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The Tide Turning, Finally ... ?



The seepage of support is everywhere, and unmistakeable. ‘Boris battles on’ may be the catchphrase, but his tactics are doing him no favours. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, there’s a sense the tide is finally turning.


Back in 1976 there was a severe drought. Denis Howell, the minister saddled with trying to make the government seem in control got dubbed ‘Mr Drip’.


A cruel nickname, perhaps, but it works for Boris Johnson now.


Instead of a nice clean defenestration he’s stuck with the modern equivalent of Chinese water torture. The steady drip drip drove the victim insane.


And you wonder what part of the Boris brain went walkabout when he insinuated the opposition leader had somehow sided with serial sex offender Jimmy Savile.


Sir Keir Starmer was Director of Public Prosecutions at the time the hideous monster was evading justice. But he had effectively no say in the matter.


Meaning Johnson’s jibe was way beyond a mere cheap shot. It drove his longest-serving and closest aide Munira Mirza out of the door.


She led an exodus of top bods, which Johnson’s diminishing band of loyalists tried to present as all part of a post-partygate clear out.


But, far more damagingly, the man widely tipped to take his place also stuck his barbed oar in.


Chancellor Rishi Sunak put it like this: ‘Being honest, I wouldn’t have said it.’


A masterly understatement. Maybe he was thinking of Shakespeare’s Richard 3rd, whose crack at the crown didn’t play too well in the end.


The day could yet dawn when Prime Minister Sunak wishes he could have his old job back. To adapt the famous line: ‘A bourse, a bourse, my kingdom for a bourse.’


But to more and more of Johnson’s enemies on his own back benches, the Savile affair’s only one part of an unacceptably slapdash pattern.


Even in journalism, where you’re only accountable for your words until they become budgie cage lining, this approach got him the sack a couple of times.


And the cavalier way he thought he could slip his sleaze-engulfed mate Owen Paterson out of trouble came back to bite him.


Likewise, as the partygate report and likely police prosecutions make clear, his apparently hey whatevs approach to lockdown-busting booze-ups.


Plus, in immediate terms, the implosion of the Stormont government.


Northern Ireland, which isn’t in the EU, is joined to the south, which is. So it was only a matter of time before the Brexit glue came unstuck.


Monitoring movement of goods in and out of the European Union with checkpoints on the border risked rekindling republican militancy.


So instead they plumped for somewhere between Belfast Lough and the British mainland, making unionists feel semi-detached from the United Kingdom.


Might sound all a bit silly to many Brits, but it’s very real to people who’ve been at one another’s throats for centuries.


Boris Johnson might have been better to bear this in mind in his drive to get Brexit done. Er, do or die.


That time he got caught on a tripwire imperilled his naughty bits for a moment, but it was a good joke. Sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland are not.


Has to be said, though, the cost of living crisis is more than a knotty problem for the chancellor. It’s also viciously unfunny for millions of people on low incomes.


The poisoned chalice of economic news last week was about as bad as it gets.


Energy bills up by nearly seven hundred pounds, interest rates on the rise, inflation set to top seven per cent, plus a pending tax hike.


Many other countries have similar difficulties, as the pandemic’s left them short of the folding stuff.


But our problems are that much worse, thanks to Brexit. It hasn’t messed up the economy as much as some feared, but it hasn’t done us any favours either.


However, the nastiest bit is still the huge fuel price spike, which could get even worse.


Sunak’s announcement of a series of loans and grants will help mitigate the pain for some, but for others it’ll be like a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.


Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, followed by possible choking of gas supplies to Europe as a tit-for-tat for sanctions, certainly don’t help.


Vladimir Putin says he’s not about to send the tanks in. Though that begs the question why exactly are they on the border then? Just having a bit of fun?


Of course, Johnson has no control over that. But, come the town hall elections in May, strapped-for-cash voters may well blame him anyway.


That’s if he’s still in the job by then. Which, at the time of writing, even loyal cabinet ministers were privately admitting was looking no more than fifty-fifty.


This in spite of Number Ten’s big fightback. The long-awaited launch of the government’s much trumpeted ‘levelling up’ turned out more damp than squib.


Loads of talk about everything from closing regional pay gaps to shelling out on local town centres, bus services, schools and hospitals.


Problem being, it wasn’t backed with loads of money. Also not a lot of ideas that hadn’t already been touted anyway.


So much for the blueprint to hang on to so-called red wall voters oop north. A Times poll suggested almost everyone has it down as a slogan, not a policy.


One gloriously no-nonsense lady from Stoke told a Sky News reporter Boris Johnson’s ‘an all fur coat, no knickers sort of guy’.


But if you think he has a problem, spare a thought for the hapless Chinese company trying to sell mementos marking the Queen’s seventy-year reign.


They’d made more than ten thousand teacups, mugs and plates before someone spotted they might not go down all that well in Britain.


No problem with the pretty pic of Her Madge, unlike the inscription. It read: ‘To commemorate the platinum (wait for it) jubbly.’


Lovely jubbly, Del Boy? Er, not …


When that came to light, someone somewhere in Beijing might have wanted to drown his or her sorrows, one way or another.


Back in Saaf London, meanwhile, someone somewhere who may also have been after a little light euphoria has been waiting in vain.


When a certain package showed up at a mail depot, staff members clearly shared Oscar Wilde’s view that the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.


All to do with another interesting inscription. Written on the green and orange box were the words ‘edibles by Pablo Chocobar’.


This apparent play on the name of the late Colombian drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar might have been the clue.


Or maybe it was the fragrance. It’s said marijuana has a certain olfactory significance, though this commentator couldn’t possibly comment on that.


Any road up, or down, footage posted on Twitter showed a postie totally out of it, having, allegedly, been a bit of a greedy guts with the hash brownies.


When a woman told him he’d had two of them, he corrected her. Explaining, amid sounds of stifled laughter, he actually had four.


The caption on Twitter read: “Say a prayer for him right now, hopefully he is asleep or he is singing with unicorns.’


A Royal Mail official later told The Times: ‘We are taking this matter very seriously.’


Quite right too. Glad someone is. (Cue more stifled laughter?)


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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