Oh the larks

This looks like an incredible amount of fun, if you like water slides

Which I do! (Like water slides.) Although I don't really like risking my life that much. But what the heck? Essentially, if you did this successfully you'd be under the impression you were immortal, so that would make up for the terrifyingly close brush with death you'd just experienced. Anyway, enough existential analysis of something very simple and fun. Thank you, Germany.


Does it throw a dampener on the whole thing to discover that it's a Microsoft viral campaign? Yes and no. Initially, yes. But then, once you've watched it again, a big fat NO. Watching a nutter splosh into a paddling pool does not, strangely enough, make me want to dress myself from head to toe in Microsoft products (although I'm imagining this now: PowerPoint presentations dangling from my ears, dress made out of Microsoft Office CDs, hat of Excel spreadsheets perched on my head).

I digress. The point is, I thought a big watery ramp might be the best possible way of signing off for a week. I'm going on holiday. While away, I intend to: a) construct a record-breaking water slide for my own amusement and b) spend at least 70 per cent of the time contemplating my impending doom. Oh, happy times!

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.