Is Boris' trademark blond mop showing a peroxide tinge? Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
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Commons Confidential: Tom and Jerry, the Corbyn effect and rumours of a bottle blond Boris

The Prime Minister’s closest circle accuses his wannabe successor of dyeing his hair.

Rivalry between the Bullingdon Club frenemies David Cameron and Boris Johnson has taken a turn for the worse. The Prime Minister’s closest circle accuses his wannabe successor of dyeing his hair.

The charge is a bit rich, given that this column reported evidence years ago that Dave’s suspiciously grey-free barnet was coloured to retain a youthful air. But a No 10 insider tells me that a “chlorine tinge” was detected in bright light and it’s assumed that Mr Blond Ambition has also turned to the bottle. Johnson’s mop is his trademark and he is prone to peering into a mirror to check that it’s untidy before appearing in public, ruffling his crowning glory with a hand if it’s too neat. Cameron has anointed George Osborne as his successor. The dye is cast for a grubby fight.

The Labour leadership race’s dynamic has shifted to the advantage of Jeremy Corbyn, with the endorsement of Unite, which has both financial and political clout.

Victory for the left-winger remains improbable, though not impossible. A strong showing, with one Labour shadow cabinet member predicting that Corbyn will be the runner-up, would compel the new leader to offer a post to the rebellious candidate of the party’s Syriza wing. Corbyn is aware that Diane Abbott was made a middling public health spokeswoman after the last leadership contest before Ed Miliband sacked her for disloyalty. The anti-Trident Corbyn has mused that he would take the defence post. The race’s fallout could be considerable.

Austerity extends to the ranks of the army. The defence minister HMS Penny Mordaunt admitted to Strangford’s Democratic Unionist MP, Jim Shannon, that the size of an infantry battalion has shrunk under the Tories. In 2010, it was 570 soldiers. Today, it’s 530. The mini-battalions camouflage deeper military cuts.

It’s a coincidence, I’m sure, that, in the year of the Labour contest, all members in Yorkshire and Humberside were invited to the annual garden party held by Yvette Cooper’s Normanton local party and that of the Morley constituency of her election victim hubby, Ed Balls. My snout attended the event, at the couple’s Castleford home, which included a bouncy castle, tug of war and live music. Gastronome Balls took the tongs at the barbecue.

The couple are very popular and the image of Balls as a pantomime villain is one of the great misrepresentations of modern politics. Unlike Cameron, he doesn’t stop flipping burgers when the cameras leave.

The award for the best quip at the Labour hustings goes to Tom Watson. He’d prefer not to be Corbyn’s deputy, to avoid the Tory press mocking them as Tom and Jerry.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war

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Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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