For many in our industry August is a time of relative relaxation. But despite the Westminster Village recess – allowing MPs and hacks a well-earned rest – for the media television cameras must still roll, papers must still be printed and Twitter feeds must be refreshed with new content. The result, it is fair to say, is a month or so of stories that are fanciful, niche or just plain bizarre. As we reach the end of August and normal business resumes, we’ve looked back and picked our silly season favourites.
World Dog Surfing Championships (Ben Winter @benwinter7390)
We all had a little sympathy for BBC News presenter Simon McCoy, who earlier this month had to introduce a package covering the second [yes, the second] annual World Dog Surfing Championships in California. McCoy didn’t even try to hide his contempt for the story, prefacing it with an apologetic, “just bear in mind it is August”. The combination of his withering narration and footage of dogs on surfboards was absolutely delightful. The final indignity of it all came to a head at the end when the auto-cue demanded that McCoy note that the winner was crowned “top dog” [eeeesh]. The episode was wonderfully similar to Anchorman Ron Burgundy’s exclusive of Nutty, the water-skiing squirrel.
Rating: 8 out 10 on the silly season scale
SCOOP: Labour MP not fond of Tory MPs (Geoff Duggan @GeoffDuggan)
Newly elected Labour MP Laura Piddock was catapulted into the limelight this month following an “incendiary” claim she made in an interview with website The SKWAWKBOX. The claim: that Tories are the enemy and that she has absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them. While a slightly depressing reflection of our partisan political system, which bears increasingly little relevance to most of the population AND at a time when cross-party collaboration is arguably more important than ever before, the idea that one side of the House sees the other as the enemy is hardly new or news. While not defensible, MPs from all sides have been tearing chunks out of each other from time immemorial. Indeed, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner has made it his life’s work, claiming only last month that ‘I’ve never done any cross-party stuff. I can’t even contemplate it’. Starved of real political news the story quickly went viral, generating a plethora of think pieces on who it’s acceptable to be friends with. My favourite: a moment of pure peak Guardian, a head-to-head debate on whether it’s OK to be friends with a Tory.
Rating: 7 out of 10 on the silly season scale
Safest place to live if global nuclear war breaks out? (Peter Turay @TheMrTuray)
Maybe more scary season than silly season, in August, eMoov – a UK-based online estate agent – decided to take the ‘housing boom’ a little too literally, and published a map of the most affordable places to live outside the ‘nuclear impact zone’ (if your contingency plan isn’t already in place – Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, is apparently your best option).
Twitter users rejoiced and recoiled, as the aptly timed press release coincided with North Korea’s increasingly aggressive nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. The Times’ Assistant Editor, David Byers duly dubbed it “the worst press release ever”, while others tried to look past the potential nuclear wasteland-like landscape to just see the funny side.
The press release may well have been ill advised, but we can’t knock eMoov’s efforts in providing solutions to the most complicated geo-political crisis of the past decade. See you all in Inverness or Aberystwyth on Apocalypse Day.
Rating: 8 out of 10 on the silly season scale
“Cometh the hour, cometh the Mogg”… (Josh Lambkin @jjblambkin)
Silly season has allowed this idea to break out of the Westminster bubble, where it firmly belongs. The notion that Jacob Rees-Mogg could become leader of the Conservative Party once Theresa May moves on initially took hold after a Conservative Home poll revealed he was the second favourite choice among party members.
Known endearingly as “the Honourable Member for the 18th century”, Rees-Mogg has quickly made a name for himself as a charming, unapologetically patriotic and antiquated conservative politician (in the true sense of the word).
But despite gathering a significant following through an impressive online campaign and grassroots movement called “Moggmentum”, Rees-Mogg’s leadership chances are overstated. His robustness on Brexit and his eloquence in Parliament make him an increasingly influential figure in Westminster but his social conservatism narrows his appeal too much and it wouldn’t stand up to the wider scrutiny of the electorate. Deep down, Tory members know this. As the man said himself: “I think if I threw my hat in the ring, my hat would be thrown back at me pretty quickly”.
Rating: 7 out of 10 on the silly season scale
Psycho seagull from HELL (Marie Lorimer @MarieLorimer)
For too long these seaside savages have been disturbing coastal towns around the nation, ruining our precious little summer days. As councils from around the UK began slowly introducing fines for feeding seagulls earlier this summer, stories have emerged of their scandalous and downright menacing behaviour towards innocent bystanders… and even their fellow brothers in the animal kingdom. One such incident was captured on film – catching a cannibalistic seagull eating a pigeon – perfect tabloid fodder for a quiet summer period (Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Star, Mirror). You can watch the footage here.
The images left thousands of readers traumatised, prompting hyperbolic comments such as: “Imagine being small enough for this thing to eat. It would be like a flying T-Rex with soulless red eyes” and “These motherf****** are as ruthless as us.” ExPECKed [that’s awful – Ed] more from #gullwatch later this summer from the Daily Star, who are monitoring the story closely and have already printed a follow-up piece.
Rating: 9 out 10 on the silly season scale