Ever since last year’s general election, when Jeremy Corbyn inspired the strongest Labour surge since 1945, the Conservatives have been unsure if this was a freak occurrence or the start of something bigger. As they have learnt to their cost, opinion polls aren’t as reliable as they once were: only election results matter. There will be plenty next month, with seats on more than 150 councils all over England up for grabs.
I am here in India looking for tigers, and am struck by the way my fellow human beings respond to their encounters —what they want from the whole tiger experience. It is a privilege to see these animals in the wild, and believe me, you can easily fail.
Years ago I spent days tracking them at another park, and though the gamekeepers kept up a plucky commentary — pointing to scratches on trees and snapped grass stems that proved ‘tiger was here’ — we saw neither hide nor hair.
According to people at City Hall, Sadiq Khan writes some of his own press releases. I can believe it: they’ve certainly become a lot more excitable since he took over. I like to imagine the Mayor of London, late at night, combing the thesaurus for fresh superlatives to bugle his ‘unprecedented programme of far-reaching improvements’ for the taxi trade (allowing black cabs in more bus lanes) or his ‘bold package of measures’ to revive street markets (creating a London Markets Board and an interactive map).
Last week, I was in the Florence Baptistery by 8.30 a.m. That used to be early enough to avoid the crowds and admire the Baptistery’s east doors by Ghiberti — the Gates of Paradise, as Michel-angelo called them.
No longer. As I stared at the 13th-century mosaics in the apse and Donatello and Michelozzo’s tomb of Antipope John XXIII, a group of bored Italian teenagers started hugging each other and gossiping on the front pew next to me.
The honeymoon is over for Emmanuel Macron. His first 11 months in office have been something of a breeze — defined by economic growth, international approval and museum openings in the Middle East. But France’s youthful President is gearing up for months of domestic hostility. ‘The war of attrition’ was the headline in Tuesday’s Le Parisien. Alongside this stark declaration was a photograph of one of the President’s enemies, a prominent figure in CGT, the hard-left trade union.
‘Ah, the old man injury!’ That’s what people said when I busted my calf a couple of years ago. At the time I laughed it off because in more than 20 years I’d never suffered any serious injuries, aside from my knee in 2012/13. No back problems or proper muscle tears. I was having a great time on the T20 circuit, playing to 84,000 spectators in Melbourne. Then, last year, I tore my calf again playing for Surrey.
Standing at the end of Britain’s longest pier, on a cold and misty morning, looking out across the Thames Estuary, I wondered, for the umpteenth time: why do people take the piss out of Southend? It’s got no airs and graces. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yet out here, surrounded by still grey sky and still grey water, with only a few seagulls for company, I’m struck by its barren windswept beauty.