London Diary: Politics, Authors and Gender Questions

From two authors battling for life to the downward spiral of Rishi Sunak's tenure, London is witnessing diverse phenomena.

London Diary: Politics, Authors and Gender Questions

Hasan Suroor

End of honeymoon for Sunak?

Barely three months into his high office, and there’s already speculation that Rishi Sunak’s days as PM may be numbered amid reports of a campaign to bring Boris Johnson back. Judging by opinion polls, his party appears to have fallen out of love with him with his ratings among Tory members at their lowest.

Behind not only Johnson but some of his own ministers such as the onceunpopular Suella Braverman, the home secretary, who was sacked by Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss for alleged breach of security. The latest survey of party’s grassroots puts Sunak at fifth place in the popularity stakes--behind Johnson and three of his cabinet ministers.

This is in sharp contrast with the ratings he enjoyed as Johnson’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. He consistently topped cabinet rankings with members impressed by his handling of the economic fallout of the pandemic. When he took over from Truss, he was the fifth most popular cabinet minister but soon his popularity started to slide after he put up taxes to deal with the economic crisis left behind by his predecessor.

Commentators say that the big challenge facing him isn’t just to show progress on the economy and public services – but also to keep his own critics and rivals at bay. The clock is ticking and the next six months are said to critical. “Will he still be PM around this time next year?” is a question on everybody’s lips. Will he be?

Only foreigners need apply

There is one area of British life, namely higher education, where foreigners are regarded as king because of the extra dosh they bring. But not everyone likes them. As I write this, an almighty row is brewing over the preponderance of foreign students in new medical schools.

It has emerged that new medical schools opening in Britain are training mostly foreign students despite a critical shortage of medics in the National Health Service (NHS) and “record demand” for places from British school-leavers.

Under a complicated government funding formula, money is not given to universities to train British applicants. But they’re encouraged to recruit international students, who pay more lucrative fees—sometimes as much as four times as their British counterparts.

Apparently, the government has refused to pay for UK students to enrol on the new courses at several universities.

“It is heart breaking that we are having to turn away bright British students who want to be doctors. We have a moral obligation to train more British doctors. We have a moral obligation to train more British doctors. We should be self-sufficient in the NHS,” said Karol Sikora, dean of Buckingham University’s medical school.

Most foreign students are from India, Nigeria, and the Middle East, among others.

And your parents’ gender, please

Staff employed at parliament house are now required to state whether their fathers, and mothers, are male or female as part of its new security vetting process. Critics have called it “woke nonsense”. They question whether the gender of parents has any bearing on security.

A parliamentary worker who filled in the form told Daily Mail, “I found it baffling to be asked what gender my biological father is when completing the parliamentary security vetting form. How could it possibly make sense to ask that question?”

Officials were unable to explain the logic. A spokesman was reported saying: “Parliament has a range of robust security vetting procedures. However, we do not comment on the specifics of our security processes.”

The award goes to...

Ever heard of a “negative winner” of an award?

Britain’s former high-profile cabinet minister for cultural affairs and a Boris Johnson acolyte Nadine Dorries has been announced as the first “negative” winner of an award commemorating the most influential people in the performing arts.

The award is given by The Stage, Britain’s leading theatre newspaper and website. She tops its list of people accused of demolishing the independence of Arts Council, England and taking a “wrecking ball to opera and new writing”.

Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage said Dorries was the first winner “whose influence was primarily negative”.

Rushdie and Kureishi

What’s going on? First Salman Rushdie, and now Hanif Kureishi. Even as Rushdie is still recuperatung after suffering life-changing injuries in an attack on his life, Kureishi has had a fall which, he says, might leave him with permanent disabilities.

He has said that he may not be able to walk or write again after suffering the fall in Italy just after Christmas.

The 68-year-old British-Pakistani author, best known for the film My Beautiful Laundrette, was in Rome with his wife when he was taken ill on Boxing Day.

Even after a spinal surgery, he cannot move his arms or legs. He described waking up in a pool of blood after watching a football match on television.

“I cannot move my arms and legs. I cannot scratch my nose, make a phone call or feed myself. As you can imagine, this is both humiliating, degrading and a burden for others,” he has said.

And, lastly, there’s a new word in town: ‘fictosexual’, someone who has a crush on non-existent people such as a character from a book or TV soap.

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