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Inside politics

The lady wasn’t for refurbing

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Boris Johnson could have avoided a lot of trouble if he’d followed Margaret Thatcher’s thrifty approach to interior decoration, says Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail. She once vetoed plans for a new carpet in her study, even though the existing one had a threadbare patch in front of her favourite armchair. Instead she got it repaired with offcuts found in the cellar. The result, my source says, was “one bright square in a sea of faded green pile, but Maggie was chuffed to bits”.

Prime ministerial penny-pinching is counterproductive, says Bagehot in The Economist: “Sensible countries recognise that a leader’s time is a precious national resource.” In Britain PMs must do their own laundry, cooking and personal admin. They “queue up for lunch in a tiny cafeteria or else go upstairs to make a sandwich”. Britain’s wariness of flashy leaders is no bad thing, but our government has become “increasingly presidential”: overwhelm a modern prime minister and the whole thing freezes.

American presidents enjoy Air Force One, a personal doctor, cooks galore and “a theme park’s worth of entertainment” – a swimming pool, a tennis court, a bowling alley and a cinema. And Boris Johnson’s spending pales next to Barack Obama’s $1.5m renovations. French presidents have the Elysée Palace, ample domestic staff, a personal doctor and chef. Our PM needs more help and a bigger salary to avoid costly designer debacles. No 10 should have an independent trust to ensure it is fit for purpose. You may scoff, but the country can only benefit from “looking after the man who is supposed to look after it”.

A proper political animal

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American businessman John Cox is campaigning to be the next governor of California with the help of a 1,000lb Kodiak bear. The Republican multimillionaire, who calls himself “the Beast”, embarked on a Meet the Beast bus tour this week. He was accompanied by Tag, a trained Hollywood movie bear, which lazed around while Cox spoke to the press. Despite losing the last governor’s race by 24 points, Cox hopes to win against the incumbent, Gavin Newsom, in a recall election later this year.

Can super Mario save Italy?

The “Europe of the mind” might be all Beethoven and summer holidays, but Europe “as it actually functions today” is all about Mario Draghi, says Ben Judah in The Critic. During the 2012 eurozone crisis the Italian was head of the European Central Bank, and promised to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro”. Within minutes of the speech, billions shorting the currency “began to move in the opposite direction”.

Now Draghi is Italy’s PM, summoned from retirement to save his homeland. He grew up in the Rome of Fellini and communist violence, and was head of the Italian treasury in the 1990s, when Italy’s economy was larger than Britain’s, and “Gucci and Prada were conquering the world”. As head of the ECB from 2011 to 2019, he took cold showers every morning to cope with the stress. He’s a whisperer, an enforcer, a number-cruncher: “These are not the qualities one expects of a great man.” But the EU was built to depoliticise politics – it’s where “the unassuming bureaucrat becomes Napoleon”.