London Diary: An ‘allergy’ called Boris Johnson!

Novelist Kathy Lette said that while she was talking to her doctor about Johnson’s leadership, she joked she was “allergic” to him. Her official medical record now shows "allergies: Boris Johnson"

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Hasan Suroor

An ‘allergy’ called Boris Johnson

Let’s start with a joke about Prime Minister Boris Johnson whose popularity has plunged to a new low after a series of sleaze scandals involving his Cabinet colleagues, embarrassing policy U-turns and public gaffes. He is also accused of trying to cover up corruption and trading peerages for cash by rewarding party donors with seats in the House of Lords.

So, here’s the joke reportedly narrated by novelist Kathy Lette. She said she was surprised when she found that her official medical records noted: “allergies: Boris Johnson”. Apparently, what had happened was that she was talking to her doctor about Johnson’s leadership and joked that she was “allergic” to him. That somehow went into her record.

“It’s now there forever...,” she told an audience at The Groucho club in London.

Boris Johnson is now an “allergy”.

Reverse discrimination?

Amid all the hand wringing about lack of diversity in corporate sector, a leading London-based company has decided to go for the nuclear option: it has effectively banned recruitment of white staff in its effort to diversify its workforce in terms of gender and racial balance.

State Street, one of the world’s largest investment firms, has told its executives that they would need to get special permission if they want to hire a white man, rather than a woman or an ethnic minority candidate.

Already, executive bonuses are linked to achieving the company’s equality targets. The company has an ambitious goal to triple the number of black, Asian and other minority staff by 2023.


Meanwhile...

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual with London’s Barbican Centre, one of Britain’s biggest arts organisations, facing accusations of white supremacy and elitism.

Like most British institutions, it is run by an Oxbridge elite which regards others who are not like them as interlopers. Non-white staff are referred to as “diversity hires”’ and dismissed as “weed” smokers.

An investigation has revealed widespread allegations of racial discrimination and racism. Even board members have been found to make “racist” comments and behaved “in a manner which is discriminatory or insensitive/inappropriate”.

French call it La plus ça change (The more things change, the more they remain the same).

Babies in the House

A row has erupted in Britain over a campaign by female MPs to be allowed to take their babies into the House of Commons chamber, especially if they are breastfeeding. And, surprisingly, more men than women have spoken up against the current rules barring entry of children into the debating chamber.

The issue arose after Labour MP Stella Creasy was told she couldn’t carry her three-month-old baby with her. She has denounced it as “maternity discrimination” describing the system as loaded in favour of men.

“It’s not a system that works for anyone who isn’t a man of a certain age from a certain background,” she said.

But the sisterhood is divided with many women accusing Ms Creasy of protesting too much pointing out that the House of Commons has a subsidised nursery, and besides MPs are entitled to seven months’ maternity leave on full pay, as well as £30,000 to cover six months’ extra staffing costs for their constituency work.

If ordinary women who don’t enjoy such generous facilities can juggle their family and professional responsibilities what makes MPs so special?

Good question.


Gone to dogs

Britain’s prolonged lockdown has had many unforeseen consequences--a rise in domestic violence, divorce rates, mental health issues, obesity-- but a less discussed menace it spawned and whose impact has just started to be noticed is “puppy pandemic”, a sudden breakout of love for dogs apparently induced by boredom.

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association reckons that some 3.2 million households in the UK bought a pet in the first year of the pandemic. That means there are now an estimated 12 million dogs in this country. Post-lockdown, this has led to a proliferation of dog-lovers walking their dogs everywhere from backstreets and parks to market squares. They are on buses, trains, in pubs, outside school gates, outside your apartment...But worse is the mess they leave behind in the form of their “poo”.

There are stringent rules against littering which includes a £1,000 fine but most local authorities are failing to enforce them strictly. Sounds so much like what happens in India.

And, lastly, India has fallen by six points to 40th position in an international league table of the best country to live in. Fifty one countries were judged by their friendliness, tolerance and their appeal as a destination for tourism and investment. Alas, India failed on each count.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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