February in headlines
Pancakes were flipped, Valentines exchanged, and we welcomed in the Chinese Year of the Dog with a profusion of lanterns and fireworks.
It’s been a month of shock revelations, of taking a stand, and that most captivating of sports: Olympic curling.
The reputation of international charity Oxfam was rocked following allegations its staff had hired prostitutes while working overseas. The scandal dominated the front pages with backlash from donors, corporate sponsors and ambassadors. There were tricky questions about just how forthcoming Oxfam had been with the Charity Commission, and if they had attempted to cover up the scandal. Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, resigned, saying she took full responsibility. Oxfam may have taken out a full-page advertisement in the Guardian to apologise, but around 7,000 people have already cancelled their donations.
Gender pay gap
Tesco was the first of the big supermarkets to report its gender pay gap figures, ahead of the April deadline. The report showed a median gap of 8.7 per cent between hourly earnings of men and women. The average was 12 per cent. The retailer is facing “potentially the largest ever equal pay challenge in the UK”, which could cost the supermarket giant up to £4bn.
It wasn’t just in supermarkets that the struggle for equality raged on. Supporters of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements made a visible statement by wearing black to the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. Be it on the shop floor or the red carpet, February gave rise to a palpable sense that things were changing; being a woman was never a reason to accept a smaller pay packet or sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace, but now the public has backing in that belief.
The story that Jeremy Corbyn gave information to a Cold War communist spy was like the proverbial bad penny; it just kept coming back. Despite Corbyn’s emphatic denials, and the evidence suggesting he was never anything more than a person of interest to the Czech secret service, for some papers it was just too good a story to pass up on.
Tory MP Ben Bradley took the Sun’s claims a step further, claiming on Twitter that the Labour leader “sold British secrets to communist spies.” Bradley was forced to apologise and his tweeted apology has since been shared on the site over 57,000 times—more than the combined number of shares for the @Conservatives’ 300 official Twitter posts in 2018 so far.
Snapchat users made clear exactly how much they disliked the latest updates to the platform, with more than 1.2 million people signing a petition to change it back to the original design. To make matters worse, a tweet from Kylie Jenner was blamed by many outlets for wiping a huge £1bn off Snap’s stock market value—with the reality star stating she’s no longer using Snapchat. Snap has responded by reassuring users that “we hear you”, and they intend to make it easier for users to view the content they wanted to see.
Former junior football coach and youth scout, Barry Bennell, was convicted on 50 counts of historic sexual abuse. The latest investigation began after Andy Woodward, an ex-Crewe, Sheffield United and Bury footballer, spoke about the abuse he had suffered to the Guardian newspaper. The reporting by Daniel Taylor, Chief Football Writer at the Guardian, instigated the largest ever police investigation into sexual abuse in the UK.
David Davis’ Mad Max speech
David Davis announced that post-Brexit UK won’t be a “Mad Max dystopia”, and his evocative language was duly seized upon by the media—leading to a slew of humorous memes. While the images and GIFs amused many, it is unclear if his language served its intended purpose of reassuring businesses that the UK will maintain high standards and regulations.
All eyes were on Pyeongchang in February as the world competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics. There were slips, trips, more than one dramatic crash, and fascination over the North Korean cheerleaders and their mesmerising co-ordinated performances. Britain came away with five medals, their greatest ever haul for a winter games. The standout event for many was the curling; the lurid trousers on display – as well as a scandalous doping controversy – attracting A-list fans such as Mr T.