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Getting Nowhere Fast …

Everywhere you look, things aren’t going to plan. Especially journeys. And all those train strikes are giving the politicos problems too. The opposition’s in a complete tizz about them, and, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, they’re doing the Tories no favours either.

Latest surveys suggest views vary about whether the rail guys have a just cause. Unlike respondents’ take on what the government’s doing about it.

Not enough, according to two-thirds of people asked by the pollster Savanta ComRes.

But with inflation running full steam ahead and loads of different sets of workers getting antsy about offers likely to amount to pay cuts, the Labour party’s in a complete fix.

During what we might politely term the interregnum in Downing Street, what’s looking like a zombie government ought to be the soggiest target ever.

The more so as the contenders for the top job seem to have developed a taste for mutual cannibalism.

But instead, Keir Starmer’s mob are getting their teeth into one another. Red? In tooth and claw? And the rest.

Stoppages, which obviously annoy great swathes of the public, are always a problem for a movement that has its roots in bashing the bosses.

This time it’s brought sharply into focus by the sacking of shadow minister, and deputy leader’s boyfriend, Sam Tarry.

He was judged a bit naughty for – like many others – joining a picket line. But very very naughty for doing loads of interviews about it.

Whatever the outcome, it’s Labour’s problem in microcosm. Come the party’s annual conference, only a month or so away now, there’s going to be real grief.

By then at least we should have a new Prime Minister, though a lot more blue blood’s going to be spilled between now and then.

For the moment the arms race between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak continues apace.

Most strikingly over tax cuts, which of course tickle the sweet spot of all those comfortably off Tory members who’ll do the choosing.

Truss has bigged up how nice she’ll be to them, dismissing the bills run up during the pandemic as something like a war debt. To be paid back later. Much later.

And now Sunak’s solid determination to keep a grip on the nation’s credit card seems to have got a bit buckled.

Having in the past said no to cutting VAT on energy bills, because it’d do more for the rich than the poor, he’s now saying, er, yes. Well, sort of.

‘A screeching U-turn,’ according to the Truss camp. But then again, each is accusing the other of ‘immoral’ economic policies anyway.

Please do bear in mind, though, Mr Sunak says he’s got nothing against Ms Truss.

It may, however, also be worth bearing in mind an old saying in politics. ‘Nothing is ever true until it’s officially denied.’

But it’s not to be wondered at that he’s getting a bit shouty in all these public debates going on, as he’s bound to be getting a bit narked about the way things are going.

A clear majority of Tory MPs backed him, and, according to the latest surveys, he’s well in front among voters who could go either way come the next election.

But who cares what they think? The decision rests with that tiny fragment of the population that happens to be the grassroots Tory membership.

And the pollster YouGov has crunched the numbers, which boil down to a stonking twenty-four-point lead for Truss.

Makes you wonder whatever happened to the noble Ancient Greek ideal of democracy, when everyone got a say. Well, apart from slaves. And women, obvs.

Autre jour, même merde ?

Meanwhile, we’re looking at a relatively unedifying spectacle that calls to mind a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. About two warring factions battling for supremacy.

‘Doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together and choke their art.’

Certainly, whoever wins is likely to be called upon to keep all those promises made in the heat of battle. Be a right choker, that.

No question, we’re living in strange times.

The bad news is if we don’t watch our step we’ll all be French fried potatoes when we fry.

That’s to say, according to Britain’s National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove, we risk stumbling into a nuclear bust-up with China or Russia by accident.

His point being that even during the Cold War there was a kind of backchannel between the superpowers, but there’s not much sign of it now.

Such things are jolly handy. Witness the discreet comms between the IRA and the Brits during the republicans’ mainland bombing campaign.

A lot of lives were lost, but an awful lot more were saved, thanks to the tip-off system both sides respected.

On a cheerier note, scientists appear to be edging closer to finding a cure, both for all varieties of Covid, and the common cold.

Researchers at London’s Francis Crick Institute have discovered a specific area of the virus that causes both those nasties in all their beastly forms.

A perfect target then for a catch-all inoculation. Wouldn’t stop folk catching the diseases in the first place, but they wouldn’t be so bad, and they wouldn’t come back.

Professor Penny Ward, a top boffin at King’s College, said this: ‘Could solve the problem of endless new waves of disease caused by variants with reduced vaccine sensitivity.’

Which would be nice.

Far less so is the ongoing calamity in Ukraine. Though there too are to be found glimmers of hope.

Sounds rather horrid to present casualties as good news, but a new US assessment suggests the invasion force is almost twice as depleted as the Ukrainians dared hope.

This in part because of the steady flow of state of the art Western whiz-bangs for which Russian relics from the Soviet era are no match.

And, much as so many people love to hate Boris Johnson, credit must be given for his unrelenting role as a NATO cheerleader.

Not like he’s got no friends, mind, over here as well as over there.

His old ally, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, has described his ousting as a ‘ruthless coup’.

She also says her colleagues made a ‘huge mistake’ in forcing him out. Oh, and btw, and it was all Sunak’s fault,

Which begs the question what planet she’s on, after scandal piled on scandal, culminating in no fewer than fifty government members calling time on him.

However, plenty of local members support the Dorries analysis.

At the time of writing, a ‘bring back Boris’ petition had attracted fifteen thousand signatures.

Though it won’t save his skin it might be a comfort, while he’s wondering what happened to his world king dream.

But who knows what other exciting possibilities might be opening for him?

Another petition’s been launched, this one from somewhere near Kiev, to get President Zelensky to grant him national citizenship.

This, the blurb reads, would get round the current obstacle to its objective posed by that country’s constitution.

Sort that and the way is clear. For Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister … of Ukraine.

Now there’s a thought.

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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