Coleman at Wimbledon

The Navy at Gay Pride, why the people behind 2012 should be replaced and a few other musings arising

An eclectic mix of the Great and the Good assembled in the Royal Box as guests of the All England Lawn Tennis Club the other Friday. The Club's President, the archetypal Royal Duke of Kent (who no more would host a Pop Concert at Wembley Stadium than streak across Centre Court) was joined by amongst others Senator George Mitchell, Jimmy Tarbuck, Lesley Garrett and Vogue's Anna Wintour.

I sat in the third row, which had a distinctly pink tinge to it what with Lord Browne of Madingley being there. There were two empty seats allocated to the Editor of the "Evening Standard", Veronica Wadley, who presumably had read her own paper's ridiculous story from the previous week that, as the Centre Court was temporarily without a roof, we were all going to be shot by marksman from the top of a nearby block of Merton Council flats!

Wimbledon is the best organised and by far the most civilised sporting event in London, run as it is by a largely voluntary Committee who in my view should replace the highly paid hacks preparing for the London Olympics.

Indeed as the rain began to fall at about 3.30pm we retired for afternoon tea on the Royal Box balcony to see newly elected Committee Member, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King passing round the Bath Buns.

Whilst sipping my perfectly brewed tea I took a surreptitious look at my Blackberry and was therefore able to inform the Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sir Jonathan Band that his predecessor had just been created a life Peer and joined the Government as a Junior Minister at the Home Office.

"Goodness me," remarked the charming Lady Band as the Admiral put down his scone and phoned his office at the MOD for confirmation.

Somewhat less surprised that his successor bar one, Lord Stevens, had taken a Government job was former Met Commissioner, now Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, Lord Imbert who maintains a traditional attitude to police officers (serving and retired) whose ego is boosted by seeing their names in the newspapers.

As the second cup of tea arrived I congratulated Sir Jonathan for allowing serving members of the Royal Navy to march in uniform at the following morning's Gay Pride March and wondered why his two fellow chiefs (Army and Air Force) had refused permission.

Well firstly, he admitted, the Royal Navy could do with some good publicity after the fiasco of the returning kidnapped sailors from Iran and, secondly, the Navy is much more relaxed about these matters than the "hard core" in the Infantry with the Army still not allowing gay couples to share MOD accommodation.

One MOD official has described to me the "born again" Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannett as a "complete zealot". Apparently the Minister concerned allowed the Service Chiefs to take their own decisions on the matter of Gay Pride participation: talk about passing the buck!

One of the Army's objections to servicemen in uniform marching in Gay Pride is that there will be people in "fancy dress" taking part; well that does not stop a considerable Army presence in the Lord Mayor's Show each year! Sadly as the daily toll mounts of young men killed in Iraq and Afghanistan there are still Generals worried about what their troops get up to in the bedroom.

If Gordon Brown wants to bring experts into his government why doesn't he give Sir Jonathan Band a peerage and make him Secretary of State for Defence?

Brian Coleman was first elected to the London Assembly in June 2000. Widely outspoken he is best known for his groundbreaking policy of removing traffic calming measures
Photo: Getty
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Theresa May takes early lead in the Conservative leadership race

The first poll of the Tory contest puts the Home Secretary well out in front

Theresa May, the Home Secretary is well ahead among Conservative members according to a new YouGov poll for the Times

She is both the preferred first choice of a plurality of members from an open field (she secures 37 per cent of the vote, with her nearest rival, Boris Johnson, 10 points behind) and roundly trounces Johnson with 55 per cent to 38 per cent. In all other head-to-heads, Johnson wins comfortably.

Although YouGov have a patchy recent record in national contests - they predicted the London mayoral victory but failed to foresee the Conservative majority or the Brexit vote - they are four for four as far as internal party contests are concerned, having accurately predicted both the result and the final vote share of the 2015 and 2010 Labour leadership contests and the 2005 and 2001 Conservative contests. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.