Evening Standard comment: A welcome to the world at Chinese New Year


On Friday the Year of the Rooster gives way to the Year of the Dog and Chinese New Year begins.

London’s celebrations — which will reach a peak on Sunday — are some of the largest outside Asia: not just proof of the success that comes from living in a tolerant city that welcomes the world but also a big boost to the capital’s economy.

Over the next few days Chinese visitors are expected to spend £32 million in a “Golden Week” for shops, hotels and restaurants.

That is more than ever and there is a lot for them — and us — to enjoy and be proud of.

That’s the upside of openness — and it is the sort of thing ministers, lined up to give speeches this week, must mean when they say that Britain is going to build new global links after Brexit.

If we can’t attract business from an economy soaring in scale then we won’t do it anywhere and those words will soon ring hollow. So what’s happening to make them real?

True, it’s got easier for Chinese visitors to get visas for Britain, which is one reason more are coming here and spending.

But it is still tempting for them to get a Schengen visa for 26 countries across the Channel and then, faced with the need to apply again to visit Britain, leave London off the list.

One result of that is that this year you can fly from Chinese cities such as Kunming to Paris and Shenyang to Frankfurt and soon even Nanjing to Helsinki — all with populations not much smaller than London’s — but you can’t go from any of them to London direct.

Another reason, of course, is that our airports are full. Are those in favour of “global Britain” also in favour of runways which reach out to the globe?

So yes, this week’s Chinese New Year will be the city’s best ever.

But we need to work fast to make the ones which follow better still.

Judges should be like us

Who judges the judges? It’s an old question but a fair one.

Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, has waded in with an answer: the judges themselves should look in the mirror and see what needs to change.

Most judges, from the Supreme Court down, are male and most are white but the people involved in the cases they hear are not all like that.

Even if the old joke about the ancient judge who hadn’t heard of pop music is long out of date — today’s courts are overseen by many more women and people from diverse backgrounds — things aren’t right.

What’s the answer? Not fixed quotas, as Lady Hale says.

Judges ought to be picked on merit. But she points out that the legal system is full of “loads of really able, sensible women” who could serve.

Affirmative action could help. Another of her proposals, made last year, for politicians to join the panel which appoints judges, was shot down in flames by a traditionalist profession: but she is right to worry that the court system needs the public to trust it if it is to work, and that means picking judges who better represent the society they oversee.

Underground pictures

Sometimes you need to stop for a moment to see how amazing the people of London are.

That’s what a new exhibition at five Tube stations is asking us to do.

Historic England is putting up 33 pictures taken across the city of people who make it special: at Walthamstow Central it is Jacqueline Cooper, owner of L Manze pie and mash shop and at Canary Wharf it is George Gladwell, who has been selling plants at Columbia Road Flower Market in east London since 1949. Others will get the spotlight at St Paul’s and Aldgate East.

Such a good idea, so here’s another: let’s make it a rolling show, not a one-off.