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Inside politics

Carrie’s battle in No 10

Boris and Carrie Johnson at the G7 summit in Cornwall. Getty Images

After Boris and Carrie Johnson’s “ferocious fight” in June 2019, Boris’s political team wanted the pair to break up before he became PM, says Lara Prendergast in Harper’s Magazine. “But Carrie Johnson is shrewd.” The fight was soon forgotten, and she built up a formidable press operation in Downing Street modelled on the Duchess of Cambridge’s – Kate’s ability to generate positive news coverage makes Carrie envious. Rather than having a taxpayer-funded office, the PM’s wife holds meetings “under the guise of soirées” over glasses of wine, or on WhatsApp, so there’s no official record.

Nimco Ali, a 38-year-old campaigner against female genital mutilation, “is regularly sent out to fight for Carrie in the press”, and is said to have stayed with the couple over last year’s lockdown Christmas. Among No 10 staff, Carrie is known as “upstairs”, but Boris “is said to spend more and more time downstairs”. A copy of The Lost Homestead, the new book by his ex-wife Marina Wheeler, has been spotted open in his office. “He doesn’t want to take the copy upstairs,” says one former aide.

Drill, baby, drill

Sarah Palin in 2010. Getty Images

Sarah Palin lost as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 election, but her influence is everywhere, says Emily Tamkin in The New Statesman. Our modern culture warriors are modelled on Palin’s posturing and provocative soundbites. “It didn’t matter if she didn’t actually know much about energy policy, because what mattered was that people were chanting ‘Drill, baby, drill’ at her rallies.” I almost feel bad for her – she was so good at “marketing superficiality and division” that everyone else stole her shtick.

Why the Anglosphere is different

Never underestimate the importance of geography, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Aside from language, it’s the only thing that ties the so-called Anglosphere together. None of its countries is landlocked and none has much experience of “territorial loss or occupation”. Being so “spoilt by geography”, we Anglos (British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders) have little idea of the anxiety that a history of invasion instils in nations that have borders with a larger or unfriendly country. Nations are shaped by physical things as well as abstract ideas – why did the Netherlands capitulate to the Nazis if not because of “hundreds of miles of German border”? It was not for a lack of love for freedom. After all, the Netherlands was the home of Spinoza, merchant capitalism and non-ecclesiastical painting. 

It’s the same with China and Russia: during my three years in Washington, I found the political class peculiarly blind to how important a role “humiliation” has played in so many national histories. Everyone was absorbed in China’s behaviour, but had little idea of what drove it. When philosopher Theodor Adorno fled Hitler’s Germany for the US, he found Los Angeles “bad for the mind even as it kept him safe. Anglosphere countries face the same quandary: that what protects them leaves them uncomprehending.”