France’s veteran leftwing agitator, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is preparing once again to sally forth against his enemies on the right after announcing that he is standing in the 2022 presidential elections, the third time he has mounted a challenge to lead the country.
The leader of France Unbowed (La France Insoumise, or LFI) promised last week he would put his name forward if 150,000 French citizens signed a petition supporting him. Within days, he had comfortably hit his target, and the signatures are still pouring in.
With 18 months to go until the next presidential election, polls suggest it is likely to be a repeat of the last one in 2017; a run-off between the current centrist leader, President Emmanuel Macron, and the far right’s Marine Le Pen.
There is just one problem. How does a self-confessed political rabble-rouser, who admits his modus operandi is to ramp up the rhetoric, find the right tone in the time of the coronavirus crisis?
“The Covid-19 situation makes our job very difficult because we are in opposition and we do oppose the way the health crisis has been handled, but we cannot be the ones organising more disorganisation. We cannot be pushing people to disobey and create chaos. We just can’t do that,” Mélenchon told the Observer:
If you stand on the cliff at Land’s End with your back to the sea and the majesty of England stretching ahead of you, the first thing you see is a theme park. It’s not the most promising introduction to the country. But my friend Ed and I had our sights set well beyond the expensive ice-cream and Arthur’s Quest experience. We had them fixed 874 miles away – on John o’Groats.
Many midlife adventures spark into life in the pub after one too many pints and a chaser of bravado. Ours, however, was a direct reaction to the foreshortened horizons of the pandemic. What better way to shake off the shackles of lockdown than a self-supported, two-week biking and camping trek over the length of the country? “Well …” my wife laughed, “how about staying in a luxury hotel?” She makes a persuasive case, but months of staring at the same four walls had made me yearn for widescreen panoramas and the freedom of the open road.
You can, of course, set off at any time of year, but it makes sense to do the ride when: (a) it’s dry and warm, and (b) the midges are dormant. The best months, therefore, are May and June. So it was far from ideal that we chose September when (a) it was wet and cold, and (b) the midges were in full-on illegal rave mode:
It’s the 17-year stalwart of daytime British TV, famous for revealing the hidden potential of dilapidated properties and the rapacious profits of the punters bold enough to buy them at auction. Now, Homes Under the Hammer is being credited with fuelling a new boom in the property market, as auctioneers report a sharp increase in sales and bidders – particularly for family homes – during the pandemic.
Savills says it has sold property worth more than £240m at auction this year, almost 40% higher than the same period in 2019, while last week Auction House announced it had sold £65m worth of property in October alone, a new record. Auctioneer John Pye Property said the total value of properties it sold between May and October this year was 126% higher than that achieved during the same period last year. The number of bidders at its auctions also rose by 52%.
Since March, property auctions have been taking place online, making them seem more “accessible” to first-time bidders who are fans of Homes Under the Hammer and have more time on their hands during lockdown. “Going to some of the big metropolitan auctions can be quite intimidating,” said Charles Lovell, head of Auction House Robinson & Hall. Now, he says, “anybody can just log on and watch the auction … That can draw them into considering auction as a means of purchasing a property.”
Normally his firm successfully auctions off about 81% of the properties on its books – during lockdown, the figure is nearer 96%. “I think there’s only one property we offered which didn’t sell.”
Calls to the UK’s largest domestic abuse helpline are rising “week on week” as new figures reveal that almost 50 suspected killings may have occurred during the first lockdown.
The charity Refuge, which runs the National Domestic Abuse helpline, said it was “very concerned” by the continuing upward trend in demand for its services, with England a little over a week into its second lockdown.
Separate data from Counting Dead Women, a project that records the killing of women by men in the UK, identified 35 murders, with another 12 strongly suspected cases between 23 March and the start of July, when Covid restrictions were largely lifted.
The rate of killings, conspicuously steep in the opening period of the first lockdown, gradually lowers to levels similar to those recorded in previous years: