When Boris Johnson first became Prime Minister, he did not have a majority in parliament. Still, he didn’t worry too much about making friends with Tory MPs. He decided to work from the outside in, using his public popularity to pressure colleagues. A snap election was looming: backing him, he said, was their best hope of surviving. He was right, and delivered a majority of 80. This gave him huge personal authority. MPs deferred to his judgment even when they disagreed.
Before the pandemic hit, NHS England waiting lists were at a record high of 4.4 million. Three lockdowns later, they’ve risen to six million: an unacceptable figure for a Tory government which has spent years trying to rebrand itself as the ‘party of the NHS’. Boris Johnson’s decision to break his manifesto pledge and raise taxes was directly linked to the idea that the money would first be funnelled into the health service to fix the backlog.
For many of our clients we are a dirty secret. Phone calls regularly begin with variants of: ‘Can you guarantee discretion?’ But there’s not a dealer, pimp or even a Botox clinic in sight. We write speeches.
Traditional taboos are fast disappearing. Personal trainers, moisturising creams and therapists are shared between friends. It is socially acceptable to plan your wedding with a professional and outsource every-thing from the flowers to the invitations.
The police watchdog, the IOPC, has recently released a report into social media conversations between officers — and it makes for uncomfortable reading. Some of the comments are appalling, full of arrogance, racism and misogyny. But as we get ready to shower disdain on serving officers once again, I’d like to raise the question: what effect do you think this constant castigation of all police officers has?
The offending messages were exchanged three to five years ago between half a dozen foolish or morally weak young officers.
The Church of England has always been clever at producing theology to suit itself. If we don’t start protesting, we may never get communion wine back again. Too many risk-averse clergy have discovered how efficient, hygienic and cheap it is just to give us a wafer each. They explain it away by reminding us that ‘Christ is sacramentally and equally present in both the bread and the wine, so if you receive only one, nothing is lacking’.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Valérie Pécresse’s presidential election campaign is that it’s better than the Socialist party’s. Which is to damn with faint praise. The French left are in such a dire state that if the opinion polls prove correct, their candidate, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, won’t pass the 5 per cent mark in the first round required for candidates to recoup half their campaign costs.
The alpine slopes of Kenya’s extinct volcanoes are the floral equivalent of Bordeaux. It’s there that the roses grow for the world’s weddings, funerals and Valentine’s Day bouquets. The higher the altitude, the larger your flower head, and roses raised in the shadow of Mount Kenya’s glaciers, or on the vast caldera of Mount Elgon, come in a dazzling spectrum of colours, petal shapes and scents.
In normal years, billions of blooms fly out of Nairobi, destined for everywhere from Shanghai and Riyadh to Melbourne and Slough.
All anglers are obsessive, but carp fishers are the most single-minded of all. They think nothing of spending weeks on the banks of a muddy lake or gravel pit, lines and breath baited, waiting for a bite. Ask an aficionado what motivates him and he’ll speak — with an intensity that sounds a lot like love — about the carp’s unrivalled cunning and fighting ability: its coquettish, crafty takes and its long, blistering runs.