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Springtime … For Trumpster ?


An ex POTUS banged to rights, in handcuffs? An English King addressing the German parliament, in German? A British government reprising Charles Dickens, with prison ships? All definitely historic, though as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, some of it is already history.

The theme uniting these three developments is the age-old conflict between reasonable policymaking and right-wing populism.

Donald Trump knows all there is to be known about the latter. And still retains a huge fan base.

Diehards will stick by him even if the charges stick. But it’s a triumph for American lawyers to get him in the dock at all, in spite of a likely lack of customary cuffs.

They haven’t managed it with the other thirteen civil suits and twenty-two criminal cases he’s up against. So far, at least.

In time, maybe, he’ll tweet: ‘When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions’. Or maybe not. He doesn’t come across as big on The Bard.

But the grubby little matter of hush money paid to the colourful actress Stormy Daniels is a detail next to some of the other things he’s accused of doing.

And it could still spell the downfall of The Donald. Worth remembering that Al Capone came a cropper, not over multiple murders but a tax rap.

Emphatically not drawing too close a parallel here, the immeasurably viler sins of another shouty populist who mesmerised his people are also in the spotlight.

King Charles’s address to the Bundestag fearlessly explored the bad as well as the good in the history of Anglo-German relations.

And his message of post-war reconciliation was as well received as it was delivered.

But the subtext, that, in spite of Brexit, Britain is still very much part of Europe, was unmistakeable.

Little things can linger. Images can leave imprints.

Labour leader Neil Kinnock falling into the sea then losing an election, for example. Or later Labour leader Ed Miliband struggling to eat a bacon sarnie.

Even poor old Tory Prime Minister John Major, when word got out that he’d tuck his shirt in his underpants.

Number Ten’s present incumbent would like to hope that Britain’s finally getting on board the Asia-Pacific trade bloc will also resonate. But in a good way.

After nearly two years’ negotiation, the deal will give UK exporters access to markets shared by five hundred million people, including in Japan and Oz.

It’s a biggie, that will help offset damage to the British economy caused by leaving the European Union.

Only help, mind. Economists still say we’d have been better off financially by staying in. And it seems that message has already hit home in British minds.

A survey by King’s College London has revealed that confidence in our parliament has plummeted since Brexit, while the EU’s rating has shot up.

In addition, only a quarter of those asked were happy with us leaving, while a half were unhappy.

While that’s pretty clear, YouGov’s latest polling muddies the picture. Labour is still miles ahead, but nearly one in five of us have yet to make up our minds.

Feed into that mix next month’s town hall elections, and it’s little wonder both sides are blathering on about how brilliant they are.

Local issues, like potholes and poos, do figure heavily in local contests. Clue’s in the name. But they’re also a litmus test of national parties’ popularity.

Naturally, Sir Keir Starmer is praying they’ll prove the Tories are toast. Equally, Rishi Sunak’s been bigging up things he thinks may be pressing voters’ buttons.

And, given that there are no fewer than forty-five parliamentary seats in the so-called ‘red wall’ of uncommitted voters, the debate’s become a bit skewed.

The demographic of these folk, in traditional Labour areas who turned Tory at the last election, is something both party leaders are bearing in mind.

Might sound a bit sweeping, but they tend to be pro Brexit and anti immigration, and their vote could play its part in swinging the next general election.

Which might explain why, in spite of all evidence of buyers’ remorse, Britain’s exit from the EU is the issue that dare not speak its name.

Starmer’s being especially cautious now that the Scottish National Party is under new, and by all accounts rather shaky, management.

Chunks of the one-time Labour heartlands north of the border, pretty much wiped out by ex SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, could yet return to the fold.

All the more reason then for Sunak to suck up to ex-Labour waverers south of the border, in the Red Wall.

Cue the harsh words about the migrant crisis/invasion, and the harsh measures aimed at seeing off the small boats ‘swarms’.

Discussion coincided with the telly adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations, which highlighted the brutalities of the Victorian penal system.

And the image of the nasty prison ship elided in many people’s minds with the wacko wheeze of shutting up asylum seekers in a giant barge.

One of the many reasons why that’s been scuttled is that prohibitive mooring costs would make the bill even higher than hiring hotel rooms.

But as it’s emerged that a third of Britain’s entire overseas aid budget was sucked up in housing incomers here, it’s worth looking at why there’s such a backlog.

Also worth bearing in mind that of those who risk their lives to get here three quarters are allowed to stay. Likewise nearly half of those go on to appeal.

The problem, and the soaring cost to the British taxpayer, stems from the fact that the yay or nay decision often takes years.

According to the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, this is basically down to a lack of specialist staff, inadequate training and low morale.

In short, it’s the Home Office’s bad.

Sixteen years ago the then Home Secretary John Reid described the place as ‘not fit for purpose’. And, as the French would say: ‘Autre jour, même merde.’

Little wonder the current boss, Suella Braverman, is seeking to swerve the problem by simply locking up all the little boat people, then chucking them out.

For sure it might seem an immediate solution, but many lawyers, voters and Tory MPs and peers question the optics as well as the legality of the measure.

Some of them are also doubting Rishi Sunak’s judgement in even giving the idea house room.

And those who think it’s short sighted of him might draw to his attention the case of Tom Arnold, from Perranporth in Cornwall.

Thinking he’d ordered ten or twelve pairs of reading glasses, he was surprised when sixty of them turned up.

Asked if he was wearing his glasses when he placed the order, he said: ‘I thought I did, but trying to remember back, I might not have had them on.’

His son was so tickled that he posted an image of dad with all the stacks of boxes on Twitter, and it went viral. Responses poured in, even this from Specsavers:

‘Do we even need to say it?’


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