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Are EU having a laugh ?

History just got made. In a good way for dedicated scientists. In a bad way for dumbo politicos. The jab should jerk corona off its perch. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s Eurovision thong contest looks to earn him nul points.

Historians disagree on most things. It’s what they do. Take the cause of the Great War. Some say that Serbian separatist’s potshot at Archduke Ferdinand did more than waste a bloke with a silly moustache. It also shaved twenty million off the world’s population. By accident. And there’s a compelling argument that a no-deal Brexit could also be a giant whoops-a-daisy moment. Remember bouncy Bojo telling us, a year ago, that a post-departure deal was ‘oven ready’, and that not getting it would be a ‘failure of statecraft’? With all the grumpy goings-on over the last few weeks there are only two outstanding area of agreement. One, they don’t agree with one another. And two, no one wants a no-deal. And, brinksmanship aside, the looming possibility of just that is like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition. No one was expecting it. But hearts sank when Johnson’s fish supper with the European Commission’s glam boss Ursula von der Leyen turned, as one headline writer put it, into fishticuffs. Those who planned the menu do get gallows humour, given that seafood’s one of the big bones of contention between UK and EU. Crazy, really, when you consider the industry’s worth point one of one per cent of the British economy. But in its attempts to reduce the rancour to bite-sized bits of info, so punters can understand it, the media’s masking the reality. Our interface with le continong is a kaleidoscope of complexity, built up over almost half a century. Think of a plate of spaghetti, cut through the middle with a knife. Now shift the strands around a bit, then join most of them all up again. Tricky. Far easier to bin the lot and have a nice steak and kidney pud instead. What the Brexit ultras have wanted all along. Not such a problem for them, as they mostly are not business folk. But an almighty headache for those who are. With virtually no chance of sorting themselves out in the next couple of weeks or so, they’re gnashing their teeth at the body politic. And the knock-on effects for the rest of us are, at this stage, incalculable. Even the chair of the commons Brexit select committee, Hilary Benn, who’s paid to know this sort of thing, frankly admits he doesn’t. Chaos at the ports, rising food prices, lack of availability of certain goods, possible problems with vital medical supplies, companies going to the wall, contraction to the economy, the list of nasty likelihoods is long. Boris Johnson’s sunny uplands seem to be an Australian-type deal. Sounds nice. Lovely and warm, down under. But he’s still a hack at heart. Making it fast, making it tight, and making dollops of it up. Between the Aussies and the Europeans there exists only a ‘framework agreement’. A statement of good intent for when a genuine deal gets signed, at some point. Meaning as of now there isn’t actually anything in place. Little wonder that country’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is warning us to ‘be careful what you wish for’. ‘Australia’s relationship with the EU is not one from a trade point of view that I think Britain would want, frankly,’ he told the BBC. And if the British economy does get more tanked than Thomas the Tank Engine it’ll be no good dumping it on the pandemic. Because the number crunchers will easily figure out which bits of blame lay where. Here at least is the flipside of the coin. Unlike the slo-mo train crash being engineered in SW1, scientists around the world have managed a rocket-speed ride from doom to deliverance. At half-past-six on Tuesday morning, Margaret Keenan became the first person to be vaccinated against coronavirus. Looking forward to turning ninety-one, she had plenty to say for herself. ‘It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year, after being on my own for most of the year. ‘My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at ninety, then you can have it too.’ Useful info for doubters, of whom there are rather a lot. An Oxford University study has revealed that more than a quarter of people have their doubts about the jab. Justified, if they have a history of serious allergic reaction to things. That became clear when two NHS staff became unwell after getting inoculated. But it’s a different story for everyone else. And there are a few figures worth thinking about here. Corona has killed one in a thousand people in UK who’ve caught it. A known risk. And a pretty forbidding one. But there’s also a risk of side-effects from the Pfizer vaccine. The injection might hurt, and could cause headaches, chills and muscle pain. All part of the immune system kicking into gear, and manageable with the aid of over-the-counter remedies. A bit less forbidding, then. Especially when you consider that it does work on about ninety-five per cent of people. In normal times creating a vaccine like this would take ten years. This time they’ve crunched it down to ten months. More cause for concern? How can they know it’s safe? Short answer is, they don’t. No vaccine ever is. Not completely. However, Dr Penny Ward, from King’s College London and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, does offer reassurance. ‘Not many of us think twice about driving somewhere, but the risk of a car accident is a lot higher than serious effects of a vaccine.’ There’s one other number worth factoring in. The boffins tried this stuff out on twenty-thousand people. Harming none of them. And the Oxford AstraZeneca inoculation, likely to get the green light within weeks, has been tested on getting on for the same number. All’s well that ends well then? Happens the second person vaccinated rejoices in the name William Shakespeare. And, all is true, honest, he comes from Warwickshire, like the great man himself. Cue fun puns, not single spies but in battalions, though anything but sorrowful. One of the best… The taming of the flu. The health service is heading unto the breach, planning to inoculate the best part of a million people in the coming weeks. Plus up to four million more in short order, with around seventy hospitals gearing for the jab job. Meantime, with festivities fast approaching, ministers are praying jokers won’t be silly during the Christmas restrictions respite. But TV channel Gold does celebrate a better sort of joke, with its yearly contest for the funniest cracker gag. One strong contender was which Crimble movie was thirty years ahead of its time? Home Alone. Also, Bojo’s sometime Svengali Dominic Cummings has a special place in our collective hearts. Question: What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song? Answer: Driving Home for Christmas. And there’s one more. How do you play Dominic Cummings Monopoly? Ignore the rules, move anywhere on the board you like, and never Go To Jail! Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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