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It Ain't Half Hot, Mum ....

And it’s not just the weather. In the smouldering atmosphere of the Tory leadership punch-up it’s frothing. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, practically all of it is perfectly meaningless.

‘The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings.’

Nonsense though Edward Lear’s poem successfully set out to be, it does reference the one salient fact behind the current hysteria.

Now that the boy who wanted to be world king has been deposed, we shall have a new Prime Minister in September.

Unfortunately, ninety-nine-point-six per cent of us have no say whatever in who this person will be.

About the only stake anyone other than that favoured few will have in it will be those punters who stand to win or lose at the bookies.

The bad news for them being, on past form Tory leadership contests only produce surprises. The only surprise this time will be if there isn’t a surprise.

Years ago the choice was down to the party’s MPs. They at least had been duly elected, so there was an element of, albeit vicarious, democracy in the air.

Now all the electorate in this unquestionably important ballot has to do is pay its dues to the party.

And the latest data shows Tory members are mostly male, not far off retirement, white and well-off.

Oh and btw, there’s only a hundred-and-seventy-five thousand of them. Adding up to just under half of one per cent of UK voters.

So yes, you read that earlier figure right. And if you think the current situation’s a bit bonkers you’re not wrong there.

Of course, in general elections people aren’t technically plumping for a Prime Minister. But there’s always a party leader in place and that does inform choices.

As of now we might just as well be at a bear-baiting. Pain-free for the audience but, for the participants, nasty. Very nasty.

Indeed, as the MP’s continue the grisly process of whittling down the list to the two to be put before the members, they are tearing chunks out of one another.

One camp’s accused a rival of ‘black ops’, another’s squealing about ‘dirty tricks, a stitch up and dark arts’, and a senior figure’s laid into one of the candidates.

Former Brexit Minister Lord Frost said of Penny Mordaunt: ‘She was my deputy. She wasn't fully accountable or visible. I had to ask the PM to move her on.’

Not a very nice thing to say about a woman who, at the time of writing, was clear favourite to become our next Prime Minister.

Then again, the man who nominally holds that post now is apparently just as ill-disposed towards the other top-rated runner, Rishi Sunak.

Nothing new in Downing Street neighbours not becoming good friends, however. Remember the TB/GBs? Tony Blair and Gordon Brown eating one another alive?

Well, nothing changes, as it seems Sunak is now despised by the man who made him chancellor.

‘The whole No 10 team hates Rishi. It’s personal,’ a chum of Boris Johnson is reported to have said.

‘It’s vitriolic. They don’t blame Saj (ex Health Secretary Sajid Javid) for bringing him down. They blame Rishi. They think he was planning this for months.’

So much for Johnson joking in the commons about not wanting to damage anyone’s chances by backing them.

He also announced, btw, he was leaving with ‘head held high’. Which got wags thinking about John the Baptist. Head also held high, but on a silver platter.

Whatevs, again at the time of writing, Rishi Sunak is most liked by the mass of Tory MP’s, but not at all liked by those who’ll make the final choice.

His Covid furlough scheme played well with the nation, as it kept millions off the breadline when hardly anyone could go out to work.

But that may not have been so much of a life-saver, in the literal sense, for those relatively well-heeled Tory members who’ll have the final say.

So the upshot could well turn out to be a rerun of the red flag foray into Corbynism. Labour MP’s didn’t want Jezza, but members did. It didn’t end well.

And the often childish blue on blue beastliness currently on display calls to mind another line written for the wee ones.

‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.’

As so many of them have the hump with one another right now, whoever emerges as victor in September will struggle to reassemble the broken bits.

Little wonder Sir Kier Starmer’s got a spring in his step these days.

Not only has Labour maintained a hefty poll lead over the Tories, Johnson was, whether you love him or hate him, a crowd-puller. Best of the bunch.

Was, however, is not is. Happy days at Labour HQ.

So much for regime change on the home front. Overseas, Vladimir Putin continues to score cheap points by slaughtering civilians, but at what price?

He’s lost so many frontline troops, Western officials put the figure in the tens of thousands, that he’s resorting to desperate measures to fill the gaps.

Because even he daren’t risk mass mobilisation, his consiglieres are casting around among older people and poorer people – and hiring convicts.

Get out of jail free? Not exactly, as they’re likely to given just a few days’ training and outdated equipment before risking their lives on the front line.

Turbulent times too in Sri Lanka, the one-time British colony of Ceylon. After years of prosperity, its economy nose-dived and the people took to the streets.

There’s little dispute that it’s bad calls on the part of the ruling dynasty, coupled with corruption, that have brought the place to its knees.

But now that the President’s fled there are fledgling hopes that maybe, just maybe, we could be looking at a coup that’s more or less bloodless.

Reassuring to know things can sometimes turn out for the best.

Certainly did a week ago for a five-year-old beagle-cross named Bonnie, and for her owners Peter and Paula Closier.

They, naturally, feared the worst when the naughty doggie did a runner from their West Sussex home, apparently never to be seen again.

As good fortune would have it, but unbeknown to them, a local guy spotted the pooch by the side of the road not long after she’d gone walkabout.

Thanks to a Facebook post asking the owners to get in touch it was panic over. But, as he was on his way to a dog show he thought he’d enter Bonnie while he’d got her.

And, when he dropped her off home, she was proudly sporting a nice new rosette.

‘You could not make it up,’ said Mr Closier. ‘Bonnie was absolutely fine when she got back. She just thought she was having a great day out.’

Definitely the right sort of dog’s life, that.

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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