News Monkey

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TORY RESHUFFLE. After dozens of people turned out to vote for the Tories in the Euro elections, William Hague has every right to be triumphalist. After all, how many more chances is he likely to get? A few weeks ago a Tory reshuffle might have been compared to a Titanic deck chair reshuffle, but now the new line-up is being hailed as a recipe for success. Peter Lilley was so gracious about being sacked that it might almost be worth re-appointing him and sacking him again. Ann Widdecombe, Lilley's successor as ghoulish party conference pin-up, has been duly promoted, but the inclusion of John Redwood as transport spokesman proves the reshuffle is no mere popularity contest.

SCRUBS REPORT. The Prison Officers Association responded to a report that it had too much control at Wormwood Scrubs by occupying the prison chapel and forcing the governor to agree to demands that inmates should be locked in their cells for a week. How reassuring. But the real news is not that 25 prison officers have been charged over a regime of what was claimed to be systematic beatings tantamount to torture, but that the notorious Victorian prison may close as a result. It's not every day that 1,400 period studio flats go on the market in West London, with many original features, just a short stolen car ride from trendy Notting Hill.

TOBACCO BAN. Tobacco ads are to be outlawed from December, under draft legislation put forward by the Government last week, with tobacco sports sponsorship set to stop in 2003. Championship snooker, however, will be granted an extension as a special case, perhaps because it's one of the few sports where having one lung is not a particular disadvantage.

WAL-MART TAKEOVER. The takeover of the Asda supermarket chain by retail macrocosm Wal-Mart brings forward that great day when the entire planet is basically one big crappy store. Instead of protesting at this naked example of American cultural imperialism, most commentators seem to be burbling contentedly about increased competition and lower prices. It seems like only yesterday we were all out searching for the most expensive bottle of organic olive oil we could find, and now we're all drooling at the prospect of really cheap aerosol cheese. In this new climate, even a Tory comeback is not out of the question.

DEATH LISTS. Helpful death-rate league tables for NHS hospitals show patients how likely they are to survive healthcare in their area. Despite the Government's warning that the information is less than accurate and far too complex to be used as a measure of performance, the table will no doubt lead to many hospitals subjecting patients to rigorous physical examinations in order to screen out the ill, while admitting large numbers of hypochondriacs in order to boost their ranking.

MONKEY NEWS. Scientists have found that chimpanzees have cultures as distinct as those of humans. While this may seem like harmless information, such propaganda is all part of the coming Planet-of-the-Apes- style takeover. Next we'll be told that ape culture is just as valid as human culture, perhaps in some ways preferable. Then a form of primate cultural imperialism will take hold, and before you know it we'll all be sitting around eating ants off a stick. Meanwhile, a 500-year-old banana has been found in the Thames, proving that monkeys ruled Tudor England.