The Henley streaker: a very British way to welcome the Olympic torch

The torch's relay around Britain has been marked by indifference and disruption, as well as cheering crowds.

Yet another gatecrasher has managed to inject an element of ridicule into the progress of the Olympic torch around the country.

A naked man ran down the street as the procession reached Henley-on-Thames, holding his very own torch aloft as he ran:

He's not the first to distrupt the torch's progress around the UK by any means. In fact, it would seem that Britain has welcomed the symbol of the Olympic spirit with our traditional blend of indifference, mischief and civil disobedience.

There was the incident in Coventry, where two children tried (and almost succeeded) in simply taking the torch out of the hand of its bearer:

As my colleague Alex Hern reported over the weekend, there was also a highly questionable incident when police pushed a boy off his bike as he cycled alongside the torch party:

Another man tried to get near it as it came through Cleethorpes.

In Ezdell, a man was astonished to receive a visit from two plain clothes policemen after he handed out leaflets publicising the torch relay's connections with Nazi-era Germany.

The flame went out here, and had to be rapidly relighted:

Well done, Britain. An excellent reception for a very silly tradition. Although, the whole Torch thing was arguably doomed from the start - it did go out during the lighting ceremony in Greece...

An Olympic Torch bearer holds it aloft at the Giants Causeway. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.