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Inconvenient Truths

Tricky times for all manner of people used to getting their own way. Also for those of us who look to leaders for leadership. It’s more trends and inferences than hard facts. Though, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, some of them will be hard for some to swallow.

Take Rishi Sunak, for starters.

As his party licks its wounds after doing even worse in the local elections than it feared, his in-house number crunchers are doing their homework.

A surge in support for the Lib Dems, alongside loads of tactical voting, suggest his party’s rightward tilt might need rethinking.

Wavering Tory voters in so-called ‘red wall’ areas might lap up his muscular approach to small boat arrivals and sticking with the tough Brexit line.

But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that these policies are just as much of a switch-off for liberal-minded Conservative voters in the so-called ‘blue wall’.

Fresh from sorting the King’s coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke up for them last week in the house of lords.

His take on the new bill aimed at locking up and kicking out everyone who risks the channel crossing could hardly have been more damning.

‘Morally unacceptable and politically impractical,’ he said.

That was just the opening gambit, as peers try and force the government both to soften its approach to refugees – and to offer them safe and legal routes to UK.

And when the doubtless amended legislation comes back to the commons it’s likely to garner a certain amount of support among Tory MPs.

Former PM Theresa May will be joined by former minister Chris Skidmore, who says ‘Churchill would be turning in his grave’ at some of the government’s ideas.

Then, longer term, there’s clear evidence of pressure on Sunak to redouble his efforts to forge closer links with the European Union.

His success in negotiating with Brussels new trading arrangements in Northern Ireland shows he’s made a start, albeit a tentative one.

But there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest voters would like him, or Keir Starmer if he makes it to Number Ten, to go the whole hog.

A survey by the pollster Redfield and Wilton last week suggested six out of ten of us would vote to rejoin the EU tomorrow.

Another, by Savanta, indicated that nearly all eighteen to twenty-five-year-olds feel the same.

While the Lib Dems would love it, neither main party is going there – on the basis that voters’ priorities have moved on from Brexit.

Some in Starmer’s team are, however, doubtless mulling over linking their main attack line – that people are feeling poorer – with our departure from Europe.

The official statisticians, the Office for Budget Responsibility, calculated that Brexit would shrink the British economy by at least four per cent.

Naturally, Brexit enthusiasts claim our hard-won freedoms will knock that into a cocked hat.

But, seven years down the line, it’s been estimated that all our new trade deals put together have repaired only one sixteenth of the damage.

No getting round it, trying even just to get back into Europe’s single market would reopen all manner of old wounds in the British body politic.

Against that, those polls suggest the punters might think it’s worth it.

And public opinion can be manipulated relatively easily. After all, bigging up the migrant criminals/crisis/swarm/invasion, has got people going.

That’s in spite of the fact that very few of us have even seen any of them.

Worth bearing in mind the old journalistic axiom: ‘News is not what happens, it’s what gets reported.’

A space to watch then.

The more so as last week’s Tory spat over Sunak’s U-turn on binning European laws showed a weakening of the Brexit fundamentalists’ power.

He promised to lose the lot, but his hapless Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch had to admit it couldn’t be done.

Statement of the obvious, really. Any regulation has to undergo parliamentary scrutiny, which takes months.

So, even though MPs had voted for it, the idea of just scrapping thousands of them at a stroke was always a non-starter.

And for all their huffing, puffing and harrumphing, the once all-powerful anti-Europe Tory faction just had to suck it up.

Looking eastwards, meanwhile, the monster in the Kremlin has also had to suck up an inconvenient truth or two.

Britain’s gifting cruise missiles to Ukraine has got him in a predictable lather, but Putin knows full well that nuking London is not an option.

After all, Moscow would get nuked too. And the fact that he rarely breaks cover, travels in armoured trains and sleeps in fortresses can only mean one thing.

He doesn’t want to die.

Nor does he want to lose his grotesque war. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that he might – and his job in the process.

Professor Grigory Yudin, who’s somehow clinging on to his job as a top Moscow-based academic, says more and more influential people think this is likely.

What’s more, he: ‘Wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian army collapses after a couple of setbacks.’

He also points to reports of low morale on the front lines and increasingly public infighting among military commanders.

Then there are the ever more vociferous complaints from the Wagner mercenary group.

Analysts are suggesting that the outfit’s money man has accused the President of being a ‘complete asshole’. Brazen, to say the least.

Putin himself, meanwhile, came out with his usual weasel words at Moscow’s notably scaled-down ceremony last week marking Russia’s victory over Hitler.

The Ukraine conflict, he claimed, was Russia’s way of defending itself against the horrid nasty west that’s got it in for his country.

And his very crossness is a parallel to Donald Trump’s response to being officially classified as a sex offender.

The court ordered him to pay four million pounds to the woman jurors concluded he’d brutally pushed against a wall and subjected to disgusting treatment.

He by contrast claimed he’d been ‘treated very badly by the Clinton-appointed judge’. And called the case: ‘A continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time.’

Though he’ll appeal, most lawyers agree he’ll probably lose.

More to the point, though, there’s the question of his appeal to Americans in the next presidential election.

Back in 2016, he famously boasted: ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.’

And, chillingly, the same could apply in regard to what he’s done to his real life victim.

When he told a public meeting E Jean Carroll was a ‘whack job’ a large section of the audience laughed. Not at but with him.

Of course he also faces multiple criminal charges, as well as countless accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards women while he was President.

Taken together these would sink any other candidate, but Trump has defied predictions before.

So might he replace Biden as so-called Leader Of The Free World? The fact that it’s even possible calls to mind a scathing observation attributed to Oscar Wilde.

‘America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between.’


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