INDEPENDENT 2024-02-25 16:34:23

How an Englishman made an extraordinary journey to become the first western samurai

When Shōgun arrives on our screens next week, it will do so weighted with expectations as heavy as a samurai in full armour. A sprawling historical drama set in feudal Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku period, the series’ epic scope and promise of adventure have already drawn comparisons to HBO’s mammoth hit Game of Thrones.

The story centres on the coming together of two ambitious men from very different worlds, along with a mysterious female samurai. John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is an English sailor who ends up shipwrecked in Japan. Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a shrewd and powerful daimyo – a feudal lord subordinate to the ruling shogun – who seeks advantage over his political rivals. Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai) is an enigmatic and skilled fighter with dishonourable family ties.

Shōgun comes with impeccable pedigree. The new FX/Disney+ series, which was created by Top Gun: Maverick writer Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo, is adapted from James Clavell’s novel of the same name – a runaway bestseller when it was published in 1975. The book was then adapted into a hit 1980s miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, Toshiro Mifune and Yoko Shimada. While the story is fictional, many of the characters are based on real-life figures drawn from Japanese history.

Indeed, Clavell once revealed that his hugely successful novel had been inspired by a single line he read in his daughter’s textbook: “In 1600, an Englishman went to Japan and became a samurai.” Here’s the true story of how a sailor named William Adams became the first westerner to reach that storied rank.

William Adams was born in Kent in 1564. In later life, he recalled his childhood in a letter, writing: “I am a Kentish-man, borne in a Towne called Gillingham, two English miles from Rochester, one mile from Chatham, where the King’s ships lye…”

This proximity to Britain’s shipyards would have a defining influence on Adams. At the age of 12, his father died and he was apprenticed to a master shipbuilder in Limehouse. He spent the next dozen years learning shipbuilding, navigation and astronomy before joining the Royal Navy at the age of 24.

That year, 1588, he was the master of a supply ship for the British Navy as they fought the Spanish Armada under the command of Sir Francis Drake. After the Spaniards were defeated, Adams married, had two children, and soon took a job as a ship’s pilot with trading merchants the Barbary Company.

In 1598, at the age of 34, Adams led an expedition that hoped to reach the East Indies (now Indonesia) by sailing through the Strait of Magellan in Chile. The voyage was beset by sickness and poor weather, but eventually in 1600, after 19 months at sea, Adams’s ship laid anchor off the island of Kyūshū, Japan. It was the first European ship ever to reach the country.

Adams and the other survivors (numbering just 23 of the 100 sailors who left England) were summoned to Ōsaka to meet Tokugawa Ieyasu, a powerful local lord who had designs on ruling Japan as shogun – the military governor who controlled the country. When Ieyasu interrogated Adams, he realised he could put the newcomer’s extensive knowledge of shipbuilding to good use. Instead of executing Adams and his crew as pirates, he instead made the Englishman one of his trusted confidants. Adams continued in this role after Ieyasu became shogun in 1603, and helped Ieyasu build Japan’s first Western-style sailing ship the following year.

Although Ieyasu had honoured Adams, at first the sailor asked to be allowed to return to his family in England. When this request was denied, Adams accepted his fate and permanently settled in Japan. The shogun presented Adams with two swords representing the authority of a samurai, and decreed that William Adams the pilot was dead and that Miura Anjin, a samurai, was born in his place. Ieyasu said that by this action he “freed” Adams to serve the shogunate permanently, while effectively making his wife in England a widow.

As a ruler, Ieyasu was keen to learn from different cultures, and instructed Adams to write to other countries to encourage their traders to visit Japan. He allowed Adams to open the first East India Company trading post in the city of Hirado in 1613, and the Englishman received substantial revenues as well as his own estate. He married a local woman, had two children, and began to travel outside of Japan and resume some of his expeditions. However, after Ieyasu died in 1616, his successor Tokugawa Hidetada pursued an increasingly isolationist path for Japan. Adams found his influence declining, and after falling ill, he died in Hirado in 1620.

In James Clavell’s Shōgun, the character of John Blackthorne is heavily influenced by the life of William Adams, while Lord Yoshi Toranaga stands in for Tokugawa Ieyasu.

However, while Clavell did deeply research Japanese history and the Sengoku period in which the story is set, the plot itself is a fantasy.

While Shōgun may not be strictly historically accurate, the cast of the new adaptation have pointed out there’s still much to learn from the story. It is not only rich with detail about life in feudal Japan, but also deals with timeless themes around the struggle for power and the difficulty of bringing peace out of conflict.

Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Lord Yoshi Toranaga, explained at a recent press event for Shōgun that this resonance is exactly why he’s excited to tell this story now. “When I received this role, [I thought about] the meaning of making this show for now,” he said.

“The model of Toranaga is based on the real shogun, Ieyasu, who created the peaceful era after the war period for about 260 years,” he explained. “That’s why he became a hero, for then and especially for now.” Sanada believes audiences will be keen to see the kind of hero on screen who seeks to bring about peace and rule with wisdom. “People are waiting to know the story about him,” he said. “That was the biggest motivation at the beginning for me.”

So while Shōgun shouldn’t be relied on as a history lesson, it does promise to shine a light on a fascinating period of Japan’s past when a heroic ruler succeeded in forging stability out of chaos – with the help of a sailor from Kent.

‘Shōgun’ is on FX in the US and on Disney+ in the UK from 27 February.

Dog ‘eaten alive by fleas’ after owner neglected him for months

The owner of a neglected dog who was “eaten alive by fleas” has been banned from keeping pets.

Darren Hughes, 48, had left his Chewie, a Shih Tzu, abandoned and suffering for several months at his home in Islington, Highbury Corner Magistrates Court heard.

A member of the public found Chewie collapsed and took him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with a heavy flea burden and iron deficiency.

The vet was forced to put Chewie to sleep to end his suffering, the RSPCA said.

Mr Huges was sentenced at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on 12 February after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

He was banned indefinitely from keeping all animals and was sentenced to 18 weeks in custody, suspended for 18 months. He was also fined a victim surcharge of £154.

The 48-year-old also had a cat removed from the property, who will now be rehomed.

In mitigation, he said an alcohol addiction resulted in failing to provide Chewie with veterinary treatment, thereby causing unnecessary suffering.

In evidence, the vet wrote: “Chewie was suffering for an extended length of time, as the initial mean corpuscular volume (MCV) was very low, and with chronic anaemia and ongoing blood loss, one or more months are required before the MCV and MCHC decrease below reference intervals.

“This patient’s mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) wasn’t even registered by our laboratory, which is likely to mean red blood cells do not have enough haemoglobin. It also shows thrombocytosis (increased platelets), which is often present in animals with iron deficiency anaemia.

“The biochemistry blood test results show that he had low creatine, which was likely related to muscle loss, and increased urea, which is likely related to dehydration. He was diagnosed with severe anaemia due to his infestation with fleas.”

After sentencing, Inspector Shahnaz Ahmad said: “This was a distressing case, poor Chewie had been left on his own for large periods of time while he was riddled with fleas, they were literally eating him alive.

“It’s thanks to a member of the public alerting us to the condition of this dog that he was punished for his actions. Sadly it was too late to save Chewie, but it does mean this individual will never be able to neglect pets in this way again.”

Ian McShane on Deadwood, Twitter, and growing bored with American Gods

Ian McShane loves a monologue. It’s ironic, really, given the actor has mostly shunned the theatre for screen projects such as the cultish TV staple Lovejoy, HBO’s foul-mouthed western Deadwood, and the soulfully hyperviolent John Wick films. In the past, he’s even called for a 20-year moratorium on Hamlet. And yet here, today, he seems a bona fide thesp, delivering sinuous, almost Shakespearean soliloquies like the best of them.

“The one thing about getting older is that the memories well up more,” McShane, now 81, remarks. “Time catches up with you, life catches up with you, and the memories of what could have been, should have been or will be are stronger than they were, say, 10 years ago.”

The Blackburn-born actor seems in the mood for reminiscence as he talks to me over video from his London home. On his face rests a pair of thick-rimmed glasses; the first couple of shirt buttons are open, giving him the vaguely dishevelled vibe of a morning-after rocker. Ask him a question, and he’ll give you three answers. Maybe a wistful observation, too, about a film he once saw, or an actor with whom he once worked. (And, to be fair, he’s worked with them all – Richard Burton; Robert Mitchum; Keanu Reeves.) I put it down to a thespian knack for the oratory.

But there’s probably a more prosaic explanation for his meandering mindset: jetlag. McShane flew in from LA last night. He’s here to shoot a “caper movie” for Netflix, in which he plays a “crazy gangster” – not an unfamiliar mode for the actor, who’s schemed his way through the criminal underworld in everything from Sexy Beast to Miami Vice. He’s looking forward to the as-yet-unannounced project – with just a hint of caveat. “It’s a big time production,” he says, “so you’re involved with a lot of people. You make some compromises.”

More “satisfying”, he says, is the film he’s actually here to talk about: a poignant European indie called American Star. The film sees McShane play a long-in-the-tooth hitman, holidaying in the Canary Islands after a planned assassination fails to materialise. “The character is like an actor,” he says. “Like myself. You go in on a job, you do the job and leave and then you get on with it.”

American Star – named for a shipwrecked cruise ship that serves as the film’s central metaphor – is directed by Spanish filmmaker Gonzalo López-Gallego, who previously worked with McShane on the 2016 Western The Hollow Point. It was made in a tough period, shortly after the deaths of McShane’s mother and his mother-in-law. “I was on my own for five weeks, and my wife [the actor Gwen Humble] was dealing with stuff in the States,” he says. “You’re surrounded by people, but you’re alone playing a character. And some of that sadness and grief infiltrated into the film without knowing it.”

Filming on American Star was a “civilised” affair, and the small scale of the production made a huge difference. “There weren’t producers looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do because of their enormous investment,” he recalls. “When you make big movies like John Wick, it’s like you’re a small army that takes over town. Hopefully you leave it better than when you came in – sometimes you don’t.”

All of a sudden, he’s off explaining how he got his start in the industry, walking me through his “ordinary happy childhood” as the son of a Manchester United footballer. It was a particularly astute teacher who led him to acting; across the six decades of his professional life, McShane never did anything else.

“I’ve watched a lot of my friends drop off along the way the last few years,” he says, removing his glasses. “It’s emotional, when you suddenly read about people you grew up with in the business popping their clogs, as we say in Lancashire. But life goes on. Art goes on. Films keep being made. And I love movies. The whole process of talking to people, going on a film set. It can still be very exciting… or it can be a disaster.”

“Disaster” may be slightly too strong of a word to describe American Gods, another one of McShane’s best-known projects, but one wracked by reports of offscreen turmoil. The Prime Video series, adapted from a Neil Gaiman novel, saw McShane play Mr Wednesday, a deific con artist embroiled in a conflict between feuding gods. It received plenty of plaudits throughout its first season, but bouts of creative upheaval ultimately ended in the show’s cancellation in 2021. The experience, it seems, was a mixed one.

American Gods was a little – if I may say – overpraised at the time by social media,” McShane concedes. Between the first and second seasons, there was what he describes as a “legal standoff”, as original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green “fell out with the show maker for budgetary reasons”. The show’s return was delayed. In the interim, McShane had been talked into signing on for another third season. “I was getting pretty bored with it,” he says. “The show never really recovered its momentum, which was a shame – because I think it could have gone on to something pretty good.”

Exacerbating matters, he says, was the fact that the show was “piled on” by the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. “There was a lot of controversy about remarks about race. I thought that it was too strongly angry. And it all got immersed in social media… I think that was part of the reason for the demise, and the sort of lack of interest in the show. People took sides. It diminished itself.”

The furore wasn’t the only time McShane’s been irked by the machinations of social media. He infamously antagonised fans of Game of Thrones – a series he fleetingly appeared in – by dismissing the series as being just “t**s and dragons”, and spoiling a major plot twist. Now, he brushes it off. “It was ridiculous. It was one remark!” he laughs. “The creators of the show loved it because it just gives it more publicity. I didn’t even think about it at the time because I’m not on social media. Everybody’s a critic now. Everybody thinks they know best because they can write anonymously on social media.”

American Gods wasn’t McShane’s first run-in with premature cancellation. For him and thousands of diehard fans, there’s no TV cancellation quite so stinging as that of Deadwood, which was spiked by HBO after just three seasons, despite rapturous reviews. It would later be revived for a gratifying 2019 film, but the original three-season run remains one of TV’s finest achievements, and McShane’s turn, as cutthroat pimp and saloon owner Al Swearingen, a performance on par with any.

It was, however, an experience marked by showrunner David Milch’s maverick working patterns, with dense, serpentine dialogue being written on the fly. McShane describes a moment during filming when Milch gave him and his and co-star Paula Malcolmson – playing Trixie, one of the saloon’s working girls – a particularly shocking piece of extemporaneous direction. “David said it in his inimitable way: ‘I think this scene is going well, but you should grab her by the c**t,’” he recalls. They had been filming together for just a day and a half.

“As I said to Dave at the time: it’s not the first instinct of an actor to say that! But Paula was like, ‘Absolutely. You should do that.’ I said, ‘Well, if you insist…’ It broke the ice.”

Of course, you couldn’t do that now. Or could you? “I’ve not worked with a… what do they call it? An intimacy coordinator? It’s a new invention of a job… I’m sure some people like it,” he says. “I mean, I’ve always tried to be as graceful as you can in intimate situations with actresses or actors. How long would [something like that scene in Deadwood] take nowadays, how much of a narrative would take place around that phrase?”

McShane springs off at a tangent again, reminiscing about Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s famous lovemaking scene in 1973’s Don’t Look Now – long (and probably falsely) rumoured to be unsimulated. (“It’s part of the mystique. You know, ‘Did they? Didn’t they?’”) He pauses, then adds: “In a roundabout way, I have no idea what an intimacy coordinator would do [with Deadwood]. In fact, I have no idea what they do now.”

Our time is up, and I’ve barely made a dent in the (admittedly over-ambitious) list of questions I’d prepared. For McShane, the cycle never stops: he’s got more promotion for American Star to get through, then the Netflix caper, then he’s heading over to Budapest for reshoots on the John Wick spin-off Ballerina.

Before he goes, I ask to quickly fact-check a piece of trivia that I’d read in a book recently: does he really have a photographic memory? “I don’t think so!” McShane responds. “I mean, I wish I had. I’ve got a pretty good memory. I always think, if you’re going to remember, remember everything… then you can sort out the good from the bad.”

He grins. “Wait. Who am I speaking to?”

‘American Star’ is out in UK Cinemas and digital download now

Ukraine warns delays in Western aid ‘costing lives and territory’

Half of Western arms deliveries are being delayed and the hold-up is putting lives and territories at risk, Ukraine’s defence minister has warned as soldiers blamed a crippling lack of ammunition on Kyiv’s withdrawal from the key town of Avdiivka.

Speaking from the Ukrainian capital at an event to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Rustem Umerov said in the “mathematics of war” there are deadly consequences when promised military support “does not constitute delivery”.

He said it was also unprecedented in history that a country was expected to fight against an enemy with such a discrepancy in air power and military budget. It comes just a week after Kyiv was forced to pull its forces out of Avdiivka in the east of the country.

Soldiers on the ground told The Independent they blamed the withdrawal on the crippling rationing of ammunition and lack of air defence against a ferocious assault by Russia who dropped hundreds of bombs in the final push for the town.

“Fifty per cent of commitments are not delivered on time. Whatever commitments do not come on time means we lose people, we lose territories,” Mr Umerov said grimly, in response to a question posed by The Independent.

He added that “never in the history of humankind” was an army expected to wage and win a war without air superiority.

Ukrainian forces have still managed to take back territory in the north of the country and regained control of a vital corridor in the Black Sea maximising new locally developed air and sea drone technologies, he said.

But the minister said the situation is hard as Russia consistently outnumbers Ukraine in the sky and has an annual domestic defence budget of $150bn (£118bn).

“I won’t go into details but we have a plan. We [will] achieve everything possible and impossible. But without timely supply [of weapons] it makes it hard,” he said.

Last year the European Union promised to deliver a million artillery shells to Ukraine by March 2024. In January the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell admitted that only half of the million promised would be delivered by the March deadline because of production issues. 

So far The Independent understands only 300,000 have been received.

Meanwhile, domestic squabbles in the US Congress have led to the stonewalling of a $61bn military aid package.

For Ukraine, this has translated into its soldiers having to make the deadly decision of rationing ammunition – on average Russia is firing five times the amount of artillery at Ukraine every day, according to reports.

During the conference, the defence minister and Kyiv’s strategic industries minister Oleksandr Kamyshin spoke about the country’s efforts to maximise domestic production of weapons to help plug the shortfall. 

Ukraine tripled its weapons production last year and was on track to grow the industry six-fold in 2024, with some 500 companies now working in the country’s defence sector,  he said.

Kyiv is searching for ways to strengthen its defences against Moscow’s two-year-old invasion, including seeking to boost domestic arms production and innovation.

In a separate address, Ukraine’s digital minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, said 90 per cent of the drones used on the battlefield against Russian forces were produced in Ukraine.

BBC apologises for ‘uncomfortable’ Andrew Scott red carpet interview

The BBC has defended its reporter who gave an “uncomfortable” interview with Andrew Scott at the Baftas last weekend.

The red carpet interview in question quickly went viral as viewers criticised the BBC’s Colin Paterson for repeatedly asking Scott about Barry Keoghan’s nude scene in Emerald Fennell’s film, Saltburn.

Scott, 47, who was snubbed for his lauded turn in Andrew Haigh’s drama All of Us Strangers, presented the Bafta for Best Animated Film during Sunday’s ceremony (18 February) at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

After establishing whether he knew fellow Irish actor Keoghan, Scott was asked about his reaction when he first saw the “naked dance scene” in Saltburn.

One of Saltburn’s most discussed moments is when Keoghan’s character, Oliver, struts through an empty house, naked, soundtracked by Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s classic pop hit “Murder on the Dancefloor”.

In response, Scott shook his head and after stuttering for a few seconds, added: “I won’t spoil it for anybody.”

Despite the Sherlock star appearing embarrassed at the topic, Paterson continued: “There was a lot of talk about prosthetics. How well do you know him?”

At this, Scott shook his head again and left the conversation, as Paterson asked: “Too much?”

Some critics online suggested that the line of questioning inferred that the actor might know more intimate details about Keoghan because of his sexuality – Scott came out publicly as gay in an interview with The Independent in 2013.

In a statement shared on its website on Friday (23 February), the BBC said: “Our reporter began by asking Andrew Scott about the film he’d appeared in – All of Us Strangers – which was nominated for six Baftas.

“He then moved on to ask about the popularity of Irish actors where Barry Keoghan, star of Saltburn, was mentioned. Saltburn is a film which has had cultural impact, with Barry Keoghan’s scene at the end gaining a lot of attention in particular – something the actor has addressed himself.

“Our question to Andrew Scott was meant to be a light-hearted reflection of the discussion around the scene and was not intended to cause offence. Saltburn writer and director, Emerald Fennell, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose song ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ was used in the sequence, were also asked about the scene. We do, however, accept that the specific question asked to Andrew Scott was misjudged. After speaking with Andrew on the carpet, our reporter acknowledged on air that his questioning may have gone too far and that he was sorry if this was the case.”

Scott’s representatives did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Uncovering the human cost of Russia’s war on Ukraine

Iryna’s body told her it was time to leave. “I started to have panic attacks,” she says. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, she remained in Kyiv for the first year of the war to support her family financially. But the terror of Russian bombs and air raid sirens pushed her to breaking point. “My mental health was struggling and my parents advised me to leave.”

During her journey to the UK, she was overwhelmed with feelings of fear and guilt. Her elderly parents were reliant on a small pension to survive and Iryna also left behind her friends and a successful career as an accountant. “Before the war, my life in Ukraine was really good, I had so many opportunities,” she says. She arrived at the doorstep of a host family in Petersfield, Hampshire, and knocked on the front door. It opened and her new life in England began.

Iryna’s story isn’t an isolated one. Europe is now home to six million refugees from Ukraine, who have fled their homes since Russia first annexed Crimea in 2014. Many may never return home. A survey by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a charity that helps people’s lives that have been shattered by conflict, revealed that 87% of respondents had to leave their homes at least once since 2014, with 20% experiencing displacement multiple times. Over 36% of people also reported having to forgo basic necessities due to financial difficulties; and, worst of all, 74% said they’d been separated from a close family member.

It’s a heartbreak Svitlana knows all too well. She was an English tutor in her hometown of Chernihiv, where she lived a happy life with her husband and their two children. That was until war broke out. Svitlana evacuated to a small village in western Ukraine, taking her children and 70-year-old mother with her. Eight months later, they moved to the UK to give their children the best chance of living a peaceful life.

Svitlana now lives with a host family in Preston. “It was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” she recalls. “We had to choose either to stay in the city which was shelled and bombed and hope that it would come to an end or to pack our essentials and take a risk of moving.” It’s a decision that she is now at peace with. “When we arrived at Preston, we gave a sigh of relief. Finally, we got to a place with no air raid alerts. It was great to fall asleep without fear for the lives of your kids.”

For Iryna and Svitlana, the help of the IRC has been vital as both have embarked on a new and difficult chapter in their lives. Shortly after arriving in Hampshire, Iryna took part in the IRC’s orientation for newcomers and leadership training. The programmes are designed to help refugees from various different countries to navigate local services in the UK such as healthcare and education, and to support them to find employment and gain the skills that will allow them to prosper in the UK.

Iryna’s mental health is gradually healing and the training provided by the IRC has helped to rebuild her confidence. She volunteers as an interpreter for the local council and various other organisations. She is also part of a Ukrainian female choir, where she helps to translate and works part-time for the New Theatre Royal as a duty manager. Iryna’s long-term goal is to become an English teacher. She is soon to finish her CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course at Portsmouth City College.

Svitlana also enrolled on the same orientation course with the IRC. It was the perfect way to begin her assimilation to life in the UK and share her experiences with other Ukrainians. “I can’t express my grati Svitlana’s tude in words,” she says. “The sessions were online, but it gave me the chance to socialise with other Ukrainians and learn about healthcare, education, emergency cases, rights and opportunities in the UK.” It’s also helping her with her career. “It helped me to understand how to write a CV and cover letter and navigate interviews. Thanks to this guidance, I’ve gained employment and self-employment as well.”

Two years on from the start of full-scale war in Ukraine and the future looks brighter for Iryna and Svitlana. “Looking back I’ve come so far from my New Year’s wish last year, which was just to survive,” says Iryna. “Now I can desire weekends by the sea and find a full-time job to become fully independent and help my family.” Svitlana is also feeling positive: “We’ve been surprised by the hospitality of our sponsor and his family,” she says. “I knew that British people are polite, tolerant and supportive, but I couldn’t imagine to what degree.”

Follow the link to donate to the International Rescue Committee and find out more about the crucial work they’re doing in Ukraine

Rishi Sunak must take Islamophobia as seriously as any other prejudice

Ministers were quick to condemn Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, for giving in, as they saw it, to threats of violence against MPs. Sir Lindsay appeared to have changed the rules of parliament under pressure from MPs who feared for their safety if they were not allowed to vote for Labour’s compromise motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

When pro-Palestinian demonstrators are guilty of intimidation or antisemitism, Rishi Sunak is rightly prompt and forthright in denunciation. Yet the prime minister seems to be slower to speak out when his own MPs express Islamophobic sentiments.

Lee Anderson, until recently Mr Sunak’s red wall mascot as a deputy chair of the Conservative Party, disgraced himself on Friday in an interview on GB News, a TV channel with its own questionable record. Mr Anderson attacked Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, saying that “Islamists … have got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London”.

Truss and Boris are now backing Trump – do they have any shame?

There is a case for refusing to take Liz Truss seriously. After all, she has started to use the phrase “the deep state” as if it means something, and as if that thing was responsible for her failure as prime minister.

She has started to contradict herself with the wilful abandon of someone who sees politics as entertainment. “I will fight, even if it’s not popular,” she told the CPAC conference in Washington, a jamboree of the American right that is in thrall to Donald Trump.

This is just weeks after launching a group in the UK called “Popular Conservatism”. Back in Washington, she attacked “Cinos” – Conservatives In Name Only – which she confusingly pronounced chinos, who apparently say: “I want to be popular, I don’t want to upset people, I don’t want to look like a mean person, I want my friends to like me.”