In Westminster, all the general election chatter is about Brexit. Will Tory Remainers turn Lib Dem? Will Labour leavers desert Jeremy Corbyn? As polling day draws near, however, the Europe obsession must recede. Politicians may not be able to look past last year’s referendum, but voters will have moved on. MPs will find that, as before, the great issue of our time will be just one of many on the doorsteps.
In the early hours of 9 June 2017, Jeremy Corbyn conceded defeat. For the luckless political journalists forced to cover the Labour campaign this was a rare moment. The leader of the opposition had avoided the press and public. Now, as Labour was going down to its worst defeat since 1935, Corbyn was at last prepared to take questions.
But not before he had made one of the most graceless concession speeches in British political history.
Theresa May has long been clear about what sets her apart from other politicians: she doesn’t play political games. When she launched her bid for the top job last year, she was clear that — unlike her rivals — she hadn’t succumbed to the temptations of Westminster. She told us that she didn’t drink in the bars or gossip over lunch. She invited the TV cameras into her first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister to record her telling ministers that ‘politics is not a game’.
What advice would you give to this modern moral question posed by my friend’s younger sister? A boy at school had asked her to send him a selfie. Nude, naturally. She was dithering. She liked the boy, a sixth-form crush, and was keen to endear herself. But she knew that if she sent a naked picture he’d pass it on to his friends.
She had thought of compromises: just her breasts, or her bottom coyly reflected in a mirror.
Bill Gates is worried about Britain. For years, the UK government has been one of the world’s largest donors in overseas aid, and about £60 million has been given to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But aid has been rather unpopular lately, prompting questions about whether a generous country like Britain needs charitable donations collected by the taxman. And indeed, whether the aid spending pledge might be dropped in the general election campaign.
When David Cameron called his Brexit referendum, the potential difficulty of Northern Ireland was not uppermost in his mind. Nor does it seem to have worried Theresa May greatly when she announced a snap general election this week. Even before this fresh electoral battle, Northern Ireland’s politics were already — to paraphrase Sean O’Casey — in ‘a terrible state of chassis’. Perhaps May thought the existing chassis in Belfast couldn’t get any worse.
On Tuesday morning I was thinking to myself how oddly pleasant social media seemed. Then Theresa May dropped her election bomb. Immediately the posts started appearing: ‘Tory scum’ and ‘Tories launch coup’, then came the memes and I thought: I can’t take another two months of this. I’d only just tentatively returned to Twitter and Facebook following Brexit and Trump; now I find myself wanting to suspend my accounts again.
Who will win the French presidential election? Does it even matter? Nothing in the programmes or personalities of the leading contenders gives confidence that any of them can fix the Fifth Republic and the corruption, dysfunction and stagnation that it has inflicted on the French. At Marie-Trinité’s café in the southern French village where I am an elected councillor, the mood before the voting is one of weary resignation and disgust.
When I arrived in Seoul, I joked to my editor that I hoped this was not going to be like Ukraine. I went there for three days and ended up staying for five weeks because a war broke out. This time the threat of war is implied, rather than real, although a Korean conflict would be far more lethal and terrifying. Soon after arriving, I met Hwee-Rhak Park, a former army colonel who teaches strategy to young officers.
Some say Genoa takes its name from Janus, the two-faced god of time and doorways. Perhaps. What’s certain is the city has two aspects: the vast industrial port, its docks the bared teeth of the Italian Riviera; and, in the ruched strip of land between the Ligurian Sea and the hills, a bewildering network of alleys, stairways, and irregular little squares. ‘Genoa is the tightest topographic tangle in the world,’ wrote Henry James, ‘which even a second visit helps you little to straighten out.