Rothesay’s decline as a seaside resort is not unique, but its beauty most certainly is | Ian Jack

Perhaps the visitors who crush into Skye might turn left at Glasgow next time, towards this lost resort

The Glenburn Hotel in Rothesay, on the island of Bute, has one of the finest views in Britain; quite possibly the loveliest afforded from any of our big seaside hotels. The Grand in Scarborough, the other Grand in Brighton, the Imperial in Blackpool: from their best rooms, the view is of nothing but a stretch of promenade followed by the empty sea and the sky. But the Glenburn looks over a bay where ferries and fishing boats come and go, and yachts ride at anchor against a backdrop of hills that are cut into by the narrows known as the Kyles of Bute and by a sea loch, Loch Striven, sometimes described as “gloomy”, which has hardly more than half a dozen houses dotted along its eight-mile length. This is a complicated and contrasting geography, in which a Highland landscape, all fish farms, heather and sheep, can be viewed from a comfortable lowland town that once had three cinemas, concert parties with chorus girls and a fleet of electric trams.

From the Glenburn’s iron veranda, 107 steps lead down to the sea, through a terraced garden filled with Bute’s typical flora: New Zealand cabbage palms, foxgloves, hydrangea, rhododendron. Perhaps Mrs Craik, the Victorian three-decker novelist, sat here to write her poem, Sweet Rothesay Bay, which became a melancholy popular song, sung by home-going crowds on pleasure steamers and corseted women standing beside upright pianos. The hotel is of her era. In the 1840s, the fashion for hydropathy, the water cure, reached Britain from Germany and took a particular hold in Scotland – oddly, given the country’s easily accessible and free-of-charge wetness – which built many more hydropathic hotels than England, Wales or Ireland ever did.

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Does the left now stand a chance in the Unite leadership election? | Sienna Rodgers

The leftwing vote is no longer so stretched with the withdrawal of Howard Beckett, but that doesn’t mean it is in the bag

The election for general secretary at the trade union Unite has the potential to dramatically reshape the labour movement and the left in Britain – and it has just been shaken up with a last-minute candidate withdrawal. Howard Beckett, head of legal and politics in the Labour-affiliated union and a fierce critic of party leader Keir Starmer, has withdrawn from the race and endorsed fellow assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

After repeatedly setting and missing deadlines, Beckett and Turner struck a deal, just before ballot papers needed to be printed. A joint statement reveals that Turner has pledged to implement a “blended manifesto” if elected, taking the best ideas from his and Beckett’s platforms. This means he would support Beckett’s Unite TV initiative, giving each region and nation a studio from which to broadcast on YouTube, and would back a structural change to promote federalism within the union, giving policy independence to Unite in Wales.

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The Guardian view on the Liberal Democrats: seeing and shaping politics | Editorial

Clearly the death of Liberal England has been prematurely foretold, but more will be needed to turn a stunning byelection win into a successful revival

It is often hard to try to derive a national message from a single byelection. The effect on party morale usually dwarfs that felt on government policy. The election of Liberal Democrat Sarah Green as the MP for Chesham and Amersham, a commuter-belt seat north-west of London, stuns on both counts. The result will make Conservative MPs in relatively liberal and educated constituencies very jumpy. But it will also slow the progress of Boris Johnson’s planning reforms. Voters in bucolic Buckinghamshire plainly feared that these would make it easier for developers to concrete over the countryside.

What the result shows is that the Liberal Democrat cause is not a hopeless one. With just 11 parliamentarians and languishing at 7% in national polls, Sir Ed Davey appeared to be taking his depleted ranks and marching them towards the sound of gunfire. Chesham and Amersham has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1974. Yet Ms Green overturned a 16,000-strong Tory majority to take the seat by just over 8,000 votes, a swing of 25%, and upset the odds. The energy of the Tories’ vaccine bounce seems dissipated. Clearly the death of Liberal England has been prematurely foretold.

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Brexit still isn’t done, but we certainly have been | Letters

Michael Steadman, Michael Bulley, Robert Vanderplank and Peter Millen on the difficulties facing British residents abroad, EU citizens in the UK, and employers in Britain

Your article highlighting the post-Brexit problems faced by British residents in France has a major omission (British nationals in France face losing rights if they miss residency deadline, 15 June). It is likely that a considerable number, between 3,000 and 6,000, stand to lose the right to drive as of the end of this year. This is because Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement made no provision for an exchange of licences between our two countries. The only option for these Brits, many of them elderly and in rural areas, will be compulsory driving tuition followed by a written and practical test – all in French, of course. Happily, this is not the outcome for citizens of over 150 other countries, including South Korea and Botswana, who have long since negotiated exchange agreements with France.
Michael Steadman
La Mailhoulié, Amarens, France

• You have highlighted the difficulties that UK nationals living in France may face if they have not yet applied for post-Brexit residential status. In some areas, French public administration has a well-deserved reputation for obtuseness, but I have just received my residency card and I can attest to the sympathetic and helpful way the authorities have acted. It is as if they are embarrassed at having to make Britons, particularly ones who have lived in France for a long time, jump through these silly hoops. I certainly found it odd having to ask for permission to live in my own house.
Michael Bulley
Chalon-sur-Saône, France

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Why it suits Boris Johnson to have a cabinet of all the hopeless | Marina Hyde

From Matt Hancock to Gavin Williamson, these proven failures have become the prime minister’s human shields

How are you enjoying Dominic Cummings’ mission to dump on Matt Hancock from the greatest possible height? I am beginning to think of it as Operation Moonshit. This week Cummings opted to release a series of WhatsApp messages dating back to the first wave of Covid last year, in which Boris Johnson referred to his secretary of state for health as both “hopeless” and “totally fucking hopeless”. Which at least suggests range.

Related: The evidence is clear – there was no excuse for Hancock’s care homes strategy

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