Above the Fold: the headlines
By Oliver Pink
“Oh, I think we’re in it now.”
So remarked John Humphrys to weatherman Matt Taylor in early November.
That we are, John. That we are.
In the past four weeks alone, we have witnessed unfolding claims of institutionalised sexual misconduct in our own beloved, sovereign Parliament, a Queen in Paradise, a Prince in love and a wide-eyed media determined to win back our trust and our eyeballs.
By Remembrance Day, HSBC was facing criminal complicity over the South African Gupta family scandal, Apple, newly valued at $900 billion, saw its secrets to fame and fortune laid bare in the Paradise Papers. And the Government frontbench was looking so bereft of ministers, one couldn’t help but look back fondly on the raucous frenzy of the 2017 Lib Dem Conference or the heaving crowds at the Trump inauguration.
The first to topple, defence secretary Michael Fallon, resigned on the 2nd, saying his behaviour has “fallen short”. Three days later, a former Met police officer came forward to note that he had found pornography on the Commons computer used by Damian Green, the first secretary of state.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary was next: fired after the BBC’s James Landale revealed her summer holiday to be far from sun loungers and margaritas. Instead, she dropped in to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among other government officials. As you do.
Theresa May summoned Patel back to Number 10 from Kenya, prompting one of the most exquisite Twitter events in recent memory as the British public tracked her plane from Jomo Kenyatta International to London Heathrow, and inevitable fate.
As the Independent mischievously imagined, Patel might well have been wondering:
“Why didn’t I just go the Dead Sea? All those tips on Facebook about the best places for street food in Jerusalem’s old market…Never went to a single one.”
Cross-dressing, cross-words, and a very cross party
The Daily Mail was in equal part infuriated and baffled on the 13th, following new guidance from the Church of England that boys should be free to choose to wear a tutu, tiara or heels, in a series of articles later criticised for stoking moral panics. The Guardian’s Suzanne Moore wrote: ‘the Sun is ablaze with outrage about drag queens teaching small children. I look forward to headlines about banning the annual celebration of cross-dressing that is pantomime.’
The Daily Telegraph, not to be outdone, ran a screaming front-page headline reminiscent of the Mail’s famous ‘Enemies of the People’ and ‘Crush the Saboteurs’. Tory MPs who rebelled against the Government’s suggestion to enshrine a Brexit date into law were vilified as ‘Brexit Mutineers’. We worry that editors must be close to running out of incendiary nouns for politicians—little short of ‘High Treason’ can better this marvellous media one-upmanship.
Spending and saving
We had our very first Autumn Budget, which turned out to be just as tepid in November as it used to be in March (more on this here). And we had Black Friday. Which, while delivering fewer punches, furious clicks and record sales, succeeded in capturing the curious spirit of our times by starting on Monday.
Shoes and coups
Across the world, we witnessed a peculiar attempt at reputation management in Zimbabwe, as the armed forces put President Mugabe under house arrest, seized control of state media, and vehemently declared to the nation and the world – without a shred of irony – that these actions weren’t in the slightest; absolutely not; couldn’t-even-be-interpreted-as… a coup. Imagine our astonishment then, when Mugabe announced his resignation a few days later, after a 37-year reign. The whereabouts of his wife, Grace – a woman whose near-pathological obsession with footwear turned the public against her – are unverified, although it is rumoured she is in closed-closet-door meetings with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Meanwhile, Mugabe’s vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa – reassuringly known as ‘the crocodile’ – swept into office on a wave of renewed public optimism, promising to bring the country forward together.
We’ll remember, remember this November. Sex scandal, Theresa and doubt.