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The right-wing press are in Theresa May loyalty mode - for now

Away from the frontpages there are signs that May's new agenda might not have as easy a time after the election.

Talk about walking on water. Today's papers are in and they will have the Conservatives grinning from ear-to-ear.

"Blue Labour" roars The Sun. Whether that's a commentary on Theresa May's roaming into Labour territory or how the Opposition will be feeling, I'm not sure. (Works both ways, I guess.) And that paper is first out of the traps with their election endorsement, too. (Spoiler alert: the Conservatives.)

"Mainstream May reaches out to Labour heartlands" is the Times' splash, while "May breaks with Thatcherite faith in centrist pitch to Labour voters" is the FT's. "May's manifesto for the mainstream" is the Telegraph's take, while the Mail opts for "At last, a PM not afraid to be honest with you". The i goes for the Ronseal approach: "May's vision for Britain" is their splash.

But away from the frontpages there are signs that May's new agenda might not have as easy a time after the election. In the Telegraph, Judith Woods accuses May of forcing her daughters to become her carers to keep the family home. (I suppose "accuses" isn't quite right as that is 100 per cent what May's care plans do.)

Over at the Spectator, Will Heaven has coined a phrase that might stick: the "dementia tax".

That Jeremy Corbyn is seen as a surefire loser means that the plans are getting an easier time now than they might otherwise, and that it's an election season means the right-wing press is also firmly in loyalty mode. But the difficulty with introducing an inheritance tax by lottery is that the right dislikes inheritance tax and the left dislikes lotteries, and that isn't going to go away on 8 June.

The Conservatives think that Corbyn is an asset because he locks in a big majority on 8 June. But there's a problem there, too: it means that when those grumbles about the social care changes move from the middle of the frontpage things could get messy. Fairly or unfairly, people will say that far from getting a mandate to take away "the family home", May won because of Jeremy Corbyn. It feels a lot like George Osborne's £12bn of welfare cuts - he could win an election that, but he couldn't govern on it.

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.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.

“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.

It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:


Applause, cheers, and even some tears.

But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.