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A Nation of Two Halves ...

Extremely unequal ones, however. A tiny fragment of the population’s fixated on by-elections and failed leaders, while almost everyone else is more focused on freedom or otherwise next month. Though as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson can’t afford to ignore either.

Definitely a whoopsie daisy moment, the Lib-Dems taking Chesham and Amersham, a Tory stronghold for half a century.

The post by-election deliberation is set to run and run.

Could be voters were swayed by the high speed train link cutting through the constituency.

Also new planning laws that are likely to mean more homes built in country areas.

Nimbies? Never! Er …

Lots of locals felt like giving Bojo a punch in the nose about both those, even though the Lib Dems also favour the new rail line.

But clearly, while many ex-Labourites oop north see the PM as a lovely chappie who got Brexit done, not all Conservatives agree.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse insists they’re still a one-nation party, but it was a twenty-five per cent swing.

Begs the question how much of a one-party state we are, in spite of Johnson’s almost eighty-strong parliamentary majority.

Especially given how restless the blue natives are getting on the green benches.

When the commons voted last week on the delay to ending coronavirus restrictions, forty-nine Tory MP’s rebelled.

It was an easy win for the government, but only thanks to Labour backing.

Not that the opposition’s having an easy time of it just now.

They actually lost their deposit in Chesham and Amersham, one of their worst results ever.

And if they fare as badly as many predict in the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election there’ll be a whole lot more heart-searching.

Still, if Sir Keir Starmer’s feeling under the political weather it’s chillier still for the now ex-leader of Northern Ireland’s DUP.

Edwin Poots, booted out after only three weeks in the job, is up there with Lady Jane Grey.

Seems this man, who’s convinced the world was created by god six thousand years ago, is too reasonable for his colleagues.

But, back to the here and now, where does the decision to delay Freedom Day, to someday soon but not yet, leave us?

According to a Sunday Times/YouGov poll, three quarters of English adults favour the four-week pause.

But there are signs uncertainty is gnawing away at morale.

No great surprise that #ImDone has been trending on Twitter, according to organisational psychology prof Cary Cooper.

‘We’ve come to the point where we’ve all had enough,’ he says.

‘“ I’m done” could mean “we can’t accept any more restrictions” or it could mean: “I’m going to live my life now.”

‘My feeling is that both are true, but the latter is the louder voice right now.’

‘As long as there is stability, people can cope with negative things .. but what we can’t handle is the insecurity.’

Retired senior therapist with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Dr Sheri Jacobson, agrees.

She cites a motivational business book called Who Moved My Cheese, by Dr Spencer Johnson.

‘He tells of a parable where there are mice and humans running around a piece of cheese,’ she says.

‘The cheese is taken away. The mice adapt, but the people expect the cheese to be there, the way they wanted it.

‘We are a bit like that with our “old” freedoms, which we rather got used to.’

And Conservative MP’s who’re cross that we’re all being made to wait, again, point to data from Public Health England.

Though cases of the Delta variant are rising, only a tiny fraction of those who caught it have had both jabs.

Also, it’s now emerged, the delay decision was based on out-of-date data.

The latest from Public Health England shows both Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer are significantly more potent than had been thought.

Seems the government missed a trick in not factoring that in.

Little wonder then that NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens has promised an inoculation for everyone over eighteen.

So the next four weeks should be used to, in his words, ‘finish the job’.

Or, as the Daily Mirror headline put it, ‘Vax To The Future’.

Next question then – what about giving kids the jab?

Could well be a runner, given the latest word from the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘We will get advice from clinicians on the vaccination of children in the next couple of weeks, we will look at that very carefully.’

Either way, Boris Johnson insists he’s ‘very confident’ he’ll make the new July 19th Freedom Day happen.

Foolish not to, according to government scientific advisers, who warn a delay after that could backfire.

Their fear is it could push a third wave into the autumn and winter, when the disease could be far harder to manage.

Meantime, there’s evidence bosses and employees might be about to fall out over part-time working.

Many companies are ok with it, some even actively in favour, but many others are not.

And they won’t like the latest findings of the official number crunchers, the Office for National Statistics.

They’ve calculated eighty-five per cent of adults currently working from home aren’t that keen on going back to the office.

Instead, they want a half-in-half arrangement. Bad news for roughly a third of firms, who want them at their desks full-time.

Certainly, remote working can have its drawbacks, as Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski will testify.

He got in such a snit with his staff when they couldn’t get him on to a virtual committee meeting that he’s had to say sorry.

Interestingly, he claimed his height had something to do it, as it makes him a bit too visible to constituents who don’t like him.

Certainly, at six-foot-nine he’s had to stoop more than most to get down to the naughty step.

Nature can deal all living creatures an odd hand. Sometimes not altogether welcome, sometimes simply astonishing.

Researchers from Liverpool uni have finally figured out how come the world’s smallest diving mammals manage it.

Because water shrews are tiny and warm-blooded they shouldn’t be capable of diving and hunting in freezing water. But they are.

The boffins say it’s down to the protein myoglobin. DNA checks showed it makes their muscles ever so big and strong.

Maybe their way of giving the bird to scientists who’ve termed their species grouping Eulipotyphla.

Greek. Means: ‘The truly fat and blind.’ Which is jolly rude.

Another sort of bird, meanwhile, deserves a mention this week. The Egyptian vulture.

These creature are such brainy-boxes – they use stones to break open eggs – that they were once worshipped by pharaohs.

You don’t often see them, mind. In fact, the glimpse of one last week on the Scillies was the first in more than 150 years.

You don’t often see movie stars’ bikini tops flying around either.

So when Barbara Windsor’s took off in a Carry On movie scene half a century ago it stuck in a few memories.

No, I didn’t say mammaries, excuse me.

Anyway, the garment in question/in flight sold at auction last week for £9,500. Proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Society.

Because Dame Barbara died of that disease, her husband Scott Mitchell says it was only right. Or, rather, as he put it:

‘I'd say it was fitting - but it flew off.... so it wasn't!’

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News.


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