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Inside politics

Obama’s unhappy returns

Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

As America grapples with the Delta variant, Barack Obama has scaled back his 675-person 60th birthday bash, which was to be held at his mansion in Martha’s Vineyard, with George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey in attendance. It’ll now just be a “family and close friends” affair. Maybe all those disinvited guests should “host a rival rager of their own down the street”, says Jenny Zhang in Gawker.

It’s a long road back for Hancock

Scarcely a month after his resignation, Matt Hancock “already has the air of a figure from history”, says Gordon Rayner in the Telegraph. He’s lying low in his Suffolk constituency, going on long-distance runs with the aim of competing in a marathon. He hasn’t yet moved in with Gina Coladangelo, with whom he cheated on his wife: “she has much to lose”, given that her husband, Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress, is also her employer. Hancock contemplated attending The Spectator’s summer party, but was told by “wiser heads” it was still “too soon”.

Pedigree chums

We don’t yet know what the “shadowy” group of anonymous Tory donors known as the Advisory Board have been discussing in their off-the-record meetings with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, says the FT. But we do know that since Johnson became PM, the proportion of donations to the Conservative party from the property sector has risen from 12% to 25%, totalling close to £18m. It’s these donors who are the likely beneficiaries of the PM’s plans to push through changes in the planning legislation to allow the building of 300,000 houses a year.

What makes the “whiff of chumocracy” worse is that the man responsible for these new donations, party co-chairman Ben Elliot, made his name creating Quintessentially, a concierge service that caters to “the rich’s whims”. That’s fine for a business, but allowing wealth to facilitate access “sits less comfortably at the heart of government”.

Majority retorts

A big parliamentary majority can be more trouble than it’s worth, says Mark Wallace in the I newspaper. “More MPs means more opinions” – and, with ministerial jobs needing to be doled out to a bigger pool of candidates, “vocal and principled disruption becomes an appealing career arc in itself”. If your party is secure in power, you’re not worried that your dissenting vote will “usher the other side into Downing Street”. The “culture of rebellion” on today’s Tory backbenches hasn’t defeated the government outright, but it has won compromises on issues from overseas aid cuts to planning reform. It might be a headache for Boris Johnson, but it’s a good thing for the country that single-party government doesn’t function as an “unquestioning, obedient bloc”.