The new Coronavirus potentially spreading from China’s given everyone the jitters, with dark talk of the black death and the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic. And straws in the Westminster wind are whiffy too. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, it seems Bojo’s Brexit strategy is that the best defence is attack.
‘It’s good news week. Someone’s dropped a bomb somewhere, contaminating atmosphere and blackening the sky.’ So sang Hedgehoppers Anonymus in 1965.
Well, it’s not that bad. But not that good either. Especially about the new disease sweeping the world.
The folk at Public Health England say cases of the menacing strain of coronavirus in the UK are ‘very likely’.
So far, most of those affected abroad are making a good recovery. But it’s claimed dozens of lives in China, and in total getting on for a thousand people have got it.
Suddenly, Bojo’s fancy talk about being dead in a ditch sounds a bit trite. As well as irrelevant, as it turns out.
Now that his big bill’s broken through parliament and Her Madge has given it the nod, the crowning glory’s coming up. A few days from now, we’ll formally leave the European Union.
But on what terms? Good? Bad? Downright stinky? Here’s where battle commences.
Johnson the journalist has been around for years. Boris Big Chief’s still an unknown quantity. Probably even to himself, poor dear. Carrie to the rescue? Or the dog?
A couple of fragments may be indicative, however.
Peers did their damndest to get the government to protect the rights of refugee children to reunite with their families after Brexit.
Lord Dubs, who himself came to Britain as a child to escape the Nazis, was behind the move.
He knows the refugee ropes all too well, and was not impressed with the government line. That they’d sort all this in a separate, as yet unseen, immigration bill.
Whatevs. When the bill came back down the passage, the commons trampled on the change. So it’s history.
Then there’s the question of migrant workers, doing the low-paid backbreaking stuff Brits really really don’t want to.
Seems Boris doesn’t plan to make an exception for them from his new points-based immigration scheme.
And when business and trade groups kicked off about it he told them, basically, they should get a life.
No matter. Fruit can pick itself in the fields, and oldies can learn to wipe their own bottoms. Can’t be that hard, surely?
Might be a bit tricky, though, delivering the promised, spangly new 5-G network without a bit of help from our buddies in Beijing.
Word is that the Chinese tech giant Huawei can provide the necessary infrastructure more quickly and cheaply than anyone else, from anywhere else. Including, presumably, America.
And GCHQ aren’t overly fussed about the risk of them using the inside track they’d get to pass on our state secrets to their political masters.
But the Yanks are hopping mad.
According to one of their top guys, ‘the appetite for a US-UK trade agreement could be diminished by the UK making the wrong decision on Huawei’.
Sounds suspiciously like those ever-so-polite signs you read stateside. ‘We thank you in advance for not smoking.’
What they mean is if you even think about lighting up we’ll blow your f’ing brains out. Just so you know.
Bullying? From Camp Trump? Surely not.
But, closer to home, that alleged pattern of behaviour has come back to bite Bercow.
The former commons speaker, John Bercow, consistently infuriated the Tories by giving Remainers reign after the referendum.
Some say he went a bit further than that, pointing to the sticker on his wife’s car that read b*llocks to Brexit.
Which is doubtless why the convention, for the government to give a peerage to speakers when they step down, was overlooked in his case.
Instead, it fell to Jeremy Corbyn, grateful for all the breaks he gave to Labour, to nominate him.
The problem being that old claims, that Bercow bullied his own staff, have chosen this week to resurface. Which looks like it’s put the kibosh on his hopes of getting his bum on the red benches.
Naturally, he’s aggrieved. As he likes to think he’s living proof that the small man syndrome is a myth.
But there’s plenty of those around. The obvious example being climate change.
So what that silly Swedish kid Greta Whatsername reckons it matters? The man in the know knows better. And at last week’s champagne shindig in Davos he popped it to ’em.
Climate change activists, Donald Trump told the World Economic Forum, are nothing more than ‘perennial prophets of doom .. heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers’.
Phew. That’s a relief. Half of Australia going up in smoke had us all worried.
And you can’t say The Donald doesn’t put his money where his mouth is. He has, after all, unilaterally withdrawn the US from the Paris Climate Accord, which aimed to limit global warming by cutting CO2 emissions.
But it’s not like those dastardly French don’t have a cunning plan to get their own back. That’s to say the unilateral withdrawal of President Combover from the White House.
Not quite unilateral, however, as they’ll need the help of American voters, come the presidential election in November.
Naturally, they also pray l’imbécile will be impeached to perdition long before that. But, thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate, it’s a forlorn hope, and they know it.
La vie? C’est la merde, as they say sur le continong.
But there are crumbs of comfort around. Like, maybe, just maybe, a cure for cancer on the horizon.
According to the latest edition of the journal Nature Immunology, scientists at Cardiff University have made a huge breakthrough in working out how our immune system works.
And their discovery could hold the key to killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers.
Though they’ve yet to test their findings on patients, they say the work has ‘enormous potential’. Other experts agree it’s very exciting.
Too late, of course, for those no longer with us. But even in death, there’s a kind of upside.
Everybody greeted the news of Monty Python’s Terry Jones with what a nice fellow he was. And, having attended a dinner party once at his home, your correspondent can confirm it’s all true.
The evening was interrupted by the appearance at his front door of two super-slender, bowing, Japanese chaps.
They hardly had a word of English between, but one of them somehow conveyed he’d come to bring a gift from his dad.
Turned out Terry had got chatting with the guy at a bus stop, and so charmed him that a thankyou bottle of Saki was in order.
Which only goes to prove he was not a very naughty boy at all. But actually… the messiah.
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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