You could almost be forgiven for thinking that Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for London mayor, was trying to lose – not that he would have to try that hard as he is currently more than 20 points behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the polls – as his online manifesto launch was a total disaster.
It was scheduled to start at 8am but, as the screen remained blank for the next seven minutes, it’s a fair bet that a few of the handful of people logged in gave up and switched off. The Tory junior minister Kemi Badenoch appeared to make a brief, half-hearted introduction from her living room.
The scene then switched to an anonymous community centre, where Shaun stood beside two pool tables and in front of two posters that looked more like adverts for a 1960s washing powder than campaign slogans. Neither mentioned the word “Conservative”. It’s hard to tell whether it is more that Bailey is embarrassed to be running for the Tories or that the Conservatives have already given up on him and are trying to keep their distance.
“I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do for London,” he said. Only he couldn’t manage to do so without frequently losing his place. Whatever Shaun’s plan is, no one has yet communicated it to Shaun. To close, a former Labour mayor of Islington appeared to say she was backing Bailey, before shuffling away off screen.
That left Bailey with just six people following the event on Zoom, one of whom was a reporter called Ross who, not unreasonably, asked how Bailey was going to pay for his 8,000 new police officers at £60,000 a shot including training. By not having so many people working in the public relations team at City Hall, was Bailey’s response. Something tells me maths is not his strongest suit.
Bailey waited a short while, hoping that someone else might have a question, but no one did. So after yet another extended silence the screen went dead. This time for good.
Less than 48 hours after the announcement of a European Super League, all English involvement in the project ended with the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs choosing to leave the rapidly sinking ship. Though quite what Spurs had been doing in the breakaway league escaped me. Obviously having a state-of-the-art new stadium counted for more than a team playing good football.
The ESL may have unravelled quicker than expected, but its demise wasn’t entirely unexpected. It wasn’t just the morality and the anti-competitive structure of the ESL that got to me, it was also the failure to understand the basic pleasure of being a fan. Because much as I enjoy going to home games and hooking up with old friends in adjacent seats, the fixtures that stick longest in the memory are the away ones. And not just due to the results, thrilling as it always is to win away from home. It’s the amount of travel and futility involved. Conceding a goal within the first 30 seconds at the Etihad when our goalkeeper lets a straightforward cross through his hands. Arriving home from Leicester 12 hours after the final whistle having spent a night on the hard shoulder of the M1 waiting for the AA to come. The thrill of discovering a first-rate greasy spoon within 50 yards of Watford’s ground. All this would have been lost if we had to play two-thirds of our away games abroad, as the cost would be prohibitive.
Spurs somehow have also found the time to part ways with José Mourinho. I thought I would be pleased by his sacking, having confidently predicted he would be a disaster from the moment he was appointed. But now that he has gone, all I can really think about is the time we have wasted turning a decent team into a mediocre one. Still, onwards and sideways. And Spurs do make history by being the only ESL team to sack its manager.
My sister has just received back the results of her genetic make-up from one of the ancestry DNA sites. So, on the reasonable assumption that we share the same parents, I can tell you that I am 34% Germanic Europe, 24% England and north-west Europe, 22% Scotland, 6% European Jewish, 5% Sweden, 4% Wales, 3% Norway and 2% Spain. All of which is, thankfully, just about what I had expected. One of my grandfathers was German and his wife had a German-sounding name even though she always insisted she was English. There again being German wasn’t always viewed as being an asset in England in the early 1920s. My other Granny was Scottish so that accounts for her 22%. The 6% European Jewish could well be explained by research done by the novelist Jim Crace, who reckons there was no trace of any Craces in the UK before the 18th century. He believes the surname is derived from the town of Kraków – or Cracow as it was commonly called in England – from which our ancestors moved to the UK to escape antisemitism. I’m intrigued by the Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish blood and have no idea where that bloodline can have come from. I’m guessing that it might be from my other grandfather who was born in Australia and whose family could have come from almost anywhere before they emigrated Down Under. So that’s me. A citizen of everywhere and nowhere.
One of the reasons – apart from my aversion to change – that I can’t imagine downsizing, even though both our children have left home, is that I would be worried about having nowhere to keep my books.
Even though we keep having new shelves built, we still don’t have enough room for all our books – especially as they have to compete for space with our pots. And now we have reached a point where there is no obvious spare wall for more shelves without getting rid of a whole load of pictures. Which is a red line for my wife, if not necessarily for me.
I have become more ruthless about culling books. There was a time when I couldn’t bear to give away any books but for at least 10 years now, every book has to earn its right to stay in the house. Any book that I can’t ever see myself wanting to read again, or has no emotional or financial value, goes. And believe me, after the best part of 20 years doing the Digested Read feature for this paper, there have been plenty of shockers I was only too pleased to see the back of.
Yet even though I have become more merciless – the thrillers that weren’t quite as thrilling as I initially remembered – there always seems to be a cluster of books on the floor for which there is no shelf space.
Nor is it quite so easy to get rid of the discards. Normally I just take them to the charity shop in a box, but when I tried to drop off the latest batch I was turned away. So many other people had been using lockdown to have a clearout that the shop was overwhelmed with people’s cast-offs. The best they could offer me was a drop-off slot later in the month.
I was having a shower the other night when my wife barged in to tell me to turn off the tap, as water was coming through the ceiling downstairs. So we got a plumber in to investigate the damage, only he was unable to find any.
He checked the waste pipe by running the handheld shower directly down the trap for 10 minutes. Nothing. He then sprayed the shower walls for a further 10 minutes to check the grouting and the silicone. Nothing. And finally he ran the overhead shower for 10 minutes to see if there was a leak in the in water pipes. Still nothing. Whatever had been leaking the night before seemed to have miraculously cured itself.
The only thing the plumber could suggest was that some water must have escaped from the shower and leaked through the bathroom floor, even though he couldn’t spot a hole in the grouting big enough to have caused the amount of water that had come through the ceiling. So it’s officially a mystery. As are so many things involving leaks. Like why allegations of cronyism and sleaze appear to have little impact on Boris Johnson’s popularity.
While David Cameron’s reputation, such as it was, seems to be further shredded by the day – he increasingly looks less a lobbyist and more a stalker – Johnson’s personal favours to friends look to be priced into his ratings. Indeed he was positively boastful at prime minister’s questions about having given a tax break to a billionaire as he tried to increase the country’s ventilator supply. It didn’t seem to have occurred to either Boris or James Dyson that philanthropy was more in order at a time of the country’s greatest need. Next we’ll be asked to believe that Dominic Cummings was behind the Downing Street leaks. Oh, hang on …
Digested week digested: “I’ll fix it tomo.”