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Sun Setting on Someone !

It hasn’t been a particularly good week either for the Prime Minister, or the Labour leader. Not that either of them would care to admit it. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the facts speak for themselves.

Arguably an inauspicious way to begin a column of this kind, but in truth no one’s really doing very much. An awful lot of talking, but not a lot else.

The mutual mud-slinging says it all. Kier Starmer’s been calling Rishi Sunak ‘inaction man’, and the Commons Leader’s likened Starmer to Barbie’s Ken, a man with ‘zero balls’.

Rude? I should cocoa.

But in truth Parliament has been effectively becalmed for months. And the King’s Speech in November is unlikely to herald much meaty new legislation. For two reasons.

One, we as a nation are pretty much skint, which self-evidently precludes the government from splashing the cash where it’s needed.

And two, Sunak’s room for manoeuvre is severely diminished by his own party, that even he would privately concede is an unruly rabble.

At the same time Sir Kier Starmer’s stammering out maybe solutions that won’t cost much more than a brass farthing, to try and create the impression he really is a PM in waiting.

His big idea of the week has been a whole new approach to what journalists lazily refer to as the migrant ‘crisis’.

Worth remembering that words mean things. And that while most of us have never even seen a migrant, a record-breaking near eight million English people are on NHS waiting lists.

Looks like a crisis, swims like one, quacks like one … etc etc?

Any road up, Starmer promised to ditch barges, hotels and military sites to house asylum seekers. By signing up a thousand caseworkers to sort the backlog.

That would be a net saving, as the huge cost of housing migrants is down to the Home Office’s abject failure to recruit enough people to process their claims.

But, intriguingly, Starmer also floated the notion of working with the European Union to limit the numbers who risk the perilous Channel crossing.

Bear in mind here that while he insists there’s no question of trying to reverse Brexit or even go for tighter trade ties with the EU, he was Labour’s Mr Remain before the referendum.

He wouldn’t be human if losing that case didn’t rankle. And there’s a squinty suggestion that he’s maybe, just maybe, floating the idea of giving it another go.

After all, opinion polls now clearly point to wholesale buyers’ remorse over that decision, and the terms sold to them by one Boris Johnson, now disgraced as a born-again Pinocchio.

With the general election expected within a year, neither Starmer nor Sunak wants to risk alienating voters in the forty-five Brexit-enthusiastic so-called Red Wall constituencies.

Against that, Labour lost forty seats north of the border to the nationalists back in 2015. And, given that the Scots voted almost two-to-one for Remain, they might favour closer links.

But, and from the tartan tribe it’s a butt-out but, the latest YouGov survey suggests SNP support has suddenly shot up – to an eleven-point lead over Labour.

And the other big butt-out for Starmer comes from the European Union itself, as diplomats in Brussels have rather undiplomatically labelled his plan ‘delusional’.

Not that Sunak’s having much better luck. YouGov has just given him his poorest rating since he got to Number Ten. Lower even than Johnson’s when he got the push.

And a poll by the strategy consultancy WPI found half of voters wouldn’t under any circumstances even consider voting for the Tories – because they’re too right wing.

Still, official figures show that average wage growth has finally outstripped inflation. And, as halving that latter figure was a key Sunak priority, that should be bit of good news.

Except that it sort of isn’t. Because it immediately raises the question of whether benefits should rise to keep pace. Oh, and grey vote alert, the state pension.

Thus far both main parties have insisted the so-called ‘triple lock’ on what they receive is sacrosanct. Not at all slippy-slidey.

As of now, pensioners can expect two-and-a-half per cent more each year, a rise equivalent to Consumer Price Index inflation, or average pay – whichever is the highest.

Obviously, with wages whipping up by around eight per cent, there’s a hefty rise in prospect for the oldies. But will it last?

‘The overarching point about the triple lock is that we remain committed to it,’ Pensions Secretary Mel Stride blithely insisted last week.

But then in the same interview he conceded that, because of spiralling costs, it was ‘not sustainable’ in the long term.

Hmmm. Now cop Labour’s line.

‘The fundamental principle that we are on the side of pensioners remains,’ trilled the Shadow Culture Secretary Thangam Debbonaire.

However, she added: ‘But we have got to try and find a way of balancing the economy for everyone.’

Meaning, she admitted, while she wished she could give a ‘definitive answer’ on the triple lock, it would be ‘irresponsible’ to commit to it.

Pulling teeth? And the rest.

Given the bind they’re both in, they can think themselves lucky that former tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson’s big idea is unlikely to catch on, or even work, in the long run.

Having set his face against, well, dying, ever, he’s opted for a lifestyle that he does admit would strike most people as weird.

Getting up each morning at four-thirty, he eats all his meals before noon and goes to bed, alone, ridiculously early too.

And during his shall we say frugal waking hours he necks more than a hundred pills, bathes his body in LED light and sits on a high-intensity electromagnetic thingamajig.

This, he maintains, will strengthen his pelvic floor. If you wanna live for ever, every little helps. In his view.

Retired librarian Marsi Parker Darwin from Chelsea in Michigan, meanwhile has a different, and perhaps more realistic, take on longevity.

When an egg in her chicken nest turned cold she naturally assumed that was it for the creature inside.

But just as she was about to give it to the turtles to eat, she got a lovely surprise.

It started chirping.

Gently breaking open the shell she found a baby chick, fully formed in every respect bar the special tooth these creatures have to let themselves out of their crunchy first homes.

As the mummy chicken did not acknowledge the little one she took on the job herself, even having to teach her fluffy little protégé how to drink.

Most chickens head for the great coop in the sky within ten years max. Dear pet Peanut, for that is her name, has now turned twenty-one, at least a hundred, in birdie years.

As one of the oldest chickens ever, her age officially certified by Guinness World Records, she lives in Marsi’s house, largely on a delightful diet of yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables.

And, to the inevitable question about the secret of Peanut’s long life, Marsi’s answer is simple: ‘I just think, of course it’s corny, but it’s love.’

Not corny at all. Rather sweet, actually.


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