At last some good news — not only will Prime Minister Boris Johnson marry his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds — a baby will be born at Downing Street as well! A double bonanza! The announcement was made after it was revealed that Mr Johnson has divorced his wife, Marina Wheeler. Mr Johnson’s many affairs and private life have always been an area of interest, as the tousle-haired charmer seems to have had a series of romances — with no one quite sure of the number of children he is father to. Some say there are at least five that we know of. Oddly enough, it makes very little difference to the public, who are quite resigned to his maverick ways. After all, if the ladies were fine with it, why should we criticise him? This is his private life, and no doubt one day it will be featured in a film titled (perhaps) The Making of Boris and Brexit.
Meanwhile, this will be the first wedding in over 200 years of a sitting Prime Minister. Bring out the buntings!
While Rishi Sunak awaits his big headline moment (coming up shortly in the Budget), home secretary Priti Patel has been in the headlines a lot. She is determined to improve the UK’s record on fighting crime and also controlling immigration. Given the home office’s low reputation on crime-fighting she has been telling her civil servants to shape up. They, in turn, complain that she is a bully! As you can imagine, these Sir Humphries have contacts in Fleet Street, so we have had some fun. Now her principal secretary Sir Philip Rutnam has resigned, claiming “constructive dismissal” (pushed, did not jump). So the newspapers are having a field day. Anything is better than the coronavirus! But when Ms Patel unveiled the new immigration policy based on encouraging skilled people to come to the UK, you could see the paradox that it took the daughter of an immigrant to tackle the problem that caused Brexit. If anyone gets the accolades for sorting out immigration, it will be Ms Patel.
There is a real worry that the coronavirus could become a pandemic. Cases are rising week to week. It is the British penchant for travel and tourism which has created problems. The cruise ship Diamond Princess has a lot of Britons on board though they are now all in isolation. The third Briton to die was on board. Then there is a group trapped in a hotel on Tenerife and British doctors have been flown out to help them.
Fifteen have been identified already and three people have died. As it is, winter is always a critical time for the NHS and the need to isolate potential patients has added to the pressure. There are plans to shut down schools for one to two months. Even sports events like football games which attract thousands of spectators may have to be suspended. The Budget scheduled for March 11 might have to be postponed. Mr Sunak won’t complain as he needs a bit of extra time, having become chancellor only recently.
The London stock market has taken a big hit, one-tenth down within a week, two hundred billion lost in share values. No one knows whether this will be reversed next week when punters come back but there is a lot of panic. If we get a collapse like 2008 and a pandemic as well, the next six months will be a nightmare. Brexit will be forgotten.
So those who are worried about Indian growth figures, just hang on. You haven’t looked at what is going on globally.
The weather is cold and there is rain almost daily. Since the turn of the year, there have been three storm events and a lot of flooding. Even London has not escaped the horrible climate. There has even been some early morning snow. Since the beginning of the year, we have had storms with names like Dennis and now we await Jorge which is coming from Spain over the weekend.
The ex-royals Harry and Meghan may have been driven away by the British media but the media continues to chase them wherever they go. Harry was back last week insisting he is not Prince Harry any longer. Even so, the tabloids are digging up stories about their life in Canada. Will the Canadians refuse to pay their security costs? Harry is here to promote his charity Invictus which organises sports tournaments for injured and disabled soldiers. The pop star Jon Bon Jovi took him to Abbey Road for the iconic walk across the road and then recorded a song with the Invictus choir. More fodder for tabloids. Helen Mirren, the famous star who played Queen Elizabeth successfully on stage and screen, praised Harry and Meghan for what they had done to change their lives. She added that now that tabloids would not have Harry and Meghan, they will go after someone else. And, who knows, it may be her!
The Nehru Centre is acquiring a new look under the stewardship of Amish Tripathi. Gone are the sedate lectures and dances in the auditorium upstairs. There was a dinner-cum-lecture last week which promises to be the first of a monthly series. It is an effort to get Londoners of all hues, not just Indians, to get to know what Indian culture has to offer. This one succeeded in attracting as many goras as desis! At last!
The writer is an award-winning author. Her new book, Jallianwala Bagh, 1919: The Real Story, has recently been published....