Quote of the Week!

Coming all the way from Idaho

Thank you to the Idaho Press-Tribune for publishing this story of a night-time encounter between a car and an elephant. It's pretty wonderful.

Bill Carpenter, driving with his wife through the darkness, nearly hit an elephant:

"Didn't have time to hit the brakes. The elephant blended in with the road," driver Bill Carpenter said Thursday. "At the very last second I said, 'Elephant!' "

The elephant blended in with the road? Really? I don't know if I'm convinced by the road-being-a-perfect-camouflage-for-an-elephant theory. But even better is the random screaming of "Elephant!" and hoping for the best. As though if you identify something, it will move. Anyway, it continues:

"So help me Hanna, had I hit that elephant, not swerved, it would have knocked it off its legs, and it would have landed right on top of us," he said. "We'd have been history."

No, Hanna is not his wife. I'm not sure who Hanna is. But I did find this. And this. But that's distracting us from the matter in hand.

Carpenter joked about being involved in such a bizarre accident on what is usually a peaceful church night.

"I don't know what was in the wine, but it must have been pretty strong," he said.

Ah, the church wine. Of course. Elephant-inducing.


Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 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.