To begin with a bit of art news for a change, at Sotheby’s New York this week one of Claude Monet’s series of haystack paintings was sold at auction for £85.7m ($110.7m) to an anonymous buyer. This not only shatters the record price paid for the artist but also the record for any Impressionist art. The last time the work had come up for auction, in 1986, it had gone for a measly $2.5m, this just shows the sickening exponential growth of the international art market in recent years. Monets at market are rare things, only four have been sold within the century and the price paid for this one puts it at number nine on the list of most expensive paintings ever to be sold at auction – a list headed, of course, by the somewhat dubious Salvator Mundi.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
Speaking of somewhat dubious things, we turn to the Prime Minister. And you’ll never guess what, she is planning on having ANOTHER vote on that deal of hers. Yes, you remember the one, negotiated with the EU and then rejected emphatically by Parliament THREE times just a few months ago. Well, May clearly thinks it will be fourth time lucky, whilst the rest of the world watches her continue to slowly bludgeon her administration to death.
This decision came after the Brexit talks between Labour and the Conservatives finally fell apart with Corbyn pulling out after over forty days of meetings. Just the fact that she was open to negotiating with the leader of the opposition put yet another bullet in the head of this zombie government (once again fired by its own MPs) but still, it limps on.
That is, until this week, when Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, met with Mrs May to demand she set a timetable for her departure from No.10. It was announced that if/when she loses the FOURTH vote on her deal, set for early June, she would resign, and a leadership competition could officially start. However, if by some miracle she does pass it on the FOURTH attempt, she has also suggested she would stand down. In reality, there may have to be a slight delay to her departure as she has scheduled the vote on her deal during President Trump’s much-put-off state visit, a visit in which the PM plays a vital role…meaning we probably ought to at least look like we actually have one whilst he’s here. Amazingly not even the threat of seeing her mate Donald again can scare her out of Downing Street.
This means that the summer will be taken up with a Tory leadership competition. As I mentioned last week, many senior Conservatives are already floating their candidacy with glossy interviews in newspapers and magazines in which they so desperately try to look ‘normal’. But it was within hours of the announcement of May’s intended departure that the current front runner jumped into the race. Boris Johnson took the opportunity of a business conference at which he was speaking to, for the first time, officially announce that he would be going for the job. Considering Boris has been vying for the leader’s job for about a decade now this comes as no surprise but what is slightly shocking is his popularity amongst the party. We are now faced with the very real possibility that Bo-Jo could be our Prime Minister by the time the party conferences come around in October.
A Tory leadership competition taking up so much time when we have very little (we leave the EU by Halloween remember) will just add to the ever-growing feeling of disconnect between the people and their politicians. The new leader and by default our new PM will be chosen by the party’s MPs, not by the people, just like May was, and when she did ask the people to approve her leadership in the 2017 general election the result slashed her majority, hardly a ringing endorsement and yet here we are. The majority of people see Westminster as functioning in a bubble, entirely disconnected with the thoughts, feelings, worries, and interests of the populace. It is no wonder that Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party has shot to the top of the polls ahead of the EU elections next week. Despite the fact they are yet to publish any form of written manifesto, the disenfranchised are flocking to him and his group simply because they stand for something different.
Whatever you think of Nigel Farage, it cannot be denied that he has caught onto something that the traditional Westminster parties have missed. We’ll see how well things work out for him in the elections next week, but it could well be the shot of fear needed to pop the Westminster bubble.
Until then, mind how you go.