London Diary: Of fragile Tories & a royal wave...

J.K. Rowling has yet again shown her Midas touch.

To begin with, let’s remember that it was British Prime Minister David Cameron who decided that there had to be a referendum battle. He had proposed that “Brexit” would be taken to the people. But he could not have anticipated how the debate would twist and turn. And now as the Conservatives are split amongst themselves and the “Leave” campaigners appear to be gaining ground, some are beginning to doubt the wisdom behind this very democratic decision. The possibility that Mr Cameron might have to preside over the British exit from the European Union looms large — but then what impact will this have on the economy? And on the EU?

Each side is pointing out the cataclysmic effect of leaving or remaining, but there have been no head-on TV debates, apart from two single TV programmes, one with Mr Cameron and the other with Michael Gove, his Cabinet colleague who wants “out”. Each was interviewed by Faisal Islam and then faced questions from an invited audience. The winner was Islam, who is the son of a Bangladeshi immigrant, went to Trinity College, Cambridge and is now Sky’s chief political correspondent. He was severe with each, exposing their weaknesses.

The audience also shone. One young woman interrupted Mr Cameron by saying: “I am an English literature student and I can recognise waffling when I see it.” Can you imagine any ordinary person saying that to an Indian politician — live on television? Hmmmmm. Not really? How odd! And then Samantha Cameron, the PM’s wife who rarely wades into political debates has written an article expressing “my concern for the British economy and for my children”. She has pointed out that it might take years of renegotiating terms with the EU before things settle down for jobs and businesses. Could this lead to another recession?

What kind of jobs will her children get, she asks. “I don’t want a single opportunity closed off to them — opportunities that were open to me when I was young,” Ms Cameron says. There is speculation that this article is a response to the supposed support Marina Wheeler (Boris Johnson’s wife) is giving to the “Leave” campaign. It is interesting that even some of those who might have an Asian connection are opting to exit.

Ms Wheeler is related to Khushwant Singh’s family, and he used to be proud of that connection. What would he say to this “exit” campaign which is centred around reducing migration in the UK? The big question is not whether the Queen’s birthday celebrations are now finally coming to a climax. But whether one-year-old Charlotte waved to the crowds from the royal balcony during the flypast. I hate to say it, but what could have been just an excited wriggle by this little “cutie” has been proclaimed a royal wave! The world has been enchanted.

J.K. Rowling has yet again shown her Midas touch. She has co-authored a play about Harry Potter with Jack Thorne, in which Harry is grown up and married. The play has two parts of two-and-a-half hours each and has to be watched in tandem. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open at the Palace Theatre. As one would expect with anything to do with Harry Potter, 175,000 tickets sold out in the first 24 hours as soon as advance bookings opened.

People attending the preview premiere, all 1,500 of them, had to promise not to give the plot away. As if the Harry Potter brand is not enough to be a bestseller, controversy was created when it came out that Hermione will be played by the award-winning black actor, Noma Dumenzweni. Trolls descended with their nasty comments but Rowling has dismissed them as racists. Good for her! The Tate Modern has now substantially refurbished and extended its unusual site. Now there is an exhibition of Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar’s paintings at the Tate which will go on till the autumn. However, some of the reviews by British art critics have sparked enraged comments from his Indian admirers, who maintain that his art is not being properly understood.

Jonathan Jones from the Guardian and Laura Cumming from the Observer have received special vitriol. “Nobody could call Khakhar a natural painter or praise his figurative descriptions,” Cumming has stated while Jones has called Khakhar’s “renditions of human flesh”, “drab and vague”. A whole series of alternate reviews have popped up on social media decrying the misjudgement by these two critics in particular. Are we taking this too seriously? Or is there some truth in this backlash? Nothing like a visit to decide! Last but not the least, the foreign office has announced that its resident cat, (kept there specially to catch spying mice), Palmerston, has more Twitter followers than the minister who has his charge.

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