Welcome back to this week’s installment of the all-new What Just Happened?!, a semi-comical weekly digest of the most important news from the UK, US and the World from Will Marshall, and Alistair Simmonds-Yoo. Look out for us every Friday, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Hidden amongst the nightmarish international affairs this week and Royal distractions was a glimpse into the dark heart of the Tory majority. The Government removed its commitment to guarantee the rights of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement back in December following the General Election, and MPs voted yesterday against an amendment to put it back in. It’s a pretty bizarre move really, of all the contentious subjects to be covered in the Withdrawal Agreement surely protection of child refugees is something everybody can get behind? Presumably our glorious leaders felt that the years of separation from their parents at boarding school was bally good and child refugees should make the most of it.
Mmmm… Tastes like shame
Muller have launched the perfect product for the health-conscious functional alcoholic in the form of ‘Muller Light Gin & Tonic Yoghurt’. They actually only contain 0.5% gin, but this is still an objectively obscene extension of the gin craze, and an utterly shameless marketing ploy to grab social media attention (such as this, the irony is not lost on me).
Domestically-Produced Sparkling Wine Socialism
It’s hard to get excited about the Labour Leadership elections in much the same way as it’s hard to be excited when you discover you’ve left your washing in the machine for 4 days and it smells really bad, but ultimately both could have relatively horrifying long-term implications if left unchecked. To stand any chance of dislodging the skid-mark of yet another Conservative government from the toilet bowl of our democracy we will need the right opposition leader with some substantial mainstream support.
Sir Keir Starmer is looking like just the chap we need right now, the former Director of Public Prosecutions is currently the frontrunner in opinion polls of the membership and just received the backing of the trade union Unison. There’s plenty of room still left in the race though and Rebecca Long-Bailey looks to be in with a good shot. She would certainly up the dynamism of the party but has been criticised as a ‘continuity Corbyn’ for her close ties to the inner circle, then again, others paint Starmer as ‘another out-of-touch London lawyer’.
A Plymouth man has entered a not-guilty plea to the charge of attacking a man in a cafe with a seagull. Paul Elcombe allegedly threw the bird at the man. Frankly I want more information on this case, including CCTV if possible, to understand the physics involved in grasping and throwing a small winged animal in anger.
Tweeteth the Birds Of War
First came the tweets of war. Or even War Crimes?! As Trump threatens dozens of Iran’s cultural sites – which are all of our cultural sites ultimately, the ‘Fertile Crescent’ isn’t just called that to attract tourists… One might hope we could all unite in decrying threats against civilian and cultural sites, then again we’re all pretty accustomed to being deeply disappointed by Republican Senators at this point. All is partisan in love and war.
Then came the tweets of de-escalation. This Wired article gives a pretty great treatment of the insanity of the whole social media diplomacy thing we witnessed earlier in the week. As has been observed It’s completely wild that diplomacy between two potentially nuclear powers appears to be occurring in full public view and in real-time.
If one read from the milky waters of the tweet-sphere to discern their forebodings for the future, pretty well any conclusion could’ve been possible. Of course, the people who understand what’s actually happening are in there somewhere… they’re just obscured by uncountable bots and general crap-flinging. I’m in two minds about the moral of the story with regards to Twitter. The whole thing might actually, ironically, serve as a reminder of the dangers of relying on quickly available unsubstantiated details in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic event – such as is Twitter’s bread and butter… On the other hand, it’s like a low-rent ‘MOLINK’ between all nations (the “Red Phone” connecting Washington to Moscow which is actually not a telephone and includes a redundant line going through Morocco for when the main one gets in the way of a Finnish farmer’s plough, true story).
The real tragedies of 2020’s first fresh crisis appear somewhat at the peripheries. Of the millions to grieve Soleimani (and other high ranking officials were killed by a US drone in Baghdad) dozens were killed in a stampede as the crowd became intensely chaotic. Also a Ukrainian passenger jet was (likely) shot down by an Iranian missile while everyone feared the U.S. was about to further escalate the conflict in response to Iran’s retaliation (which consisted of a dozen ballistic missiles hitting allied bases in Iraq). All 176 passengers perished. During a similarly tense situation in the late 80’s the U.S. killed 290 people via essentially the same error. Hopefully we’ll figure out how to stop doing this.
Meanwhile, Trump, the man who selected the assassination of Soleimani from a ‘menu’ to which it was allegedly added “to make the other options seem more appealing”, continues to take the high road: whining to a campaign rally about not winning a Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was awarded most recently to Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed, a country which Trump claimed at the rally to have “saved”.