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Feeling The Heat

Well, who isn’t? Energy bills rocketing through the roof. Likewise inflation. Our Prime Minister-In-Waiting wondering woefully what to do. And even the man who triggered it all counting the cost. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the domino effect’s going full circle.

The Greek dramatist Aeschylus spotted two-and-a-half millennia ago that the first casualty of war is the truth.

Six months ago Vlad the Vile found there was more to it than that.

As his ramshackle mob failed to annex Ukraine in days his grumpy thought must have been: ‘The first casualty of war is … the plan.’

He tried sacking his spy chiefs for getting it all wrong. And last week fired a few generals for not putting it right.

It’s said he’s also toying with correcting the minor misapprehension about what’s going on. Admitting his ‘special military operation’ is in fact a war.

That’d empower him to get loads more young men into the slaughterhouse, but could also get his people wondering if Pavel Filatyev has a point.

This man is, or, rather, was, a Russian paratrooper till he did a runner a couple of weeks back and denounced the whole sorry debacle.

On the Kremlin’s line he was out there to liberate people he’s withering: ‘That all of it is a lie. We are just destroying peaceful lives.’

‘I think this is the worst, stupidest thing our government could have done,’ he adds. ‘I do not know where the government is leading us.

‘I see what is happening to my country and I am terrified. Everything is destroyed, corrupted. The only laws that function well are repressive ones.’

Word is many Ukrainians are sceptical of his motives, and what he’s said certainly hasn’t played well to a cowered audience back home.

But the fact remains after half a year’s blood, sweat and tears the Russian army’s only managed to snatch a fifth of the county it’s invaded.

And Professor Michael Clarke, who as former boss of a top military think tank does know his stuff, reckons they won’t even be able to hold on to that.

Apart from having outdated arms, no match for the state-of-the-art weapons coming in from the West, he says, morale is so low there are regular mutinies.

Little wonder, adds our Defence Ministry, that Russia’s doing an Aeschylus.

Putting out ‘deliberate misinformation’ about why it’s slowing down.

Everything hinges on Western nations continuing to supply the expensive gear, and keeping up the economic war, which hurts us too. A lot.

Boris Johnson, our Ex-Prime-Minister-In-Waiting, did what he does best last week when Ukraine celebrated its independence from the Soviet Union.

Showing his face in Kiev, he came out with an evocative but conveniently cost-free soundbite.

The connection between Putin’s strangling the world of energy supplies and the coming economic storm here in UK is inescapable, he admitted.

But he called on us to bear the higher gas bills, as those on the front line are ‘paying in blood’.

A price worth paying, he added, as: ‘I believe Ukraine can and will win this war.’

Joe Biden obligingly reinforced his argument by announcing a record three billion dollar arms package for the defenders.

UK too is chipping in another fifty-four million quidsworth. Every little helps, as the slogan goes.

But back here ordinary households are going to need a helluva lot of help in the alarmingly near future.

With the cost of gas and electricity set to almost double in a couple of months, and worse to follow next year, the ‘heat or eat’ question is horribly real.

Assuming, as almost everyone does now, Liz Truss will be the one grappling with it, answers are in scarily short supply.

All her iron maiden stuff about just cutting taxes and absolutely no handouts has run into the same buffers as Putin’s nonsense about an easy win.

Jolly beastly when rhetoric’s run over by reality. But hey ho, what can you do?

The answer, in Truss’s case, is likely to be a fair bit more than she bargained for.

So far, the Treasury’s got no further than drawing up options for when she hits the ground. Running, as she assures us. Up to a point at least.

The emergency budget she’s been flourishing before her eager supporters seems to have been downgraded to a ‘fiscal event’.

No wish to sound too semantically pedantic, or to link too closely, but budget/fiscal event? Special military operation/war? Hmm …

However, Truss may yet be forced to nick a few of her rival Rishi Sunak’s ideas for staving off widespread destitution.

But they’ll stick in her craw. Just a couple of days ago she said yet again she doesn’t want to ‘bung more money’ at the worst off.

On this front at least, for the first time in a long time, Keir Starmer has landed a punch.

His promise that a Labour government ‘wouldn’t let people pay a penny more’ for energy this winter has done wonders for his poll rating.

One survey found that even eighty-five percent of Conservative voters were up for the idea.

Not only that, right-wing newspapers are also buying into his suggestion that help could be partly funded by taxing energy companies’ ‘excess profits’.

At twelve-thirty on Monday September 5th we shall at least know whose problem all this is going to be.

That’s of course assuming the petition wafting round Tory members doesn’t garner a thousand or so more signatures.

It’s been put together by folk furious about Johnson’s defenestration, who’d love to get a vote on whether he should be allowed to leave office.

If the numbers pass a certain threshold the whole contest would be thrown into chaos. Unlikely to come to it, but an intriguing maybe.

Meantime, while Truss continues to hedge her bets on how she plans to protect people from freezing to death she’s clear on one point.

To the mouse problem within the slowly crumbling Palace of Westminster she revealed last week her unequivocal solution. ‘More cats.’

Glad we’ve got that sorted, if nothing else.

But the welfare of animals, wanted or otherwise, brings us back to the war.

As terrified civilians have been forced to flee gunfire and artillery rounds of the Russian invaders they’ve sometimes had to leave their pets behind.

But help has been at hand, in the unlikely form of two Ukrainian snipers.

Crack shot husband and wife team Oksana and Stanislav Krasnova can’t bear to leave these defenceless animals to their own devices.

So they’ve been paying for food and supplies, nursing them back to health and getting them transported to the capital so they can be rehomed.

One of the animals rescued was a traumatised dog trapped in a building and living off raw potatoes.

The poor creature was apparently lying on the floor barking, crying and foaming at the mouth. But she’s doing ok now, with her new foster family.

‘The animals we rescue are really very grateful and loyal,’ Mrs Krasnova said.

‘Sometimes it's really hard to say goodbye to them. Mainly because I spend so much time treating them.’

No surprise there. None whatever.

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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