Daily catch-up: Labour’s troops are in flight, ‘mattresses and chicken coops strapped to the roofs of their cars’, but they will rally and return

Politics, politics, politics, lists and another view of old London

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The Independent Online

1. Another of Sir William Davenant’s wonderful views of old London. Here is the London Hospital, Whitechapel, in an open landscape as it appeared c1760. I think the church to the right is the white chapel, St Mary’s Matfelon, although its location is quite wrong: it should be further to the right, behind the hill, and aligned with the front of the hospital (it was destroyed in the Second World War and the site is now Altab Ali Park).

2. Boris Johnson wrote brilliantly in the Telegraph yesterday about how the Conservatives should press their advantage while their opponents are in disarray. Who else would say that Labour’s troops are in flight, “mattresses and chicken coops strapped to the roofs of their cars”, or that the Tory party should not let its “tank engines sit gently pinking in the sun”?

But he also showed strategic grasp in urging the Tories to adopt the Living Wage as their policy. As it happens, I am a sceptic about the Living Wage, and am opposed to a dramatic rise in the minimum wage because that would, in the opinion of the independent Low Pay Commission, create unemployment. But you cannot help but admire Johnson’s determination to occupy the centre ground. It makes the Labour leadership election look even more like an irrelevant sideshow.

3. I am seeking nominations for the following Top 10s. Towns Everyone Has Heard Of But Can’t Place On A Map (starting with Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is near Stoke-on-Trent). Companies Whose Names You See Every Day But Never Notice (AATI, makes non-slip metal steps, and YKK, zips). Sequels Better Than The Originals (Mad Max, Evil Dead, Aliens). In the comments or to me on Twitter, please.

Talking of lists, my Listellany e-book is on special offer at the moment for just £1.80. That is less than the price of a big bag of posh crisps. Buy it now.

4. Thanks to Michael Walsh for reminding me of a column I wrote in 2012. I said that the usual pattern for the British part in European Union negotiations was “putting up with stuff that we don’t really like for the sake of being ‘in the room’ for the next round of talks about stuff that we don’t really like”.

David Cameron broke that pattern in December 2011, when he vetoed the fiscal compact. Now he is trying to break it again with his renegotiation of our terms of membership, but it feels very much as if we will end up putting up with largely cosmetic changes for the sake of staying at a top table at which we are not sure we want to be.

5. Alex Massie and Janan Ganesh are both worth reading on how the Europe business will play out. They both say it can only end badly for the Tories; Ganesh says the commentating classes have already overshot the trend line of Labour pessimism. That I agree with: the next election, like the last, is eminently winnable for Labour. But I think they are both wrong to assume that about one third of Tory backbenchers are resolute for EU exit. I think there are only about 20 hardcore Outers: the rest are persuadable or have already been persuaded.

6. And finally, thanks to Michael Rosen for this:

“A single grain of maize is a unicorn.”