These days you have to be careful what you read. Whilst I am assured by our reliable team of researchers that any facts and figures featured in The Weekly are vigorously tested and cross-checked, the fake news scandal that has engulfed Facebook this week appears to be the tip of a much wider issue. The proliferation of the internet and social media means it's harder to distinguish between the voice of the "professional" and the swathe of other reporting, opinion, and even simple rumour-mongering. In the digital age it seems "fictitious facts" can all too quickly become "facts". Take Jeremy Clarkson's shocking "flight ban", first reported on Tuesday, at the hands of an Argentinian airline employee seeking revenge for Top Gear's alleged number plate stunt that seemed to make reference to the Falklands War. By Wednesday the airline employee was Spanish and it had emerged that Clarkson and Co had missed numerous calls for the flight. The cynical amongst us might query the timing of the story too - given that the hotly anticipated first episode of "The Grand Tour" was shown on Friday night!
On Wednesday the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will be delivering his first Autumn Statement since taking office. It is widely anticipated that he will admit to a post-Brexit deterioration in public finances on the back of OBR forecasts predicting mediocre economic growth until 2020, with higher inflation and weaker business investment combining to reduce likely tax revenues to the Exchequer. To dilute the message, the Chancellor will no doubt deliver the bad news in between long gulps of water, before offering some limited tax cuts as a final sweetener. Whether his tax offerings go as far as repealing the stifling 3% stamp duty levy on buy-to-let investments and the institutional build-to-rent sector remains to be seen. But if Wednesday afternoon proves uncomfortable for the Chancellor he can at least take comfort from the fact that come the March 2017 Budget he will be able to fortify himself with alcohol rather than water. By tradition, the Chancellor is allowed to drink whatever he, or she likes during the Budget speech, with Benjamin Disraeli historically opting for brandy and Kenneth Clarke relying on whisky. The next few months will determine whether Philip Hammond is left reaching for the sparkling water, or a triple vodka and red bull!
International sport these days is a serious business. Even in the comparatively slow-paced world of cricket, today's players are gym-honed athletes surrounded by an endless support network of technical coaches, physiotherapists, sports nutritionists and psychologists. Thursday's images of players and ground staff haplessly chasing an uninvited, cricket-loving canine around the outfield during the 2nd Test match between England and India was therefore rather refreshing. Not only did the unusual headline "Dog Stops Play" leave Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara stranded uncomfortably on 97 at the early tea break, but it also provided a welcome distraction for the commentators who spent the following session of play engaged in the not-so-serious task of naming an International "Canine XI". The current batting line-up includes Jack Russell, Matthew Doggard, Allan Border and Graham Pooch! All ideas for the full XI are welcome. The only stipulation being that the final team needs a very long tail!!