Politicians have always liked a drink, says Jack Blanchard in Politico’s Westminster Insider podcast. In the Georgian era Parliament was filled with “three bottle men” who spent more time making merry in clubland than debating policy. William Pitt the Younger, who served as prime minister for 20 years, died aged 46 – probably because of the three bottles of port a day he drank on the advice of his doctors. Churchill’s alcohol consumption was the stuff of legend: he usually got through a bottle and a half of Pol Roger champagne a day, as well as a few whisky and sodas, and occasionally a glass or two of white wine with breakfast.
Modern politicians aren’t quite so thirsty – with the notable exception of Nigel Farage, who coined the term PFL (“proper f***ing lunch”) and whose Ukip press office had a five-pint limit for those doing media appearances. Boris Johnson’s relationship to booze is more ambiguous: at an event when he was foreign secretary, I remember him filling up journalists’ glasses with what he called “Brexit juice” (English sparkling wine). But when I interviewed him at a Wetherspoons during the Tory leadership race in 2019, he drank half of his lunchtime pint.
Grumbling in the shires
Tory MPs in the south are nervous, says Charlotte Ivers in The Sunday Times. In the recent local elections the Conservatives lost ground in the leafy shires they used to dominate. As ministers sprinkle the “red wall” with new train lines and hospitals, southern Tory voters are fed up with being cast as good-for-nothing metropolitans. And young, Labour-voting graduates, “chased out of London by astronomical house prices”, are taking their disgust for Boris Johnson “all the way to Tunbridge Wells”. The government hopes its proposed planning reforms will bring down property prices and turn these young professionals blue. But falling house prices rarely go down well with the traditional home-counties Tory.
Biden keeps the faith
Two of the world’s most influential progressive leaders. President Biden and Pope Francis are devout Catholics, says Víctor Lapuente in El País. Catholicism and progressivism are far from synonymous, but their marriage can be robust. In a world “wounded by the furrows of radical individualism”, the Pope and the US president offer a “spiritual menu” made with two ingredients from both beliefs: equality and a sense of community. Biden made no bones of it in his inauguration speech, saying: “Many centuries ago, St Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”