12 August 2019

The unelected court jester
gestures crudely at
the people on the streets

The London Eye, across the river from Whitehall … London is in the eye of a constitutional storm (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Britain is in the middle of a constitutional crisis and a major political debate that could shape the democratic process for decades to come. The Prime Minister could face and lose a confidence vote; the leader of the opposition is unlikely to be pushed into a taxi and sent to Buckingham Palace demanding to be made Prime Minister, no matter what John McDonald says; Labour has failed to deal with integrity about the claims of antisemitism in the party; and politicians of all hues and shades seemto be like lemmings rushing for the cliff edge.

I arrived in London earlier this morning, having caught a flight from Dublin to Stansted and then a train to Liverpool Street Station.

But unlike my three or four visits to London earlier this year, this is a quick family visit, and I am staying for just one night at the St Giles Hotel on Bedford Avenue in Bloomsbury, near the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, and around the corner from the British Museum.

This is the heart of Bloomsbury, and just a few steps away from the top attractions, including museums, theatres, restaurants, public transport and even the best of London’s shopping, although I can hardly imagine myself looking for many shops – apart from coffee shops and book shops.

This is a large hotel with 675 hotel guest rooms, some with large windows that have views of the London skyline, as well as three distinct restaurants. The Central YMCA Club is on the ground floor.

This afternoon involved a walk around the major tourist spots for a family member on his first-ever visit to London. But the bitterness that is dividing Britain today was obvious as we strolled along Whitehall, from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. A group of protesters had gathered on the street, waving EU flags and carrying EU umbrellas. As Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings emerged from a government building to heckles and jeers, Cummings raised his fist and then his finger at the protesters in ugly crude gestures.

This is the court jester who claims his task is to wrestle back power for the people from unelected officials. But this shows clearly what one unelected official thinks of the people on the streets as they seek to have their voice heard.

After today’s walkabout, and dinner out this evening, two of us are planning to visit Peterborough tomorrow, where I hope to spend some time visiting the cathedral. Doubtless, the constitutional crisis will have deepened by the time I catch a late evening flight from Stansted back to Dublin.

Two horsemen about to mount and join the procession, from the north frieze of the Parthenon in Athens the British Museum … I am staying nearby in Bedford Avenue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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