London Diary: Boris Johnson’s cull of May’s cabinet, convenient loyalties & first female Muslim race jockey

Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal cozied up to Labour Party when Tony Blair was in power donating£125,000 to the party in 2002 in what came to be known as a “cash-for-influence” scandal

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Hasan Suroor

After the fall

Boris Johnson’s ruthless cull of Theresa May’s cabinet was the worst massacre of ministerial heads in recent memory—bloodier than even Harold Wilson’s famous “night of the long knives” in July 1962 when he sacked one-third of his cabinet in one fell swoop. Johnson booted out two-thirds of the outgoing cabinet. It has been dubbed the “night of the blonde knives”, a reference to his blonde hair.

Anyone who was not considered fully behind his extreme version of Brexit was sent packing defying predictions that he would reach out to different factions in the party to heal the divisions caused by Brexit rows.

So, what the sacked ministers are doing after losing their jobs? Theresa May was filmed watching cricket at Lord’s in a throwback to what John Major did after leaving Downing Street: headed straight for Lord’s. Other ex-ministers have posted messages on social media claiming how they’re enjoying their new-found freedom from the tyranny of the office schedule, the nights spent sorting the ministerial “red boxes”.

One minister tweeted: “Friday nights without red boxes have their consolations...” with a picture of him enjoying swimming. Another posted a picture baking a cake in his fancy kitchen; a third put out a photo of a birthday cake she had made for her daughter pointing out that this was the first she had made since becoming a minister three years ago.

“Never has losing a job been such fun,” read a newspaper headline taking a swipe at their attempts to put on a brave face. We all know what losing a job is like. Not a lot of fun. Is it?

Convenient loyalties

Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal cozied up to Labour Party when Tony Blair was in power donating £125,000 to the party in 2002 in what came to be known as a “cash-for-influence” scandal. That was then. Now he is backing Boris Johnson, and is reported to be among those who “poured last-minute cash” into his leadership campaign. That is, when it became certain that Johnson was winning. How common-sensical.

Muslim role model

An 18-year old student from East London has become an unlikely advertisement for hijab-wearing women after qualifying to be Britain’s first female Muslim race jockey. Khadijah Mellah then set up another record by winning her debut horse race.

“There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls. I want to be a role model to anyone who wants to do something that they wouldn’t initially believe was in their comfort zone and allow people to follow their aspirations and dreams,” she said.

Full credit to her.

Pop-up gambling

Passing through Oxford Street last week, I noticed a group of tourists gathered around a man who appeared to be performing some sort of a trick for their amusement. On a closer look I found he had actually rigged up a pop-up gambling operation and was encouraging people to take a punt.

The deal was that if you got it right you got back double the amount you put in. The minimum stake was £100. The man was juggling a tiny ball which he shuffled around three small metal glasses, and the punter had to guess under which of the three glasses the ball nestled after every round.

Within minutes hundreds of pounds changed hands. One Indian female tourist was left in tears after losing £100; another woman was so desperate to recoup the £200 she had lost that she quickly had another shot —and lost again. But there were winners too. Intriguingly, most of the punters happened to be women, both among winners and losers.

It was a raw demonstration of human desire (greed?) to make a quick buck; and how easy it is to be seduced by the pull of instant gratification. I managed to survive the temptation.

Crocodile tears?

Can it get more hypocritical than this? Put a knife into a colleague and then give the victim a tearful farewell? Even paying for the funeral from their own pockets? This is what Theresa May’s party colleagues did. Days after giving her the boot, they gave her a literally tearful farewell sending her off with gifts worth more than £1,500.

These included a £650 handbag from the luxury brand Liberty, a £500 necklace from the French jewellers Lalique, and a high-end canvas clutch bag, according to The Times.

She was showered with praise amid a banging of the cabinet table in a show of their alleged appreciation of her “services” to the party and the country. Don’t ask why they sacked her if they were so sad at seeing her go? That’s politics.

Comparisons have been made with the send-off Margaret Thatcher got on her unceremonious exit. Although she was (still is) rated as one of the most successful Tory leaders till she fell out of favour, her colleagues were able to collect just about enough money to buy her “a pair of candlesticks”, according to official papers since made public. That’s how much her party got to hate her in the end.

And, lastly, while the world thinks it’s classy to shop at Harrods, in Britain’s posher circles, the famous Knights bridge store is regarded as a bit “common”. Harvey Nichols, across the road, is more their thing. (For once I agree!)

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