Johnny Foreigner’s in a snit. Understandably, because it looks like we got something right. For once. Britain’s vaccination rollout’s putting everyone else’s in the shade, and we’re fighting to keep it that way. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson can but hope his luck will hold.
The week began at a grim milestone. One hundred thousand Covid deaths. So far. Almost the halfway point to the toll claimed by Spanish flu a century ago.
Mercifully, new case numbers are subsiding, and we are on target to get the most vulnerable groups protected within weeks.
And, another hopeful sign, the British-made Novavax inoculation’s looking like a winner. Likewise, hoorah, the Johnson and Johnson one jab job.
Starting to look like we’re spoilt for choice. Though, to quote Oscar Wilde: ‘Nothing succeeds like excess.’
Against that, EU leaders are fighting to get more of the Oxford AstraZeneca version diverted their way. Because, they say, they were promised.
The question is, are they right to say we’re cheating? Or did we play a blinder from the start?
There’s no denying our mortality rate is shamefully worse than almost anywhere else. And much of that is down to our government.
Incoherent border policy, rubbish test and tracing, inadequate supplies of protective equipment and delayed lockdown decisions. The litany of woes is long and lamentable.
‘It’s not been scientific advice or inept public bodies to blame, but poor decision making again and again by ministers.’
That’s not a diatribe from a Trotskyite propaganda sheet, but the considered verdict of the Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph.
And yet and yet, whisper it softly, someone somewhere in government has played a prescient hand. The vaccine punt hit the jackpot.
We’re dishing it out to roughly five times as many people as countries you’d expect to be ahead of the game, like Germany and France.
Why? Because we’ve got it.
And why? Because as far back as last April we ploughed British taxpayers’ money into the Oxford project. Way, way before they knew it would work.
It’s said UK’s pre-ordered enough jabs of one kind or another to inoculate every one of us five-and-a-half times over.
Meaning, according to one senior industry source, we could end up unruffling foreign feathers by exporting some of our stuff anyway.
Funny how things turn out.
Imperfect though it is, the Chancellor’s furlough scheme beats anything a hard left government would even dare think about in normal times.
And the sudden spate of state subsidy of private industry is a turn up for the Tory books too.
Not only has this spending splurge been generating jab jobs. Also billions have gone to helping British-based companies buy the facilities needed to mass-produce vaccines.
There are only a few dozen large-scale bioreactors in the world. Six are now based here, which is how come the stuff’s being turned out so fast.
Well well well. Seems only yesterday Margaret Thatcher was taking a sledgehammer to the nation’s manufacturing base.
Desperate times, desperate measures? But, credit where it’s due.
Long overdue from what one one-time member of Donald Trump’s corona taskforce can make out.
Dr Anthony Fauci came close to getting the you’re fired treatment for being the ‘skunk at the picnic’. That’s to say not accepting Covid was hooey.
Now Joe Biden’s made him his chief scientific adviser.
Also, the new POTUS wants a potent anti-racist symbol on banknotes.
Harriet Tubman, born a slave in the nineteenth century and later vigorous campaigner against the trade, was to be on the new twenty dollar bill.
The Donald in his wisdom dubbed it ‘pure political correctness’. But Biden’s bidding here too is to give credit where it’s due.
And while Republican resistance looks set to trash Trump’s second impeachment, some of his consiglieres might not get so lucky.
His personal lawyer, Rudi Giuliani, is facing a lawsuit for getting on for a hundred million pounds over claims he told porkies about the election.
The case is being brought by a Denver-based voting machine company, which is put out about stories he put out about how they can’t count properly.
If he loses, that’ll be some haircut.
Back here in Blighty a posse of policemen have also had a rather costly trim. Seems the super didn’t take too kindly to a barber showing up at Bethnal Green nick.
Upshot? The lads were nicked, and it’ll cost them a couple of ton each. Ouch.
They’re in good company mind.
A couple of dozen French flics are also in the merde, after being filmed holding a party on police premises in a Paris suburb.
Seems they were dancing the Macarena, which, according to the dictionary, involves exaggerated hip movement to a fast Latin rhythm.
They were also, apparently, ‘violating multiple rules’. Best not go there, eh.
A bit of a to-do too at a beauty salon in Cwmbran in Wales last week.
When the police raided the place for being open, punters with dye still in their hair were caught on CCTV doing a runner via the fire exit.
Also filmed, and lobbed all over social media, was a mass snowball fight in Yorkshire.
Hundreds of silly people took part, sensible people got jolly cross, police tracked down a couple of guys behind it, and fined them ten grand each.
But the prize for most unsurprising arrest of the week must surely go to a man in Manchester.
He just wanted a bit of shopping. But getting to Asda in a second-hand ambulance with emergency lights flashing might not have been too clever.
The cops say a guy’s now been charged with: ‘Driving while disqualified, driving without a licence, driving without insurance and using a vehicle with unauthorised blue lights.’
But if you’re sick to the back teeth of anything remotely connected to coronavirus, here’s a couple of animal crackers to warm your hearts.
The government’s backing a plan to put squirrels on the pill.
Yup. You read that right.
The environment minister says damage the little grey critters do to UK woodlands is costing the economy nearly two billion a year.
Doesn’t do much either for government efforts to tackle climate change by planting masses of new trees.
So the plan is to lure the furry friends into feeding boxes containing hazelnut spread spiked with oral contraceptive.
All true, no good rubbing your peepers in disbelief.
But finally, talking of eyes, and ones that don’t work, there’s a guinea pig at the Danaher Animal Home in Essex in need of longer-term accommodation.
Her name’s Ami, and she’s only interested if her sister Yuki can come too. Because she’s totally blind. And relies on sis to show her around.
All works fine though, according to the centre’s supervisor Craig Horsler.
‘Yuki is more than happy to be her sister’s eyes and looks out for her every day.
‘Ami is always the first to emerge when she hears the rustle of a bag of treats but waits for Yuki to seek them out so she can follow her lead.
‘It’s adorable to watch.’
You betcha. Seeing is believing. Which puts a new spin on an old saying …
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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