If there is one thing worse than being talked about, it is not being talked about — and this is the fate beginning to befall Keir Starmer. He is at risk of becoming an irrelevance.
After not even a year of being Labour leader, Starmer finds his personal ratings on the slide: a YouGov poll this week showed his rating at minus 13, down from plus 22 last summer. Just over half of voters think he doesn’t look like a PM-in-waiting and Labour itself is consistently trailing the Tories in the polls.
What is Keir Starmer thinking? His approach might baffle Tory MPs, who wonder if he will ever spring to life. The answer, though, is that he’s playing a long game. He hopes he will be a strong opposition leader when the time is right.
For now, it is time to offer support to Boris Johnson’s government. The pandemic has created tricky terrain for the shadow cabinet. Much like in wartime, normal political rules don’t apply, because ‘people want the government to succeed’.
Oh curses, one less option for the summer holidays. Pontins, the holiday camp for those who don’t mind bringing their own cleaning products, has been exposed for issuing a list of surnames belonging to ‘undesirable guests’. Under the legend ‘You Shall Not Pass’ on the company intranet was an instruction: ‘Please be aware that several guests are not welcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book… We have been informed by our Operations Director that we do not want these guests on our parks.
It sometimes seems as if Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, was conjured up especially to be a walking, talking rebuke to Public Health England.
Where PHE has been lumbering, slow to respond to the fast-moving virus, Spector has been nimble, quick to see opportunity and adapt. This time last year, as Boris was preoccupied with the defining question of his premiership — who could possibly have leaked a disobliging story about his girlfriend’s dog — Tim Spector was concocting a plan for how to collect data about Covid from around the country.
Thank you for asking me, along with all the other members, whether I would like to become part of the golf club’s new ‘Equality — Diversity — Inclusion (EDI) Working Group’. The short answer is I would rather spend a couple of hours in the mud, picking up old beer bottles and condoms out of the river which winds though the course, than sit on such a ‘working group’.
It is difficult to describe -exactly why I think this venture is a bad idea but I will have a go.
Dresden. Tonypandy. Gallipoli. Bengal. Winston Churchill’s reputation has withstood an array of charges, made by each generation with their own prejudices. Whereas in the 1970s it was Richard Burton and Jim Callaghan accusing him of a vendetta against the Welsh miners, today it’s racism, imperialism and white supremacy. The words ‘Was a Racist’ were scrawled on his statue in Parliament Square during last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
It is billed as a once-in-a-generation review of Britain’s foreign policy and defence strategies. ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age’, Boris Johnson’s ‘new chapter’ for Britain, identifies two main adversaries: Russia — an ‘acute threat’ — and China — a ‘systemic competitor’. And while it nods at a geopolitical ‘tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific, the more hawkish Tory MPs are disappointed, thinking Beijing should have also counted as a threat.
Here it is again, a couple of months later than usual but back nevertheless. It’s the time of the annual jamboree that is film awards season, a three-month extravaganza that predominantly revolves around three key events: the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Oscars. All three of these celebrations of artistic excellence and mutual backslapping have been delayed due to Covid. The Globes took place — virtually — three weeks ago, Bafta revealed its shortlist last week and the Oscar nominees were announced on Monday.
It’s only since I moved to Staffordshire that I’ve come to appreciate that some of the finest works of public art aren’t on the walls of great buildings, but on their floors. Staffordshire, of course, is the home of Minton tiles — one of the most successful British exports of the Victorian era.
The company was founded by Thomas Minton in Stoke-on-Trent, but it was his son, Herbert, who cracked the tile market. In the 1820s Herbert became obsessed with the idea of making medieval-style encaustic tiles, which create a pattern using different colours of clay rather than a glaze.