Something for the Weekend: Country House

There’s snow outside and protesters on the streets, which must mean that it’s time for Something for the Weekend. I have a cold, so apologies for any typos.

Carrying the Something for the Weekend torch today: baggage handlers; overage drinkers; the Egg McMuffin man; taxpayers’ money; and more!

» Good Week

It’s been a good week for me. From the beginning of the new financial year, which is today, I get a small income tax cut. Thanks, Gordon. The biggest winners, though, are those earning around £35k.

It’s been a less good week for those earning under around £18,000, who will see the amount of tax they pay go up in order to fund the tax cuts of people who earn much more. See, Labour do believe in redistribution – just not in the traditional direction…

» Bad Week

It’s been a bad week for BA, which has seen the farce at Heathrow Terminal 5 drag on and on. Amongst those losing baggage was, apparently, the foreign minister of another EU country.

After announcing that everything should be fine this weekend, the baggage-handling software developed another glitch, causing staff to resort to manually matching up bags with flights. And then it started to snow.

Much of the responsibility lies with airport operator BAA, but, unfortuantely for BA, they have very similar initials.

» News you may have missed

As I’ve had a few weeks off, here’s a larger than usual helping of news stories.

All change for coinage

All of the coins from 1p to £1 have been redesigned, and the new styles became legal tender this week ahead of entering circulation in the summer.

The lower denomination coins show parts of the royal shield of arms, with the £1 coin featuring the whole shield.

The current profile portrait of the Queen will be retained on the “heads” side.

Farewell, Mr McMuffin

The inventor of the Egg McMuffin, which has powered many a polling day, has died at the age of 89.

When Herb Peterson launched the Egg McMuffin at one of his own McDonald’s restaurants in 1972, it was the fast food chain’s first breakfast product.

Flu into Peru

A British TV company has denied introducing a fatal bout of flu to a remote Peruvian tribe.

Four members of the Matsigenka tribe are said to have died and others have been ill. Because the tribe has no contact with the outside world, its members immune sytems are less capable of fighting off what would be considered common infections elsewhere.

The production company, which makes the series World’s Lost Tribes, claims its team didn’t visit the area in question.

“Dangerous” images of male bodies

Pictures of perfect male physiques could be damaging to impressionable young men – and no, not in that way.

Researcher Dr David Giles, from the University of Winchester, found that regular readers of lads’ mags were morely likely to “exercise to excess” (something I’m very guilt of myself) as a result of body image anxieties.

Drinking age rises to 21 – in one town

Off-licences in Armadale, West Lothian, have stopped serving alcohol to under-21s in a pilot scheme running for six weeks.

Every off-licence in the town has signed up to the voluntary scheme. Pubs will continue to serve 18-year-olds.

Viagra is 10

Notorious blue pill Viagra was ten years old last week – a decade on from being OKed by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration.

Pop fact: Viagra was once advertised by Bob Dole.

» Hillary under attack

Via Gavin Whenman, the video that shows that Hillary Clinton really did come under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996.

» Tony Blair’s TV licence and other stories

This week, the House of Commons authorities abandoned their appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling that they should publish details of a group of MPs’ additional costs allowances. (The request for more details information about 14 MPs is still being appealed.)

Thus we learnt that we, the Taxpayer, paid for Tony Blair’s TV licence in 2005/6, and that we forked out £4,000 for food for John Prescott in 2003/4.

In 2005/6, David Cameron claimed £21,293 towards the mortgage on his house in the country, with his sidekick Gideon Osbourne claiming over £18k for the same and £2,300 for food. Charles Kennedy claimed £12,869 for his mortgage in 2003/4.

The Sunday Telegraph today goes for Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen, whose second home is only nine miles from their flat in central London.

While other MPs submitted detailed accounts of how they spent their ACAs, the Keens, who have been branded “Mr and Mrs Expenses”, each put in monthly claims for £1,640, a figure calculated as one-twelfth of the annual permitted total, without stating what the money was for. Each received the maximum payout of £19,681.75 during 2002/3 – a total of £39,363.50 between them.

» Harriet Harman’s week

Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman stood in for Gordon Brown at PMQs this week. Here’s a choice bit from Quentin Letts:

It was telling that the person to do the most damage to Miss Harman was she herself. This was when she was trying to explain away some rubbish she had written on her website.

She told the House that this had been part of her “Harriet in the High Street Listening” programme. She may well have meant this seriously but the House roared with laughter.

» Facebook groups of the week

It’s possible that one or two Liberal Democrat Voice readers may feel some sympathy with the group I’m a bleeding heart liberal and proud of it.


There’s an attempt to influence the UK’s manned spaced programme, with We want Lembit to be Britain’s first Astronaut.

And if you like the Spaced programme, you may be interested in Say NO to an American remake of Spaced.

» Coming up

Parliament’s on holiday, so they’ll be no Prime Minister’s Questions this week. Baroness Williams will be on Friday’s Any Questions? on BBC Radio 4 (repeated Saturday).

» And finally…

Parliament is now in recess, so Something for the Weekend will return in three weeks, once news is allowed to happen again.

To keep you going meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite sketches from the latest series of That Mitchell and Webb Look.

* Something for the weekend after the weekend after next? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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