Poet Laureate Simon Armitage ruffled Brexiteer feathers this week when he said that he refused to write a poem to mark Brexit on October 31. However, The Londoner has tracked down the real poet of Westminster — a man who composes haikus from Hansard reports.
Hansard is the verbatim record of proceedings of the House of Commons and the House of Lords: motions, debates, petitions and points of order. Granted, as muses go, a Hansard report has got nothing on Wordsworth’s daffodils — but Matthew Jewell, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, had an idea. He composed an algorithm that would generate haikus — a Japanese poem of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines of five, seven, and five —from these turgid reports.
“Daily Hansard transcripts are available for each day of the parliamentary calendar,” Jewell told The Londoner. The algorithm downloads these and “finds any complete sentences with 17 syllables. It then identifies any that can be formatted into the 5-7-5 structure without breaking any words in half.” And voila — poetry. Jewell then shares the best examples on social media. As it’s recess, he’s using old reports so whenParliament restarts in September the haikus will be contemporaneous.
Accidental political poets include Jeremy Corbyn, Sajid Javid and Jess Phillips, who, thanks to the algorithm, composed the following lyrical haiku: “It does not matter/what path we tread, we are all/human in this place.” When Thangam Debbonaire gave an impassioned speech in a debate about the Hong Kong crisis, she inadvertently penned a poem: “I hope they feel/the solidarity from/all parts of the House.”
Jewell says his favourite is SNP politician Patrick Grady’s: “If we cannot go/to the moon, perhaps we could/go to Kew Gardens.” “Haiku are often written as observations, so I think seeing oral arguments from the House of Commons presented this way is fun and an effective way to make key debates easy to read,” he adds. Certainly, he’s found poetry in motions.
Unity is brewing in the Commons
Labour and the Conservatives are riven by their own internal rows but it appears that MPs from across the divide can still find unity.
The secret? Teabags. Yesterday afternoon, a member of Conservative MP for Wantage Ed Vaizey’s staff tweeted a picture of a note — plus four teabags — sent through from Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy’s office next door.
“Thank you for helping in our time of need!” read the cheerful note, which was signed, winkingly, “the socialists next door!”
A cup of tea solves all ills.
Donald Trump can still surprise people whose job is to study his every move. “Damn! I was thinking by now, and after all this time [Trump] couldn’t make my jaw go slack in amazement,” tweets BBC North America editor Jon Sopel. “So meeting called off with Danish PM because she won’t sell him Greenland. Of course...”
About 10,000 people have clicked “attending” on a Facebook event page for a Dutch beach party for Brexit on October 31 where guests will “sit with Dutch chips, French wine and German beer, watching Britain as it closes itself off”. Organiser Ron Toekook says: “It will be a nice goodbye to a good friend who is going on an exciting adventure but who is perhaps not too bright.”
Striking runway poses at launch of Bree's new EP
Musician Bree Runway, not to be confused with her new EP, Be Runway, celebrated the launch of said track last night at Old Street Gallery.
She was joined by her friends, Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander, and model Leomie Anderson.
Anderson spent a while teaching the other two the rudimentaries of striking a pose. Luckily, no musicians were harmed in the process.
Elsewhere, fashion model Daisy Lowe was spotted on a night out at Tramp in Mayfair with her fashion model boyfriend Cameron McMeikan. And, also in Mayfair, chef and TV personality Gizzi Erskine celebrated her 40th birthday with pals including presenter Caroline Flack and Pro Green, who was spotted sloping out in a very jaunty Hawaiian shirt.
Architect of a relationship's downfall
Lena Dunham admits co-habitation is a struggle when you have different ideas about interior design. “Life happened and I fell in love and whispered those three words: ‘Let’s buy something,’” the actor wrote in an essay. “Soon I was pounding the pavement looking for a place...” But her (now) ex-boyfriend, Jack Antonoff, “was afraid of dust. So we bid on an apartment that hadn’t even been built, and I spent the year making obsessive scrapbooks.” Unfortunately, Antonoff “hated it.” “He didn’t like living among the insides of my mind.”
Trade Secretary Liz Truss wanted everyone to know about her call with the Japanese trade minister yesterday — hence she shared a portrait of herself in the act. Sadly, everyone was more interested in the picture’s visual clues than in British-Japanese trade relations. Who was the shaggy dog in the framed photograph propped on a side table? Presumably she doesn’t usually take her coffee in that Japanese-style teacup? And will Truss, resplendent in red and white, be dressing as the country’s flag for every trade call?
The new Bond film’s title has inspired a flurry of Brexit-inspired names for 007 films including Backstops are Forever, Dr No Deal and UKIP Only Live Twice. Though not everyone was getting into the spirit. The new film is called No Time To Die, leading Scottish MP Stewart McDonald to quip: “Good of them to name it after Conservative Party pension policy.”
Quote of the Day
'If you have daughters, teach them how to code'
- Polemical author Jeanette Winterson says it's vital that women rise up to counter the dominance of male "geeks"