The daily catch-up: world's end, reshuffle sidelines and "acceptable" deaths

Pebbles picked from the seaside of the world-wide web by our beachcomber


1. A beach near Novosibirsk looked like the end of the world when golf ball-sized hail stones suddenly rained down. Video via LBC.

2. There was confusion all day yesterday over precisely who was an actual member of the new Cabinet and who was "entitled to attend", with the roster on the official Government website fluctuating like a bowl of mercury. This mattered mostly because it affected the calculations of the percentages of women at the top of Government. My final tally was that women made up 5 out of 17, or 29 per cent, of Conservative Cabinet ministers, and 8 out of 27, or 30 per cent, of Tories "attending Cabinet". The Liberal Democrats score 0 out of 5 and 0 out of 6 (their Cabinet "attender" is David Laws, the schools minister.)

Also on the reshuffle, I wrote for Independent Voices yesterday on why Michael Gove was moved: "Cowardice is sometimes the better part of politics". I have also interviewed two promoted ministers in the past: Philip Hammond, the new Foreign Secretary, who went to a state school and once worked briefly and unhappily for Jeffrey Archer, and Nick Gibb, who returns to the Education Department, and who told me: "We are all Blairites now."

As if to prove it, Sir Michael Barber, who worked for David Blunkett as Education Secretary 1997-2001 and was then head of Tony Blair's Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, said yesterday:

"Time will tell, but my guess is history will judge Michael Gove to have been highly significant and a force for good."

3. Most unexpected reshuffle news: Adam Boulton swallowed a fly live on air.

4. Tom Chivers talks a lot of sense about numeracy. He got into trouble for questioning a statistic liable to go viral about the numbers of people who had died soon after being declared fit to work by Atos, the government contractor:

"I received a lot of the same sort of emails, comments and tweets: 'Even one death is too many'; 'you're treating people like numbers'; 'why are you quibbling about statistics when people are dying?' The novelist John Niven, who had written an otherwise reasonable piece which quoted the Atos stat, tweeted when it was pointed out that it was wrong: 'Tell me how many deaths are acceptable.' ... I know it sounds callous to talk about getting the numbers right and asking is that really a large number when we're talking about real human beings who died. But if you don't ask these questions, if you don't get the numbers right, then it makes things worse."

5. Back to the reshuffle. It prompted a boisterous exchange between Louise Mensch, the Tory former MP for Corby, and Dominic Cummings, Gove's former special adviser. He replied to something she wrote:

"No Louise, I resigned last September and left this Jan. Not sure why u think I was sacked but not right."

"'Resigned' as in asked to resign for your embarrassing briefing. Hang your head for what happened today."

"No. Why wd u make accusations like that? Resigned cos I'd done what I cd & time for new things..."


"It was all in the public domain! Why are you so grumpy today?"

Cummings later tweeted: "The surprise? We got away with subverting every Whitehall and No 10 process, and it took David Cameron four years to surrender. We assumed he would in 2012 and 2013, hence the pace."

6. Finally, thanks to Adam Leedham for this:

"Doctor told me that in fact I do need orthopaedic shoes. So I stand corrected."

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