The Hound

Dominic Cummings, special adviser to the prime minister, leaves 10 Downing Street on May 24, 2020

Why are spads so scruffy?

What is it about special advisors? Why do so many of them dress down as though they are off to a festival? Is it to give themselves an air of nonchalance, to show they are more concerned with heavy-lifting ideas than grubby politics?

Who knows, but the latest special adviser to perfect the guise is Liam Booth-Smith, who looks as though he has sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As you will see, Booth-Smith has the look down to a T: he is unshaven, unbuttoned to the navel, and wearing a punk leather Johnny Rotten would be proud of. What a contrast to his boss, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who is always so dapper – tailored navy suit and slim-fitted shirt with a patterned blue tie. 

Booth-Smith follows a long line of scruffpot spads. Dominic Cummings gave a masterclass in eff-off dressing with his Levi-branded hoodie and cargo jeans. Nick Timothy, with his scraggly beard, looked like hadn’t seen his reflection in the mirror for a while. And who can forget Steve Hilton? A man who looked like he has been ripped straight out of a Jacamo catalogue.

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has already warned MPs about scruffiness, telling them to stick to “business attire” last week when they returned to Westminster. Time for Hoyle to turn his attention to spads, too. 

Hilary Mantel is seen at a book signing for her new book 'The Mirror & the Light' at Waterstones Piccadilly

Mantel joins list of Britain-bashers yet to move abroad

Hilary Mantel – author of the famous Wolf Hall trilogy and two-time Booker Prize winner – has declared in an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, that she is “ashamed” of the UK government and its treatment of migrants and refugees. The irony of announcing this in an Italian newspaper – a country hardly famed for its accommodating immigration policies – seems to have escaped the writer.  

She said she is intending to become an Irish citizen – she had Irish grandparents – in order to “become a European again”.

Mantel also expressed horror and confusion at the British population’s love of the monarchy, saying: “The popularity of monarchy as an institution is something that baffles me”. A cruel critic could say the same of Mantel’s novels.

But Mantel is not the only public figure to express shame about the country that has brought them so much success and plan a move abroad.

Alan Sugar announced he would leave the UK if Jeremy Corbyn was elected. Luckily the truth of Lord Sugar’s statement was never tested, and the country did not have to fire its favourite entrepreneur.

Emma Thompson left the UK over Brexit for the sunlit uplands of Venice in February 2020. She moved back to the UK all of three days later when the Italian lockdown was introduced. La dolce vita maybe wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Andrew Lloyd Webber was also said to have declared that he would quit the UK if Labour won the general election in 1997, but 24 years later and we’re yet to see the back of him.

Similarly, John Cleese announced he was moving to the Caribbean in 2018 over the acrimonious Brexit debate, promising that he would come back only when “we get proportional representation”.

Perhaps the figure that will resonate most with Mantel – an author of historical fiction – is Oliver Cromwell. He claimed he would have sold all his property and moved to America if the Grand Remonstrance had failed to pass in 1641. But maybe it’s easier to make these bold statements after you know the bill has passed. It remains to be seen if Mantel will stick to her guns.

Boris Johnson with a new haircut addresses the House of Commons

Boris subjected to overdue brutal haircut

What have they done to Boris Johnson’s hair? He has been subjected to a brutal back to school haircut that is, frankly, long overdue. It had its first outing in the Commons chamber today.

Previously, Boris has reportedly spent just £9 at the barbers. This time he’s had his money’s worth.

It may also be an indication he’s up to something designed to assert his power. A reshuffle perhaps? When he appeared on the Andrew Marr Show back in December 2018 to claim “personal responsibility” for Brexit, Boris sported a new hairstyle that commentators playfully suggested could be a harbinger of a leadership challenge.

Earlier this year, Boris unveiled an unconvincing trim to coincide with the reopening of hairdressers from lockdown. He had faced criticism, being accused of looking shabby during his homage to Prince Phillip.

This time his hairdresser has really gone for it. Much smarter.

The motivation is likely to be found in focus groups. Boris is obsessed with what voters are saying and when they’re saying he looks terrible then action is required, even from Britain’s scuffiest man. Even his fans could not fail to spot that on a recent trip out mid-Afghan crisis, he sported unkempt hair that was worse than ever. He looked like a shellshocked Michael Heseltine after an accident with a lawnmower.

No, more. Boris has a new haircut. And next, a new cabinet?

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