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Mad, bad and dangerous to know ....




Too many like that around these days. From Westminster to the Kremlin. All of them men, btw. Judgement Day should by rights be nigh. But as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, best not hold your breath.


Breathtaking, however, is the only word to use about the (male) MP apparently watching porn in the House of Commons chamber.


You rub your eyes in disbelief. Surely no one would be that stupid? As well as that gross.


But Tiverton and Honiton’s Tory MP Neil Parish did just that. ‘A moment of madness’ (his words). You could put it like that.


Ok, he’s now thrown in the towel, but the story’s lifted the lid on an ugly and all too pervasive culture of misogyny at the heart of British democracy.


‘Mother’ of Parliaments? Dirty old sod of a dad, more like.


One of the sadder aspects of the scandal is that the two female MP’s who saw what was happening didn’t immediately complain.


The reason being they feared a backlash from (er, male) colleagues.


But stand by now for loads more hashtag-me-too revelations. The International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan for starters.


Tasked with telling broadcasters the government’s ever so cross about it all, she admitted she herself had once been ‘pinned against a wall’ by a former MP.


And Attorney General Suella Braverman accused some of her male colleagues of behaving like ‘animals’.


On top of that, Tory MP Caroline Nokes told a journalist that the Commons: ‘Is like a boy’s prep school – the inmates haven’t quite got to thirteen.’


She added that ‘horrible things’ had happened to her, including ‘touching, staring, bullying, trashing my reputation’.


Not that this should come as any great surprise. Just think of the nature of Prime Minister’s questions. All that shouting and horridness.


Testosterone with knobs on, pardon the language.


For all his putative warmongering credentials, Tony Blair freely admitted he was sometimes physically sick before facing the baying.


Not like the current big willy (oops, pardon language again) hasn’t got a proliferation of problems on his plate too.


Word is the long-awaited report from senior civil servant Sue Gray into how many times he broke his own lockdown laws might just do for Boris Johnson.


One senior official who’s seen the document told The Times: ‘Sue’s report is excoriating. It will make things incredibly difficult for the prime minister.’


The ‘damning’ report, the informant added, ‘could be enough to end him’.


Quite a party, then. Could be very bad too for the Tory party. This week’s town hall elections might show how badly partygate’s played with the punters.


Top number crunchers tell us if the Tories lose more than three-hundred-and-fifty seats they should: ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’ – to quote the scary movie line.


Conversely, if Labour gains a couple of hundred they’ll be sighing in satisfaction that the pollster YouGov is right about a surge in vote-switching numbers.


Meantime, both sides are talking down expectations, so they can present any gains anywhere as a triumph. It’s how it’s done, or should be.


Not that Vladimir Putin shows any sign of learning that lesson.


So confident was he that he’d take the Ukrainian capital and zap Zelensky in a matter of hours that he’s now looking pretty silly.


His nation’s forthcoming Victory Day commemoration of the Nazi surrender in 1945 will be a tricky one to call this year.


Of course he’s no stranger to misogynistic nastiness, witness the occasion when he unleashed his Labrador on then German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Everyone knew she was frightened of dogs, so it was no surprise to Putin that she froze in terror. Sat with his legs wide apart, he savoured the moment.


He can’t, however, have been savouring the way his so-called ‘special military operation’ has been going over the last couple of months.


Of course, force majeure, his ruffians can at will shell, murder, rape and torture innocent civilians. But that’s not the same as crushing the country.


In reality, Putin has little to show for his bedraggled and ill-disciplined army’s efforts, beyond wholesale destruction and a looming war of attrition.


But for once his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the truth last week, when he announced NATO is now ‘in essence’ engaged in a proxy war against Russia.


Though he omitted to mention who started it, he’ll have noted grimly the setting up in Germany of the forty-plus-nation Ukraine Contact Group.


It’ll meet regularly to sort supplies for President Zelensky of military hardware, in a deliberate strategy to weaken the Russians.


Leading the charge is President Biden, who’s asking Congress for a massive boost to US funding of Ukraine’s war effort.


The twenty-seven-billion-pound package more than doubles what he’s stumped up so far. It’s also more than the entire military budgets of many countries.


In a glorious piece of understatement, Biden admitted it was, ahem, ‘not cheap’.


‘But,’ he added, ‘caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.’


The gloves aren’t quite off – Russia does after all have the biggest stockpile of nukes in the world – but the knuckledusters are starting to show through.


Britain is steadily stepping up weapons supplies to the Ukrainians, while both Poland and now Germany are sending them tanks.


At the same time, in a signal to Moscow on the lines of ‘up with this we’ll not put’, around eight thousand British soldiers are being sent to eastern Europe.


It’s one of the biggest deployments since the Cold War, and will bolster a NATO force already running into tens of thousands.


Miserable tales abound of human suffering in Ukraine, and the pretty miserable performance of the Home Office in getting civilians resettled in Britain.


Also, images abound of ravaged cities and wrecked homes. It’s the job of the media to show them. But, inevitably, that creates a slightly distorted picture.


One story less visited is how ordinary folk who aren’t necessarily in the besieged country’s firing line are coping with everyday life.


One such is a man called Maksym, who lives with his wife in a village just outside the capital Kyiv, and who sells household items internationally on eBay.


Partly out of solidarity, a customer (this correspondent, as it happens) placed an order with him, not having any idea if it would ever actually be delivered.


Within hours a message came back, which is worth quoting pretty much in full.


‘Hello Peter! I don’t know how long your order will take to get to you. Before the war it took up to fourteen days, now it is delivered first overland to Poland.


‘The war probably came to my village first of all. I personally saw on the first day a helicopter attack on the airport .. then in even greater numbers.


‘I can also tell you a lot of things – that they shoot teachers for being teachers of history or the Ukrainian language.


‘That they wanted to take my own aunt at gunpoint to Hostomel airport for a “live count”. That dogs were shot in front of the children.


‘We will never be brotherly nations with them.


‘But for Ukraine and Ukrainians, this is a real chance to finally live with great bloodshed no worse than the Poles or Czechs.


‘I’m thirty-seven, and really hope to see normal life.’


Indeed, this human story does end on a note that’s both stoical and heartfelt. Maksym wrote:


‘Thank you very much to UK and all people for the help.


‘I was four times in England, and if I stay alive, and Mr. Johnson will give a visa, I will go to your country again.’


We can but pray his wishes all come true.


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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