Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Is there a right way to make a Bolognese?

There are few more satisfying ways to while away a few hours than pottering in the kitchen, attending to a gently gurgling pot of ragu, glass of wine in hand, with the radio muttering away in the background. But, it seems that we in Britain have been doing it all wrong. Italian chef Antonio Carluccio has been getting a little sweaty under his apron over the way in which we make our Bolognese sauce.

According to the Daily Telegraph, whilst at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Mr Carluccio said: 'There was spaghetti Bolognese, which does not exist in Italy. In Italy, it is tagliatelle Bolognese, with freshly made tagliatelle and Bolognese without any herbs whatsoever.'

Mr Carluccio is just the latest to berate the British for taking a classic dish from abroad and subjecting it to unspeakable tinkering with the subtlety of a house decorator trying to restore a Michelangelo fresco.  Poor Jamie Oliver suffered the wrath of Spain for the heinous crime of adding chorizo to his paella last week. And, according to Carluccio, the only way to cook a Bolognese is this:

'You should do this: oil, onion, two types of meat - beef and pork - and you practically brown this, then you put tomatoes, then a bit of wine, including tomato paste, and then you cook it for three hours. That is it. Nothing else. Grate Parmesan on the top and Bob's your uncle.'

His argument is somewhat undermined by the fact that on the same page an entirely different Bolognese recipe appears, shorter but with more ingredients, by a chap called Antonio Carluccio:

But, is there, in Italy, an agreed way of cooking a Bolognese sauce? In 1982, the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina declared this to be the official 'classic' Bolognese ragu:

As with Carluccio's recipe, there are no herbs or garlic but it still differs significantly. And I doubt whether every household is equipped with the compulsory terracotta saucepan and a mezzaluna chopping knife. 

But, here lies the problem: in Bill Buford's 'Heat' - a book which revels in the robust, macho, end of cooking - he writes 'there is not one Bolognese but many'.

'A Bolognese is made with a medieval kitchen's quirky sense of ostentation and flavorings. There are at least two meats (beef and pork, although local variations can insist on veal instead of beef, prosciutto instead of pork, and sometimes prosciutto, pancetta, sausage, and pork, not to mention capon, turkey, or chicken liver) and three liquids (milk, wine, and broth), and either tomatoes (if your family recipe is modern) or no tomatoes (if the family recipe is older than Columbus), plus nutmeg, sometimes cinnamon, and whatever else your great-great-great-grandmother said was essential.... In any variation, the result is a texture characteristic of all ragu: a crumbly stickiness, a condition of being neither solid nor liquid, more dry than wet, a dressing more than a sauce.... Gianni speaks of the erotics of a new ragu as it cooks, filling the house with its perfume, a promise of an appetite that will mount until it's satisfied.'

Later in the book, Buford cooks an eight-hour Ragu alla Medici which used red onions, garlic, as well as the usual suspects, carrot and celery.

But, with such diverse opinions on the matter - while I appreciate Carluccio's frustration - hoping to maintain the purity of a dish to continue when, perhaps, it never truly existed in the first place, is tricky.

I had a quick look at recipes in a few cookbooks I have at home. Predictably they were all different. 

Below is from the Prue Leith's & Caroline Waldegrave's 'Cookery Bible', in which Carluccio's 'no herbs' diktat is ignored and the addition of marjoram or oregano encouraged.

Elizabeth David, in her classic 'Italian Cooking', chooses to add chicken livers, as well as nutmeg, to the pot:

I found another from Sandra Totti's 'A Taste of Tuscany' - ultimately intended for a lasagna admittedly - which uses fresh basil, thyme and sage, as well as a bay leaf and a clove of garlic. Asking a few colleagues for their interpretations, variations included adding a bay leaf to the oil and mushrooms and even olives to a classic ragu and letting it cook for as long as possible while another version which might use lamb, the addition of chilli and it's all cooked in 20 or 30 minutes. It may well be that there are wrong ways of making a Bolognese but it does seem that there are many right ways.

And, speaking personally, my Bolognese ragu often depends on how much time I have to prepare it. I use beef and pork, prosciutto, wine and, scandalously, some herbs, and try to leave it on the hob for as many hours as are available before the demands for food from my wife and children become impossible to ignore any longer. 

I'm afraid, Mr Carluccio's vision of what an authentic Bolognese is and should be has pretty much evaporated in this country. It may once have been a dish which emerged from Italian families, with all the variance that entails, and Italian academics may once have wanted to codify exactly what it needed; but, it has taken on a different form in Britain. It is not the classic Italian dish it may once have been - as this is not Italy. The spaghetti Bolognese is a British dish now.

But, if there is one way in which the British 'spag bol' and the Italian ragu are still related - and this may not please Mr Carluccio - it is this; as Italian families had their own versions, often passed down through the generations, it seems there may be as much variety in the domestic kitchens of Britain. Some, even Mr Carluccio, might find quite edible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Theresa May; the red and purple Tory PM

Has a prime minister ever had such an opportunity to seize and control the political narrative as Theresa May does currently?

Sure, Margaret Thatcher dominated the political weather of her era but she came pre-loaded with a free market ideology which she applied, with more pragmatism than is remembered, during her time in office. And, of course, Blair swept all aside in his climb to power but, despite the country crying out for a change after 18 years of Conservative rule, he was timid in ambition, still fearful of electoral defeat.

Theresa May, though, is an accidental prime minister and already a lucky one. She is unencumbered by the baggage gathered by David Cameron after a decade of leading his party, emboldened by a Labour Party which seems content for now to wallow in protest populism, meanwhile Ukip seems to be permanently locked in petty, internecine battles. May - who was something of a Teflon-coated Home Secretary - is left clutching a broad, blank, canvas upon which she can paint her own vision for the Conservative Party and the country.

And so, we have her first major keynote speech at a Conservative Party conference as prime minister. Broadly speaking, it was a very successful, clever, speech. Much of it could have been written and said by Ed Miliband, bulked up with a few additions from Nigel Farage, though most of his script had been left with Home Secretary Amber Rudd a day previously. Delivered without fuss from a lectern, Ms May didn't feel the need to display any flashy skills. She didn't take a suit jacket off to show she means business, or memorise the whole speech in an attempt to display her oratorical prowess. Down to earth, unfussy and practical, getting on with the job; that was the message.

While many still struggle to come to terms with the result of the Brexit referendum on June 23rd, Ms May described it as being a symptom of wider issues within society. The vote to leave was about a broader vote for change, 'about a sense - deep, profound and let's face it often justified - that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them'. She went on:

'Our society should work for everyone, but if you can't afford to get on to the property ladder, or your child is stuck in a bad school, it doesn't feel like it's working for you. Our economy should work for everyone, but if your pay has stagnated for several years in a row and fixed items of spending keep going up, it doesn't feel like it's working for you. Our democracy should work for everyone, but if you've been trying to say things need to change for years and your complaints fall on deaf ears, it doesn't feel like it's working for you. And the roots of the revolution run deep. because it wasn't the wealthy who made the biggest sacrifices after the financial crash. but ordinary, working class families.'

Compare and contrast with what Ed Miliband had to say in his conference speech in 2014.

'You see, for all the sound and fury in England, Scotland, Wales, across the United Kingdom, what people are actually saying to us is this country doesn't care about me. Our politics doesn't listen. our economy doesn't work and they're not wrong, they're right....

'Prosperity in one part of Britain, amongst a small elite. A circle that is closed to most, blind to the concerns of people. Sending the message to everyone but a few: you're on your own. See, think about it for a minute. In our economy, it's working people who are made to bear the burden of anxiety, precariousness and insecurity.'

All three paragraphs could easily have come from the same speech. But, while Ed Miliband suffered a humiliating defeat at the last general election, Theresa May is Prime Minister and received a standing ovation. She is busy taking Labour's clothes.

Corbyn himself recognises this. In his own conference speech, he acknowledged that Ms May knew there was a need for change:

The problem Labour and Corbyn faces, though, is that it currently isn't seen as a viable alternative for government. With that in mind, Corbyn is fortunate that Theresa May has ended speculation that she might call an early election for if she did, it seems fairly certain she would be rewarded with an enlarged parliamentary majority. 

Ms May currently faces bigger challenges from within her own party than the official opposition. Many Tory MPs object to the expansion of grammar schools.  There is a cohort of disgruntled Remainers. And the balance of the House of Lords is also still stacked against the Conservative Party. But all this could change. 

The Prime Minister acknowledges that the whole Brexit process will be a 'bumpy' road, the Conservative Party is still split over what Brexit actually means, and if the economy does indeed struggle as many experts fear, it will be this government that is blamed. Moreover, if her fine words remain just fine words and little effort is made to actually seize the centre ground, this will be noticed and Labour could still return there.

The Labour leader has been dismissed many times but he has weathered an almighty battering. It may be hard to imagine now, but, there is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has galvanised a movement behind him. Many may not recognise it as the Labour Party they have known for decades, but it is huge in number, over half a million in strength, and could still prove a formidable election fighting machine. The next election, however, remains Theresa May's to lose.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

I don't want to be a 'Soberhero'

Mine's a Daiquiri

It seems that barely a month goes by these days without it being hijacked by a charity eager to encourage us all to stop drinking.

Once upon a time, January was the month when people - normally of their own volition and not for charity – would lock up the drinks cabinet and forswear the public house to give their body a break after the excesses of the Christmas season. A very worthy and sensible ambition (though I remember lunching with an elderly politician and his nephew at The Gay Hussar one rainy January day and a cascade of abuse was directed at the nephew for having the temerity to emerge for lunch and not drink). Dry January has, of course, been adopted by charity and last year more than two million people took part, raising money for Alcohol Concern.

We are now, however, in the middle of a Dryathlon, promoted by Cancer Research, which urges us ‘to give up alcohol this September and become a Dryathlete’ after a ‘summer of overindulgence’. And after labouring through an abstemious month, one would be forgiven for desiring a snifter, but then we are being encouraged to become a ‘Soberhero’ for Macmillan Cancer Support, and remain booze free for the 31 long days of October. Australia has a Dry July campaign; I wouldn’t be surprised to see that emerge here too soon.

Now, this isn’t a criticism of these individual charities who all do tremendous and valuable work but rather a concern about the unintended consequences. Figures released by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) in August showed that 21 pubs were closing across the country every week. Supermarkets, which still continue to sell alcohol at prices so absurdly cheap it is impossible for a pub to compete, taxes on pubs and the role of pubcos are all cited as major reasons behind these closures. But these charity events do have an impact on the pub trade. The loss of two million customers for a month will inevitably hit the bottom line. One publican admitted to me it was ‘hard to quantify’ how much of a direct hit pubs took but said its impact was ‘significant’.

It is easy to forget how much of an important role the pub plays in British society. It is a home away from home, a meeting place, a community hub. An IPPR report in 2012 said:

‘One of the most important contributions pubs make to local community life is that they act as hubs for the development of social networks between local people. Our national opinion poll found that outside the home the pub scored the highest of any location as a place where people “meet and get together with others in their neighbourhood”’.

And a study by University Hospital in Basel found, unsurprisingly, in a report published this week, that a single glass of beer can make people more sociable.

The continuing loss of pubs damages the fabric of society. But, this seems to be the ambition of some anti-alcohol campaigns. One representative, from the World Cancer Research Fund, has repeatedly claimed: ‘About 24,000 cancer cases could be avoided every year in the UK if everyone stopped drinking alcohol’. Any, albeit inadvertent, damage this could cause to social cohesion - which, in itself, contributes to the health of individuals - is, it seems, ignored.

And then there is the Institute for Alcohol Studies, which claims to be an ‘independent voice on alcohol policy’, but is in fact mainly funded by the Alliance House Foundation, once known as the Temperance Federation. Four people linked to the IAS were recently among the ‘experts’ advising the government to recommend the reduction of safe weekly drinking limits for men from 21 units to 14.
Roger Protz, the editor of the Good Beer Guide, at the launch of the 2017 edition just this week, warned:

‘the restrictions urged by the medical officers are taking us on the road to Prohibition…. All the real scientific evidence shows that moderate beer drinking can contribute to a health lifestyle. We should listen to the experts – not the kill-joys of the Temperance movement.’

There can be few people who are not aware of the risks posed by the excessive consumption of alcohol, and charities should be congratulated for finding ever more innovative funding techniques in a competitive world, funding vital work. And yes, we should probably all drink less alcohol. But, I hope we have reached saturation point when it comes to month-long dry-outs; it's enough to make one turn to drink.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

UB40 for satirists please

It always used to be the case that the Labour Party attracted the support of cool celebrities, musicians and artists while the Conservatives were left with the meagre joys of end of pier comedians and Peter Stringfellow.

Just think of those early days after Tony Blair's election in 1997 - the moment when Cool Britannia flowered briefly before being hastily deadheaded - when the likes of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher were eager to be photographed with the new, rockstaresque, prime minister. And, in 2000, while Nelson Mandela addressed the Labour Party conference, the Tories had Jim Davidson instead. This is despite the alleged comedian having been happy, in his 1993 autobiography, to write about poking his then wife in the eye, ending with the hilarious quip: 'I actually went for the mouth. Thank heaven I missed, I'd have fallen in. I just took a playful punch.' How the blue rinses must have laughed.

Yes, this was the stuff for satirists. And, more recently, the Three Brexiteers, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – awkwardly yoked together by the canny Theresa May – could easily have entertained us all in their own sitcom with their bickering over who nicked the milk or failed to replace the toilet paper in the Chevening House farce in which they all star. But, think of the poor satirist being faced with Jeremy Corbyn’s recent liaison with UB40 – or, at least, one version of the group, if not the one with the original lead singer: what is he to make of this?

Today, for reasons I have yet to fathom, Jeremy Corbyn was joined by UB40 on stage at the Royal Society of Arts where they endorsed him as leader of the Labour Party, claiming he had:

're-ignited an interest in politics for people who no longer felt included, and engaged and inspired a new generation of young voters who, for the first time, believe that they have an incorruptible politician who truly represents them.'

UB40, of course, is hardly an up and coming band riding on the crest of a popular wave of youthful fans; it is an ageing band that was involved with the not entirely successful Red Wedge movement of the 1980s, had split up famously acrimoniously and featured a set of siblings who no longer talk to one another. As this event was being planned, that no one within Labour's strategy team piped up and questioned, just for a moment, whether seeking the backing of such a group an might not be the best metaphor for the modern Labour Party, is little short of astonishing.

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn unveiled an interesting, ambitious, arts policy, pledging to reverse Conservative cuts in arts education and widening opportunity for pupils to participate in the music and arts. How exactly it was to be funded was not entirely clear, but there is a theme to develop, though this event provided no such opportunity. Moreover, I think, prior to the event, there were were very few people on the planet who wondered where UB40, or indeed UB40 with Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, stood in the Labour leadership battle.

But, for a moment, just think of that satirist. When Ed Miliband emerged with his tablet of stone with his elections pledges for the May 2015 General Election, it was easy to imagine such a scenario appearing in The Thick of It or Yes Minister. But, it is impossible to imagine Armando Iannucci would have come up yesterday's scene, where the Labour leader was presumably trying to garner support rather than appear absurd. Similarly, it's hard to think any writer of fiction would invent the desperate, colour of Donald Trump, who seamlessly combines extremist bile and egregious banality without ever knowing the difference. Strange days indeed.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Perhaps CCTV isn't that useful after all

A curious tale of cost-cutting has emerged in the last few days as it seems Westminster City Council is planning to scrap its network of more than 100 CCTV cameras in the West End of London on the basis that it can no longer afford their upkeep due to government cuts.

This will come as a surprise to those who remember times at City Hall under the then unknighted Simon Milton when, along with Wandsworth, it prized itself as a wealthy (ahem, their reserves have recently been valued at over £22billion so they'll get through the week), successful council; a proud Conservative flag-bearer in a time when Labour ruled the roost nationally with ease. I remember, back in 2004, Kit Malthouse, now an MP but then a Westminster councillor and deputy leader, confidently revealing ambitions to cut council tax from its already low levels to zero ‘by 2012’. Needless to say this courageous aspiration was never realised.

And, when I worked as a reporter in the area in the earlier 2000s, Westminster Council was inordinately proud of the network. The manager of the CCTV control room was not only keen on inviting the press and other visitors to see how the operation worked, but he was also a frequent witness at council meetings and attended gatherings of organisations like the Leicester Square Association, reminding the locals how useful the CCTV was in improving their security.

But now, while other police and private cameras will remain, Westminster wants to switch theirs off, claiming it will save a £1million a year, a fairly paltry sum when they are looking for savings of more than £100million. A report on the matter concludes it is not the ‘most effective use’ of council money and the ‘operational benefit to the council is limited’; working hand in hand with the police, it seems, is so last decade.

A Soho resident I know wondered whether their safety was being put at risk by these cuts. After all, for years Westminster Council, the police and the government have been telling anyone who’d listen that the network was a success, acclaimed for cutting crime in the West End. Have they, in fact, all be telling porkies?

John Denham
In 2002, the Press Association reported how Home Office minister John Denham, was treated to a private viewing of footage - in the ‘£1.2million CCTV control room in the Trocadero Centre’ - of an incident in which eight youths launched an unprovoked attack on two men in Leicester Square. Other treats included a fist fight and a man urinating into a bin in Soho. Denham announced an extra £169,000 grant for three new cameras to the system and claimed that, while the CCTV centre had only been in operation for four months, 'it was already producing real results’. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter said ‘CCTV had been a great help in tackling late night incidents’.

In April 2003, Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair praised CCTV for helping to cut street crime in Westminster by 33 per cent

And in January, 2001, Westminster councillor Alan Bradley, who was then cabinet member for community protection at the council, wrote a letter to the council taking issue with a claim that CCTV does ‘not appear to make such difference anyway’. Councillor Bradley wrote: ‘We cannot quantify exactly how much difference it makes but we have seen a drop in street crime of 30 per cent in the West End in the past year. CCTV is one tool to help in the battle against crime and antisocial behaviour…. In Leicester Square for example, our CCTV was instrumental in the successful prosecution of seven youths who assaulted a tourist… the only comment I hear from people in Westminster about CCTV is to press for it to be extended to the streets where they work and live.’

In July 2004, Sound, the nightclub in Leicester Square, lost its licence after attacks on customers by bouncers were captured on CCTV. Superintendent Chris Bradford, from the Metropolitan Police’s clubs and vice unit, said: ‘The video footage showing the kickings given to customers were horrific.’

In April 2007, a man dubbed ‘Britain’s most prolific handbag thief’ was jailed for four years. Maurice Young, then 55, ‘was captured on CCTV at the scenes of the crimes’.

In September of the same year, the numbers of traffic wardens were cut in the West End by 20 per cent, with the council boasting that an expanded CCTV network could do the job more efficiently and save £1million a year.

Before the Olympics, in May 2012, the Evening Standard reported that police ‘swooped on Soho’s most wanted drug dealers in a pre-Olympics blitz on the street trade in heroin and crack cocaine’. Police identified a ‘hit list of 36 top-level suspects – amassing CCTV evidence and conducting test purchases’.

Camille Gordon
One crime CCTV didn't help solve, however, was the murder of Camille Gordon, who worked as a nightclub hostess at the Blue Bunny Club in Archer Street, Soho. This was a clip joint, a venue which enticed men in with the promise of a strip show and even sex for prices as low as £5. Once inside, normally in a basement, customers would suddenly find themselves with an astronomical bill of hundreds of pounds and threatened with beatings if they didn't pay. Sometimes, unfortunate customers would even be marched up to cash points and ordered to withdraw money by some knucklehead. The business plan of these clubs - which have mainly gone now - relied upon knowing that their victims were highly likely to be far too embarrassed to ever complain to the police.

On this particular occasion, on March 1, 2004, there was a dispute with a young black man who was facing a £375 bill after being in the club for about ten minutes. He left the club only to return and stab the 23-year-old Ms Gordon, who staggered down the stairs of the club before collapsing. Archer Street, at that time, had no CCTV cameras and the only footage that was obtained by cameras nearby displayed grainy pictures of a figure heading away who may or may not have been the killer. Despite a £20,000 reward being offered, her killer has not been captured.

There is, of course, no way of knowing whether CCTV would have led to the successful conviction of her killer but I remember police bemoaning the lack of decent footage and Westminster Council certainly wasn't saying CCTV was of 'little benefit' at the time.

A matter of timing

In just over three weeks’ time voters will be going to polling stations to cast their vote in the EU referendum. The polls are increasingly close, the Conservative Party is, predictably, tearing itself apart on the issue, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are having whale of a time campaigning to large crowds around the country. This, then, is the obvious time for a film (full film here) about the apparently pro-EU leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, to rail against those enemies of socialist progress, the BBC and The Guardian columnist.

Inside Jeremy Corbyn’s press team there is someone who thought allowing filming of the leader behind the scenes, by a Labour-supporting, Corbyn-voting activist, for Vice News was a good idea. Viewers certainly see the good bits of Jeremy Corbyn. He is evidently active in his Islington constituency, is excellent at talking to people, likes being with members of public and is clearly interested in their concerns and interests. At one point he remarks rather endearingly ‘every single person you meet knows something you don’t know, if you don’t interact with people you can’t learn anything and, also, it keeps you humble’.

But, the whole atmosphere pervading the film is one of paranoia, not helped by a grim-faced Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s executive director of strategy, frequently hovering in the background. While it can certainly be true that just because someone may be paranoid, it doesn’t mean people are not plotting against them, it isn’t the familiar newspaper foes that get it in the neck, it is the New Statesman, the BBC and the Guardian writer, author of an ‘utterly disgusting’ column, Jonathan Freedland. Does Corbyn really believe the BBC is obsessed with damaging his leadership? Is there really a ‘Gerald’ at the heart of his operation, leaking his PMQ question to a Tory 'Karla'?

Neither major party is a picture of competence currently. The government is hopelessly split over Europe and, thus, is incapable of presenting a coherent vision for the future of the country and has presented a Queen’s Speech denuded of anything that might be vaguely controversial. Cameron’s government, with only a small majority, has been forced into making u-turn after u-turn. Despite claims that these have been Labour successes, many – such as forcing successful schools to convert to academies, tax credit cuts, disability benefit cuts, Sunday trading laws, the repeal of the Hunting Act – have all occurred due to Conservative backbench rebellions. Yet, Labour remains stubbornly behind in the polls. And while it is certainly true that Labour’s performance in the local elections was better than expected, they were hardly – Sadiq Khan excepted – an indication of a party on its way back to power.

What is most troubling, however, is not the Jim Hackeresque confidence that everyone is conniving against him, it is the timing. Jeremy Corbyn has not been prominent in the European referendum debate thus far. It has followed something of a pattern: Conservatives in rival camps shout at each other; a few Labour figures, like Alan Johnson, Tom Watson or John McDonnell, emerge to speak briefly from the sidelines; someone questions where Jeremy Corbyn is; Corbyn duly appears and makes a speech he rather seems not to want to be giving; Corbyn goes back to whatever he was doing before anyone noticed his absence.

And, so it is today, Corbyn has been giving a speech in which he will outline his fears about the dangers of Brexit. And yet, it has already been overshadowed by this unnecessary, self-inflicted, wound.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Sadiq Khan the 'radical'

What was never clear about Zac Goldsmith’s campaign is when the dodgy fellows with whom Sadiq Khan was supposedly allied would emerge and wield their influence over the new mayor. Sadiq Khan has been in position for just over a week so it’s probably too early to judge whether he is the security risk to the capital that Goldsmith, Michael Fallon and David Cameron suggested. In his first few days, however, he has displayed little apparent sympathy with Islamic extremism. Instead, the new mayor has displayed sound judgement and shown canny political instincts.

Consider his first few days:

His swearing in ceremony took place in the modest splendour of Southwark Cathedral, rather than City Hall, several stones' throw further east along the river.

The following day, Mayor Khan attended the Yom HaShoah memorial event, remembering victims of the Holocaust. There, he chatted with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, commiserating that he’d been unable to vote due to the shambles at polling stations in Barnet. The photographs portray an amicable meeting despite, just a few days earlier, Rabbi Mirvis warning that the Labour party had a ‘severe’ issue with anti-Semitism. 

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Marcus Dysch wrote:

‘A Muslim politician, the son of Pakistani immigrants, standing shoulder to shoulder with Shoah survivors? It looked good, and it felt good too. And that is not something Jews have been able to say about many Labour politicians in the past year. Two days into the job, he has now cemented his position as the community’s go-to figure.’

The Labour Party's troubles do not seem to be Sadiq Khan's.

And today (17/05/16) the Gay Pride flag is flying outside City Hall to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT): 

It has been well documented how Sadiq Khan upset some in his own community for backing same-sex marriage in 2013, to the point of even receiving death threats. This didn't stop him from reassuring Pink News back in January, however, that he would attend future Gay pride marches, after Boris Johnson's failure to attend since 2010.

Now, it's perfectly likely that Zac Goldsmith would have been appeared at these events had he been elected mayor; they're just the sort of trips a new London mayor makes. But, they go a long way very quickly towards dispelling any fears waverers may have had over who was taking over City Hall. And, with the added benefit of hindsight, it marks the Conservative mayoral campaign as being even more tactically and painfully misjudged. 

The even more tragic aspect of the whole affair is, while the Conservative Party will ultimately continue on its way, Zac Goldsmith's reputation is likely to have been tarnished for years to come.