top of page

Inching closer .. !!

As July 19th Freedom Day gradually upgrades from yeah but no but maybe to something approaching a racing certainty, the sense of relief is palpable. But as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s acutely aware it ain’t that simple.

Helicopter pilots are supposed to eat before they fly. For energy. As all the beastly machines want to do is turn turtle and crash.

A perfect metaphor for any government trying to handle a pandemic as intractable as this.

Putting former Chancellor Sajid Javid in charge of health set the seal on imminent lifting of almost all restrictions.

Including, it’s expected, social distancing and wrapping a weird piece of cloth round our faces. Aka mask-wearing.

That said, the nation’s top medics aren’t so sure about that.

And Bojo’s been careful to allow himself a bit of wriggle room, warning some precautions may have to stay.

For example, the ‘go back to the office’ message may be muted, though that could be an irrelevance to many businesses.

Asda has already announced it will make hybrid working permanent at its head offices. And others will follow suit.

There’ve also been changes in the office arrangements at 39 Victoria Street London SW1.

The CCTV cameras have been switched off. Likewise, MP’s have been officially informed, in all their offices.

Bit late for Matt Hancock, described last week by senior Labour MP Chris Bryant as the ‘stupidest man on earth’.

His point being Hancock broke the eleventh commandment. The one about not getting caught.

Now, not only has he lost his job as Health Secretary, he also faces calls in his constituency to stand down as an MP.

What’s clearly got the goat of so many is not the affair, but breaking Covid rules he was so keen others should obey.

That human drama continues to play out as his wife, and mother of his three children, has also given him the heave-ho.

Bully for her, many will say. Thus can she claw back her dignity.

Divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag points out when a wife cheats she’s a scarlet woman, but cheated on she’s a humiliated reject.

Or, as as Marilyn Monroe put it in Some Like it Hot, the woman always comes out with the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

A woman who could well have grasped the nicer end last week, meanwhile, didn’t manage it after all.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, was poised to challenge for the top job when the party lost last week’s by-election.

But when, against all expectations, it just about clung on, in spite of a huge swing to the Tories, Rayner’s reign got reined back.

Given his dire poll ratings, Sir Keir Starmer remains anything but secure, but at least he’ll get to fight another day.

Unlike a noticeable number of convicted criminals in America under Donald Trump.

He oversaw more federal executions than any other president in well over a century, thirteen in his last six months alone.

They’d been paused for seventeen years before he was elected, and are being paused again while the policy is reviewed.

But law enforcement is gathering pace in regard to his company’s tax affairs.

Chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, surrendered to the Manhattan district attorney’s office early on Thursday.

Not that he had much choice, as the Trump family business faces criminal charges over what it’s alleged to have been up to.

Though the investigation’s been going on for three years, the latest development is a significant milestone.

And there’s plenty more to come, not only over possible book-cooking, but also over so-called ‘hush money’.

The suggestion being The Donald wanted to discourage kiss and tell tales from ladies he’d had his way with.

None of which will do a lot for his chances of having another swing at the White House in 2024.

Also looking ahead, but closer to home, there’s the panoply of possibilities regarding the government’s pandemic handling.

School bubbles is one. It’s looking increasingly likely, when one kid tests positive, the whole class or year won’t have to go home.

Equally very much on the cards is the autumn booster jab, to make sure immunity from the first two doesn’t wane.

The problem of overseas travel, however, remains as thorny as ever.

Though Boris Johnson says the double jab’s a ‘liberator’, specifics are as yet unforthcoming. Both from our side and overseas.

But the underlying rationale for restoring freedoms at home, in spite of rising case numbers, is straightforward.

The figures are bound to go up because three times as many tests are being carried out now than a few months back.

For which reason, many experts are arguing, the more relevant numbers to look out for are hospitalisations and deaths.

And the news here from Public Health England is encouraging.

The proportion of fatal cases was mostly around two per cent. But now the percentage is nought-point-three.

A huge drop, and further evidence that vaccines work. Older, hence more vulnerable, people are now protected.

Of course it’s no fun catching the disease, and infinitely worse if it’s long covid. But very rarely, nowadays, life-threatening.

Which is what those top medics mean when they say this virus is simply something we’ve got to learn to live with.

And life does go on in all its walks. And on wheels.

Japanese carmaker Nissan has cheered a lot of folk in the north east by promising a billion pound battery factory.

This will enable its Sunderland car plant to make loads more electric vehicles, creating in total nearly eight thousand jobs.

And the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port car plant is set to be secured, also through electrification of engines.

Some scientists looking even further ahead, however, would argue that just driving around is so last year, dear.

Last week a prototype flying car managed a thirty-five mile flight between two airports in Slovakia.

It’s got a BMW engine and runs on ordinary petrol. But folds its wings up in just over two minutes so it can take to the air.

And vice versa, obvs. Which is how come after the maiden flight its creator, Prof Stefan Klein, drove it straight off into town.

He described the experience as ‘normal’ and ‘very pleasant’.

Nor is it as fanciful as it might sound, according to Michael Cole, European boss of South Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai.

He told an industry conference a few days ago he’s convinced flying cars will be with us worldwide by the end of this decade.

Which is why, he added, his own company has already made ‘very significant investments’ in urban air mobility.

And, if you want your very own slice of crystal ball action it’s up for grabs, for offers over a hundred-and-twenty-five grand.

All part of the package included in the ruins of the Old Village of Lawers on the shore of Loch Tay in Perthshire.

The three-acre site’s got a private beach, a church, the House of Lawers and the ghost of the last woman who lived there.

And this is where it gets interesting. It’s said the Lady of Lawers predicted the invention of ‘fire coaches’. That’s to say trains.

Also, she apparently foresaw the advent of steamboats. In her words: ‘A ship driven by smoke.’

To cap it all, she prophesied the Highland clearances that, come the seventeenth century, would do for her own village.

Progress? Seems there are arguments against it after all.

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.


bottom of page