequers meeting.
At the day-long meeting, May hopes to unite her cabinet around a plan which can then be published in a formal white paper next week.
Not clear to me how a formal white paper (which is supposed to be a considered statement of government policy) can be written, cleared, printed and published in a matter of three or four days, not least because, on this subject, every word will need to be crawled over at length.

(But maybe the white paper is already written and the Chequers meeting is just for show?)


04 July 2018


What companies will do for an extra buck.  The Times reports:

If winning on penalties wasn’t enough of a shock for England fans last night, they were in for a further surprise after one of Britain’s biggest pub groups said it had added up to 50p to the price of a pint on many match days.
Stonegate Pubs, which runs 690 venues around the country, including Slug & Lettuce and Yates pubs, said that it has been boosting the price of some drinks by between 10p and 50p in order to cover the cost of extra staff and plastic glasses.
Pubs and bars were expected to receive a World Cup windfall even without a price rise, with the British Beer and Pub Association predicting that an extra six million pints would be consumed during England’s clash with Colombia. During England’s first three matches transactions in bars increased 126 per cent, according to figures published last week.


02 July 2018


Image result for gareth southgate

The Guardian reports:
For years, football fans have been able to emulate the look of their idols with replica shirts, but this World Cup something different is happening: supporters are rushing to buy replicas of Gareth Southgate’s England waistcoat.
Marks & Spencer, which has been the official suit supplier to the England team since 2007, said demand for waistcoats has risen 35% thanks to what they say is “the Gareth Southgate effect”.
That will stop when England get thumped by Colombia tomorrow evening ...

30 June 2018

Music of the week

Quote of the day

Image result for radishes

Do radishes get excited?  The Guardian reports:
Anthony Gardiner of G’s Fresh, the UK’s biggest supplier of radishes, said sales had risen 30% in the past three months. “It’s been strong since the start of the year, and really taken off in the last six weeks with the start of the UK season at the end of April.
“It’s an exciting time for radishes,” he added. “I don’t think we’ve ever sold so many. It could be the new avocado.”
Or it could be be just another advertising puff ... 

27 June 2018

The little boys want more toys

They don't budget properly, they keep changing what they have ordered, they grossly overspend on contracts, they buy things they don't understand.  Essentially, when it comes to procurement, they are a bunch of amateurs.  But still the Ministry of Defence wants to spend more.  The Times reports:
Gavin Williamson will ask the prime minister for up to £4 billion extra a year for the armed forces at a critical meeting set for next week.
The defence secretary is to pitch for the money when he meets Theresa May to discuss funding for the future shape and size of Britain’s military. The meeting comes amid tensions between the pair with Mr Williamson accused of threatening to “break” the prime minister if she refuses to increase the defence budget.
Yesterday senior defence figures said that the government was putting at risk the country’s status as a global military power by giving the NHS priority over defence. 
If they didn't waste money on Trident, a system which will never be used (and which could not be used without the permission of the USA), or on white elephant aircraft carriers, which they cannot afford to equip with sufficient aircraft or to provide with the necessary support ships, and if they sacked half the numerous generals and admirals, they might have sufficient resources to pay the armed forces a decent wage and provide them with adequate accommodation.


Mother's ruin

Image result for gin and tonic

I'm doing my bit, though it's mostly Larios rather than Gordon's.  The Guardian reports:
Astonishing statistic of the day: of the £500m increase in spending in supermarkets in the last 12 weeks against a year ago, some £38m-worth came from extra sales of gin, says retail research firm Kantar.
The gin boom shouldn’t still be happening, according to the big spirits producers, who take the long view that consumer tastes tend to move in cycles; by now, vodka or whisky should be back in fashion.
Not that the big brands mind, of course. Local distilleries producing “craft” gins take the credit for the change in the market, but the large firms are delighted that the artisan crew have endorsed the notion that a spirit previously regarded as cheap ’n’ cheerful can be a “premium” product, to be sold at premium prices. It makes their own marketing efforts much easier and the “craft” volumes, in an overall context, are still tiny.
Their one regret is not making a knock-out bid about four years ago for Fever-Tree, the tonic firm that is the biggest winner from the gin boom. After a share price rise from 170p at the end of 2014 to £34 today, Fever-Tree is now worth a remarkable £3.8bn.
 Cheers, hic!


26 June 2018

Quote of the day

Boris burns his boats.  The Times reports:
Kabul is an awfully long way to go for a sicknote. There was not even much on the agenda, to judge by the flimsiness of the folder that Boris Johnson was seen clutching as he arrived for a hastily arranged chinwag with the Afghan deputy foreign minister. A 9,000-mile round trip and he didn’t even get to see the top chap! As they might say at Boris’s alma mater, this really puts the rot into aegrotat.
One imagines that his briefing went something like this: 1) Ask how the Taliban situation is going. 2) Talk a bit about cricket. 3) Make a joke about coming to Kabul to escape the heatwave in London. 4) Explain joke. 5) Apologise for joke. 6) Ask the Afghans to sign a chitty explaining to the British press that this was a very important meeting that couldn’t be held over Skype or on another day and not a desperate attempt to get out of honouring a promise to his constituents.
 The man was always a laughing stock but it is becoming increasingly obvious ...


25 June 2018

Clear as mud

Should England try to win their group?  The Guardian explains:
The unpredictable nature of this World Cup means it may actually be better to finish second in Group G. As things stand, finishing second means avoiding Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals. They sit first and second in their respective groups (E and F) and will meet in the last 16 should they remain in those places after the final round of group matches. If England win their group and then win their game in the last 16, they would then face the winner of that Brazil v Germany game. If England come second in their group and then win their last-16 game, they would then face the winner of the last-16 tie between the winner of Group F and runner-up in Group E, which, as things stand would be Mexico and Switzerland.
On the other hand:
For the sake of morale, momentum and fair play it would be better to win the group. Also, it’s still possible for Brazil and Germany to finish top of their respective groups and therefore avoid each other in the last 16, which in turn would ultimately make it worthwhile for England to finish top of their own group. It’s even also possible that Brazil could come second in their group and Germany top in theirs, which would line them up to face the runners-up in England’s group. England’s group, Group G, is the last to play its final games, so both England and Belgium will know the consequences of finishing first or second by the time they kick off. 
Got that?


None so deaf as those that will not hear

Image result for jeremy hunt

It is so so inconvenient for business to complain about Brexit.  The Guardian reports:
Jeremy Hunt has called warnings from Airbus about the UK’s Brexit strategy “completely inappropriate”, saying the government should ignore “siren voices”.
In the most bullish comments from a cabinet minister since the intervention by the aerospace company’s chief executive, Hunt said businesses sounding the alarm about job losses risked undermining the government at a key moment in the negotiations.
“It was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats, for one simple reason,” the health secretary told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “We are in a critical moment in the Brexit discussions. We need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit, a clean Brexit.”
Mr Hunt would no doubt prefer it if the government were allowed to plunge the country off a cliff untroubled by complaints from the pasengers.

23 June 2018

What next?

What would Sir Alf Ramsay have thought?  The Times reports:
From Taribo West’s green strands and Romania’s bleached bonces to Neymar’s courgetti cut the World Cup has long hosted absurd hairstyles.
Mercifully, England’s class of 2018 will not be adding to the tally because they have invited their favourite barber to Russia and he has vowed to ensure that none of Gareth Southgate’s squad turn out with a look they will regret.
Peter Cranfield, founder of the Cutthroatpete barber shops, was asked to fly out to give squad members, among them John Stones, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier, a pre-match trim. “Millions of people will be watching,” he said. “These lads are walking out of the tunnel with my haircut so if they are asking for something that I think won’t work for them then I will tell them. I don’t want them to look daft.”
It would not go amiss if they spent more time thinking about how they play and less about how they look.


21 June 2018

Amendable or unamendable?

Does anyone really care about whether the Tory rebels or the government emerged the better from yesterday's arcane debate on "the ability of MPs to amend a government motion on the next steps to take in the event that Mrs May cannot strike a Brexit deal with Brussels"?

The Times gets to the empty heart of the outcome, probably:
The more fundamental question is whether any of this matters. As Mr Grieve himself said, the government failing to reach a deal would usher in one of the most chaotic political crises in modern British history. In that scenario, minor aspects of parliamentary procedure would not take centre stage.
Bald men fighting over a comb.  Meanwhile, the clock ticks on in terms of the government actually deciding what it wants from a settlement with the EU.



20 June 2018

Photo of the day

The Prince of Wales has a . . . modern nickname for his daughter-in-law Meghan

Do future kings still dress like this?

Apparently so ...


Quote of the day

From Matthew Parris in The Times (here):
I went to a pub theatre to watch a friend’s new play about politics and Westminster. I loved this line from An Honourable Man, by Michael McManus: “The British attitude to Europe reminds me of my parents’ cat. It scratches the door, desperate to get out, and when you open the door it just sits there licking its balls.” A better description of our current cabinet would be hard to find.


All very strange

And so, after the first round of matches in the World Cup, the favourites - Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain - fail to win their matches against allegedly inferior opposition.

Amazingly, England - usually so stodgy and predictable in World Cup finals - show a bit of panache and flair in winning their match against Tunisia, even if it took a last minute goal to secure the victory.

More upsets to come, I reckon.

19 June 2018

Best thing since ...

Image result for white sliced bread

Oh dear, they are messing about with my staple diet.  The Times reports:
Scientists are carrying out groundbreaking research to produce healthier white bread and personalised food for people with different nutritional needs.
A team at the Quadram Institute is looking at ways of modifying starch so that it is digested more slowly. The result could be nutritious white bread that is less likely to lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. The work could lead to “personalised food” in 20 years’ time.
Richard Mithen, lead scientist at the institute in Norwich, said that wheat, a major source of starch, provided a fifth of the calories consumed in the world.
Wheat starch in white bread and potatoes is rapidly digested, causing a large sugar spike that the body struggles to cope with. Rapid digestion can result in the starch failing to reach the lower intestine, where chemical signals are released telling the body it is full.
Will they make a sausage sandwich taste better?


Boldly going

Image result for trump star trek

President Trump has been watching too much Star Trek.  Politico reports:
President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the Pentagon to establish a stand-alone Space Force as a new branch of the armed forces.
"We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House.
"It is going to be something so important."
He also asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to carry out the process of standing up the new military service.
"Our destiny beyond the earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security, so important for our military and people don’t talk about it," Trump said. "When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space."
Ambitious stuff from a man who has spent two years trying, and failing, to get a beautiful wall built.