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Inside politics

Sadiq Khan’s social whirl

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Sadiq Khan has been busy socialising, says Alex Wickham in Politico. Last week he met President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, and this week he was hobnobbing with Yael Lempert, the most senior diplomat at the US embassy. More meetings with top American officials are in the works. “Which all seems like sensible stuff for a London mayor to be doing, but won’t help cool rumours that he’s planning a tilt at the Labour leadership if and when a vacancy arises.”

Beware part-time populists

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There are two types of populist leader, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. One is authoritarian and flexes the muscles of the state: see Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. The other is “ruthless in the pursuit of power but lax to the point of dereliction in its exercise”. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is one example, and Donald Trump, who hardly did anything in government, “was more absentee landlord than Big Brother”. Trump’s Republican followers have been similarly chaotic in their approach to Covid. It shows how concerns about creeping fascism in the US are misguided. If American populism ever spiralled into a dystopia, it wouldn’t be a “super state” but a failed one.

Westminster’s brain drain

For all the talk about improving the structure of government, what we really need is “better and brighter” people running it, says Max Hastings in The Times. Over the past two centuries, a chunk of each generation’s top talent became MPs and ministers. Today they go into commerce, the media or professions instead. It’s a far cry from Singapore, which pays its world-beating civil service “handsome salaries and performance bonuses”. Former Tory MP George Walden sums up the unattractiveness of modern British politics: “No privacy, no respect, no money. And no sex.”