Must be funny, in the rich man’s world, as the old song goes. The not very funny thing being, alas, how many millions of us look set to be strapped for cash in the not too distant future. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s going to have his work cut out solving the problem, even if he does finally ride out the partygate storm.
That does remain an ‘if’, however, in spite of his having got off with only one fine.
The tussle between the Old Bill and the Lord High Executioner, aka top Whitehall official Sue Gray, over what she can and cannot reveal in her report may hold the key.
It’s pretty much a given she’ll be jolly rude about top bods in government having what looks like a never-ending knees-up when no one else was allowed.
It’s pretty sure too that with the Metropolitan Police investigation now out of the way Ms Gray’s findings will be published any day now.
But what could make an awful lot of difference is the level of detail she’s allowed to share.
Apart from Johnson, his wife Carrie and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the police are not naming the people who between them picked up a hundred-and-twenty-six fines.
But Ms Gray would like to. Or, failing that, to identify a fair few of them by publishing the masses of pictures she’s been sifting through.
And though none of this is likely to put a noose round Johnson’s neck, it’ll graphically display the culture of casual lawbreaking over which he presided.
It’s also highly probable that the high-powered group of MP’s looking into the whole sorry affair will further twist the knife deep in the wound.
The Privileges Committee is checking out whether Johnson committed the sacking offence of misleading the Commons, when he denied lockdown rules were broken.
To his critics it’s a total no-brainer – of course he did.
So it’s perhaps no coincidence that the machinery of government has had a sudden and radical overhaul.
From now on the folk tasked with sorting domestic policy will bypass other routes and report directly to Downing Street.
Remember the Brexit slogan? ‘Take back control.’ Seems like he’s taking a leaf out of his own book. A bit late, many would say, given the Tories’ current place in the polls.
Labour are on thirty-nine per cent, eight points in front of the Conservatives. And one in ten punters who backed them in 2019 say they’ll now take their votes elsewhere.
Of course some of that might be to do with the cost of living crisis, which seems to be getting worse by the hour.
Inflation expected to pass ten per cent later this year means wages and benefits stand no chance of keeping up. And fuel and energy costs? Don’t even go there.
All that on top of the Governor of the Bank of England talking of ‘apocalyptic’ food prices and admitting he feels ‘helpless’ about the way things are going.
If he’s in a pickle, what chance does anyone else have?
He was right to point out that the blame for the rapidly rising cost of cooking oils, dairy products and many other everyday staples is down to Vladimir Putin.
And the old brute is compounding the sin of invading Ukraine with stealing grain and destroying farming equipment, as a way of weaponizing global food supplies.
But while this may not be a problem of the British government’s making, it is one it has to address.
We keep being told it’ll do its best, but the lack, for example, of a windfall tax on energy companies that are doing very nicely thank you makes you wonder.
It’s calculated this levy would bring in enough for a hundred pounds for each household. Hardly life-changing, but, as the slogan says, every little helps.
If nothing else, Treasury officials say, it would show willing. Problem being Number Ten’s said to think it’s an ‘unconservative’ thing to do.
Still, it’s not as if the entire government’s bereft of ideas. The Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean was brimming with helpful suggestions last week.
People struggling with making ends meet, she said, really should get themselves better-paid jobs. Or work longer hours.
Makes you wonder whether plonker of the week should become a regular feature. No prizes for guessing who’d get it in this issue.
Such ideas do feed into the narrative that this government is somehow out of touch with ordinary people.
For which reason the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, probably isn’t thanking the Sunday Times for including him for the first time in its Rich List.
No other top dude in government has ever had that politically unhelpful distinction. But then his wife is sitting on nearly seven-hundred-million pounds.
Which begs the question how poor Joe and Jess Thwaite are possibly going to make out. After all they only scooped about a quarter of that in their lottery jackpot.
It was Britain’s biggest ever EuroMillions win, and Jess’s take was hardly surprising: ‘I didn’t think it was real to be honest. I still don’t think that it’s real.’
And the Daily Star couldn’t resist a them-and-us jibe. At the expense one suspects more of where government policies leave others than the couple in question.
‘That’s their energy bills covered for a few months then.’ The couple will: ‘Be able to heat their house and still have a few pennies left over for luxuries like food.’
But while the rest of us struggle on, earning our crust as best we can, the question remains unanswered as to where we should be doing it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, he of the anything but man-of-the-people image, has been grumbling lots lately about civil servants preferring to work from home than return to the office.
However, when Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi jumped on the same bandwagon he came something of a cropper.
His staff, reluctantly or otherwise, did as they were told, only to find there weren’t enough desks. In fact employees outnumbered workspaces by almost two to one.
No doubt about it, this was a week for unexpected and ironical outcomes.
It’s not only Boris Johnson who has reason to hope the Covid pandemic can be flushed round the U-bend of history.
There’s not much nostalgia for those regular broadcasts featuring guest stars like England’s then Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam.
But there’s no disputing he deserved the gong he was awarded for his efforts. Just a shame that the special ceremony to officially pick it up didn’t go as planned.
He was unable to attend because .. he’d got Covid.
You couldn’t make it up. You really really couldn’t.
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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