The time for choosing is fast approaching for Theresa May. Soon she must make a decision that will define her premiership and her country’s future. The past few days have shown how hard, if not impossible, it will be for her to keep her entire cabinet on board with whatever EU deal she signs. It is imperative that she now picks what kind of Brexit she wants. But doing so will risk alienating — or even losing — various cabinet members.
The issue of sovereignty has mysteriously disappeared from the debate over Brexit. Some business-focused commentators even like to assert that in a ‘global, interconnected world’, sovereignty is meaningless. But a court judgment, delivered earlier this month, perfectly illustrates what is at stake.
The case is about national security. Specifically, it is about the legality of techniques used to identify and disrupt people intent on unleashing terror: the kind of terror we have seen recently in Manchester, Westminster, Borough Market and Parsons Green.
Have you heard the one about the new Labour MP who refuses to be friends with Tories? When Laura Pidcock dropped into an interview with a left-wing website that she has ‘absolutely no intention of being friends with’ any Tories, she was surprised by the fuss that followed. It might have seemed odd to her, but within Parliament it’s well known that friendships that cross the divide spring up the whole time.
Nothing spoke of the fractious atmosphere in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum more than the death of 40-year-old Arek Jozwik in a shopping centre in Harlow, Essex in August 2016. What might, on any other weekend, have been passed over as just another grubby Saturday-night incident on Britain’s drunken high streets became elevated into a symptom of Brexit-induced racial hatred. James O’Brien, an LBC radio talk-show host, declared that certain Eurosceptics had ‘blood on their hands’ as did ‘anybody who has suggested speaking Polish in a public place is in any way undesirable’.
You have to hand it to Mikheil Saakashvili: the man doesn’t give up. After a tumultuous nine years as president of Georgia, which began with a furious anti-corruption purge, culminated in a short but disastrous war with Russia in 2008 and ended with accusations of embezzlement and authoritarian practices, he is determined to return to power — not in his own country, but in Ukraine.
Saakashvili is brilliant and divisive.
This retiring is a hectic business. When I said in June that it was going to be my last year with Test Match Special, it never occurred to me that I would have to do much more than float quietly into the sunset. Yet I suddenly became a much greater object of interest than I had managed to be in my previous 46 years behind the microphone. In no time at all, I found myself sitting on Andrew Marr’s sofa, before shifting to Piers Morgan’s boudoir for Good Morning Britain.
How many people need to gather together before it becomes more likely than not that at least two of them will share a birthday? The answer might surprise you. It’s just one of the many intriguing facts that I’ve learned at Gresham College.
Gresham was founded in 1597, the brainchild of Thomas Gresham, king of what’s now called the Square Mile. He had also established the Royal Exchange, and decreed that rents paid by merchants there should fund free lectures open to anyone.