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God Bless You, Marm ...

Indelicate to mention a lady’s age, but you have to admire her spirit, exhorting the rest of us to look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm. Holidaymakers are less than enthusiastic about the shambles at airports, mind. While, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson can but hope he’s got any kind of future.

Of course he could always ask for his old job back. Much easier, and much better paid, being a columnist on the Daily Telegraph.

But he does seem to love the adulation of a grateful nation, and party. Or would if everyone could kindly stop being so beastly to him.

Pssst, little secret coming up. Notwithstanding the millions of miles of newsprint, no one really knows if he’s toast or not.

By the time of writing, more than forty-five Tory MP’s had questioned his fitness for office. That at least is fact.

And it’s dangerously close to the fifty-four needed to trigger the vote of no confidence that could end the Johnson premiership.

Delectable though his birthday treats must have been, just this once even he can see you can’t have your cake and eat it.

The problem for his backbenchers trying to enjoy the parliamentary recess is that telling one another all will be well is one thing.

Trying to win round sceptical punters in their constituencies is another, when so many of them are convinced the boss is a barefaced liar.

Just not fair, say his loyal chums.

Or, as one cabinet minister put it: ‘I’m getting quite f***ing angry with colleagues who are frothing at the mouth . . . in the way that the public is not.’

Oh really? And the footage of all those people booing and jeering as he arrived at St Paul’s on Friday? What’s that all about then?

One government source ventured the following theory: ‘I think he’s f***ed.’

Children! Children! Straight to bed with no tea.

At least former party leader William Hague manages to mind his language, while being every bit as direct: ‘The fuse is getting closer to the dynamite.’

Of course wall-to-wall TV coverage of the you-know-what is a welcome distraction, but all good Platinum Jubilees come to an end.

Yeah but hang on a minute, Boris’s boys and girls point out in their more expletive-free moments, he got Brexit done, didn’t he?

And look here, we’re working on bringing back British weights and measures. Much better than smelly Johnny Foreigner metric nonsense.

Er, multiples of ten? Easier, surely, than complicated pounds and ounces? Cue collective bamboozlement afflicting anyone under about forty.

It may be a jolly good reminder of post-Brexit Britishness. Well, Englishness at least, as the Scots and Northern Irish voted to remain.

But even some cabinet ministers are privately describing the plan as ‘absolutely bananas’ and a ‘muppet’ idea.

They don’t like to admit it’s a sign of desperation, but one suspects that’s what they mean.

Another such might be Johnson’s promise of monthly pandemic-style press conferences on the cost of living crisis.

The official line is: ‘He wants to show people he’s on their side.’ But some commentators aren’t so sure.

As one waggish Times hack put it: ‘Keep me in Number Ten and I’ll do my best to tell your constituents how skint they are as often as possible.’

Still, at least a fair few folk found the lolly for a jolly sur le continong last week. Just a shame the airlines and airports weren’t ready for them.

Naturally, the operators have been blaming the government for not smoothing the post-pandemic passage. And vice versa.

In truth, even though it wasn’t apparently a party-pooper in Downing Street, ahem, Coronavirus did crush the overseas travel industry.

And rehiring the masses of staff needed to ensure a comfy ride for all takes months.

Huge numbers are needed, and some of the more sensitive jobs need lengthy background checks and training

At this stage it’s an open question whether operators or ministers were asleep at the wheel. Likely, in varying degrees, both.

But, sorry about this but it’s true, Brexit’s made the recruitment process more difficult.

According to Paul Charles, boss of a top travel PR firm: ‘The aviation industry traditionally hires a lot of people from Europe.

‘But that talent pool has shrunk, because access to the UK has been tightened and there are fewer Europeans who want to work here.’

At least the British government is doing its bit in the continent’s biggest bout of violence since World War Two.

As the Ukraine conflict entered its hundredth day, Russia’s ill-equipped and ill-disciplined hordes finally secured control of a fifth of the country.

And with an ugly war of attrition heaving into view, armaments supplies, not least from Britain, are being stepped up.

The latest bit of kit we’re sending is a missile system firing precision-guided rockets up to fifty miles.

Stick that in your pipe, Putin. Likewise the new batch of whizz-bangs with the same range and accuracy, from the White House.

Germany too is stumping up. Spangly new surface-to-air projectiles, plus radar systems to tease out targets.

There’ve also been touching displays of solidarity on the Home Front.

Kira Hubina, a nine-year-old girl from one of Ukraine’s northern cities, cut her long hair and sold it to raise money for the country’s fighters.

Her dad, Ivan, said, when he learned of her plan: ‘Honestly, I almost cried.’ Bless them both.

Something else that deeply moved many Ukrainians was their team’s World Cup win over Scotland last week.

Regular readers may remember reference to a man from near Kiev named Maksym, who sold this commentator a household item on eBay.

His latest message, alongside a picture of him with a can of Young’s stout in his hand, read: ‘My first beer since the beginning of the war.’

Every bit as engagingly, he added a postscript. ‘God bless the Queen! What would she bury this Putin!’ Imperfect English, but we get the idea.

And, as Her Madge officiates, with ever more help from her family, over an outpouring of enthusiasm pretty much everywhere, some facts stand out.

Among those at her coronation was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise of – wait for it – Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.

Hell, what’s in a name, as someone once said.

The committee set up to decide which items could be sanctioned as memorabilia marking the occasion came to one particularly definitive conclusion.

An application to include crown-embroidered knickers was a no-no.

Also, without wishing to get too personal, it’s noted that the hems of the Queen’s skirts are specially weighted so she can’t do a breezy Marilyn Monroe.

More sedately, the armholes of her coats are said to be generously cut to make it easier to wave.

So many people, so little time. When she was crowned, the British Empire had no fewer than seventy overseas territories.

But the sun was setting. By 1965, the number of British subjects had shrunk from seven-hundred million to just five. Er, million, that is. To be clear.

Around that time the then Postmaster General, Tony Benn, submitted to the palace samples of stamps without her image on them.

He got a letter back saying: ‘The Queen was not as enthusiastic about these designs as she sometimes is.’

It’s the way she tells ’em.

Oh and btw, Britain’s longest serving monarch since as far back as 2015 does own all the unmarked silent swans in the Thames.

And she has a Swan Keeper, natch. But there’s no evidence she has ever eaten one. Swan, that is, not keeper. Just to be clear, once again.

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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