London Diary: Of Theresa May, Brexit, parking in London and inter-religious understanding

The Labour Party, buoyed by lead in opinion polls, is pressing hard for early elections hoping to cash in on May’s unpopularity

London Diary: Of Theresa May, Brexit, parking in London and inter-religious understanding

Hasan Suroor

Last summer, an elderly housewife from Bristol became a household name after a footage of her reacting to Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election went viral. When told about the decision by a BBC reporter, the woman, named Brenda, exploded into a rage.

“You’re joking. NOT ANOTHER ONE? Oh, for God’s sake, I can’t, honestly – I can’t stand this. There’s too much politics going on at the moment. Why does she need to do it?” she screamed into the camera.

Within minutes hashtag #BrendafromBristol was trending like mad.

Ever since, her name has become a shorthand for public impatience over frequent elections. And it is trending again amid feverish speculation over another snap poll or a second Brexit referendum.

With little over four months to go for Britain to leave the EU and no deal in sight, pressure is mounting on May to go to the people again. The Labour Party, buoyed by lead in opinion polls, is pressing hard for early elections hoping to cash in on May’s unpopularity. She is also under pressure from a faction of anti-Brexiteers within her own Tory party to seek a fresh public mandate.

Significantly, while May has strongly and repeatedly ruled out a second referendum, media reports that she’s mulling a snap election before Christmas have met with only a half-hearted official denial prompting speculation that something might be cooking.

Brenda, are you listening?

Driving mad

Finding parking was always a nightmare in London but it’s now getting worse —not so much because there are more cars on the road but also because of the sudden influx of motorcycles, scooters and takeaway delivery mopeds. Many parking bays have been reduced to create parking for them, and then there are the ubiquitous Uber drivers, and carpooling club members squeezing out ordinary motorists.

Adding to their misery is an explosion in cyclist numbers, weaving in and out of traffic. Once, London took pride in its cyclists—disciplined, law-abiding and safe. All helmets, lights and hi-vis vests. But that was then. For now, welcome to third-world London.

To the mosque, Sir?

It seems something so elementary that it’s surprising why nobody thought of it before. In a society rocked by Islamophobia and anti-semitism, it should be obvious that commonsensical way to tackle them is to start with children in creating awareness about Islam and Judaism. Catch ‘em young before they become conditioned to hate those who don’t look like them.

Britain’s Faith Minister, Nick Bourne, has called for schoolchildren to be taken on trips to places of worship of other faiths —mosques, churches, temples, gurdwaras, and synagogues—to promote inter-religious understanding. Singling out mosques, he said many non-Muslims were afraid to enter a mosque.

“Occasionally you find that parents are saying, ‘We’re not sure we want our kids to go to the local mosque.’ They are then persuaded by the school that it’s a good idea and the kids come back and tell them about it and the parents then say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, perhaps we’ll visit ourselves.’ Muslim leaders welcomed the idea, but some dismissed it as a gimmick challenging Lord Bourne to tackle Islamophobia in his own backyard first— namely the Tory Party which has been mired in allegations of Islamophobia.

Closer to the grave

Pound is falling, economy is on cliff edge,, public services are collapsing— and now for the first time, growth in life expectancy in the UK has stopped (indeed fallen in Scotland and Wales) putting it behind other developed economies.

Latest official figures show the lowest improvement in longevity since records began with women in the poorest areas likely to live 20 years less than women born in the richest areas.

Charities called it a “wake-up call”, prompting demand for more investment in health programmes, which have been badly affected by cuts to public services since the 2008 financial crisis.

“The health inequalities between the rich and poor is a particularly worrying thing. The evidence suggests it is the poorest areas of the country where life expectancy is stalling, and we are seeing an increasing gap between rich and poor areas,” said Jon Date of the International Longevity Centre. And things are about to get worse thanks to Brexit which, many fear, could unleash another recession even as the country is yet to recover from the last one.

And, lastly,

a British university has parked a bouncer outside its genderneutral toilet to ask people what gender they’re before letting them in! And who will check whether they’re telling the truth?

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