When I started out in political communications, it could still be assumed that August would be a deathly quiet period in the news cycle.
This was pre-Brexit, pre-Trump and before social media dictated much of the media narrative. Today, there may be fewer people in the City’s restaurants and a dearth of politicians plotting in Westminster, but August doesn’t feel quiet. The horror of terrorism, never far away these days, has reared its head in Spain while the threat of nuclear conflict vies for column inches with every twist and turn of the Brexit debate. Nevertheless, the traditional supply of ‘silly season’ stories still manages to break through, lapped up with varying degrees of enthusiasm and interest.
We’ve had a flash in the pan tale of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s leadership ambition – driven largely by the fact that he has attracted a cult social media following. The story was given credence by political pundits either delighted or horrified at the prospect. The Mogg, meanwhile, denies everything.
The silencing of Big Ben’s bells attracted a remarkable level of interest for an issue that should really be no more than a picture story. It made the front page of various national papers as Tory MPs muttered their disapproval. I had to check it wasn’t a spoof when Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn waded in, the former stating “it cannot be right” while the latter stood up for the health and safety rules that lay behind the decision.
And then there’s the silliest story of all: the launch of a new anti-Brexit party. One cannot separate the prospects of this venture from the increasingly chaotic online outpourings of its main proponent, former Whitehall aide James Chapman, who hopes for “the biggest crowd London has ever seen” when it launches in Parliament Square next month. It’s an idea whose time has come – for a few weeks in August.
Farage simplifies a complex situation
Nigel Farage continues to make headlines in the UK, despite spending most of his time in the US as a staunch defender of the embattled President Trump. Over here, his main argument seems to be that Brexit is “being betrayed” by a cabinet of Remainers. This is a dangerous and facile charge. Over 17m people voted to leave while fewer than 4m voted Ukip at the 2015 general election, so the idea that Leave voters are currently furious that we haven’t yet told the EU where to go is an absurd simplification of a complex and nuanced electorate. The two fringes represented by diehard Leavers and anguished Remainers are exactly that: the edges of a vast mass. As polls consistently demonstrate, the majority of voters accept the referendum result and are now content to see how the years ahead unfold. Not all Remain voters cried at the result and not all Leave voters punched the air. The Farage narrative glosses over this reality and should not be listened to.
Philip Hammond nabs a Sky News hire for No 11's comms
As we report today, business leaders have much more faith in chancellor Philip Hammond than they do in Theresa May. He is, for many, a reassuring presence as the government weaves its way towards to the EU exit door. This is something that will not be lost on Hammond’s latest hire, the charming and savvy Giles Winn, who has been poached from a top job at Sky News to handle media and communications at No 11. It’s a smart move by Hammond, who will no doubt look to capitalise on his current high standing among the business community.
Some statues can be helpful reminders of the past
A smarter, more sensitive soul than Donald Trump could make a thoughtful case for the preservation of statues as a way to enhance understanding. With the right approach, controversial statues can actually serve as a reminder of the past and a lesson for the future. In the City, our very own Monument to the fire of London still carries a plaque (erroneously) blaming catholics for the disaster. It serves not just as a reminder of tragedy, but of ancient divisions long since healed.