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A Week In Politics …

The last one lasted forever. And the next looks set to follow suit, with the distinct possibility that the Chancellor’s mini-budget will be overshadowed by yet more blue-on-blue hissing and spitting. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Rishi Sunak seems stuck in an endless cycle of lose-lose dilemmas.

One-time Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s eye-rolling remark that a week in politics is a long time has rarely felt more apt.

Except there’s one difference. In our manic megaphone-diplomacy-fuelled social media age, ten minutes in politics can feel nearer the mark.

Nonetheless, out of the tsunami of tittle-tattle and sabre-rattling of the last few days there are a few standout points set to run and run.

Sacked Suella Braverman has responded to being pulled off her Home Office perch by casting herself as Casca in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

Tiring of fellow assassins not getting on with it, he shouted ‘speak hands for me’ and plunged in his dagger.

Plenty on the Tory hard right agree with Braverman that rough sleepers do it out of choice and protests calling for a mid-east ceasefire are hate marches.

And if, as polls predict, Rishi Sunak loses the election and butts out, they’ll do their damndest to make her the new leader.

Worth bearing in mind one-time future leader Theresa May’s take on the Tories – that the punters see them as ‘the nasty party’.

Also worth remembering that the snuff Caesar plot didn’t end well for Casca’s chums, partly because the hoi polloi thought they’d gone a bit far.

Or, to put things in today’s terms, British parties win elections by pitching to the centre, not the fringes.

The Labour party fell foul of this when they opted for leftie Jeremy Corbyn to run the show, and the spooked punters did a runner.

Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Sensible or Mr Boring according to taste, went to great lengths when he took Jezza’s place, to shift the party back to the middle ground.

Cue standout point two from last week.

The iron discipline Starmer’s imposed on his team took a hefty knock when more than a quarter of his MPs defied him over his stance on the Middle East.

In addition, a clutch of his shadow minister resigned over the same issue.

His call for ‘humanitarian pauses’ but not a ceasefire, broadly in line with Sunak’s position, has sparked real anger within his party.

And the damage caused by this open show of defiance will take a while to repair.

But it’s not as serious as his commentariat critics suggest, largely because, as opposition leader, what happens over there is simply not his call.

In addition, as the Israelis annihilate ever more thousands of defenceless Palestinian women and children, support for their cause might wane.

Mainstream media outlets are beginning to question exactly what the Israelis plan to do with Gaza city once they’ve reduced the place to rubble.

And, looking ahead, the US President is already mooting the all-too-elusive but only logical endgame.

So far every tilt towards the so-called ‘two-state’ solution, in which there’s a proper state of Palestine, as freestanding as the state of Israel, has failed.

But, as the old song goes, ‘maybe this time’.

While Rishi Sunak doesn’t have much more say in all this than the Labour party, his choice of David Cameron as Foreign Secretary is a straw in the wind.

Ok, much water has flowed under the bridge since then, but back in 2010 the then PM Dave did describe the Gaza Strip as a ‘prison camp’.

And he may well now be lamenting the possibility of it turning instead into a giant mortuary.

But, moving from the savagery of war to the calmer waters of domestic policy, Cameron’s political resurrection really was a bolt from the blue corner blue.

It made the Spanish inquisition look like a racing certainty. Up there with Edwina Currie’s revelation in 2002 that she’d had it off with John Major.

Letting that pass, the appointment marked an end to Sunak’s policy of appeasement towards his party’s fractious right wing.

He’ll doubtless be disappointed that a YouGov poll subsequent to his reshuffle gave his party its lowest rating since he took office.

And a Times Radio focus group session with swing voters gave the Tories their biggest thumbs down in years.

Those asked about Sunak came out with lines like: ‘Failed … Meek … No real presence.’

Ouch? Not that these same members of the cognoscenti had much nice to say about Starmer either.

Certainly had a turn of phrase though. One went so far as to describe the Labour leader as: ‘All fur coat and no knickers.’ Gosh!

Nonetheless, Sunak’s top table rejig does mark a significant shift towards the centre ground of British politics, which might help a little. In the end.

Meantime he continues to flounder, as, seemingly, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

We’ll build loads of new hospitals, he’s claimed. Not as many as you think, came the sharp retort from an authoritative committee of MPs.

We’ll sort the pothole problem, he’s claimed. Not necessarily, his own ministers have had to admit.

And of course, we’ll stop migrants cross The Channel in small boats, by jetting them off to Rwanda.

Oh no you won’t, decreed the nation’s top line-up of judges.

Oh yes we will, he’s retorted, doubtless with the panto season in mind.

After m’learned friends unanimously ruled that the African nation is dodgy in far too many ways to be trusted, Sunak’s vowed to find another way.

But the patchwork quilt of counter-measures will take time to get off the ground, so to speak.

Meaning the chances of it actually happening this side of the election are, by most informed reckonings, vanishingly slim.

One wonders if in the dead hours of night, there’s a little part of him regretting that he’d made such a hoo-ha about this issue in the first place.

Though the incomers do create severe pinch points in places like Dover, where they tend to rock up, the same can’t be said of the rest of the country.

The cost of living, by contrast, impacts us all. But Sunak’s big win of the week, halving inflation, has been drowned out by his defeat over small boats.

He’ll hope for better luck with this week’s Autumn Statement, in which it’s widely predicted the Chancellor will unveil long-awaited tax cuts.

Jeremy Hunt is strongly tipped to slash death duties and make life easier for small businesses, because he’ll have billions more in the kitty than expected.

And some of this cash has come from a surprising source.

Hands up all those who loved, or hated, or at least made a point of going to one particular smash hit movie this summer.

Well, you’ve all done your bit for the common good, as the film contributed more than eighty million pounds to the British economy.

Also, as it was shot in Hertfordshire, it created nearly seven hundred jobs and supported loads and loads of local businesses.

Of course lovely Barbie and silly Ken didn’t transform the nation fortunes, but, as the Tesco slogan goes, every little helps.

And a marketing line from former telecoms giant Orange also springs to mind, with a little adjustment.

‘The future’s bright, the future’s … pink.’


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