The anniversary of the London Underground isn't when you think

Do we celebrate a corporate dinner, or opening to the public?

Happy 150th anniversary of the London Underground! According to Transport for London, today marks 150 years since the first underground journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway.

Except the anniversary hasn't always been celebrated as the 9th. As Diamond Geezer points out, The London Transport museum still records the first section as opening on the 10th; and the Manchester Guardian of 11th January 1863 agrees, referring to the "the Metropolitan (underground) Railway" being opened "yesterday".

What gives? The answer could be seen as a rather sad sign of the times. The 9th and 10th are both anniversaries: the latter of the day the railway opened to the public; the former of the day a private journey was arranged for the directors, ending with a banquet for 600 dignitaries on the platform of Farringdon station. We used to celebrate the date of a wondrous new transport system being opened to the world. Now we celebrate a corporate dinner.

A restored steam-train rolls through Baker Street station to celebrate the anniversary. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.