Even Damian Green seems to find it odd that he’s the second most important person in the government. When asked, the First Secretary of State plays down his influence — in fact, he plays down most things. When David Cameron wanted the Tories’ immigration policies out of the spotlight, he put Green in charge of them. And when Theresa May wanted someone she could trust to be her deputy after the disastrous general election, she chose one of the few people in the cabinet whom she can call a friend.
Jeremy Corbyn, Prime Minister. This used to be one of the Tories’ favourite lines. They thought that just to say it out loud was to expose its absurdity. The strategic debate within the Tory party was over whether to attack Corbyn himself, or to use him to contaminate the whole Labour brand. But Corbyn has transformed that brand, not damaged it. He has successfully fused together a Social Democratic party with a radical left one.
Many assume that if an election were held soon, Jeremy Corbyn would win. But what if, say, the government fell in 2020 and Labour won a working majority?
At 71, Corbyn becomes Britain’s oldest prime minister since Churchill, and at first is one of its most popular. His appeal grows as he takes on some of the country’s favourite demons. Few listen to the protests of water and electricity shareholders as their stakes are seized — most are focused on their own bills, which surely will come down now.
As the only nation to have suffered mass casualties from a nuclear bomb, Japan has been understandably nervous about Kim Jong-un’s missile tests. Sales of domestic nuclear bunkers and gas masks have soared and nationally aired TV ads with a chilling ‘Protect and Survive’ flavour urge residents to hunker behind washing machines in basements and stay away from windows. This is one reason why Shinzo Abe, Japan’s long-standing Prime Minister, felt confident enough to surprise the world this week and call a snap election.
I was interviewing ten foster parents in west London for a report on children in care. Foster parents are in great demand, so I was startled to discover that only one of the sets of parents was looking after the sort of vulnerable children you imagine to be in the care system. The others were looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeker children.
They made an alarming claim: three of these seemed to be adults passing themselves off as boys.
The plane landed a fraction early, at just after 9 p.m. Hope flickered that passport control would be as deserted as the echoing arrivals terminal. But no. By the time we reached sight of what is now labelled in enormous letters the ‘UK Border’, we had joined a mass of humanity in a single corridor to be decanted in batches into ‘the maze’.
This is the point where, at most UK airports, the great segregation occurs, between UK/EU passports and the rest, and then between regular channels and ‘e-passports’.
I’m currently dwelling on past times. I have a film coming out based on the crazy events that took place in 1953 when Stalin died. (He lay having a stroke on his rug and in his urine for hours since everyone was too scared to knock and see if he was all right.) We shot the film last summer. Then Trump happened. Now, journalists grill me as if the movie was an intentional response to that bloated troll’s election victory.
Prague. Prague. It helps to say the name at least twice as a countermeasure to the ridiculous ease of modern travel — especially when visiting cities of one syllable. Another countermeasure is to arrive by train, where the sweep of the landscape gives a better sense of Prague as the grand Bohemian capital than as a retreat for Hapsburg aristocrats and easyJet stag parties.
There are direct trains from Munich and Budapest, and of course Vienna and Bratislava, to Prague’s Hlavní nádraží station, originally christened Wilsonovo nádraží after the US president who championed Czechoslovak independence.