With Covid-19 infections falling sharply, transmission rates easing significantly and the vaccine programme roaring ahead, the nation has its fingers crossed for better times. Hence huge interest in Boris Johnson’s latest heavily trailed lockdown-easing announcement. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, he’s choosing his words with particular care these days.
Legendary one-time Times hack Louis Heren said: ‘When a politician tells you something in confidence, always ask yourself why is this lying bastard lying to me?’
Not that one would dream of suggesting Boris Johnson’s nose is unusually large. Though he has got form.
As well as twice getting the sack, for making stuff up as a journalist then for, ahem, being in the sack with someone, he also stood by the Brexit battle bus.
Remember that whopper of a porker claim that EU membership cost us £350 million a week? All of a piece with the slippy-slidy narrative he churned out for years in Brussels.
But the sinner repenteth? Johnson’s new talk of data not dates is probably sincere.
Seems he’s finally clocked that overpromising and underdelivering ain’t such a shrewd move after all.
And maybe pulling a good news rabbit out of the hat later beats rabbiting on now, only to find he’s got it all wrong.
That said, we’re all of us, surely, feeling like kids in the back of the car bored of fiddling with our devices and giving not a tenth of a toss about the countryside rolling by.
Which leaves only one question: ‘How many more miles, mummy?’ While the best daddy Bojo dares come up with is: ‘Not too many more now, you’ll see.’
However, ideas under wraps, at least until Sky News got a peek at them, suggest officials want to crank up the economy quite quickly, after kids go back to school on March 8th.
Then, with mass testing rocking along, older students should be following suit in mid-April, with non-essential shops reopening around the same time.
All being well, they hope to see the hospitality industry flickering back to life a couple of weeks later, and entertainment and sporting gigs not far behind.
This optimism could well stem from an authoritative survey carried out by Imperial College London’s REACT team.
It found infections had fallen by more than two-thirds since mid-January. And, with the transmission rate now comfortably below one, the latest lockdown is working.
However, Downing Street remains cautious. Insisting firm decisions will have to await the finding of a mega-study by Public Health England. Work still in progress, then.
Work, meanwhile, has been going on quietly at the Health Department. Rather too quietly in the view of Mr Justice Chamberlain at the high court.
He’s given Matt Hancock a telling off for not telling anyone who the government was paying out billions to for Covid contracts.
Got there in the end. But should have got more of a move on. Naughty naughty.
But life goes on, and the news is not all bad.
The Americans have managed to land the coolest bit of kit yet on Mars to hunt for little green men.
Ok, that may be a bit of la-la licence, à la scribbler Bojo. Truth is after all a relative concept. But they are looking for evidence of ancient life on the Red Planet.
Meanwhile, things may be looking up for this planet. What with Ford announcing a huge drive towards all-electric vehicles within the decade. Likewise Jaguar Land Rover.
And further reaches of the globe may also be cheered by the British government’s announcement it’ll share some of the vaccines it seems to have somewhat over-ordered.
That of course is symbiotic. As long as the beastly virus can keep mutating all over the place the pandemic won’t really get sorted.
At least there’s a great white hope in the White House, now that the new man’s giving the anti-corona crusade a bit more welly.
As for his rather more orange predecessor, last week it took just twenty seconds (and three thousand sticks of dynamite) to reduce the former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to rubble.
Hadn’t been doing too well for a while. The building, that is, can’t speak for its former owner.
Though the folk who’d paid ten greenbacks each to watch it go were ever so pleased. The city mayor, Marty Small, told the Associated Press: ‘I got chills .. it was exciting.’
Also, maybe, of a piece with the fall of other leaders with authoritarian instincts. Toppled statues and looted palaces and all that.
And interesting insights stateside don’t stop there.
It’s been more than a bit parky down in Texas lately. Even got to the sea turtles, as cold-stunning syndrome makes swimming or eating tricky for the poor dears.
Humans to the rescue, however. People have been on a massive mission to save them, even though many of them didn’t even have heat or light in their own homes.
This side of The Pond, meanwhile, plenty of folk have found being cooped up in their own homes simply too much.
Leaving aside all the hideous tales of mental health problems and domestic abuse, here’s a claustrophobic catastrophe to make you smile.
One bloke so couldn’t stand the company of the people at home that he decided trotting along to Burgess Hill nick couldn’t make matters any worse.
Inspector Darren Tayor from Sussex Police was clearly chuffed. Announcing on Twitter: ‘Peace and quiet!
‘Wanted male handed himself in to the team yesterday afternoon after informing us he would rather go back to prison than have to spend more time with the people he was living with!’
No question we’re living with weirdness.
Liam Thorp, this correspondent’s oppo at the Liverpool Echo, was offered a corona jab because they’d got a bit muddled about his height.
He’s actually six-foot-two, but the computer had him down as six-point-two, er, centimetres. Which is pretty small, unless you happen to be a goldfish.
Though, uninteresting as the little creatures lives probably are, just pootling round and round the same old glass bowl day in day out, one did hit headlines last week.
This on account of a rare and incurable illness, no, not Covid-19, called swim bladder disorder. Which leads to floating or sinking or going round upside down.
In short, if you’ve got it you can’t swim. Rubbish if you happen to be a fish.
However, help was on the horizon, so to speak, as the owners couldn’t bear to see their pet living upside down at the bottom of the tank a moment longer.
And when they took him to Stacey O’Shea, who runs The Garden Sanctuary from her home in Wolverhampton, she performed miracles.
Honestly honestly this is all true, she made him a special lifejacket using tiny plastic tubing usually used for air conditioning filters.
And she adjusts it to enable swimming at other levels. Change of scenery and all that. Even posted a video of him online doing his happy-flappy-finny thing.
All of which begs two questions.
Has our own life become so truncated that we’ve developed an interest in what would normally not necessarily hit the spot?
Or could it be that after what seems like most of our lives cooped up between our own four walls we’re getting what it’s like .. to be a goldfish?
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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