• Monday, December 11, 2023


Boris versus Rishi

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo by Toby Melville – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

By: Amit Roy

EARLIER this month, Rishi Sunak received some bad news when the conservative Home website, edited by Paul Goodman, made the chancellor favourite to take over from prime minister Boris Johnson.

Goodman does concede that by the time the next Conservative leadership election comes along, there might be a very different list of contenders, some of whom might not even be in the current parliament.

“Nonetheless, we believe that it’s worth bringing back our Next Tory Leader survey question,” writes Goodman. “Here is its first finding since Boris Johnson was elected to the post two years ago.

“The first and the clear front-runner in this list is Rishi Sunak. The chancellor has
returned a consistently high score from our panel when asked about his handling of the pandemic.

“He will doubtless gain from being presentable and new: unlike, say, Michael  Gove, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid, he hasn’t fought a leadership election before, and there is about him a vague but powerful sense of being the coming thing.”

I say this is bad news for Rishi because the crown invariably eludes those tipped for the top. Also, there are now reports that Boris wants to demote Rishi because of differences between the two men over the government’s spending plans and the way a letter from Rishi on opening up travel was leaked to the press.

On Monday (9), the Daily Telegraph warned: “Boris Johnson would be signing his political ‘death warrant’ if he demoted Rishi Sunak, a close ally of the chancellor has warned in an escalation of tensions.

“The prime minister was reported to have made a barbed joke about moving Mr Sunak to the role of health secretary in a meeting last week – claims Number 10 did not deny last Sunday (8).

“One government figure close to Mr Sunak, 41, told The Telegraph of the prime minister: ‘If he demotes him he’s only signing his death warrant. There’s nobody else as good as Rishi. He’s the most popular character in the government. I think he brings stability. I don’t see why you would remove him.’”

A Conservative MP told the Financial Times that Boris “couldn’t do it and that is obvious to everyone. To lose one chancellor may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

However, as prime minister, Boris holds all the cards. After all, he has the power of patronage. What the prime minister giveth, he can just as easily take away. Politicians in the wilderness are easily forgotten.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Climate crisis needs urgent action

CLIMATE change has arrived with a vengeance in London where heavy rain triggers flash flooding. As a practical first step, London’s sewers need to be cleaned and widened. Also, British Asian homeowners should not add to the problems by concreting their front gardens, which does not give rain water anywhere to escape (save possibly into basements and the ground floor).

Given all this, it seems a bit silly accusing Alok Sharma, president of COP26, of hypocrisy because he has been travelling the world trying to get international agreement ahead of the climate change conference in Glasgow from October 31 – November 12, 2021.

He did not go into isolation like other people despite having travelled to 30 countries, including six red list ones, in the past seven months. So what?

The man is trying to do his job. Also, he was given special permission by the government not to have to isolate for 10 days each time he went abroad.

If urgent action is not taken, the consequences would be “catastrophic”, says Alok. “I don think there’s any other word for it. You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.”

He is backed by a 42-page landmark UN document from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land”.

It has been described as “a code red for humanity” by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, who adds: “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”

RHS director of science, Professor Alistair Griffiths, commented: “With an estimated 30 million gardeners in the UK our gardens, plots and even pots can make a difference through delivering services previously provided by the natural environment; such as reducing water run-off and minimising flooding, drawing and storing carbon from the atmosphere and helping to shade and cool urban areas.

By adopting greener gardening practices, we can all contribute towards stemming the tide of climate change and be better placed to weather extreme climate events.”

So, let’s allow Alok to get on with his job. Incidentally, newspaper readers were told, “quarantine is unlikely to be a hardship for Alok Sharma in his luxury home in Caversham, near Reading….the biggest draw is sure to be the garden, which has a swimming pool.”

The problem is that after each downpour London resembles several swimming pools. It’s up to Alok to ensure they don’t get joined up. Experts have issued a picture of Westminster under 30ft of water.

Churchill, a flawed hero

THE British journalist and author, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who has been literary editor of The Spectator and a Sunday Telegraph columnist, certainly cannot be dismissed by the right-wing as “woke” but his new book carries on the reassessment of Winston Churchill that has been initiated by Indian writers such as Shashi Tharoor and Madhusree Mukerjee and the debate at Churchill College, Cambridge, led by Prof Priyamvada Gopal.

In Churchill’s Shadow: An Astonishing Life and a Dangerous Legacy, published by
Bodley Head, part of the Penguin Group, Wheatcroft sets out what Indian historians have been saying for a long time – that Churchill was a great wartime prime minister, but he was also a deeply flawed human being.

At the weekend, Wheatcroft wrote a piece for a Sunday newspaper headlined: “Unpopular, error-prone, reckless: it may be time to reassess Churchill.”

Wheatcroft says “Churchill’s career was littered with failures and follies. The line
stretches from Gallipoli to the return of the gold standard in 1925, to his bellicose role in the general strike the following year, to his possibly racist campaign against Indian self-government and the ‘half-naked fakir’ Gandhi, to his disastrous attempts to keep Edward VIII on the throne during the 1936 abdication crisis– when Churchill was howled down in the Commons, with some MPs thinking he was the worse for drink.”

Wheatcroft read modern history at Oxford. He cannot be marginalised as a foreigner. To me, Churchill’s Jekyll and Hyde character makes him all the more fascinating.

Prof Gilbert‘s message

SARAH GILBERT, the Oxford professor who led the design of the Covid vaccine is agreeably relaxed about the Barbie doll manufactured in her likeness by Mattel, the American toymakers.

This is yet another accolade for Prof Gilbert, who has been given a damehood -and received a standing ovation at Wimbledon. The 59-year-old professor said she initially found the gesture “very strange” but hoped it would inspire young girls to work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Stem).

“I hope children who see my Barbie will realise how vital careers in science are to help the world around us,” she said. “My wish is that my doll will show  children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist.”

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