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We're all (still) doomed ?

With parliament on its hols and MPs in bucket and spade mode, some on the Tory side might be tempted to bury their heads in the sand. After all, they didn’t suffer the widely predicted hat trick of bye-bye elections on Friday. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, their little win in Boris Johnson’s old manor is no more trustworthy than he proved to be.

An irony of what’s just happened is it probably was punter anger at the extension of the Labour mayor’s low emission charge to their turf that swung the result (just) in the Tories’ favour.

This at the very time that what’s all too obviously man-made climate change is wreaking havoc across Europe, and making our own weather turn pretty weird.

Green policies are cool then, or at least, hopefully, a bit cooling, so long as someone else stumps up for them.

Certainly, the twelve-pound-fifty a day ULEZ charge will be a heavy hit on drivers of polluting cars in Uxbridge when they start having to pay it next month.

And their grumbles feed into the wider narrative of the cost of living crisis that Rishi Sunak can’t credibly deny played its part in the two crushing defeats that his side’s just suffered.

That said, local factors also fed into the mix in the west country seat that fell to the Lib Dems.

The outgoing Tory, having quit over allegations of taking unwanted sexual liberties as well as loads of cocaine, was clearly a proper Charlie (sic) in the minds of his constituents.

But all that really meant was that the swing away from his party was utterly monumental, instead of just enormous.

Of the three local contests, the one up north, just up the road from Sunak’s patch, is probably the best indicator of the shape of things to come.

Labour snatched the seat from the Tories on the second biggest voter support switch ever. Which suggests the polls are right and Keir Starmer’s looking at a landslide victory next year.

Of course Sunak’s whistling to keep his spirits up and trying to jolly the chaps and chapesses along.

But suggesting the skewed Uxbridge outcome means all might be well is like pointing out that though the car’s been wrapped round a lamp post the wipers still work.

So far no fewer than forty-four Tory MPs have effectively thrown in the towel, announcing they won’t even bother to try and defend their seat at the general election.

Safe to assume that number will grow in coming weeks and months. There’s also a widespread assumption that Sunak will go for a government reset in the not too distant future.

Debatable, however, whether substituting one bunch of ministers who most people haven’t heard of with another will make much difference.

It’s likely also that he’ll take a long, hard look at the government’s green policies, in the light of the manifest voter disquiet about the anti-pollution levy in Uxbridge.

Given that that’s the gift to the Tories from the Labour side, it’s very possible that Keir Starmer will also think about trimming his planet-saving sails.

As it is, he’s already busily rowing back on previous promises to help the less well off – on the grounds that anything that smacks of unfunded largesse might scare the horses.

For example, he’s made it clear people will receive state benefits for two kids, but not for any more. Time was he said that Tory policy was a bit mean, but that time’s passed.

There’s plenty of kickback within his party about that. But team Starmer’s making it plain there’s more where that came from. On the grounds there won’t be any money in the kitty.

It’s rather depressingly obvious that, assuming Labour does get in at the general election, they won’t be all that popular for all that long.

Of course Sunak’s best, or rather least worst, hope is that the economy will pick up noticeably in the next twelve months or so. In which case people might start not being so cross with him.

But no one in the know is really holding their breath on that one.

And in his darker moments he could well be musing on something Labour Prime Minister of yesteryear Jim Callaghan once said.

‘You know there are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea-change in politics. It then does not matter what you say or what you do.’

There’s some dispute as to whether Sunny Jim thought that time had come for him. Either way it’s a penny for the thoughts of both Sunak and Starmer.

Also, a glaring reminder of what a pickle the Tories’ longer term handling of the economy has got us into comes in the form of the latest tranche of severely disruptive strikes.

National train services look set to go haywire in coming days, just as everyone’ll be trying to get away for their hols. Seems the tube will be ok, but that’s about it.

Meantime, best not get ill, as senior doctors in England down stethoscopes, for the first time in nearly half a century.

This of course comes on the back of their junior colleagues doing the same for the longest period in the history of the service.

But, with apologies for using one of the most fatuous expressions in the English language, we are where we are.

All very well Starmer announcing long-term plans to nurse the NHS back to health. What exactly would he do in Sunak’s shoes, about about a thirty-five per cent pay claim?

And, a further indication of how the two of them are in the same rather leaky boat, they’re making strikingly similar noises about how they’d fix the future of education.

A fortnight ago Starmer suggested, as part of his anti-snobbery drive, that young folk shouldn’t sneer at vocational training as an alternative to uni.

Step forward Sunak just a week later, advocating a new look at how we view, er, vocational training.

Still, the idea of nicking other people’s stuff isn’t confined to the political class, or indeed to humans.

Water sport enthusiasts on a stretch of Californian coastline have been up against a serial surfboard snatcher in recent weeks.

The culprit’s taken to climbing onto their boards and getting a bit heavy with them, to a point that they’ve opted for discretion as the better part of valour.

This spectacle’s got plenty of onlookers going, and they’ve shared plenty of videos and photos of these piratical pranks.

After all, it’s not every day you see people handing over their property … to an otter.

Seems this one was raised in captivity, then released into the wild. And, according to experts, may be going through hormonal surges.

All very well, says photographer Mark Woodward: ‘This may seem cute and funny, but it’s getting to be dangerous.’

Daresay Sunak and Starmer reckon their Captain Hook capers aren’t without risk either.


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