London is one huge traffic jam. The latest movement against climate change called Extinction Rebellion has decided to stop traffic movement in central London for eight days. So the Lambeth and Westminster bridges over the Thames, which move traffic into Westminster — are shut and cars or buses have to go a much longer way. Trafalgar Square is occupied and people — regardless of age and gender — have glued themselves on to the road so the police cannot easily remove them. Even so, it is all very good-natured. The police are being very gentle, so no lathi-charge.
Boris Johnson denounced the rebels as “crusties” but then his father Stanley has joined the movement, happy to be called a crustie. The government is not against the occupiers. It has promised zero emissions by 2030. The UK has been at the forefront of lower emissions ever since the former Labour leader Edward Miliband was minister in the last Labour government a dozen years ago. So there is no disagreement between the rebels and the government. The villains are the fuel producing companies who sell petrol, gas, coal and airlines who are excoriated for polluting the air.
People are finding new ways to create chaos. An elderly man glued himself to the roof of a British Airways jet parked at Heathrow and it took hours to unglue him and get him down. Lots of flights were delayed. I guess that is good publicity but does it slow down climate change?
The other car crash is, of course, Brexit. Parliament met for all of last week but the action was elsewhere. Boris and his boys indulged in fake news and allegedly anonymous (i.e. revealing confidential matters only to a select few journalists) briefings abusing Angela Merkel and other EU leaders. But then, in his mercurial way, Boris sobered up and took up the negotiations seriously. He met the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar (has the Maharashtra government yet honoured this son of a Maharashtrian?). To assuage egos on both sides, they met not in London or Dublin but literally halfway in a large house once owned by the maker of Lifebuoy soap!
It seems to have worked and it is seriously likely that we may have a deal for the House of Commons to vote upon. The deadline for passing a deal is Saturday, October 19, and Parliament has been asked to meet specially on a Saturday. We are moving to a climax.
But as always, other matters are stealing headlines, and the latest gripping story concerns the battle between two high profile WAGS (wives and girlfriends of soccer stars). These women are high profile items for the tabloid press while their millionaire husbands are heroes of the sports pages. Coleen Rooney, wife of Wayne Rooney, has accused her erstwhile friend Rebekah Vardy, wife of Jamie Vardy, of leaking her intimate Instagram messages to the gossip pages of tabloids. She says she had found out by blocking off all other recipients except Rebekah and then went public. (Someone did wonder whether sharing material on the social media with a few hundred friends can be considered a private matter? Would it be surprising if that material is further shared?) This quarrel has filled the pages of tabloids as you can imagine with glamorous photos of the two. It will end up in the courts and some like me might begin to understand the new age cyber battles!
The new trend is to be upfront about your personal problems. Mental depression is in the news. The Fabulous Four (not the Beatles, but William and Kate and Harry and Meghan — the young royals) have launched a mental health campaign, Every Mind Matters. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (the one who recently went to the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial and expressed remorse) has admitted that he suffered from depression. His daughter convinced him to seek help. That is bound to remove the stigma from mental depression.
I must warn you that a royal collision may be coming up thanks to the Extinction rebels. On Monday the Queen will ride to Westminster in her state coach of four horses to open Parliament. Her short journey takes her from Buckingham Palace down the Mall turning right at Trafalgar Square down the Whitehall to the Norman doors of the Westminster Palace which open only for her arrival. She sits on the throne in the House of Lords, asks the Black Rod to summon the Commons who arrive “noisily” and then she reads out the speech written by the Prime Minister. The time is 11 am. The question is, will the Extinction rebels let the Royal coach pass through the most famous of their occupation area — Trafalgar Square?
She should be let through. After all, her coach and horses are fuel efficient, with zero emissions!
And another interesting footnote. In a historic agreement, the Partition Museum, Amritsar signed an MoU with the Manchester Museum during the visit of the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, to India. This will enable the two museums to work together on colonial history — as well as preservation of art and culture. This follows the successful run of an exhibition on Jallianwala Bagh, which had been initially curated by the Partition Museum, and which then moved to Manchester Museum. The exhibition has been nominated for an award in the UK, so watch this space as the museums work together.