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The New Normal?

Cold war, maybe hot. Definitely hotter planet. Just as Vladimir Putin drags us back to the bad old days of military menace, we’re all having to get used to ever more frequent and nastier weather events. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s worries about hanging on to his job are feeling like his problem just now, not ours.

As they say in Cornwall, ’tis ’ellish blowy round thee parts. And, as the post-Eunice clear-up continues, everyone would agree.

Death, injuries, masses of damage. Hugely expensive.

The cost is also being counted, on a less local level, of the new Russian trick of substituting stick for carrot. Notably in Ukraine.

Back to the bad old days? To adapt the lovely Bob Hope/Shirley Ross song title – Tanks for the Memory.

The trick of covert operations followed by the transparently bogus claim ‘you started it, not me’ is a well-worn ploy.

And it dovetails with the massive build-up of troops, tanks and field hospitals alongside scornful denials there’s anything dodgy going on.

No one can decide whether Putin’s a czar dressed up as a thug or a thug dressed up as a czar.

But he’s certainly got western leaders beating a path to his door. And to his ridiculously long table.

Reminiscent, that little wheeze, of Donald Trump’s way of shuffling things round his desk to form a defensive/offensive barrier.

Talking of the old Combover King, briefly, his long-time cash advisers cut him loose last week.

So-called ‘statements of financial condition’ are under the microscope of two legal investigations into Trump’s affairs.

And the accountants who put them together for him are now saying they can no longer be relied upon.

Oops? Worth remembering it wasn’t multiple murders but a tax rap that finally did for Al Capone. A space to watch, then.

But, back to the Russian bear with the sore head, Putin seems hellbent on widening his sphere of influence and narrowing NATO’s.

In return, leaders of the Free World are promising to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, while getting their own people out ASAP.

Er, solidarity? Discuss.

A key Kremlin objective, to keep Ukraine out of the western security alliance for all time, is being bandied back and forth.

But the threat of hitting the Russians back, in the pocket, is not as potent as it once was.

They’ve been stashing cash away for years. A Cameron-style tactic of fixing the roof while the sun shines?

No question they’ve had ample opportunity.

Not for nothing is our own capital nicknamed ‘Londongrad’, as ever-so-rich Russians have sunk their plunder in The City.

This week in Westminster, finally, MP’s will vote to take away their fast-track route to laundering money and buying citizenship here.

But the ever louder grumbles on this subject feel reminiscent of those French politicians squabbling amongst themselves in 1940.

‘Who’s idea was the Maginot line, anyway?’ Bit late, worrying about that when the Nazis had already stormed into Paris.

Not that dodgy dosh only gets imported from Russia, as our poor much-maligned sovereign will testify.

Rather a lot of money is set to exit this country now that her son Andrew has settled Virginia Giuffre’s case against him out of court.

He’s not admitting he sexually assaulted her three times when she was seventeen, mind. But he will fork out millions in compensation.

And, something else to tarnish the queen’s platinum jubilee, the heir to the throne’s charity is now the subject of a police probe.

The allegation is Prince Charles’s former right-hand man sorted a gong for a Saudi billionaire, in return for a donation.

You feel the pain in the palace. Randy Andy was bad enough. Now followed by Cheque-point Charlie? No, one is not amused.

Boris Johnson’s jolly japes also have a hollow ring these days.

Stories about his high jinks may be briefly shuffled aside, what with all those storm clouds and dogs of war, but they haven’t gone away.

Yet another thing potentially crowding Her Madge’s overstuffed in tray is what’s termed a ‘humble address’ from parliament.

MP’s may vote on this little number this week. And if the numbers stack up it’ll force publication of the full partygate report.

Not just bits of Sue Gray’s take on what Covid laws might have been broken, but all of it. Two days after the Old Bill’s done his worst.

Back in December, Johnson told MPs: ‘All guidance was followed completely in Number Ten.’

Now former top legal adviser to the government Jeremy Wright is holding him to it.

Johnson had better not have been telling porkies in the commons, he says. Because:

‘Doing so in those circumstances would be misleading the House and must in my view lead to his resignation or removal from office.’

No ifs, no buts there. However …

Johnson’s fallback position’s likely to be that any parties he might have stumbled on were all part of his working day.

Yerright, you may say.

But while YouGov polling suggests seven in ten people think if he’s fined he should go, fewer than one in five think he actually will.

Not as if the Met doesn’t have one or two in-house problems, however.

One of its top chaps is facing the sack for, allegedly, checking out dope, acid and mushrooms while on hols in France.

Particularly awkward for Commander Julian Bennett, as he’s the guy who put together the force’s drug strategy in the first place.

But let’s see now, who was it who put together the government’s Covid strategy? Oh yes of course, Boris Johnson.

If he is, as some might say, in the same boat he could as well do without winter storms as the rest of us.

And, for all the puffing up of manly chests, no one gets much out of armed conflict either. Apart from grubby bankers and arms dealers.

But Putin does seem bent on reawakening Cold War tensions. As our Gallic neighbours would shrug: ‘Autre jour même merde.’

Certainly, now feels like an echo of 1948, when the Soviets surrounded Berlin to try and squeeze out the US, Britain, and France.

Hence very likely a sense of déjà vu among older mourners lamenting the death last week, at the age of 101, of Gail Halvorsen.

He earned the nickname ‘The Candy Bomber’ after parachuting sweets in to children during the blockade-busting airlift of aid.

His reservations about helping Germans, who’d so recently been the enemy, evaporated after he met a group of very hungry kids.

When he offered a couple of them chewing gum they shared the wrapper around, so the others could at least smell the paper.

That did it for him. Thereafter he did regular sweetie drops, using his own rations, and hankies as parachutes.

Among the many tributes came this, from Berlin's mayor Franziska Giffey:

‘Halvorsen's deeply human act has never been forgotten.’

And, hopefully, never will be.

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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