April may be a cruel month but May heralds the beginning of the holiday season. For some reason, the English prefer to go abroad at the only time the weather is tolerable — in the summer months. It was in the late nineteenth century that Parliament decided to have a summer break. The issue was the pollution of Thames. It stank. Members wanted the windows open due to the heat but that brought in the stink. So they decided to abandon the Westminster Palace for the summer. That brought summer holidays all around.
And now the traffic lights are back again — to guide you whether you can travel to a particular country or not. Australia and New Zealand have made it to the “green” traffic lights, including others like Iceland, along with very few other countries. Which means that the Brits can travel there without having to quarantine for 10 days at a hotel chosen by the government when they return . But countries like India — and some of its neighbours like Nepal and Pakistan fall into the “red” list. Thus while we know that right now there is a travel ban between the two countries — if any British citizen wants to travel to India— they need to quarantine for ten days in a hotel upon their return, plus all the tests they have to undergo. Some people are deeply unhappy that these restrictions are still in place, despite the vaccine. But that is our “Brave New World” — perfect only for armchair travellers !
So we still have rules of how many others you can meet and how closely they must be related. For instance, six members of two families can meet, etc. But it is only around the third week of June that many of these restrictions are going to be removed — we hope that we can last that long! But of course getting back to “normal” will come with fresh caution as undoubtedly a life free of Covid and its many mutations is still far away. So while the “traffic lights” may turn green, many of us will still hang on to our masks.
Even so, it is not all pleasure and no work. May is also the month when local elections take place. Plus this year, elections to the Scottish Parliament. Municipal elections in England were cancelled last year due to our first (of many but we did not know it then) lockdowns.
Mind you, despite all the difficulties the country has been through, the Prime Minister is still riding high. Perhaps it is the optimism that he exudes — with the tousled hair and Houdini-like escape mechanisms. Throughout his career, he has got away with much, much more than any one else, and he carries no guilt for any wrong or fault he has committed. He apologises and carries on, a formula that has worked wonderfully.
Normally, the government party does not do well in the four yearly local elections as they are out of sync with general elections. But “lucky” Boris is emerging triumphant all over the English regions. The Labour Party under its leader Sir Keir Starmer (a rare Knighted MP) was hoping to reverse their losses in the North where they were supposed to have a “Red Wall”. It had crumbled in the last general election. Alas, it cannot be rebuilt by Sir Keir, and Boris has once again managed to convince voters that he is their best good news guy.
In London though things are different, the mayor of London has a four-year term. Boris was twice the mayor of London. But in 2016, Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, captured London. He has already had a bonus extra year due to the postponement of the election. Now he has won, and extended his stay for three more years. Thus he becomes not only the first minority ethnic candidate to continue to head one of the biggest cities in the world but now will establish the enviable distinction of having been mayor for a eight years. So come 2025 — prepare for Sadiq to turn his mind to leadership of the Labour Party and take a gamble on becoming the first minority ethnic Prime Minister of UK. Of course he may be running against Rishi Sunak or Priti Patel as the Conservatives’ prime ministerial candidate. Who could have thought even 10 years ago, such a thing could happen?
And meanwhile a quick note on the publicity outreach of the two duchesses. Both Kate and Meghan are doing their best to stay in the limelight. Who would have thought the ever productive Meghan Markle even had a book in her, and this time it seems to be a cute little children’s book. She has come up with one called The Bench, dedicated to her husband Harry — but written for her son. Undoubtedly a money-spinner —good or bad —it means that now we all know what gift to buy a toddler.
One person who may not buy it will be the Duchess of Cambridge for reasons which are far too well known, especially after Oprah. But the competition is heating up — as William and Kate have their own “YouTube” channel now. While the two duchesses continue their duel at dawn, from safely across the pond… one wonders, what next?