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The King Is Dead … Long Live The King?

Except that the transfer of power from Boris Johnson to, a racing certainty, Liz Truss, has been about as smooth as the Himalayas. And the plain the other side looks to be pretty much as bumpy. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, her honeymoon’s set to be skin-deep and short-lived.

Or, to quote the rather pessimistic seventeenth century thinker Thomas Hobbes, it’ll be ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

With the Westminster media mob frothing at the mouth about who’s in and who’s out for the time being, what really matters won’t emerge just yet.

As the leadership contest dawdled on, commentators just about held back from saying what they were really thinking.

That, in Macbeth’s words, it’s: ‘Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

The only real takeaway was that Truss has, if anything, sharpened her message that she’s a tax cuts not giveaways kinda gal.

But what’s played so well with the tiny sliver of the population that’s made the choice is now heading pell-mell into two elephant traps.

One, the priorities of the Conservative party’s well heeled and well right of centre membership don’t coalesce with those of the wider electorate.

And two, that the forbidding economic outlook is racing towards a multiple pile-up with the slogans that have tilted Truss towards Number Ten.

Which is why what exactly she plans to do about the calamitously rocketing energy bills coming our way is going to take longer to become clear.

Top of her overflowing in tray will be the Treasury’s dossier of hard facts. One of which is the energy companies’ projected monumental profits.

Former Justice Minister David Gauke has suggested she’ll find it borderline impossible to resist a windfall tax.

And if wholesale destitution’s to be staved off that nice little earner would come in jolly handy.

But it comes up against Truss’s endlessly repeated ‘no new taxes’ mantra.

Worth noting that one-time US presidential candidate George Bush Senior tried a similar ‘read my lips’ routine back in 1988.

Of course he did end up biting his lip, raising taxes and losing the presidency. Just saying.

Truss’s rival, Rishi Sunak, who’s vowed not to serve in her cabinet, will be watching how this plays out with ill-suppressed schadenfreude.

Her predecessor, Boris Johnson, has narrowed her options still further by shaving off loads of spare cash for the Sizewell nuclear power plant.

And the Labour leader has reason to gloat at a new poll suggesting punters think he’d make a better Prime Minister than either Tory contender.

So much, he may be thinking, for Johnson’s writing him off as ‘Captain Crasheroony Snoozefest’ and the ‘pointless human bollard’.

Certainly, there’s an underlying sense that ordinary folk, afraid, very afraid of what’s coming their way, are minded to fight back.

Case in point, what could be an echo of the so-called ‘can’t pay won’t pay’ revolt against the poll tax, that finally did for Margaret Thatcher.

A survey by the pollster Opinium suggests that getting on for two million households will stop paying their energy bills when prices rise next month.

If anything like as many carry out that threat, suppliers will go to the wall. And ministers will go into meltdown.

Not that it’s all their fault, as so much of the blame goes to what’s fast turning into a retread of the entity Ronald Reagan once dubbed the ‘evil empire’.

The one-time actor turned POTUS changed his tune when recently deceased President Gorbachev got in, turned a smiling face towards the West and started freeing his people.

Though he’s credited with staving off World War Three by not preventing the Berlin Wall from crumbling, he also oversaw the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin can’t forgive him for that. Which is why he can’t even bring himself to go to the poor man’s funeral.

Unlikely he’ll pay his final respects either to the chairman of the Russian oil giant Lukoil, one of the only companies to criticise the invasion of Ukraine.

This guy fell to his death from a sixth-floor window. Odd that. Likewise several other Russian businessmen going the same way lately.

Meanwhile, as Putin and his consiglieres continue cutting their jackbooted swathe through chunks of Ukraine, the defenders are making headway.

Their strategy to retake territory includes taking a leaf out of Winnie’s book in World War Two.

He had dummy landing craft stationed in south-eastern England to confuse the Germans about where the D-Day landings would take place.

And the Ukrainians are reportedly using dummy US rocket systems to get the Russians to waste their expensive long-range missiles on them.

Neat, huh?

Not that it solves the problem of Putin driving Britain into recession by starving us of energy supplies.

Johnson’s last-minute legacy-building stab at switching to nuclear power does make sense in the medium to long term. But is no help right now.

Anyway, he’s a bit busy right now trying to help himself. From humiliation, courtesy the MPs looking into lockdown-busting jollies in Downing Street.

It’s obvious to practically everyone he misled parliament by insisting there was nothing to see here.

The question is, however, did he know this wasn’t true or had he simply been misinformed?

The investigating committee says it makes no odds, but a top lawyer insists you really can’t bang a minister to rights for making an innocent mistake.

If that turns out to be the verdict anyway then Johnson could be forced to face a by-election in his own constituency, and could even lose it.

Which certainly wouldn’t help him stage the comeback that he’s hinted he’d like, and many Conservative members long for.

But the old stranger to the truth thing seems determined to dog him to the bitter end.

His farewell tour of the country last week included a segment meant to celebrate how well he’d done in fighting crime.

Never shy of a golden photo opportunity, he barged in, in a protective vest, on a rapper recovering from a long weekend at Notting Hill carnival.

It was six in the morning, and the police were doing lots of shouting, as they do on drugs raids.

The newly awoken man in his bed was understandably confused.

‘How the f**k did I get raided and Boris Johnson is here?’ he inquired, reasonably enough.

‘Wagwan Boris?’ he continued, in a fine fusion of Anglo-Saxon and Jamaican slang. Put politely, it means ‘what’s going on?’ Put another way, WTF?

The point of this story is that Johnson later claimed the Old Bill had ‘arrested a drug dealer’.

The rapper by contrast insisted he wasn’t the target. And, perhaps even more pertinently, the police confirmed they’d made no arrests.

Oh well, Johnson’s the once and very likely future journalist. And there’s a old saying in the business which is only half not serious.

‘Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.’

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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