Peter Rhodes on a charismatic boss, a week in politics and the ultimate hot-cold tap

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Sir Michael Edwardes
Sir Michael Edwardes

PAY attention, children. When Jo Swinson speaks, do you find yourself mentally sitting on the naughty step, or is it just me?

I BEGAN this week with a little piece suggesting Jeremy Corbyn's plan for Brexit was a shambles. From Monday to Friday, little changed. Whatever they tell you, a week is not always a long time in politics.

I ADMIRE those brave souls who rush out to buy the first version of anything new and, after a few months, find it's been consigned to the dustbin of history (and not the pedal-operated dustbin of history, but the sensor-operated version). Consider the combination tap, snapped up by thousands of trendsetters who bought a tap that could dispense not only hot and cold water but also boiling water. And before it's out of the package and plumbed in, along comes the Mk2 version, advertised this week, which produces all the above, plus sparkling water. Buy the Mk2 if you must. I'm hanging on for the Mk 9 which will dispense hot water, cold water, chilled water, sparkling water, heavy water, smart water and holy water. Blessed are they who wait . . . .

I'VE met very few people I'd describe as charismatic. But Michael Edwardes who has died aged 88, was one. I interviewed him in 1983 at his London office where this little man, a skinny 5ft 3ins, emphasised his smallness by sitting behind a huge desk. He was bright, sparky and sharp as a razor. If he hadn't been in charge of British Leyland he'd have made a good army general. He exuded power and he knew how to butter up the media. He signed his autobiography, Back From the Brink, to me and summoned the company Bentley to take me back to Euston. The limo was otherwise occupied, but it was a kind thought.

POP star Sam Smith, after a long struggle with gender, says he wishes to be addressed as "them" or "they" rather than "he". Using odd pronouns is nothing new. In the week that Smith texted his wish, a London gossip columnist recalled Princess Margaret who, invoking the Royal "we," declared: "We met Dolly Parton once. We like her. She is shorter than us."

IN an idle moment, I flicked through Google Images of the Last Night of the Proms from 2009 to the present day. It's hardly scientific but you can't help noticing that 10 years ago the Royal Albert Hall was awash with Union Jacks with the occasional Scottish saltire. Since the 2016 Referendum, the EU yellow-starred flag has taken over. Historians will be puzzled by this. Where did this sudden, frantic adoration of the EU come from? A few years ago nobody had a good word for the EU. Even its most ardent supporters admitted it was unaccountable and needed "reform from within". Now, people who never gave it a second thought seem prepared, if not to die for it, then at least to wave its wretched flag. From apathy to ecstasy. Instantly. I keep thinking of Billy Graham.

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