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Glad That's Settled, Then …

Except that it isn’t. Just about all the big calls facing both main parties are up for grabs. Much of that’s to do with their leaders struggling to work out what voters actually want. But it’s also, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, thanks to an awful lot of squabbling amongst themselves.

Not fair to say the Conservative party is eccentric. But it has been in very bad mood for a number of years.

And the broad church that it proudly claims to be is looking increasingly like a certain temple in the bible after strongman Samson did his worst.

For what they’d politely call differences of emphasis read crumbling pillars. Writ large at their annual beano currently going on in Manchester.

Surface smiles and stirring speeches from the platform pale into insignificance beside predictable sniping and snarling from the sidelines.

Only to be expected, given that the party’s last two leaders are now so stuck on the naughty step that the general election’s widely regarded as already lost.

That may not be as straightforward as it looks, mind. More on the polls later.

Meantime, those who’ve written Rishi Sunak off as a busted flush are actively mulling over who’ll take his place when they regroup as the official opposition.

Home Secretary Suella, Cruella to her non fans, is clearly well up for it.

But more important than whether Ms Braverman gets the job herself is the strand of thinking she represents.

Her Stateside speech last week struck moderate-minded Tories as a gnashing of nasty teeth, while her acolytes on the hard right lapped it up.

Immigration an ‘existential threat’? Overhaul the UN refugee convention? Tell the European Human Rights court to do one? Yeah, bring it on, they say.

Rather puzzlingly, Number Ten’s said to have OKed the woman’s words, even though the cabinet’s as sharply divided on the issue as the backbench MPs.

Suffice it to say the battle for the soul of the Tory party is well and truly on. And it’s not just on that front.

Sunak’s watering down of the green agenda has also sharply divided his flock. Same as the as yet undecided future of the HS2 rail plan.

One the one hand, the project’s costing shedloads more money than anticipated. But on the other, it’s a key plank of the party’s levelling up agenda.

Fast, efficient trains linking the aspiring north to the affluent south are proof that the Conservatives really can please all of the people, all of the time.

So the thinking goes. Or, rather, maybe, went.

Sunak’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. But he also knows full well that the optics matter almost as much as the practicalities.

As Lancashire lad and top Lib Dem Tim Farron left his lot’s conference for the long, long ride home, he said it all about the Tories: ‘They hate northerners.’

The third party’s get-together deserves a mention here. Oddly enough, not so much for what was said as what wasn’t.

Having been torn to shreds by the voters for going into coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives they’re not going there again.

But, in a hung parliament, would they align with Labour? Answers came there none.

Likewise on the question of whether, given the chance, they’d go all-out for reversing Brexit. All a question of reading the public mood.

Opinion polls indicate that another referendum would take us back in. That at least is clear, unlike the small matter of who’ll win the next election.

Early last week, Deltapoll detected signs that the Tories had cut the opposition’s lead by a clear eight points.

But by Thursday YouGov put Labour back twenty-one points ahead, although a different outlet found their support among waverers had fallen.

Against that, a subsequent survey by yet another bunch of number crunchers suggested Sir Keir Starmer’s on course for a stonking ninety-seat majority.

Love ’im or hate ’im, the man’s no fool. Christmas may be tentatively looming, but he’s not counting his chickens.

What’s more he’s engaged in balancing acts of his own. On nothing like the same level as Sunak, but differing perspectives nonetheless.

Alongside suggestions that the Conservatives reckon abolition of so-called ‘death duty’ might be a game-changer for them, Labour could go the other way.

Far from getting rid of inheritance tax, they’re said to be mulling the idea of scrapping existing exemptions that spare some of the rich some of the pain.

On the other hand, they’re getting warnings that this could have a wrecking effect on some family firms and businesses.

Which shows that mauling the minted is not as straightforward as it seems.

Same applies to Labour’s plan to tax posh schools that still manage to shield behind their historic status as charities.

Starmer insists it’s up to them whether they just suck it up, or pass on the extra costs to the parents. Once again, trickier than it looks.

But the two leaders are united on one point. They’re both determined to try and convince the public that politicians aren’t all the same after all.

A Starmer aide put it succinctly: ‘The Tories are discredited enough, but … it doesn’t mean people automatically flock over to us.

‘Every decision is to answer that key question: if not the Tories, why us?’

But if voters have been feeling a bit lost lately, they’re not alone there.

A dear little moggie named Daisy got in a muddle after her owner, Sian Sexton, moved from Dorset to Wales.

Easily done, when you don’t know the lay of the land. Problem being, she really couldn’t find her way back.

But, happily, Ms Sexton had had her pet microchipped.

So, when Daisy was brought into a vet, looking somewhat bedraggled and under the weather, one quick phone call and the problem was solved.

The extraordinary thing being, however, that this was eleven whole years down the line.

Seems the poor little thing had been living as a stray all that time. No wonder she was a bit sneezy and totally matted.

Sian, meanwhile, was totally gobsmacked, as well as delighted, freely admitting: ‘I’m still in shock.’

But, she added, in spite of having lived rough for all that time, Daisy is still ‘very loving’ and wanting lots of attention.

Given the creature’s form for not paying attention, however, Sian’s taking an obvious precaution, in view of her plan to up sticks once more.

From now, she laughed, Daisy: ‘Might have to be a house cat. I don’t want her to go missing again.’

A sentiment doubtless shared by the parents of a two-year-old girl in Michigan who also went walkabout. Fortunately, in her case, with the family’s two dogs.

When she was finally located, in remote woodland, miles from home, after a massive hunt lasting four agonising hours, she was well, safe and comfy.

That’s because one pooch had obligingly acted as a pillow. While the other was found laying right beside the girl, patiently keeping guard.

The state trooper leading the search described it as a: ‘Really remarkable story.’

Really? Expect the dogs were just thinking what are best friends for?


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