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Goodbye to all That

Goodbye to all That

Piccadilly Circus

With Prince Philip finally laid to rest, it’s hard not to share his widow’s grief, even though his impish humour helped bear him away. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson’s also mourning potentially enormous damage to the Westminster brand.

Auntie Beeb’s wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Phil the Greek – who wasn’t Greek btw – attracted record numbers of viewers’ complaints.

And polls show many punters haven’t been struck on the unfolding sleaze story in the corridors of power either.

Certainly the latest YouGov survey suggests the Tories’ fourteen-point lead over Labour means they haven’t got much to worry about.

But with no fewer than seven inquiries now being launched into what the hell’s been going on, this story may yet grow Gargantuan legs.

Not as sexy as the endless tales of ministers having their wicked way with the wrong people or the public purse, that did for John Major’s government.

Hard to compete with the the guy who, it was reported, liked having his toes sucked, around the time the PM suggested we get ‘back to basics’. Oops.

But the ever-widening arc of both politicians and civil servants allegedly in cahoots with big business has to raise eyebrows.

Because in the end the fuss is not just a matter of Westminster giving itself the time of day, pardon the language.

We do, after all, shell out getting on for six-hundred-billion pounds a year to the taxman.

And it would be nice to know this giant cash stash translates into value for money, not just the lining of rich people’s pockets.

It all started with the suggestion that ex-PM David Cameron had been tapping up his old mates on behalf of his new boss in the private sector.

Tory MP’s last week were lining up to chuck him under a bus. In the hope, presumably, this would contain the reputational damage.

Fat chance.

A picture’s quickly emerged of many, many others getting in on the revolving door act.

The idea it’s not what but who you know may well jar, when that door’s being held ajar with your and my money.

Astonishing how deep these waters run.

The i even claims a member of the government’s own committee on business appointments heads a firm advertising his access to cabinet ministers.

Snappy headline, that: ‘UK lobbying watchdog is lobbyist.’

So what the Cabinet Office says his interests were ‘transparently declared’?

At PMQ’s last week the Labour leader retorted: ‘It is called the shoplifters’ defence – Everyone else is nicking stuff, so why can’t I? It never worked.’

As one sketch writer put it: ‘The PM looked like he’d stepped on a rake.’

But, more cheerily for real people, it seems the corona calamity’s claimed far fewer lives than had been supposed.

According to the Office for National Statistics, almost a quarter of registered Covid deaths were actually caused by something else.

Turns out they’d passed away ‘with’ the virus not ‘from’ it. No less tragic for them and their loved ones, but a hopeful sign nonetheless.

Also, hands held up in horror over possible links between the AstraZeneca vaccination and a blood clot seem potentially misplaced.

According to a new Oxford study, you’re nearly ten times as likely to get that from the virus than the jab.

The data puts the risk from the inoculation at about five per million. Hardly any more than from the Pfizer or Moderna options.

Which suggests the problem’s more political than medical. The AstraZeneca thing’s part-British. And, post Brexit, we’re on Europe’s naughty step.

Depressing, but true. Same as the wide incidence of lockdown-induced brain fog, which more and more boffins are talking about.

Carmine Pariante, biological psychiatry prof at King’s College in London, believes it relates directly to our primeval reaction to stress.

He says it’s how humans responded two million years ago to fear of being eaten by a large animal.

The hormone cortisol is released to focus attention on the danger. To the exclusion of everything else.

And, though times have changed, that mechanism hasn’t. Useful for fighting a lion, not for remembering where we put our glasses.

Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen goes further, arguing brain fog’s an expression of one of the most disturbing aspects of the unconscious.

He picks up on Freud’s theory of drives. That we have one force inside us that’s up for life, while the other’s more into death.

And cooping us up, he suggests, is: ‘A move away from life and into a kind of stasis or entropy.’

Hence a rather dire conclusion.

‘Lockdown – which, paradoxically, has done so much to preserve life – is like the death drive made lifestyle.’

But help is at hand! Researchers from London’s Imperial College have turned up a potentially best-ever new antidepressant drug.

The active ingredient is psilocybin. And it’s not hard to get hold of, if you know where to look and don’t mind breaking the law.

Under the 2005 Drugs Act, it’s a Class A drug. But the boffins reckon they might have found a top-class cure. In magic mushrooms.

Cannabis can also help treat depression. And London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is minded to legalise it, if he gets re-elected next month.

Of course if you remember the sixties you obviously weren’t there. But hey man, frayed bell-bottomed jeans have already made a comeback.

And you can’t help but wonder what islanders of Vanuatu are on, making Prince Philip a god.

But the anthropologist Kirk Huffman says it’s quite straightforward.

These guys see him as: ‘A recycled descendant of a very powerful spirit or god that lives on one of their mountains.’

Though their villages are only a few miles from an airport, in their heads they’re three thousand years away, according to a local journalist.

Far out, man.

Arguably the Duke himself was pretty wacky too. Choosing in advance a customised Land Rover for a hearse.

But with his breeding he could do what he liked.

Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was descended from Danish, Russian and German royalty.

And, because this princely lineage was on both sides, he was a fair bit more royal than the woman he married.

Also, contrary to popular opinion, he really really wasn’t Greek. The worthless title suggesting otherwise was only a weird accident of history.

His nationality was determined in act of parliament passed in 1705, which embraced all descendants of the Electress Sophia Hanover.

This included Philip, thanks to his link to Queen Victoria. Meaning what he actually was was .. wait for it .. British.

Of course everyone’s been chipping in how lovely he was. Shakespeare probably would have joined in too, if he were still around.

Arguably though, he did anyway, with Hamlet’s line about his dad. ‘He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.’

Purists might object. But, basically, the bard was trailblazing the broad consensus of recent days.

‘He was a dude, get used to it.’

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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