London Diary: Full disclosures, and too much information

British politicians, for all their apparent stuffiness, understand humour and can be incredibly sporting—as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demonstrated recently in an interview on the Sun’s Youtube show

PM Rishi Sunak in a media interview gallantly fielded questions of a ‘personal’ nature.
PM Rishi Sunak in a media interview gallantly fielded questions of a ‘personal’ nature.

Hasan Suroor

Imagine an Indian TV channel running a casual ‘fun’ interview with a top Indian politician, let alone the prime minister, where they might be asked, for example, how they manage to keep their dhoti so spotlessly white throughout the day, which brand of detergent they use?

Or when did they last beat their spouse or children? Or get grilled on their financial affairs?

Gods forbid an interviewer in the Indian media strays into anything resembling informal territory. They would be sacked!

British politicians, on the other hand, for all their apparent stuffiness, understand humour and can be incredibly sporting—as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demonstrated recently in an interview on the Sun’s Youtube show ‘Never Mind the Ballots’.

 “Why do you wear your trousers so short?” he was asked.

Rather than retort that it was none of the interviewer’s business, he smiled and patiently explained: “I tend not to like lots of baggy, baggy stuff at the bottom of my ankle. I don’t think they are that short.”

And what about his wife’s wealth and allegations of a conflict of interest?

“Well, I can’t control who I fall in love with—and I happened to fall in love with my wife when I met her,” he laughed.

As for her wealth, he said: “Her family have done something incredibly special. Her dad created a company from scratch coming from absolutely nothing when he was growing up in India. It’s a company that employs thousands and thousands of people around the world, including thousands of people here in the UK, and I have nothing but pride and admiration for everything that he’s achieved.”

What about the speculation that if his party loses the general election—as seems certain—he will run away to America, where he made his money, met his wife and has a house?

“The UK is my home,” he said calmly, adding that he had given up his green card long ago.

Over to Indian netas.


Privacy? What’s that?

One always thought that oversharing was a uniquely Indian characteristic. But it seems we have company—and guess who we are mates with? The famously stiff upper-lipped Brits who, on a particularly gloomy day, hesitate to give you even the time of the day!

New research has found that the classic national stereotype of Brits as ‘emotionally repressed cold fishes’, as a commentator put it, is not borne out by their social media etiquette.

It says that most adults tend to overshare private information with their colleagues, who they see as an ‘extension of the family’. The shared information includes intimate details of their sex life and financial situations.

The study, commissioned by a recruitment platform to bring employers up to speed with the changing behaviour of workers, has spawned self-deprecating jokes. ‘Indeed, we Brits are a bunch of self-involved oversharers who’ll burden their nearest colleague with uninvited, graphic insights into their private life given half a chance every bloody day,’ wrote one columnist.

The trend, which gained momentum during the pandemic when most people worked from home, has been christened ‘TMI syndrome’.


London Diary: Full disclosures, and too much information

Is this progress?

The gender divide has just widened. And the new dividing line in politics shows young women becoming more liberal and men more right-wing.

On the dating app Tinder, more and more women have been found to be swiping left (a polite way of saying ‘no’) when they come across a Conservative-leaning match.

Two decades ago there was little difference between men and women in their ideological inclinations. Fast forward, and it’s hard to escape the difference, according to an analysis of 20 wealthy countries carried out by the Economist.

Today, young women are much more likely to lean to the left, men to be more conservative. And it’s most evident in Britain. ‘Gen Z is two generations, not one,’ wrote a Financial Times commentator.

The change is attributed to several social factors, including a more feminised public culture, economic resentment, social media bubbles and the impact of cultural entrepreneurs. The study also found that young men were more anti-feminist than older men, contradicting the popular notion that each generation is more liberal than the previous one.


Foreign cash cows

Most of the British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are facing an existential—pardon us, financial—crisis because the tuition fees for domestic students have been frozen for years.

London Diary: Full disclosures, and too much information

Many have dropped the less economically viable courses; some have threatened to shut down if the fee ceiling is not raised. No wonder foreign students, who are required to cough up at least three times more for the same courses than their domestic peers pay, have become their main source of income.

Universities earn more than half their tuition fees from international scholars. In the 2021–22 academic year, they contributed a huge £41.9 billion to the UK economy, with a £58 million net economic contribution for every constituency.

There are concerns that an over-dependence on international students, mostly from India and China, could cause the bubble to burst.

And it is no longer a question of if but when. The bomb is ticking.


And, finally as fashions go, baggy jeans are out, skinnies are in; high heels are out and flats are in.

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