Even by Prime Ministerial standards it’s been a relentless week for Boris Johnson. First the reshuffle, and the unpleasant business of prising Ministers out of their departments like molluscs out of shells; then France throwing a tantrum about the new security pact between the UK, US and Australia.
Then last night there was dinner at Chequers, to celebrate the centenary of the country house’s donation to the nation, in the company of his predecessor Theresa May.
Other surviving PMs were invited but all pleaded prior engagements. I can just picture them, can’t you, sniggering at the prospect of Boris having to wine and dine his nemesis in splendid isolation. Then, today, it’s off to America to butter up Biden.
Such is the unforgiving culture of modern politics, with all the pressures of social media and the constant and unrelenting attacks from all sides, that he cannot afford to betray even the slightest weakness
Charlotte Johnson Wahl passed away aged 79 at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, on Monday. Her death was, we are told, ‘sudden but peaceful’
But another major event took place in the PM’s life this week, one that proves what a brutal business politics really is. His mother, to whom Boris was very close, died.
Charlotte Johnson Wahl passed away aged 79 at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, on Monday. Her death was, we are told, ‘sudden but peaceful’.
Of course there were expressions of condolence from various public figures, including Keir Starmer. And I’m sure friends and colleagues wrote warm and very welcome letters.
But, other than that, nothing changed. The notion that poor Boris should take a few days off to process this seismic event in his life didn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind, not even for a second.
Dead mother or not, it was business as usual. Indeed, even more than usual.
That such an emotional earthquake should result in no visible impact on the pace of politics is, for me, really weird. She was his mother, for heaven’s sake.
If my mum passed away, I wouldn’t be able to speak, let alone stand up and answer PMQs as Boris had to on Wednesday.
Yet that’s what Boris did, and the awful thing is I can understand why.
Such is the unforgiving culture of modern politics, with all the pressures of social media and the constant and unrelenting attacks from all sides, that he cannot afford to betray even the slightest weakness.
Then last night there was dinner at Chequers, to celebrate the centenary of the country house’s donation to the nation, in the company of his predecessor Theresa May
Our politicians are no longer allowed to be human. They cannot, like the rest of us, have good days and bad days, ups and downs, highs and lows. They are not allowed to have the same emotions as ordinary people: happiness, sadness, grief, guilt.
And yet they ARE, of course, human. They do feel all these things. Or at least they do when they start off.
But if they achieve even a modicum of success, they soon learn that if they show even the tiniest crack in the armour, they won’t survive. And so, over time, they learn to bury their feelings, to stifle their emotions. And it wreaks havoc, not just on them, but also on their loved ones. More than that, it’s not good for the nation. Politicians need to be able to feel things, or else how can they do their jobs properly?
I’m sure Boris would have loved to have taken a couple of days off to process his mother’s death, to be a little kind to himself and his family. But how could he amid the absurd macho culture of Parliament?
And yet this is a man who has worked tirelessly for almost two years, with barely any sort of proper break. Look what happened when he tried to go to the West Country in the summer. He managed one day before having to get the train home. He’s been gravely ill, has become a father (with another on the way), got married – and now he’s lost a parent.
These days, people never stop talking about mental health. And yet when it comes to arguably the most important person in the country, and his mental health, no one gives a fig. But if anyone deserves a break, it’s Boris. In more ways than one.
Trans lobby’s win is heartbreaking
As the case of Keira Bell – who brought the original case against the Tavistock – proves, some youngsters do change their minds and sometimes a desire to change sex does not turn out to be gender dysmorphia, but an expression of something else
Last week the Court of Appeal overturned a landmark ruling banning the prescribing of hormone blockers to children under 16 without the consent of their parents.
This effectively gives the green light for clinics such as the NHS-run Tavistock (which challenged the ban) to put children as young as ten on the path to gender reassignment – without having to worry about their parents obstructing that decision.
It’s being claimed as a mighty victory for trans activists who believe there should be no obstacles to a person’s desire to change sex, regardless of their age or mental competence, and that to even question that decision is an act of wicked prejudice.
But, as the case of Keira Bell – who brought the original case against the Tavistock – proves, some youngsters do change their minds and sometimes a desire to change sex does not turn out to be gender dysmorphia, but an expression of something else.
The idea of a young woman ending up permanently scarred and infertile – as with Keira – because they had mistakenly embarked on a path of gender reassignment is, to me, heartbreaking. And just as wrong as a trans person being forced to live a lie.
● If there’s a Fleabag-shaped hole in your life may I recommend Alma’s Not Normal on on the BBC iPlayer.
Written and starring Sophie Willan – Bolton’s answer to Phoebe Waller Bridge – it’s based on her own life as the child of a heroin addict who turns to prostitution to make ends meet.
That makes is sound grim: it’s not. It’s one of those shows that finds comedy in the darkest corners of life, a joyous celebration of the gruesome – and one of the most simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting things I’ve watched in ages.
● Images of grown officers crouching down to speak to eco protesters on the M25 as though they were naughty toddlers and not dangerous fanatics make my blood boil. Apparently they were ‘concerned for the safety of the group’.
THEIR safety? I always thought the police’s job was to protect the public from crim- inals, not the other way round.
● How desperate to read that Afghan interpreters are having to resort to people smugglers to escape the clutches of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the man largely responsible for that fiasco, Dominic Raab, seems more worried about whether or not he’s going to keep his grace and favour house in the country, Chevening, now that Liz Truss has taken over as Foreign Secretary. First world problems, eh?
Prince Philip’s final wishes are to be locked away for 90 years to protect the ‘dignity’ of the Queen and ‘close members of her family’, the High Court has ruled. Pity we can’t do the same with Harry and Meghan.
Apps that are a pain in the A***
The DVLA is considering scrapping physical driving licences and replacing them with digital ones, to be accessed via an app on your phone. Once again, the relentless march of digitisation, allegedly designed to make our lives easier, is actually just a monumental pain in the you-know-what.
The other day I had to rescue a tearful friend from a car park where she had become trapped after her payment card was stolen. Being fully digitised, there was no parking attendant and no way of paying in cash – so I had to physically hand her my card to get her out.
Needless to say, in the time it took for me to come and rescue her, the tariff had doubled.
● Freya Fox, 19, Bake Off’s first vegan contestant, has been trolled because she rides horses. That’s ‘rides’, not ‘eats’, you kale-munching dullards.
● Worrying mood music emanating from No 10 on the prospect of another lockdown.
Last week Environment Secretary George Eustice let slip that a potential national shutdown is in the Government’s toolbox should the virus manage to ‘get around’ the jabs.
If that’s the case, good luck finding anyone left to pay for that huge National Insurance hike that’s supposedly going to put the NHS back on track.
Come to think of it, good luck finding anyone left to pay for anything.
● It may be true that most millennials have never heard of toad-in-the-hole and think spotted dick is a made-up dish. But when it comes to inter-generational culinary confusion, they’re not the only ones.
Whenever my younger brother goes to stay with my parents, Dad rings me up and rants about ‘this overpriced green gunk your brother insists on having on toast for breakfast’. Bless. I think you mean avocados, Dad.
Forgotten your skirt, Penny?
Did she forget to put her skirt on when posing for this pic with husband Rod Stewart?
There’s no question that, at 50, Penny Lancaster still has fabulous pins. But did she forget to put her skirt on when posing for this pic with husband Rod Stewart last week?
● Apparently the fear of touching ‘tainted’ Tube handrails is leading to agonising escalator falls. Can’t help feeling that’s something of a metaphor for this entire pandemic.