The government’s failings have hampered his campaign but he must prevailA few weeks ago, Michael Gove addressed a crowd of Tory activists in the basement of a London hotel. He wanted to disabuse them of what he regarded as a dangerous notion. The London mayoral election, he said, was not about Boris Johnson vs Ken Livingstone; the stakes were far higher than one man for one city. They had nationwide implications.
On the campaign trail with London’s would-be mayorsThe mayoral election is, to my eyes, two pantomime dames bickering about who gets to eat the scenery. I join it at the church hustings, St James’s Piccadilly. Boris Johnson enters, hands deep in hair, five points ahead in the polls. He sits down and gives the audience that swift, forensic look. Ken is at the other end of the table — he is tanned in a tan suit, a man who might walk into a desert and be lost.
Election night in Paris is a very different affair from our own, rather sober ritual, for which the nation looks to a reassuring David Dimbleby. To begin with, the night is over when the exit polls are published the moment the polls close at 8p.m. All the major candidates compete to address the live television audiences immediately, and before any actual results have been certified.•••Meanwhile, the news networks appear not to have discovered the Skycopter™, so the journey from candidates’ residences to victory parties (or otherwise) is a bizarre ritual where young overexcited reporters perched on the back of motorbikes chase the motorcades, defying death with late-night chases, trying valiantly to penetrate blacked-out windows as they speed through Paris.
Ever since Andy Coulson was forced to resign as Downing Street’s media supremo, Westminster’s malcontents have gossiped about the prospect of Rupert Murdoch wreaking revenge for Cameron’s impulsive creation of an inquiry into press ethics. More recently, cynics whispered that the Sunday Times exposure of Peter Cruddas, the Conservative treasurer offering access to the Camerons in exchange for donations, was the gypsy’s warning of horrors to come.
There’s too much male blubbing in public lifeLast Sunday’s London Marathon had me in tears. Not as I battled agonisingly through the wall at 20 miles. No, I was at home on the sofa, with the digestives. And yet again — it happens every year — I blubbed softly at the inspirational tales, the people running in memory of friends who’d died, the sheer personal achievement of everyone involved. This year, though, another thought entered my reckoning.
Like all odd places, Cuba attracts odd people. When I first started visiting in 1993, straggle-bearded men boarded the Soviet-built Air Cubana jet from Stansted. Where to go first, comrade, they wondered? The tractor factory at Cienfuegos or the collective tobacco farm in Trinidad? Like the Cubana flights, the fellow-travellers have long departed. Still, it’s reassuring to find Cuba still attracts oddballs.
Tilly Ware explains why she’s still in love with the landscape of her childhood – and you should be, tooMy husband, three sons and I march single file along the grassy ridge, spotlit by the last of the low winter sun, the holly and hazel trees below already beginning to blacken. High up and alone on Eggardon hillfort in West Dorset, we have left the half-dozen other visitors steaming up their windscreens at the roadside viewpoint and slalomed up and down four sets of ramparts until we stand right on the outermost rim.
I overheard the following inter-cubicle exchange in a mixed changing room recently. ‘So where do you live?’ ‘We live on Dartmoor.’ ‘Dartmoor! How lovely!’ ‘Well, yes, it is amazing. But we’ve had quite enough of it now and we’re moving back down to the coast. In the two years we’ve lived up there, we’ve had enough rain and fog to last us a lifetime.’ I smiled as I stuck my right leg through the wrong hole of my swimming shorts.
Back in the 1970s, pasties were what Cornwall was all about. I spent my childhood sitting in a howling gale on a Cornish beach eating a soggy pasty behind a striped wind break, retrieving Auntie K’s straw hat every few minutes when it flew like a drunken Frisbee towards the sea. The weather might not have changed much in the last 40 years, but the food and culture has. Cornwall, has morphed from a county of caravans and pies into a British Babylon.