top of page

The Punch and Judy Show !

It won’t be a pretty sight. Never was really, come to think of it, people getting bashed up. But with delays at ports, motorways and airports leaving millions of would-be holidaymakers wondering if they’ll ever get there, Rishi Sunak’s having the same problem. Meaning, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, things can only get nastier.

The Conservatives’ Aggie Christie experience ain’t over till it’s over.

In ‘And Then There Were None’, loads of not very nice folk get to dislike one another more and more as they all get murdered.

At least in ‘Blue on Blue, Devil Take The Hindmost’, also known as the Tory Leadership Contest, one will survive. To become Prime Minister.

But how either Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, or ex-Chancellor Sunak will reunite the fragmented factions they’ll inherit is anyone’s guess.

The party’s MPs plumped in the main for Mr Sensible, veering to the view his rival is Mrs Mad.

But polling among grassroots members, the nought-point-four per cent of the population who’ll actually choose, suggests Queen Liz is all but crowned.

Trust Truss? Discuss.

An awful lot of economists fear her plans for instant tax cuts are a recipe for disaster. As one of Europe’s top money experts puts it:

‘Populistic policies tend to be bad for the economy over the medium term and weaken the purchasing power of the people.’

Not that most Tory members, as opposed to voters, are representative of ‘the people’. Generally pretty well off, they’re frightfully keen on tax cuts.

Which is perhaps why they’re not so keen on Sunak’s pledge to only go there when inflation, currently roaring ahead, is under control again.

In theory he’s got until September to convince them he’s right and Truss’s promises add up to what he’s termed ‘a fairy tale’.

But in practice he’s got to get his skates on – because postal ballots will be sent out soon, and in the past they’ve generally been returned pretty rapidly.

Which means many votes will already have been cast before he’s even had the chance to make his pitch, on the dozen or so planned hustings.

And the fact that he’s seen as, in the words of one Tory strategist, ‘the establishment guy; slightly boring,’ may well work against him.

Nor will it help that, according to the same strategist, ‘Truss is less popular with many voters. They think she’s a bit nutty and sounds a bit weird.’

Cue Sunak bigging up that line of attack, then.

As former head boy of one of Britain’s elite public schools, heaven forfend he should say she’s insane in the membrane, with a resting bitch face.

But he could well imply it in the not too distant future.

And she in her turn can be expected to double down on her claims that he’s been trying to skew the contest – after deliberately shafting Boris Johnson.

In the early stages, contestants got worried about the damage their public punch-ups were doing to their party’s image.

But now that the contest’s close up and personal it’ll be more than just a matter of taking the gloves off. The stilettos will come out.

Not that things are looking up for the Boris brand either.

His parliamentary swansong was laced with bravado. Lots of talk of ‘mission largely accomplished – for now … I’ll be back,’ and ‘hasta la vista, baby’.

But while much of that may work well in science fiction blockbusters, they may in this case lose the science bit and end up purely as fiction.

It all comes back to those lockdown-busting Downing Street high jinks, and Johnson’s initial insistence there was nothing to see here.

The high-powered committee of MPs tasked with looking into whether in so saying he misled parliament has narrowed its field of inquiry.

They’d been expected to check out whether he made a genuine mistake, in which case subsequently correcting the record would make it all right.

But instead they’ve cut out the word ‘knowingly’ before ‘misled’. Meaning he’s liable to be snookered simply for getting it wrong in the first place.

So, come the autumn, there’s a good chance Johnson will be judged a very naughty boy and made to stand outside the classroom.

Putting this in, ahem, more formal terms, the Commons Speaker is likely to suspend him.

And if he does so for long enough there’d have to be a by-election in Johnson’s own constituency. Which, who knows, he might even lose.

Hasta la vista, baby? Erm …

Meantime, there’s also a bit of stink being kicked up about his reported plan, before he goes, to appoint thirty new peers. Possibly as a nice little earner.

A senior ally of Rishi Sunak has harrumphed: ‘It’s a disgrace.

‘Nobody would put it past Boris to announce peerages for pure financial gain. Everyone knows he has no money.’

Never mind no money. There’s no love lost at the top of the Tory party either.

Nor it seems, back in the real world, is there any serious dispute among scientists that the climate emergency is for real.

Remember Tinderbox Tuesday? The hottest day UK had ever seen, and the busiest day for the London’s firefighters since World War Two.

With more certain to follow, environmental campaigners are praying movers and shakers will keep their emission restriction promises.

But the debate has edged forward. Even Donald Trump had to admit he might have got it a bit wrong when he claimed in 2016 it was all a hoax.

He was about as keen on that, mind, as he was about admitting he actually lost the last presidential election.

Putrid Putin too seems to be struggling with fessing up to how awry his pathetically ill-named ‘special military operation’ is going.

Far from pulverising Ukrainian morale by hitting soft targets, like schools and residential blocks, he’s clearly hardening resolve.

One reason why the head of MI6, Richard Moore, says Russia is ‘about to run out of steam,’ following ‘epic fails’ in the campaign’s early stages.

With Moscow struggling to replace lost men and equipment, and the West supplying ever more hardware, it’s looking, he says, like, a ‘winnable war’.

Tricky old business, regime change, everywhere you look. Including right back where this article began.

Tory MPs may have thought defenestrating Boris Johnson was job done, but now thousands of party members have signed a petition in protest.

Begging the question what’s to be done? And who, at this moment, actually is in charge?

By interesting coincidence, Chinese gizmo company Baidu has just unveiled a new self-driving car that boasts a detachable steering wheel.

Naturally, the Americans go one better, developing a vehicle that has neither steering wheel nor pedals.

Boys’ toys? A bit scary? Great metaphor though.

NB: BREAKING NEWS .. BREAKING NEWS .. This piece is now available ON SCREEN !! Here's the link:

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.


bottom of page