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So What's New?

Nothing, really, judging by the latest pitch from Sir Keir Starmer. The only odd bit being that the Labour leader’s plan is such an eerie echo of words uttered by a former Conservative Prime Minister. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, it seems what goes around really does come around.

Around the time John Major took over as Tory leader he junked Margaret Thatcher’s devil-take-the-hindmost credo by announcing he wanted a nation ‘at ease with itself’.

What he meant by that, he explained, was that everybody should have the same life chances wherever they came from.

By implication therefore, whatever their social circumstances. Having himself been brought up in humble circumstances, he knew exactly how hard that could be.

Now scroll forward three decades or so to the here and now, and reflect on Starmer’s resurrection of the weird word ‘oracy’.

Might sound like some form of dental treatment, but is actually a polite way of saying learning to talk proper.

He may come across as a bit posh, knight of the realm, top lawyer and our likely next Prime Minister, but his dad was a toolmaker who pulled himself up by his bootstraps.

And what he wants now is to get rid of not so much the glass as what he termed the ‘class’ ceiling.

‘Our core purpose and my personal cause is to fight,’ he announced, ‘the pernicious idea that background equals destiny.’

Swings and roundabouts here. A snap poll for the Times put support for the idea on a staggering ninety-eight per cent.

Against that, while teaching unions also gave it the thumbs up they questioned how he could make it happen without loads more money pumped into the system.

But here again the parallels are striking. John Major’s mission to give everyone a break was up against severe economic headwinds.

As things pick up, he insisted: ‘It will be easier to make some of the policy changes that are necessary.’

Not that he’s overly impressed with the fist his successor Tory leaders are making of that.

In a speech eight years ago he hit out at what he termed the ‘shocking’ impact of inequality, and demanded more action to tackle the gap between rich and poor.

Starmer would dearly love to put that right if he manages to make it to Number Ten.

But at this stage the details of exactly what he’d do are deliberately vague, as he can’t foresee how much money there will, or more likely won’t be, in the kitty.

Rishi Sunak, as former Chancellor, knows all too well how much he hasn’t got to play with right now.

However, as Prime Minister, he had to make some kind of pledges. And is now stuck with watching nearly all of them coming unstuck.

Forget the stop-the-boats catnip scooped out to appease his party’s hardliners, the bits that matter to all are inflation not halving and NHS waiting lists not getting shorter.

On that latter point, the health service celebrated – to use the term loosely – its seventy-fifth birthday last week.

Behind all the talk about structural changes needed, there are hard facts that tell us all we need to know.

David Cameron’s coalition government binned the Blair/Brown big budget boost, slashing NHS spending increases from nearly seven per cent to just over one.

The upshot being that Britain stumps up far less per head than most other countries in the European Union.

Little wonder then that so many people are dying waiting for ambulances, and waiting times for treatment have almost tripled in the last three years.

Little wonder, perhaps, likewise, that the Labour opposition continues to enjoy poll leads in the mid to upper twenties.

What’s that about what goes around comes around?

Feed into that mix another birthday last week. The first anniversary of Johnson jacking it in as Prime Minister.

Though it was obvious to all he’d told parliament porkies about parties at his place when everyone was supposed to be on best behaviour, the last straw was something else.

It was his old chum Chris Pincher who finally did for him.

It wasn’t that the man got off his face and on the case of a couple of chaps at a London club, more that he’d got promoted even though the PM knew it wasn’t a first offence.

And, when this finally came out, Johnson’s Julius Caesar/Ides of March moment swiftly followed. He was toast.

Same applied in short order to Liz ‘Economy-Tanking’ Truss, leaving Sunak to pick up the pieces. In the form, in a week or so, of three by-elections.

There’ll be a fourth when Bozza bestie Nadine Dorries finally comes good on her promise to shove off as well.

And, now that a Commons watchdog has thrown the book at Pincher, there’ll almost certainly be a fifth in the not too distant future.

Though views vary on what, if anything, currently constitutes a safe Conservative seat, it is safe to assume the government will get a good kicking in all of them.

Hardly fair to call Sunak a dead man walking. He’s a hugely talented guy with a golden future outside politics.

But in it? It has been noted of late that he’s not exactly at his most chipper.

His appearance last week before the high-powered Liaison Committee of leading MPs was something that in normal times would generate plenty of coverage.

Insights into the government’s thinking about this that or the other. Clues about policy projections. Juicy little nuggets prised out. That sort of thing.

OK, politics can produce a yawning gap between expectation and outcome. Only, in this case, according to a weary New Statesman hack, there was no gap, just yawning:

‘Sunak’s time in front of the Liaison Committee was unenlightening. Understandably you might say, and like everyone else in Westminster, the Prime Minister looked tired.

‘But he also seemed lackadaisical, frustrated and glazed.’

Of course he may just be keeping his powder dry for the big push, that’ll get voters jilting Starmer as a complete prole and hitching up instead with the Tories.

Stranger things have happened.

In Mexico, for a example, a mayor has married an animal that looks like an alligator, in a traditional ceremony that’s supposed to bring good luck to his people.

Good luck with that, you might say, even though the reptile was deliciously decked out in green skirt, pretty embroidered tunic and lovely ribbon and sequin headdress.

Definitely a snappy dresser. Though, as a precaution, presumably, against any sort of snapping, the dear little creature did have her snout bound up.

Not that a lady in West Hollywood had any fear of marital mishaps at, or after, her nuptials last year.

Kitten Kay Sera, known as ‘the pinkest person in the world’, organised a special ceremony in which, apparently, she ‘married’ the colour in question.

So there you go. In this crazy world anything’s possible. Maybe even a Tory landslide next year. Or maybe not.


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