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Them and Us .....

Of course Westminster hacks hyperventilate when there’s a reshuffle. It’s all about their nearest and dearest, or least dearest. But for the sixty-six million or so of us who aren’t nominally in charge, Covid management matters much more. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s in a spin, in both senses.

The Collins dictionary says the verb ‘govern’ means to direct and control or to rule.

On that definition, in regard to the pandemic, the British government is not cutting it. Nor any administration anywhere. Though some get closer than others.

At least we can now get to lots of other places with a lot less hassle since Friday’s travel rules shakeup.

No longer on the don’t go there list are Turkey, Pakistan, The Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.

And the yeah-but-no-but amber list of destinations is being scrapped altogether.

Also out is the PCR testing for fully vaccinated travellers, which have enraged so many for so long.

But last week’s big announcement on the way forward for everyone says more about the limits than the reach of the government’s power.

Yes, it’s jolly organised, absolutely on top of the situation. Managing things step by step, so we never need to go backwards.

That’ll be Plan A then. Shows who’s boss.

The vaccination programme will power ahead, with all over-fifties offered a third vaccine dose alongside the annual flu programme.

Also, after much toing and froing, it’s been decided children aged twelve to fifteen will be offered a first injection.

And, with four-fifths of people over sixteen already double-jabbed, more lockdowns look less likely. Johnson’s said to be ‘dead-set’ against.

He’s doubtless buoyed by research showing of all coronavirus deaths in England in the first half of this year only one per cent had been fully vaccinated.

However, the figures from the Office for National Statistics mostly reflect the Alpha variant, which was considerably less problematic than the Delta one.

Also, it’s emerged the ridiculously expensive test and trace programme may only have reduced spread of the disease by as little as six per cent.

Little wonder, when the PM proudly proclaimed there were no ifs or buts in the government’s approach, he had to admit there was an ‘unfortunately’ .. aka Plan B.

Mandatory facemasks, vaccine certification and working from home could all return if the health service looks to be overwhelmed.

And, it was there in black and white, a fourth lockdown does remain a possibility.

It would, given that government boffins are saying there could be between two and seven thousand hospital cases in England next month.

As if to underline just that, the government in Northern Ireland is requesting help from the military, as hospitals there are ‘under pressure as never before’.

And in Scotland the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she’s thinking of bringing in the army to help the ambulance service, as it’s under ‘acute pressure’.

One thing that would certainly help across the UK, according to government adviser Prof Stephen Reicher, would be letting folk carry on home-working.

He says people are seeing much more of one another, but nearly all of it is to do with mixing at work.

‘So the problem isn't that people are choosing to party all the time, the problem is people are given no choice because they are required to go back to work.’

As it happens, a BBC survey suggests seven out of ten people don’t think a return to full time office working is ever going to happen, and would prefer not to.

So much for the government’s repeated attempts to cajole everyone into just that.

Must have been comforting then for Bojo, a form of displacement activity, being able to reshuffle his government.

One of those nice sweeties no one can take away from any Prime Minister.

And he certainly sucked – and sacked – hard. Four ministers out, or demoted. Among them ex Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

In the headmaster’s study of public opinion he got nought out of ten for his handling of his brief throughout the pandemic.

The Daily Star mocked up pictures of him and Johnson as circus funny men, and ran the headline ‘Clowning Street Massacre’.

Response to Dominic Raab’s sideways shift from Foreign Secretary to Justice Secretary is more nuanced.

But it’s widely seen as his six of the best for not whizzing back from his hols when it all went so horribly wrong in Afghanistan.

The upshot is that two of the four top posts in government are now held by women. Also the cabinet is at its most ethnically diverse.

Against that, seven out of ten of them were privately educated. Old habits and all that.

But seasoned observers note that those who got promoted have done more than show loyalty to Johnson. They’ve also shown they know how to get things done.

And there’s a sense this could be the starting gun for a general election within the next couple of years.

But there’s been lots of who’s up and who’s down in the last few days.

Prince Harry and Meghan made the cover of Time magazine's annual hundred most influential people in the world issue.

So, in spite of all the beastly things regularly written about them, it seems shaking off the royal shackles last year’s done them no harm whatever.

Conversely, the vultures are circling ominously over the still royal Prince Andrew.

Though he consistently denies any wrongdoing, he looks to be losing his fight to keep allegations against him making it to court.

Virginia Giuffre has accused him of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress around the time the financier Jeffrey Epstein was sexually abusing her.

And now a US judge has ruled that legal papers relating to the assault lawsuit can be served, in spite of his lawyers’ efforts to prevent it.

Another story stateside about a man not used to not getting his own way concerns Donald Trump.

After he’d lost the presidential election but was still in post, it’s said America’s top military officer took drastic action to limit his ability to press the nuclear button.

According a new book, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley was worried he might ‘go rogue’ in the wake of the January attack on the US Capitol.

The authors, two Washington Post journalists, says he was: ‘Certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election.

‘Now all but manic, (he is) screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’

So, the claim is, Milley secretly told the officials running the Pentagon's war room to not take any orders unless he was involved.

At the other end of the universally adored spectrum, stands Emma Raducanu. Though she too is not getting everything quite as she wishes.

Back home now after becoming the first British woman to win a major tennis title in forty-four years, and the first qualifier to lift a grand slam, she’s hit a snag.

In spite of her historic win, she jokes certain things haven’t changed. ‘I can't even get a court at my local club!’

But she is glad to be back in her own bed, and once more tasting her mum's home-made dumplings, something she’d been ‘craving’.

Balance is essential in tennis, and no one can say this teenage superstar hasn’t got her feet firmly on the ground.

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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