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Winter of dis .. combobulation !!

With millions more moving into harsher Covid-curbing restrictions, the nation is not saying three cheers for Boris. Three tiers, more like. Little wonder, as he’s forced to make up rules so fast that folk are struggling to keep up. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the nation is not minded to play follow my leader. ‘We’re here because we’re here because we’re here.’ Those words, sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, expressed more than Tommies’ disorientation, disgust and disillusion at the purgatory they were enduring in the trenches. They were also about a sense that their commanders didn’t have a plan. At least not one they could get their heads round. Fast-forward to last week, and Owen Weatherill and Andy Rhodes admitted to MP’s they too were struggling. With the fast-changing anti-pandemic measures on their patch. Problem being those two men are, respectively, assistant head of Hertfordshire police and Lancashire’s Chief Constable. Tasked, obviously, with enforcing the rules. Tricky one, that. And the blind, it seems, are leading the blind. A survey by University College London revealed the rafts of regulations aren’t properly understood by nearly nine out of ten people. Since the first lockdown the number of folk feeling in the know has ‘dropped markedly’. A problem ‘exacerbated’ by the three-tier system. Odd that, when you consider Boris Johnson keeps saying the revamp is meant to, ahem, ‘simplify’ things. He’s also been having difficulties with the chain of administrative command. The 1980’s BBC drama series ‘The Monocled Mutineer’ told of a squaddie standing up for his comrades against beastly senior orficers. And last week the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham popped in his eyepiece and took a pop at the Commanding Officer. The difference being his insurrection gained a great deal of ground. In the form of an almighty climbdown by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Burnham’s beef was that forcing his area into the harshest restriction zone would put a vast swathe of local enterprises out of business. Bojo stood firm. The extra cash was not forthcoming. Absolutely not. And it definitely wasn’t. Until it was. In the form of an eleven-billion-pound package for lockdown-damaged companies, announced a couple of days after the stand-off. It can even be backdated for three months. That’ll do nicely, sir? Much as they don’t like to admit it, Bojo’s foes have to accept the turnaround is most welcome. But even commentators in normally sympathetic papers point to the damage done to the Boris brand. Andy Burnham, braving the elements in his parka and getting applauded in the street, has suddenly become King of the North. And fellow fighters from his neck of the woods have gathered round his standard. The leader of Hartlepool Council, for example, is quoted as saying if the Government tried to move his manor up a notch he’d tell them to ‘sod off’. Serves the buggers right, according to the Daily Telegraph, which ranks this cockup alongside Dominic Cummings’ eye test. There’s no question the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been losing ground in his efforts to give wealth a say as well as health. But the boxer Mike Tyson long ago came up with the perfect explanation for gobsmacking shifts in direction. ‘Everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.’ Another ouchy thought for Bojo is that his eighty-strong parliamentary majority is largely down to traditionally Labour folk only lending him their votes because because they wanted out of Europe. If the idea takes hold he’s That Bloody Woman in drag they might, come the next election, rebuild the red wall. Of course Margaret Thatcher isn’t just remembered a the Hen, scourge of British manufacturing industry. Thanks to her decision to deny free school milk to younger kids, she was also not very affectionately known as Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher. And Bojo is not in footballer Marcus Rashford’s good books, thanks to his refusal to give free school meals to disadvantaged little ones over Christmas. Labour’s attempt to bounce him into it last week failed thanks to strenuous Tory efforts. Word was that Gavin Williamson, the former chief whip, ‘got his tarantula out of the jar again’. While the man who does the job now put the screws on north country MP’s who might have been tempted to rebel. After the vote was lost, Rashford tweeted: ‘A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today’. His followers would have gone along with that. All three and a half million of them. Funny old things though, numbers. While they’ve rather stacked up against the Government lately, the picture’s better for the rest of us. According to the official doer of sums, the Office for National Statistics, there’s no sign of a second coronavirus wave at all. Apparently deaths are just one-and-a-half per cent above the five-year average and quite normal for the time of year. There’s also virtually no increase in expected breathing difficulty deaths, from things like flu and pneumonia, and of course coronavirus. And that small rise will likely be largely cancelled out when Britain’s growing and ageing population is taken into account. Even in Manchester, where there’s been such a hoo-ha over the new tier-three restriction, the figures are actually better than this time last year. Time to take a chill pill? Could be, especially as another remedy sounds like it’s galloping our way. The corona jab being developed by Oxford University and the drugs giant AstraZeneca has now been shown to cheer up human immune cells no end, according to new and detailed analysis. As the lead researcher David Matthews put it: ‘The vaccine is doing everything we expected and that is only good news in our fight against the illness.’ And the recent hiccup causing the programme to be paused turned out to be a false alarm. The volunteer who fell sick had only had the placebo. Shows how careful they’re being though. Indeed, the uni’s determined not to make the same mistake as when it developed penicillin and didn’t make a penny out of it. Should be six per cent in it for them, this time. Seriously big bucks, and soon, by the sound of things. England’s deputy chief medical officer, reportedly believes the jab will make a splendid new year’s present. And the United Nations agency UNICEF has already announced it’ll have stockpiled more than half a billion syringes by Christmas. According to the outfit’s executive boss, Henrietta Fore, that’s enough needles to wrap around the world one and a half times. And there’s yet more good news on the horizon. Reckitt Benckiser, the company that makes Cillit Bang, which sounds slightly rude as they also do Durex, has been doing rather well lately. Demand for condoms, which dropped sharply during the lockdown, has picked up lots since. Something for the weekend, sir? That will do nicely.

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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