The Hound

Charlie Watts, the drummer of The Rolling Stones, has died

Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones drummer dies, aged 80

Charlie Watts – the legendary Rolling Stones drummer – has died aged 80. Watts, a jazz cognoscenti who went on to appear on all of the band’s 30 studio releases, was seen by many as the most mild-mannered member of the group. Unlike bandmates Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, Watts preferred to stay out of the showbiz spotlight, spending the latter years of his life with his wife Shirley (who he has known since the Stones’ debut in 1963) at a Devonshire horse-breeding farm.

That does not mean Watts’ life was a complete bore fest. When someone is a part of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group of all time, there is always a story or two worth recalling. For instance, Watts once punched Jagger in the face for calling him “my drummer”, and used to sketch each hotel room he stayed in when touring.

Watts also had his fair share of encounters with history’s most notable figures. In the ‘80s, he was entertained in a hotel room in Hawaii – with tea and biscuits – by none other than prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. She later called the Stones a “great British asset”, which some say helped them become reputable among critics who saw them as anti-establishment.

Clearly, Maggie was unable to make a Thatcherite out of Watts, who preferred to stay out of political discourse. In 2016, Watts said: “I actually don’t like politicians or politics. We’ve got to have them but I don’t like them. I’ve never liked a politician in my life. I’ve never voted for anyone. I don’t believe them. So, I‘ve never voted for any of them.

Reaction will always remember him though for inimitable skill and talent with the drumkit. Take it away, Charlie!

James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces, has been a breath of fresh air

James Heappey: a breath of fresh air

There’s a new man on the block and he’s been making waves on the airwaves. Compared to some of the bumbling from more senior politicians, James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces, has been a breath of fresh air during the last few days of fraught commentary on the withdrawal from Afghanistan

He told Nick Ferrari on LBC that the thought of leaving behind Afghan nationals who helped Britain during the war keeps him “awake at night”. Like his boss, Ben Wallace, the defence minister, Heappey sounds genuine compared to some of the more pious politicians.

He has also sought to assure voters about the migration of asylum seekers, telling the Today programme that rigorous checks at Kabul airport are in place to block people who want to “harm us”.

Like his Tory colleagues, Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer, Heappey served in Afghanistan (twice!) as a major in the Rifles. He is a relative newcomer to Westminster having been elected as MP for Wells in 2015. Before taking his seat in the Commons, Heappey was a researcher for Liam Fox – an ex-military man himself. 

But Heappey has not always been so sensibble with words. He got into deep trouble in 2017 when he told a Scottish schoolgirl to “f**k off” when she said she would vote for Scottish independence, with then Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davison calling the remarks “utterly inappropriate”. He seems to have worked on his on-camera image since then, as well as working his way up the MoD ranks.

We will be watching Heappey’s career with interest.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron

Risqué Macron book spills beans on relationship with Brigitte

The art of romance is ingrained in French culture, even in their politique. No couple is more authoritative than that of French President Emmanuel Macron and his beloved wife Brigitte Trogneux – who for those that aren’t aware is 25 years his senior. “Brigitte Macron, the Unfettered Woman” by Gael Tchakaloff, a former close friend of the Macrons, tells the story of how this unexpected relationship bloomed into one of the West’s most influential power couples.

The book’s revelations about France’s First Lady tell a story of struggle, like the moment her sister died in a car accident with her husband and daughter, but also of resilience.

Yet it is the risqué details – which come across like a piece of Colette erotica – that are grabbing people’s attention. Before meeting Macron, who was a drama student of Brigitte’s, she had suggestive relationships with other students, sending written messages via classmates’ pencil cases.

Though the book is about his wife, Macron is not let off the hook when it comes to the raunchy details. In the 90s, Macron penned a salacious novel in tribute to Brigitte. According to the book, their relationship lost Macron some of his closest friends.

“The Macrons keep a very tight rein on their communication,” according to Tchakaloff, who interviewed acquaintances instead. Macron is now embroiled in the West’s response to Afghanistan and is seeking re-election in 2022. But you can’t help but wonder if there are any spare copies of Macron’s literary masterpiece still lying about…

Become a Reaction annual  subscriber for £60 and we’ll send you a welcome gift worth £20
Reaction subscribers get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, full access, a daily briefing and invitations to online events.