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Term Starts Here?

Well, not everywhere, actually. MPs may have brushed their hair and polished their shoes for this week’s return to the green benches, but thousands of kids won’t have to bother. Because bits of their schools might start crumbling. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, this could be a metaphor for a government that’s also falling apart.

The Conservatives’ poll rating may have picked up a smidge, but there’s still widespread gloom in ministerial circles about their annual conference in Manchester next month.

Last-minute legal checks have spared their get-together being ripped apart by the literary equivalent to a drone attack.

But former minister Nadine Dorries, Dosser Dorries to her non-fans in her ex constituency, has written a book that threatens to expose the levels of hatred within the party.

And when it does come out, albeit later than intended, many top bods will once again be as much at one another’s throats as they were during the Boris Johnson defenestration trauma.

The woman’s hissy fit last week when she finally did quit, after weeks of prevarication, was a taster.

It was reminiscent of the character in the Just William books who was given to warning: ‘I’ll scream and scream and scream and scream until I’m sick.’

Nonetheless, the bucketload of bile directed at the Prime Minister in her resignation letter did more than lower the tone of political discourse. It also struck a chord with plenty in the party.

And, yet more salt in the wound, local voters’ disillusion with their former MP means there’s every chance the Tories will lose the by-election to replace her in a few weeks’ time.

If so, the overturning of a hitherto rock-solid majority of nearly twenty-five thousand will scare the pants off many Conservative MPs hoping to survive the next general election.

Something to look forward to then. Not. Meantime, ministers maintain they’re just being super-cautious about those schools that may have been built with dodgy concrete.

But announcing likely closures a matter of days before term starts? Like good joke telling – get the timing wrong, and it’s a fail.

Bit like last week when the Policing Minister Chris Philp was trying to tell broadcasters all about his plans to root out rotten apples in the force.

At that moment a mini reshuffle was under way to replace the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who’d resigned, for once uncontroversially.

Meaning who was going to fill his slot was all anyone really wanted to talk about.

As for Philp’s idea of beefing up top cops’ powers to chuck out bad boys, another snag quickly emerged.

The crimes of the real stinkers, like sexual predators Wayne Couzens and David Garrick, were ignored by their own colleagues. Meaning there was no one to grass them up anyway.

Nonetheless, the government’s planned crime week didn’t go too badly, unlike their earlier efforts at focussing attention on other priorities hailed by Rishi Sunak.

Health week, for example, went off rather half-cock due to the mopping up operation following the total failure of small boats week, when everything possible managed to go wrong.

Sunak’s promise to stop asylum seekers crossing the channel is manifestly not going to happen.

And the burgeoning bill for housing them while their claims are processed is all too obviously down the the Home Office failing to get its act together.

Then there’s the sting in the tail following the Tories’ attempt to prove Sunak’s doing his bit to cut the time patients have to wait for treatment.

It emerged a few days ago that well over half the people who died in England last year were on NHS waiting lists. That’s nearly fifty per cent more than five years ago.

Coordinated strikes by consultants and junior doctors, planned for this autumn, obviously won’t help.

Meantime, the latest walkout and overtime ban by train drivers in a dozen companies will have furthered the sense that Britain needs fixing.

Seems a fair few cameras monitoring motorists heading into Ultra Low Emissions Zones are going to need fixing too.

London’s Labour Mayor’s decision to make drivers of higher polluting cars pay for the privilege, not just in the centre of town but the burbs as well, hasn’t gone down well with the locals.

The fact that it was upcoming just as voters went to polls to choose Boris Johnson’s successor saved the Tories the humiliation of losing the seat.

So, as night follows day, they’ve latched onto it as an example of the opposition’s eco-fanaticism.

And, while they haven’t responded to vandals disabling the equipment checking traffic movement by saying ‘good on yer, mate’, they have sort of implied it.

The argument is complex and nuanced, but there are a few standout points.

One, a report by boffins at Chicago uni suggests that pollution caused mainly by car exhausts reduces average life expectancy globally by nearly two-and-a-half years.

So, it concludes, the impact is: ‘Comparable to that of smoking.’

Two, Londoners appear to be getting the message.

In spite of widespread hostility to the new ULEZ expansion, a YouGov poll shows nearly two-thirds of folk who’ve been paying the charge for years back it.

And three, it was the Tories’ idea in the first place, originally announced by, er, Boris Johnson. Something his erstwhile chums in the party are conveniently forgetting.

Seems the Conservative party is a much mutating animal. But then, it’s not alone there.

Though no one seriously believes the Loch Ness monster is a dinosaur, new evidence that some as yet unclassified species is hanging out there is compelling.

A series of photos taken by holidaymaker Chie Kelly look distinctly like some weirdly whopping serpent.

But unlike the notorious image from the 1930s, which was later exposed as a hoax, no one’s suggesting these pix are anything other than genuine.

And animals can adapt, if they choose, in most unlikely ways to most unlikely environments.

Police in the US state of Nebraska pulled over a driver because, sat next to him apparently perfectly happily, was a longhorn bull.

Turns out the creature, named Howdy Doody, is his pet, and enjoys a ride in his considerably modified motor.

No such alterations were needed, however, for another unusually positioned passenger, in a car on the M62 that was stopped by the North West motorway police.

They were concerned that an African grey parrot shouldn’t really be travelling on the driver’s shoulder instead of in some sort of cage.

Looks like the Old Bill did see the funny side, however, as they tweeted: ‘Not sure whether to use the term driver or pirate for this post.’

But the sweetest unlikely association of the week must surely be the little baby squirrel that somehow lost his mum and snuggled up instead under … a chicken.

Not that that gave the mother hen any problems, but Scottish animal welfare folk did eventually take him under their wing, so to speak, keeping him till he’s old enough to look after himself.

‘This was a very unusual rescue,’ they conceded. ‘But also a very cute one.’

And they’re not wrong there.


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