March in headlines

29th March 2018

The beginning of March welcomed the 90th Academy Awards, the end gave us Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica exposé, and stories scattered throughout included that of spies, driverless cars, Farage’s fish, elections and new passports…

We’re tired just thinking about it.

Blue passports

Anger over new post-Brexit passports was sparked after it was announced the £490 million contract would be awarded to Franco-Dutch company Gemalto. The story dominated headlines and resulted in a wave of reactions, with over 4,000 comments left on the BBC’s online article on the day of posting alone. Under EU regulation the contract was obligated to be awarded to the best bidder, and not in favour of a British firm, however the move was condemned by Brexiteers. At the forefront of this was the Daily Mail, whose front page slammed the decision by the “ruling class”, while Europhile commentators penned it a ‘humiliating’ glimpse into our post-Brexit future. The Mirror took this one step further by launching a campaign opposing the decision that has since been signed by over 16,000 readers.

A meeting of minds

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are to sit down in a summit meeting before May, it was revealed this month, with Trump set to become the first ever American president to meet a North Korean leader.

Experts have expressed scepticism as to whether the meeting will go ahead, as neither a date nor agenda has yet been confirmed. Trump’s decision to meet the North Korean leader is a remarkable breakthrough and its consequences are near impossible to predict. Watch this space, as we predict there’ll be many headlines yet to appear.

Stephen Hawking

The world was saddened by the news that Stephen Hawking had passed away. Aged 76, the beloved scientist died peacefully at his home in Cambridge after a lifelong struggle with motor neurone disease. His life was celebrated, and his death mourned across the media, with tribute editions of the Evening Standard and the Guardian being published. Barack Obama and Eddie Redmayne, who played the astrophysicist in the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything back in 2014, took to Twitter to pay their own respects, with the latter dubbing Hawking a “beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man”.

Brexit transition

While many issues remain to be resolved, some headway has been made on a large segment of the so-called “orderly withdrawal” of Britain from the EU, with the official transitional period set to last to December 2020 after its start in March next year.

News of the transition agreement was all over the media; however, it was the EU fishing deal that reeled in the most attention. This section of the agreement means Britain will stay in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for the remainder of the transition. While the UK Government has reassured the public that they have not turned their back on the promise to “take back control” of UK waters after Brexit, protests still went ahead. The indefatigable Nigel Farage showed his support for the protesters as he proceeded to dump boxes of dead haddock into the Thames, because why not? Those involved in the stunt soon found themselves in deep water, however, as they were criticised for pollution. But despite all the attention fishy Farage received, it looks unlikely that the tide will be turned on the Brexit transition deal.

Spit-gate

Sky Sports football pundit Jamie Carragher performed a “drive-by” from his car window, that resulted in a spit-covered teenager and some serious media backlash. Carragher had been taunted by the 14 year old’s father and claims to have “lost his rag” following Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester United. The ex-Liverpool player was given a mouthful from Sky Sports, and has since been suspended from his position for the rest of the season. While Carragher has labelled his outburst “a moment of madness” and repeatedly apologised, it is unknown what impact it will have on his career. Regardless, spit-gate is not soon to be forgotten.

Russian Election

March 18th marked Vladimir Putin’s election for his second consecutive term in office—his fourth overall. Putin secured more than 75 per cent of the vote, a victory making him the first Kremlin leader to serve two decades in power since Stalin. With reported ballot stuffing and a police crackdown on dissent, Putin unsurprisingly faced no serious challenge with closest rival, Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party, winning only 11 per cent. As current laws stand this will be Putin’s final term and he cannot stand for re-election, however it is widely speculated that he will seek to extend his time regardless.

It wasn’t just for his landslide victory that Putin graced our top stories this month. The poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury turned heads and caused fingers to point in the direction of the newly re-elected President. While Putin denied any involvement in the incident, tensions between the West and Russia seem to have risen to Cold War-heights, just in time for the FIFA World Cup which kicks off in Moscow in June.

Driverless Car Crash

All eyes were on Uber, as one of its autonomous Volvo SUVs was responsible for the first fatality involving a self-driving car. 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was crossing the road with her bike when she was struck down and killed in Arizona. The story took the front pages of numerous papers, including the Telegraph and the Financial Times. Amid rising doubts for all autonomous vehicles, it has since been reported that Uber have suspended their entire testing programme.

“Clown Under”

Cricket can struggle to make it on to the back pages, let alone the front, but that changed with the astonishing admission of ball tampering by the Australian national cricket team. Captain Steve Smith held an extraordinary press conference with player Cameron Bancroft, after Bancroft was caught on camera using sandpaper to alter the ball during the Test match against South Africa. Yet this was no foolish mistake by a young player—rather, a premeditated campaign of duplicity devised by senior players.

The UK’s back pages, sensing a chance to stick the boot in to a famously abrasive Australian team, have treated the story with a mix of glee and disgust—raising questions over how long the cheating has gone on for. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and even, bizarrely, Theresa May have got in on the act too. As it stands Smith, vice-captain David Warner and coach Darren Lehmann have resigned from their posts. Breaking down in tears at a subsequent press conference in Sydney, Smith said: “I am deeply sorry”—but are you sorry for what you did “Smudge”, or sorry that you got caught?

For the Jewish Labour Council, enough is enough

Usually one to be a part of protests rather than the subject of them, Jeremy Corbyn again found himself defending his party from anti-Semitism claims as the Jewish Labour Council gathered outside parliament to cry “enough is enough”. The unearthing of a Facebook post from 2012, in which the Labour leader appeared to defend an anti-Semitic mural, once again put Corbyn’s perceived lack of action on anti-Semitism in the spotlight—and even led some to the conclusion that he himself is an anti-Semite. Cue the release of shadow chancellor and Labour hard-hitter John McDonnell, who embarked on the media rounds to mount a furious denial. Corbyn himself, meanwhile, stuck to a solitary interview with the Jewish News in which he was invited to state his case. The paper remained unimpressed, however, printing on its front page that his answers were “not good enough”.