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The Bad And The Ugly

Alongside unspeakable horrors unfolding in the Middle East, the tussles taking place at Westminster pale into a kind of placid insignificance. For the moment. That will change of course. Meantime, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the mutual slaughter takes precedence.

The horrific images that have already surfaced are, tragically, just for starters.

Nothing can excuse the savagery meted out by the blood-soaked Hamas organisation, ostensibly on behalf of the oppressed Palestinian people.

And the terrible vengeance the right-wing Israeli government is exacting is, likewise, shocking to behold.

In both cases the victims are the ordinary, moderate-minded people who just want to get on with their lives.

Besides being scared witless, many of these folk are angry with those calling the shots, literally, alas, in their respective names.

The hardline approach adopted in domestic matters by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led to mass protests at home.

Very likely the extremist ideology propounded by Hamas isn’t playing well with ordinary Palestinians either.

For nearly a decade there’s been no effective way of gauging public support for the way it’s supposed to have been running the Gaza Strip.

Worth noting in passing, however, that Netanyahu’s approach has been to reduce the horribly overcrowded place to a glorified open prison.

Also, international attention has shifted away from the region’s problems, and ignored increasingly intrusive Jewish settlements in the scant land available.

Fertile ground then for simmering hatreds to explode into violence, on both sides. Not only on the ground but in other countries, including here at home.

Which is why the British government says it’s putting up an extra three million pounds to ramp up the number of guards at Jewish schools.

This comes after reports emerged of the number of cases of antisemitism leaping up threefold during last week.

Rishi Sunak is also adding his voice to the worldwide clamour for an end to the killing, and for renewed efforts at finding some kind of peaceful solution.

Given that the trouble started nearly a century and a half ago, when Jewish immigration to the area began, best not expect anything any time soon.

However, the northern European defence cooperation bash that Sunak was at on Friday did seem sidelined by the Middle East crisis.

Only momentarily, mind. Not as if the Ukraine war has magically ended because another one’s started.

Besides which, if, as seems all too likely, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict widens to take in other players in the region, Putin’s bound to poke his nose in.

And, true to form, he can be relied upon to throw his weight behind whoever turns out to be the really bad guys.

Back at the Labour conference last week, meanwhile, it was interesting to see no evidence of anyone throwing their weight behind the antisemitism cause.

Nor, for that matter, were there any yowls of anger about policy direction from the vestigial caucus on the left wing.

Confirmation, if any’s needed, that Sir Keir Starmer really has cleared out the Augean stables, remoulding the party in his own, centrist, image.

A long, hard slog, that. And not one that’s made many headlines. Which goes some way to explaining why so many people still don’t know what he stands for.

Rather more do now than did before the conference, however. Well, well over a quarter, anyway. Up six points, according to YouGov, on the week before.

Every bit as importantly, there’s no disputing that those in the driving seat like what they’ve been hearing from Labour lately.

More top bosses paid court to the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves than could be bothered to talk to Jeremy Hunt, the man currently in Number Eleven.

Little wonder, as former Bank of England governor Andrew Carney endorsed her as: ‘A serious economist … who understands the big picture.’

Also true to say that her pitch was a straight land-grab from territory occupied by the Tories just a few years back.

Her promises to get the country growing again and make Britons better off came alongside a solemn undertaking to keep an ‘iron grip’ on the public purse.

Rishi Sunak’s done his best to repair the Tories’ reputational damage inflicted when Liz Truss came close to tearing the nation’s finances to shreds.

But he’s still got a mountain to climb. YouGov, who’ve been busy bees lately, found his approval rating is now at its lowest ebb since he became PM.

Nor is he hitting the spot for Anna Soubry, the former Conservative Business Minister, who’s announced she’s voting, er, Labour at the election.

That’s because, in her words, they have the: ‘Values and competence to deliver the change our country desperately needs.’

Some say news that convicted rapists and burglars may be spared jail for a while because prisons are full is a metaphor for an incompetent government.

The Lord Chancellor’s due to make a statement to the commons about it this week.

Doubtless he’ll repeat the assertion that the rollout of new prison places is the fastest in a hundred years.

But so what? It all too obviously hasn’t been fast enough during the last thirteen years of Tory rule.

What with that, and Labour’s lead remaining steadfastly around twenty points, it’s little wonder Tories are jostling to replace Sunak after the election’s lost.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman – Cruella to her enemies – is manifestly on manoeuvres from the right.

And from the left, maybe, just maybe, the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is dipping his toe in the water.

Not that he’d ever admit it, obvs, but his call for what he’s termed a ‘muscular state’ to help people in need does sound like a rallying call.

How far and how fast the Tories’ fragmentation is likely to go may in part be determined by the two by-elections coming up this week.

Both are in previously rock-solid Conservative seats. But both were triggered by the outgoing MPs getting clamped on the naughty seat.

Nadine Dorries is widely dubbed ‘Dosser Dorries’ for neglecting her punters for months.

And Chris Pincher was ousted for paying far too much attention to chaps in the Carlton Club. Definitely a naughty naughty moment, in his case.

Unsettled times ahead then for all, both at home, and, viscerally, abroad.

Also, unsettled weather as the seasons change and Halloween looms. A very pagan festival, incidentally, going back to the ancient Celts.

It was thought that this was when the souls of the dead headed back home, so people dressed in costumes and lit bonfires to ward off spirits.

The Irish took it a stage further, coming up with a myth about a guy called Stingy Jack, who annoyed the Devil so much he wasn’t even allowed into hell.

To keep him at bay they carved scary Jack-o-Lantern faces in turnips. Then, when lots of them moved to the US, they switched to locally grown pumpkins.

So, mummies and daddies, now you know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Oh, and one other thing. If you’re wondering why this years pumpkins are bigger than usual it’s because it rained so much in the washout summer.

In spite of everything then, it seems every cloud really does have a silver lining. Somewhere.


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