For the first time since the referendum, the United Kingdom has a strong government that knows what it wants from Brexit. This will make the second round of the negotiations with the EU very different from the first.
Theresa May famously declared, and repeated, that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. This was a soundbite designed to conceal fundamental differences within her cabinet about what it did actually mean.
Leaders are often accused of escalating a conflict abroad in order to distract from headaches at home. On Tuesday, before Iran’s missiles were fired, Donald Trump seemed to be doing the opposite. He and his media surrogates started their now all-too-familiar yabbering about impeachment and the Democrats. It felt as if they were trying to move the news cycle away from the Iran crisis. We’re in an election year after all, and the polls suggest a large majority of American voters don’t want more war.
A blood red flag was raised over the Jamkaran mosque in the Iranian holy city of Qom last week, one normally reserved to commemorate the death of martyrs. This time, it was intended as a call to arms. ‘We have unfurled this flag so that all [Shia] believers in the world gather around it to avenge Qassem Soleimani’s blood unjustly shed,’ said the mosque’s leader. In Tehran, there were calls for bloody retribution for the air strike that killed Iranian general Soleimani — and everywhere, talk of all-out war.
‘Global Britain’: a phrase that provokes mockery and even indignation. As an alternative to EU membership many consider it impossible and worse, undesirable. Are we capable of true independence, or is this an illusion? Does ‘global Britain’, as its bitterest critics accuse, draw on imperial nostalgia and nationalistic arrogance? Or is it a rational response to a changing world?
It is certainly not a new response.
Our grandchildren are penniless. They have pretty much everything their hearts desire and they have parents with wallets full of plastic, but they lack the satisfying chink of coins in a jam jar.
I was alerted to this state of affairs when one of our tribe turned nine and I asked his mother how much pocket money he was getting. The answer was: nothing. The very words ‘pocket money’ seemed to strike her as quaint.
By modern standards, my grandfather would probably be considered an environmental criminal. To clear land for his farmhouse in north-eastern Victoria — and for his milking sheds, pig pens, chicken sheds, blacksmith shop and other outbuildings — he cleared hundreds of trees. And he cleared thousands more for his wheat fields, cattle paddocks and shearing sheds.
Old man Hobbs would probably be found guilty of cultural appropriation, too, because he adopted the Aboriginal method of land-clearing.
MPs have a standard approach to political biographies, which falls into three phases: first, preliminary gossip about what will or won’t (always a lot more interesting) be in it; second, mildly salacious enjoyment of the usually tepid leaks and excerpts in the press beforehand; and third, once the book comes out, the inevitable furtive rummaging through the index to see if they get any mentions.
Stage three is hardly restricted to MPs, of course: William F.
The globe (Golden and otherwise) has rightly fallen h-o-h for Olivia Colman who, before The Crown, The Favourite and Peep Show, had an early role as Bev in the ‘Bev-Kev’ ads for AA insurance. But I was there at the very beginning, when she starred opposite her husband-to-be in a 1995 Cambridge production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Table Manners, directed by the incomparable Kate Pakenham. I was in charge of the sound and lights, which weren’t very elaborate, given the 80-seat Corpus Playroom could be lit with a 100-watt bulb.
I was worried my first trip to the Isle of Wight might be too late. These days, a holiday island would surely be no more than fanciful tearooms with hardening scones and flashing arcades. But alighting from the ferry at Ryde, I not only stepped into another place, but another time. It may not be fanciful or flashy, but the Isle of Wight has a faded charm, in the white-painted hotel fronts along the esplanade, the over-manicured patches of public gardens, and a pier without any fruit machines, but with a railway running all the way along it.