Kishwar Desai | Keir Starmer is the favourite on July 4; J.K. Rowling getting trolled in Edinburgh

The Asian Age.  | Kishwar Desai

Opinion, Columnists

From the upcoming UK elections to the latest in royal wealth and literary festival controversies, prominent events shaping British society.

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer waits to make an address in Glasgow on May 24, 2024 to launch Scottish Labour's campaign ahead of a general election on July 4. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

So it is official at last. If, after having watched the largest and most complex election in the world, you may want to enjoy a somewhat more polite, quiet and orderly election, fly off to UK and for one day — July 4 you can watch a very unique experience. Only 50 million voters and only about 10 political parties. No EVM either — as votes are counted slip by slip by hand by a group of volunteers sitting up all night. Though you do not have to wait that long for the result. 

At 10 pm (on the day of the election), the BBC announces the result based on its calculation of exit vote and it has so far been always accurate. Of course the exit poll in India has also had a high degree of accuracy — but in both countries (India and the UK) the broader result is already known. With a 20-point lead — the next Prime Minister will be Keir Starmer — though the incumbent is determined to give a good fight, and why not? And in India — the outcome is a given. Of course, the margins we expect may differ in both cases. 

Thus far the election in the UK promises to be as predictable as the weather. As you may have noticed, Rishi Sunak made the announcement on a rainy day. That is the beauty of the English summer. Entirely predictable — you always know that you never know when it may rain. I would imagine the outgoing PM had not planned on a wet farewell speech. But then what could be more memorable and British? However, thanks to him, you will enjoy a not very noisy, not very controversial, election. They do not make them like that anymore.

There some other startling, but still predictable news. Spoiler warning — as this is bad news for the monarchy. Our King Charles the Third is not, sadly, the richest person in the land. On the Sunday Times Rich List, King Charles is the 258th richest person. He has only £610 million in net worth. Mind you this is just his personal wealth. As a King, his estate is worth £600 billion. And Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is just ahead of the monarch. He is 245th in the ranking and has £651 million. On the top as always are the Hinduja brothers. Very nice. 

Incidentally Paul McCartney is at 165. But then he has just become a billionaire. Most recently Taylor Swift sang one of McCartney’s song and put it on the cover. That alone tipped him into being a billionaire.

Incidentally, Taylor Swift sang in Paris recently at a giant concert. But the French fans are cross as most tickets were bought by Americans who thought Taylor in Paris was a bargain what with the ticket price and trans-Atlantic fares being so cheap. The French realised how poor their country has become compared to the Americans. So what is new?

All good literary festival come packaged with controversy.  And so while the Hay festival is facing some walkouts over Palestine — it is the Edinburgh Festival this year that has a play about an erstwhile heroine-author. J.K. Rowling who transformed the way children read books — and became the recipient of worldwide adulation — is being ruthlessly trolled by those who feel she has a bias against transwomen. The question is: Are you a woman based on your biology at birth or by how you “feel”? The world is being divided on this issue. Not J.K — who has insisted that gender allocation depends entirely on your biology. Trans-groups are angry with her.

Thus, there is a special event inspired by J.K. Rowling’s battle about “who can be called a woman?” The young actors who had starred in the Harry Potter films have denounced her for she insists biological women are different from transwomen. So Joshua Kaplan has written a play around this battle which promises to be a hit item at Edinburgh. The play is called TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist that is how JK is described). Should be a riot… ummm… hopefully, only metaphorically speaking.

Another spoiler alert —a big wedding on the horizon may steal away publicity from the elections! King Charles’ godson is getting married but he cannot go because of his cancer. Neither will Kate, as she has cancer, too. But the Prince of Wales has stepped into the breach. William knows Hugh in any case. Hugh Grosvenor, the groom, holds one of the richest titles in the land. Hugh has 140,000 acres of land in his possession and a family estate of 11,000 acres. He is marrying Olivia Henson at the Chester Cathedral followed by a vast celebration at Eaton Hall. It will not be the same without Kate or the King… but this is the new reality we live with, still dominated by the “Emperor of Maladies”, which triumphs kings and commoners.