London Diary: Struggling Sunak on the brink


If you are rooting for Rishi Sunak to be Britain’s first Asian (and Indian origin to boot) prime minister, take a deep breath and stop here. Because the breaking news is that barring a miracle, he’s set to lose to his rival Liz Truss who is said to be “streets ahead” of him in polls of Tory grassroots members —an overwhelmingly conservative bunch— who will decide the outcome of the leadership election to succeed Boris Johnson.

“That Truss is the favourite is beyond dispute,” wrote The Sunday Times as a YouGov poll indicated that 62 per cent of party members intended to vote for her, compared with 38 per cent for Sunak. She has already started sounding potential candidates for cabinet posts promising to “hit the ground running from day one”.

Sunak, meanwhile, is struggling to win over the grassroots voters despite presenting himself as a true “Tory” and rightful heir to “common sense Thatcherism”. Last week, he was ’s hometown, Grantham, where his wife Akshata Murthy posed at her statue hoping to burnish her hubby’s Thatcherite credentials.

But if media reports are to go by, it’s time he started thinking of another career outside politics. It’s all over bar the shouting, according to pundits. But then who knows? Trump had been written off, Brexit was not going to happen…The fat lady is yet to sing.

Rishi Sunak

Shut up or go, bank tells customers

A leading British bank has caused outrage after it told customers they were free to close their accounts if they opposed its policy allowing staff to display gender-neutral pronouns of their choice on their name tags. Signalling to customers that they must refer to staff members by the latter’s preferred pronouns, Halifax bank tweeted a picture of a name badge with the caption, “Pronouns matter”.

Responding to criticism that it was carrying “wokeness” too far, the bank said it wanted to “open the conversation around gender identity”, and avoid “accidental misgendering”.

Customers who complained were told: “If you disagree with our values, you’re welcome to close your account”, and went on to advise them how to do it.

No ballet, please, we’re woke Brits

If you thought “wokeness” had already gone too far, consider this: ballet, the universally admired dance form, has been dropped by one of Britain’s premier dance schools from its curriculum claiming that it has a whiff of “racism” and is “gender binary”, whatever that might mean.

The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) said it had reviewed the “elitist” and “potentially contentious” art form as part of a diversity drive to “decolonise” the curriculum. It will no longer be an entry requirement because it is rooted in “white European ideas” and splits dancers along gender lines.

“It is essentially an elitist form. Young people need to pay to take ballet classes as a general rule and for a vast number of potential students, they’ve not had access to ballet,” a senior official told The Sunday Telegraph.

Emojis faux pas

As someone who thought I was alone in struggling to make sense of emojis—and choose the right emoji to send—it is good to know that I’ve company. Not just one or two fellow ignoramuses, but a whole generation.

A worldwide survey has shown that older people are overwhelmingly prone to getting emojis wrong. It found the biggest emoji faux pas were pictures of lips, tongue, an aubergine, or winking face. Most elderly people think that these signify a jokey mood. But for youngsters they represent more “flirty, sexual connotations”.

Most older workers also did not realise the dual meaning of the peach emoji, which for younger users signifies buttocks, according to Olivia Grace of Slack, the messaging service, which conducted the survey.“The findings of our research are very clear — be mindful when communicating with emojis across generations,” she told The Mail on Sunday.

First, it was text message acronyms that older generations struggled with — now it’s emojis that have come to define the generation gap.

Theatre with a difference

Women theatre-goers have long complained of a lack of enough female loos in London’s theatres causing them to wait for hours for their turn while men breeze in and breeze out.

But now a new theatre has gone out of its way to address the problem. The @sohoplace theatre—the first new West End theatre to open in 50 years — will have more lavatories for women than for men. Which means “shorter interval queues at the female lavatories”, as The Times put it.

And, lastly, a British commentator has likened “the men and women at the top of the big democracies” to “a flat field dotted with dull molehills of varying sizes”.

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