Half a billion for questionable satellites, a hasty push for pubs and nothing for theatres…

What links Dominic Cummings reportedly convincing Boris Johnson to chuck half a billion quid into a struggling American satellite company and pubs opening on Saturday while theatres and music venues stay dark?

Let’s swallow an imaginary pint and find out.

Thanks to Brexit, we can no longer be part of the EU’s Galileo navigation system. Instead of admitting that’s a loss, in other words a massive mistake, our Brexit-blinded government want to invest £500m of our money in OneWeb, a US-based company.

Two newspaper stories on this are telling. The Guardian of June 26 reports that tech experts say “we’ve bought the wrong satellites”. That’s because these are low-orbit satellites, whereas all other positioning systems use medium Earth orbit.

The other, in the Financial Times of June 25, reports that critics have “dismissed the low-earth technology as unproven and fraught with risk”. Yet the FT also adds, almost as a throwaway, that the US wants Britain to have a low-earth navigation service as it would “complement the US system and offer extra resilience to US allies”.

I don’t know enough about satellites to comment, but doesn’t that sound like chlorinated chickens in the sky? Something we don’t want over here but we’ll get because of our post-Brexit need to crawl to the Americans.

While Johnson and Cummings can find £500m for a risky investment in possibly the wrong satellites, there seems to be no money at all for our earthbound theatres and music venues.

Pubs are opening on Saturday with the blessing of UK Treasury online ads for us to “grab a drink and raise a glass”. I’m looking forward to sticking a nervous nose into our local bar, but those ads are outrageous.

Never mind close on 50,000 people dying of Covid-19, let’s get pissed and forget about the pandemic. It’s true that we’d all like to forget about the pandemic, but what’s happening here is that the government wants us to forget about it.

Boris Johnson is tired of having to be serious and gloomy. Instead he craves woolly optimism and vague, blustering hot-air speeches full of gaseous images that float off into the rhetorical stratosphere.

Not much optimism at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, which yesterday announced that 65% of its permanent staff face redundancy. That is one of our great theatres, a fantastic space and generally a credit to everyone involved.

That theatre was devastated by the IRA bombing on June 15 1996, and had to close for two years before reopening. We can only pray that Covid-19 won’t finish what the IRA failed to do.

At the other end of the country, the Plymouth Theatre Royal announced last month that 100 jobs were at risk because of Covid-19. Any theatre you care to name between these two will be facing similar cliff-edge decisions. As for music venues, they’ve been told they can open but without performances: how upside down is that?

Oliver Dowden, the deeply uninspiring culture secretary, tweets today that he understands “the deep anxiety of those working in music & the desire to see fixed dates for reopening”. He says he is “pushing hard” to “give you a clear roadmap back”.

What an inspirational man: they should put him on a stage so that an audience of theatre directors, actors, musicians, technicians and so on can show their appreciation via the medium of air-borne rotten vegetables.

The furlough scheme has helped prevent economic chaos, although what will happen when that ends is anybody’s gloomy guess.

But we should never forget the importance of culture and the chances offered to escape and learn about ourselves, to connect with humanity, to open eyes and hearts and to feed our brains.

And if that’s over the top, you can lock me in pseud’s corner and throw away the key.

We are good at culture in this country and the thought of our cultural institutions hitting the rocks should worry us all.

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When FDR Johnson didn’t go to Trinidad by way of Dudley…

I’ll whistle you a cheery tune in a moment, but first here is what brought it to mind.

Perhaps bored with his karaoke Churchill act, today Boris Johnson comes dressed as President Franklin D Roosevelt. That’s the depression era US president who launched one of the most expensive US government programmes after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Like FDR, Johnson is promising us a New Deal, in his case for post-coronavirus Britain. Where FDR built schools, hospitals and dams in the most expensive US government programme ever, Johnson is mending a bridge at Sandwell in the West Midlands.

He’s doing a bit more than that as he pledges to “BUILD BUILD BUILD” in capital letters and without any commas by way of mortar.

But of the £5bn being waved around, some has already been promised – and the rest isn’t as generous as it seems.

With FDR in mind, Johnson says he wants a government that “puts its arms around people at a time of crisis”. Yuck to that for an image, I’d say.

Professor Anand Menon, of the UK in a Changing Europe think-tank, isn’t impressed. “The notion that he’s going to turn himself into FDR seems absolutely fanciful,” Prof Anand says today in the Guardian. “FDR surrounded himself with experts, and drew on what they had to say in a way that Boris Johnson so far as not.”

Well to be fair, he has surrounded himself with experts in sycophancy, nodding dogs to a man and woman.

Anyway, onto that song.

On his early album Into The Purple Valley, Ry Cooder sings a catchy little calypso song called FDR in Trinidad. I’d assumed it was his own song, but Cooder is a musical archaeologist who unearths old songs, and this one was written by Fritz McClean to commemorate FDR’s trip to Trinidad in 1936.

Below are the lyrics of the song, subtly rewritten but keeping the hummingbird for the sake of the rhyme (if not for the sake of West Midlands reality)…

“When Johnson came to the Land of no hummingbird

Shouts of welcome were barely heard

No hummingbird, no hummingbird, no hummingbird

His visit to that region is bound not to be

An epoch in local history

Definitely not marking a bold new era

Between Dudley and not America…

Struck by his immodest style

We weren’t much intrigued by the unreliable Johnsonian smile

In fact hardly anyone was glad

To welcome Johnson to not Trinidad…”

As the next line mentions being privileged to see FDR, “With his charm and his genial personality…” this re-scripting exercise is now officially doomed.

Still let’s turn instead to a couplet based on something Johnson said this morning when asked about raising taxes to pay for all he promises…

My friends, I am not a communist

And if you thought that you must be pissed….

While the gloomy doomsters of the IMF defy Johnson by forecasting that the UK is on track for one of the worst economic downturns in the G7, Johnson insists “we will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward”.

Such gravitationally uncertain words sound like they belong on the election trail. Basically, he’s bouncily campaigning for the job he’s already got. And repeating that thumb-smudged line about levelling up – sticking to his standard routine: say something often enough and it might just be true.

Well, I’m sorry not to swallow those cheerfulness pills Johnson is handing around, but I’m inclined not to believe a word.

Theresa May promised much the same, then Johnson snatched that baton from her and he’s still waving it about today.

And the thing is, banging on about FDR’s New Deal (revisited again) only impresses people who know their political history. And even they aren’t going to be fooled by Johnson’s latest karaoke turn.

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Press-ups and downs as Johnson is ‘well fed from scraps’…

BORIS Johnson was doing press-ups on the front page of the Mail on Sunday yesterday. And I was doing press-ups on nobody’s back page while sketching out this blog.

The accompanying sub-heading on the MoS began: “As PM says he’s ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ (and proves it) and is helping with nappies and night feeds…”

According to the Phrase Finder online service… “The allusion to a butcher’s dog is to a dog that would be expected to be very well fed from scraps. Why that is considered to epitomise fitness isn’t clear, as it might be thought more likely that the dog would be overweight than fit…”

When plucking that phrase from the drawer of characterful old sayings, Johnson was being truthful in a way he perhaps didn’t intend. Not so much fit as spoiled and over-indulged. And who on earth says things like that anyway? Only a man pretending to be someone they aren’t; but that’s Johnson all round.

We don’t know how many press-ups Johnson managed or how well he did them. I speak as a 30-a-day man. I saw a physio once about some uncooperative joint or other and he asked to see my press-ups. “Well, that’s one way of doing them,” he said dryly, without elaboration.

I’ve just looked at online videos and, well, I don’t share much with Boris Johnson, but being rubbish at press-ups may be one similarity. At least Johnson didn’t go the whole Putin on us and ride his bicycle without his shirt, moobs on the wobble.

According to the Daily Mirror Sir Keir Starmer joked about doing 50 press-ups during PMQs this week. You have to admit that Starmer looks more capable of pulling off that feat than Johnson: but, guys, does it really matter? You’re meant to be politicians, not Joe Wicks.

The MoS interview appears to be a bit of buttering up: PM gives interview to favoured newspaper, and favoured newspaper returns favour with unctuous coverage (and accompany photo of the prime ministerial bum in mid-rise).

Times Radio launched this morning with what it claimed was Johnson’s “first sit-down broadcaster interview since the start of the coronavirus lockdown”. That’s opposed to his first press-up newspaper interview only the day before.

It was telling, though, that the BBC-averse Johnson should choose to help launch Times Radio. His lockdown-busting adviser, Dominic Cummings, is said to have long wished to dismantle the BBC, and pushing Johnson onto Times Radio fits.

It had seemed the BBC would be safe for a while after its Covid-19 coverage, especially the focus of those working within the NHS. But Cummings is not a man to be deflected, so the Beeb had better watch out.

Further proof of Cummings getting what he wants can be seen today in the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill as cabinet secretary and chief security adviser. Another leading civil servant defenestrated after months of hostile anonymous briefings from Downing Street – backstreet muggings with cowardly words rather than fists doing the damage.

Anyone who doesn’t stick to the cold testament of Brexit is booted out. Johnson surrounds himself with like-minded types who all come from similar backgrounds – and who all swear fealty to him and Brexit (or really to Dominic Cummings).

We’re stick with a Boris Brexit now, even though nobody has a clue how it will turn out; particularly not the man doing press-ups on the front of the Mail on Sunday.

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Bonkers on the beaches… but Boris Johnson said he wanted bustle…

ALL those people flocking to the beaches in Bournemouth and elsewhere must be bonkers. The headline writer in Metro captures it well over a photograph of human sardines dipped in a suntan lotion dressing: “Where isn’t Wally?”

Nothing would convince me to go to that beach or any other while we are still in a pandemic; nothing would convince me to go even if we weren’t in a pandemic. Too many people; too much sweaty proximity. A sand dune hollow on a quiet beach with a good book, yes please; a zero social distance scrum in the over-populated heat on a mounting hill of litter, no thanks.

People keep asking how Covid-19 might change us. To judge by all those people crammed on the sand, the answer may be not a lot. Yet while those sunseekers might, in Metro-speak, all be Wally, in a sense it’s easy to see how this happened.

Our weather is inconstant and a sunny day will draw us to the beaches. In relatively peaceful York, the streets are becoming rowdy as people misbehave in the sunshine; late at night from our attic bedroom we have been disturbed by shouting and partying.

Then consider this. All those beach sardines basically have Boris Johnson’s blessing. Only the other day he told the public to come out of “our long national hibernation”, adding: “I want to see bustle and I want to see activity.”

Well, Mr Johnson, you got bustle and you got activity. All those people obeyed your instructions to go out and enjoy normal life again. And then were pilloried in the newspapers and on the TV for doing as you suggested. And told off by your health secretary who said he might have to close the beaches.

This was denied by the talking head of the day – checks notes, oh, George Eustice, whoever he might be; and no it’s not worth checking – who said the government would be ‘reluctant’ to close beaches.

I don’t know if Downing Street employs a weather forecaster. Maybe there is one and the holder of that rainy post is under orders to predict Great British sunshine every day.

Boris Johnson could at least have checked the forecast before announcing a great unbottling of society in a heatwave. Instead he shook the bottle, popped the cork with a cheery hurrah, and told everyone to bustle off. Those people fighting for space on the beaches were fools – but they were doing what the prime minister said.

We’re all being told to call on that good old British common sense by a man who doesn’t have any himself.

The ending of lockdown was never going to be easy. But arranging for everyone to rush to the beaches in a heatwave within virus-spitting distance wasn’t the smartest idea.

I’d like to say I’m surprised, but my sense of surprise stopped worked weeks ago. I do hope that’s not a symptom.

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Tossing around a few thoughts about litter and good British common sense

I see that Geoff from Dunnington isn’t happy but in my experience he rarely ever was.

Until five years ago, one of my jobs on the old newspaper was editing the letters. Frequent correspondent Geoff wasn’t happy then; and he still isn’t happy.

Thanks to David Dunning at Minster FM for pointing this out in a tweet. Otherwise that hardly surprising continuation of unhappiness might have passed me by.

City of York Council’s new anti-litter campaign has a catchy slogan. It asks: “Why are you tossing litter around here?” The placard gives three possible answers: I’m lazy; I don’t think about this community; I think other people should pay to clean up after me.

The plea for tidiness then tidies up with: “Don’t be a tosser, please take your rubbish home with you.”

Geoff says the placards “might cause a titter among the council bright-sparks who dreamt this slogan up, but its puerile nature speaks a lot about the mentality of those supposedly running things at council HQ”.

We need, he adds, “more and bigger waste bins around the city”.

With respect, no we don’t. We need people to stop being tossers. There are far too many tossers in my neighbourhood. They toss rubbish on the road up to the bypass; sometimes they toss old furniture along that pleasant way; occasionally they leave bags of garden rubbish strew across the path on the stray besides the often litter-strewn road.

That tosser slogan made me smile and set my head nodding. The writer earned their fee and good on them. And if it’s puerile, I am happy to be childish and immature too. It isn’t easy coming up with catchy campaigns and a striking slogan helps.

David Dunning said in his tweet: “I think it’s the coolest thing a Council has ever done – agree?”

Well, that’s a big statement but the slogan is certainly a good one. Litter doesn’t often concern me on this ledge, but it bothers me out on the street or in the city centre.

People are such slobs – just ask Bournemouth. The sunshine and the sort of ending of the lockdown brought the masses onto the sands, and they left behind 12 tons of litter. That mound of litter wasn’t caused by lack of bins; it was caused by lack of manners and respect. It was caused by people being lazy-arsed slobs.

And it doesn’t say much for what Boris Johnson likes to call “good British common sense”. Oh yeah? Good British common sense scatters litter everywhere while we are still in a pandemic.

Good British common sense caused people to phone the police when KFC ran out of chicken for a week in 2018. Good British common sense caused the pointless agonies of Brexit and landed us with this shower of a government.

As for litter, if we all had good British common sense, there wouldn’t be any. Don’t blame the bins; blame those lazy-arsed spreaders of rubbish who scatter their shit everywhere and think nothing of it.

Don’t blame the bins; blame the bin-brained.

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Are we out of the woods yet? Oh, it all depends…

According to Boris Johnson, “our great national hibernation is coming to an end”. Well, it all depends.

It all depends on how confident you are in the convenient assumption that the worst of Covid-19 is over.

It all depends how much you trust a loosening of lockdown that comes crusted with caveats. The two metre rule is gone and will be replaced – hurrah! – by “one metre plus”. Pardon, you what? You’ll have to step closer as I didn’t quite catch that. One metre plus another equals two, one plus something equals one metre plus. Does that subtract from sense?

It all depends on how much you trust Mr Johnson; none of that Boris this and Boris that bollocks around here, thank you very much. Mr Johnson is known to tell lies. I know, you could have knocked me down with a copy of the Daily Mail when I learned that. Actually, make that the Daily Express (aka the Boris Bugle) as at least the Mail does criticise Johnson occasionally. Here is today’s Express proclamation in Johnson servitude – “Cheers Boris! Here’s to a brighter Britain”. That’s not a newspaper, it’s a town crier made hoarse by shouting propaganda.

It all depends how much you want to believe the words of an unreliable man heading a chaotic, U-turning government comprised of Brexit-blinkered spin merchants. Not forgetting that being urged to come out of hibernation by a prime minister who very much favours hibernating away from the public eye himself is a bit rich; as is he.

It all depends how much you believe health secretary Matt Hancock saying: “Our plan is working.” If 43,000 deaths and counting (some estimates reach as high as 66,000) is a workable plan, just imagine if we were living through a gigantic cock-up.

And in the end it all depends on how you are feeling. Do you feel confident enough to skip out of hibernation and spend money to revive the economy; or have you stuck your nose out of the door, taken a sniff and concluded that it is better to withdraw?

It’s easy to be happy about certain aspects of the relaxation, especially being able to see family and friends again. It’ll be great to enter a bar again, too, but those early visits will be trepidatious: is this really safe? Cinemas can open under new rules but not yet theatres; music venues can open – a chorus of a hallelujahs – but they can’t stage live music. Pardon, you what? You’ll have to step closer as I didn’t quite catch that either. If that makes sense, I’ll eat a copy of the Daily Express for breakfast.

It all depends on confidence; it all depends on how much you believe Boris Johnson; it all depends on whether you think opening pubs before opening schools is right; and it all depends on whether you wish to heed all those scientists urging caution about too many changes being introduced at once.

Do you remember the dim and distant past of a few weeks ago when the government was following the science? Well one theory for the canning of the daily press briefings after yesterday’s farewell tour is that the scientists were less and less willing to stand there and spout the government line. Ending the briefings was a way of putting them back in their labs. Incidentally, the chief nursing officer, Ruth May, suddenly disappeared from those briefings, reportedly after declining to back Dominic Cummings when he broke the social distancing rules.

Was her disappearance suspicious? It all depends. Is the world back to normal; are we all feeling confident?

It all depends.

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The limits of modern outrage and that photo of Ask Sarkar with her orange lolly…

THERE is a short but timely book published next month by Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles, entitled “Outraged: Why Everyone is Shouting and No One is Talking”.

Charles hosts The 1Extra Breakfast Show with Dotty. Two years ago, she wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian, “As a black, gay woman I have to be selective in my outrage. So should you.”

Her book grew from that article, and her thesis is a useful one in these opinion-dented days.

Here how it runs: outrage was once reserved for the truly unjust, for civil rights activists and suffragettes; it fought against police brutality, racism, unequal pay, it abolished slavery and conquered slavery.

Then social media came along and outrage became a cheapened currency, all shouting and no thinking, as so horribly represented by Donald Trump’s empty-vessel bellowing on Twitter.

Dotty includes in her book a cautious but revealing interview with Katie Hopkins, the disgraced queen of right-wing outrage. A timely exchange as Hopkins has just been booted off Twitter for promoting hate. This led to her supporters – yes, strangely, they do exist – to bleat on about free speech, forgetting that free speech comes with responsibilities.

Dotty began thinking about outrage after a social media scrap when the retailer H&M had revealed a jungle-themed collection featuring a black child wearing a monkey-printed hoodie. She felt under pressure to be outraged, to join in the shouting, but was bothered that collective outrage had gathered in such a small but noisy cul-de-sac. Was this now the only purpose of outrage, she wondered?

If you spend too much time on Twitter – guilty as charged – you will be exposed to endless outrage. Oddly, quite a lot of the bleating comes from right-wing commentators who consider themselves a persecuted minority, a grievance that hardly stands up in a country where the right is nearly always in power.

What you will also see is hateful abuse of high-profile women. An unpleasant example occurred over the weekend when something silly accidentally collided with something truly horrendous.

Ash Sarkar is a journalist and lecturer who often gets under the skin of those on the right. Older white men seem particularly outraged by her brand of left-wing, anti-racist, anti-imperialist politics. The opinions of a furiously eloquent young Asian woman seem too much for them to bear.

Sarkar tweeted a picture of herself siting in a park in Hackney, East London, eating an orange ice lolly. For reasons that initially escaped this ledge-bound old dinosaur, she included an emoji of three oranges with her post. She did so, she later said, because there were three orange objects in the picture.

This silly little photo – fun, pleasant and, well, young – was pounced on by haters who mistakenly believed that Sarkar was sitting in the same park in Reading where three men had just been killed. They also imbued those three oranges with a dark political significance, insisting they symbolised terrorism.

Down in the Twitter basement, the hate started to boil. “What an absolute vile piece of filth…” began one tweet that became far nastier after that.

Ask Sarkar expresses strong opinions all the time, it’s her stock in trade, her selling point. Those who dislike what she has to say should argue back reasonably without descending to misogyny and the hateful babble of outrage. And without, for heaven’s sake, issuing anonymous death threats because she posts a photo of herself eating an orange ice lolly.

I am not sure why she thought that photo was for general consumption, as it looked like the sort of thing you might send a friend. That’s probably just an age thing. I’d never post a photo of myself eating an orange ice lolly as it would almost certainly be dripping down my T-shirt.

We should be able to discuss and disagree without turning into demented loons addicted to outrage.

Here, with that in mind, is an encouraging letter from today’s edition of The Times…

Sir, There were several articles in Saturday’s comment section (Jun 20) with which I profoundly disagreed. Keep up the good work….

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Scraps from the Big Book of Stupid News with a starring role for Raab…

Johnson with the ringed sleeve of his puppet-master, as shared on Twitter by Otto English

Here are a few scraps torn from the Big Book of Stupid News. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will be excited to learn that he warrants a double mention.

First up here he is chatting to Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio. Now there’s a right-wing rom-com no one wants to see.

Sultry old Hartley-Brewer, baiter of the left on Twitter, yesterday asked square-jawed leading man Raab about taking the knee as used for the Black Lives Matter protests.

Raab was dismissive of the gesture, preferring one of his own called Taking The Foot And Putting It In The Mouth.

Here’s what he said – as in formed into actual words that actually fell from his mouth: “On this taking the knee thing, I don’t know maybe it’s got a broader history, it seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones, feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination.”

Game of Thrones – did he just say that? Yup. Raab appeared to have no idea that the American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularised the gesture after taking the knee during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality and racism. Or that Martin Luther King knelt too in the 1960s when possibly not auditioning for Game of Thrones.

And yet, his studied vagueness – “I don’t know maybe it’s got a broader history…” – suggests either pure ignorance or just not having the slightest interest in the matter.

Over on Sky News, Raab blathered to Kay Burley about why the government wants to spend a million quid on a Union Jack paint-job for the plane Boris Johnson occasionally uses. His reasons were nearly as convincing as his grasp of cultural history; or anything really.

Theresa May once conducted a fatal experiment. She came up with the brilliant wheeze of making Boris Johnson foreign secretary so the world could see him for an incompetent bumbler. That worked so well that she departed and left us with the incompetent bumbler.

During his chaotic spell as secretary for abroad, Johnson reportedly used to moan about having to use a boring old grey plane. That’s why we’re pimping up an official jet in another Johnson vanity project (will it be called the Boris jet? almost certainly).

The next torn scrap features Johnson, but it’s Dominic Cummings we are trying to spot here. Downing Street released footage of Johnson having a Zoom call with staff at Charing Cross Hospital. Almost out of shot behind the big TV screen you can see the rolled-up white shirt sleeve clearly belonging to Cummings, within string-pulling distance even for a Zoom.

This photo was spotted by Otto English and shared on Twitter. English is a must-follow if you like Twitter. His bio may surprise you: “Semi-professional irritant. Born Andrew Scott. Definitely not Moriarty. Freelance writer…”

Here to end is Alan Sugar with a page all to himself after his appearance on the Jeremy Vine Show on Channel 5. Sorry – Lord Alan Sugar, as these things matter; to Alan Sugar.

Sugar explained to Vine why it’s safe for the UK to follow the US in coming out of lockdown.

“Who’s dead? I’m not. I’m still alive. So’s everybody else I know.”

Who’s dead? The latest figures suggest that 42,288 people are dead but that’s all right because none of them are Lord Alan Sugar or any of his pals.

Just take a step back and admire the brass in those tonsils.

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It was impressive how Marcus Rashford tackled Boris Johnson…

Marcus Rashford photo from his Twitter page

AN impressive young man has forced a far less impressive middle-aged man to make a screeching U-turn. The impressive young man is Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England forward; the less impressive older man needs no introduction to the home crowd.

On learning that Boris Johnson had at the last minute reversed his refusal to provide food vouchers over the summer for some of the poorest families in England, Rashford tweeted:

I don’t even know what to say.

Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.

Before forcing this embarrassing switcheroo on Johnson’s government, Rashford gave a number of interviews that were deeply impressive – and I’m afraid that word is going to be kicked around here even more than Boris Johnson’s reputation.

The young Mancunian spoke with calm personal authority beyond his 22 years about growing up in one of his city’s poorest districts. He explained how his family of five children had been sustained by the kindness of neighbours and the community.

When he wrote an open letter to all MPs to oppose ending the school meal vouchers for 1.3 million pupils in England, he knew what he was talking about; he could remember the hunger and the struggle.

He had already acted on that personal experience by donating time and money to FairShare, a charity that helps feed vulnerable children.

Marcus Rashford might not “even know what to say”, but the rest of us should have no such hesitation. His calm personal authority combined with his power as a famous footballer made the government look shabby and shifty; or shabby and shitty; oh, hell, let’s have both.

It was a mystery why the government chose this hill to fight on. A day before the U-turn, the government had rejected the footballer’s plea for the £15-a-week vouchers to continue, and the usual luckless fall-guy ministers had been trundled out to defend the government’s shameful position.

As late as yesterday morning, the government refused to bow to Rashford’s campaign. By the evening, Johnson announced the U-turn while pretending that he’d not really known anything at all about the whole thing. And if you think that sounds like a spot of post-truth political match-fixing, you’re not wrong.

Premier League footballers clearly have clout and it’s fantastic to see them use their influence for the general good. Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, for instance, has often suffered press coverage that veers towards racism. So it has been powerful to see him speaking out about racism following the death of the American George Floyd.

As for Rashford tackling Johnson, it’s easy for a smart young athlete to look impressive against an overweight middle-aged man with fly-away hair. The inhabitant of this ledge would look like a right old wimp next to that fine young man.

But that’s not really the point here.

Marcus Rashford has gone from kicking a football about on the grass in Wythenshawe to playing at Old Trafford; both a short distance and an unimaginably long one.

When Boris Johnson was around the age of 22, he was at Oxford where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club – “notorious for champagne-swilling, restaurant-trashing ‘pleb’-taunting elitism”, according to an Observer report from last year.

According to various contemporary reports, at Oxford the careless young Johnson was pointed out to fellow students as a future prime minister. To which the disbelieving cry of “What, him? You must be kidding” has turned into a joke at everyone’s expense.

Johnson has walked along, or swerved around, a gilded path laid out for him by privilege. Rashford has risen to the top in football through talent – and has mature personal skills that the 56-year-old prime minister couldn’t muster in a penalty shoot-out to save his life.

As many of the papers are predictably putting in this morning:

Rashford 1

Johnson 0

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Culture wars, more scuffles about statues and a monument to the moment…

THE war of the statues is a gift for Boris Johnson and that’s a shame. Culture wars favour the right rather than the left as it’s more their saloon-bar habitat.

Johnson stirring up division over statues and Black Lives Matter demos provides a perfect distraction from the wider issue of racism in our society – and from the ‘world-beating’ pig’s ear his government seems to be making of the Covid-19 crisis.

In a series of Trump-like tweets, the prime minister boomed that the protests “had been hijacked by extremists intent on violence”.

He also tweet-blathered: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations. They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.”

The dunking of Edward Colston into the Bristol docks clearly rankled – along with the voluntary removal of other such statues. Yet these statues themselves lie about history. The statue of Colston was – as mentioned here before – erected in 1895, more than 170 years after Colston’s death and more than 60 years after slavery was abolished in Britain.

That statue was put up by Victorian businessmen who wanted Colston to be remember as a philanthropist rather than as a slaver: it was quite literally a bit of whitewash to cover up the embarrassing truth.

Johnson is at it again this morning, back in his old pontificating ground of the Daily Telegraph, writing that: “We can’t Photoshop our history.” A typical Johnsonian image that means little: history has always been told through filters, the facts moved in and out of focus to suit the teller.

You will have enjoyed hearing Johnson robustly defend his views in that head-to-head interview with Andrew Neil; or you might have done if he wasn’t such a cowardly politician, pumping stuff out on Twitter or in print but never agreeing to an interview.

Yesterday the Mail on Sunday entered the culture wars with a photos of a marchers linked to the headline: “What HAS become of the country we love?”

A lack of self-awareness so staggering that Twitter almost collapsed under the weight of people sharing montages of hateful Mail front pages demonising migrants.

Elsewhere in yesterday’s edition, the Mail on Sunday launched a ludicrous campaign under the headline: “Save Sir Winston, Boris.”

And it beggars belief that the next line read: “It beggars belief but Left-wingers are now demanding Churchill’s statue be torn down.”

No they’re not – all that’s happening is a debate about how and in what context statues should be displayed.

Debating how we address the past is interesting and productive but should not distract us from the present.

Let’s end with a positive image, one that appeared over the weekend and is featured on the front of some newspapers this morning.

Used most prominently by Metro, this shows Black Lives Matter activist Patrick Hutchinson carrying an injured protester from the opposing side.

Hutchinson is a picture of strength, arms bulging as he lifts the protester to safety. The man he rescued, said to be a far-right protester, lifts a hand to his injured head as rests across Hutchinson’s broad shoulder.

Interviewed on Channel 4 News, Hutchinson said he “didn’t think twice” about what he did. “I just scooped him up and put him on my shoulders and started marching towards the police… I could actually feel strikes and hits as I was carrying him.”

Who needs statues to the past when you have a monument to the moment such as Patrick Hutchinson?

The photo was taken by Dylan Martinez of Reuters – always important to mention the photographer.

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