On show this week: posh parties at the Lord Mayor’s pad, political theatrics in Westminster and unexpected revelations about the Olympics; plus rural folk revive the ’keep off my land’ routine
If you had just moved into a London townhouse made up of rooms of original art, one-off pieces of furniture, irreplaceable antiques, silk drapes and chandeliers worth a small fortune, what’s the last thing you would do? Allow your son to use it for his 21st birthday bash might be pretty near the top of the list, particularly if a) you are the Lord Mayor of London and b) the house in question is the Mansion House, your official home. Not something apparently to have occurred to Mike Bear, the new Lord Mayor. Bear, a trained engineer, told me last week that his son was indeed looking forward to his party. Have the Vanish on standby.
Not in my landed estate
HS2, the great infrastructure hope for the decade after next, is reportedly threatened by the ire of Conservative donors who would rather not have it run through their backyard. The Sunday Telegraph writes that David Allen, who has donated about £50,000 a year to the party, is just one of several donors cutting off their generosity to the party while the prospect of HS2 hurtling through his Northamptonshire estate remains on the table. No doubt the government will politely remind them that - terribly sorry - that’s not quite how democracy is supposed to work …
Arguing over the bill
Confusion surrounded the postponement last week of the government’s mammoth Localism Bill, which will lay down proposed changes to the planning system, give Boris Johnson the right to set up an Olympic development corporation, and local people the right to approve local developments. Due out last Thursday, the document has been put off until next week at the earliest. Some say the bill needs cutting down, others that ministers added bits at the last minute - though one of the most credible theories is that Boris is wrangling with the government over powers and wants control of London passed to him, not the boroughs. With the planning system in crisis, we can ill-afford further delays.
Pity Paul Morrell. For the man charged with decarbonising the UK’s building stock, even the English language is letting him down. “In the end,” he told assembled industry grandees at
the launch of his low-carbon construction report on Monday, “I just ran out of synonyms for ’challenge’. Google didn’t recognise the word ’incentivisation’ either”. Perhaps someone could get him a thesaurus for Christmas?
A mint with a hole
Joined-up government has always been a rare sight. So when Thames Gateway minister Bob Neill last week announced £500m for the regeneration of the Olympic park after the 2012 Games, it wasn’t too shocking that none of the bodies involved knew anything about it. However, it turns out that, when the announcement was made, no agreement of funding had actually been signed. This didn’t stop Bob happily briefing journalists about it. Let’s hope the industry actually receives the money.
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Exit stage right, er, I mean left …
The newly refurbished Royal Shakespeare Company’s flagship theatre opened last week in Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of the Bard. Problems with the old building were legendary. They included poor acoustics, obstructed sight-lines and no public lift. But most amusingly, we understand the venue’s two theatres shared the same back-stage areas, sometimes leading to confusion among actors during performances. The mind boggles. Donkey-eared Bottom walking in on a Hamlet soliloquy? Lady Macbeth gatecrashing Agincourt? Fortunately, this is one comedy of errors the new design has mercifully ironed out.