With both Prime Minister and Labour leader setting out their sunny uplands stalls there’s plenty to chew over. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the rest of us have reason to be more exercised by the elephant in the room.
Crisis, what crisis? Though they’re finally getting round to addressing the problem, Downing Street’s query in regard to the health service still stands.
The chair of the British Medical Association’s consultants’ committee says this attitude seems ‘simply delusional’.
And you can see his point.
Another top doctor says hundreds of people are dying unnecessarily every week for lack of emergency care. Also, it’s official, one in ten Brits is on an NHS waiting list.
Add to that the endless horror stories of people waiting, sometimes for days, for an ambulance, only to spend even longer stacked up outside hospitals.
Of course winter’s the toughest time, and the so-called twindemic of Covid and surging flu cases don’t help.
However, a YouGov poll after Christmas showed four-fifths of the public think the government is handling the issue badly.
No surprise there, but could be why there are glimmers of hope of a compromise to end the frazzled but determined nurses’ strike.
Ministers are nonetheless still bent on holding out in the other high-profile dispute, with railway workers.
That’s largely because if they’re seen to be caving in, the rest of the million or so fellow downers of tools might take the hint.
To quote the French wag Voltaire’s take on the execution, after losing a battle, of British admiral John Byng, it’s: ‘Pour encourager les autres.’
Meantime, Rishi Sunak has popped his head over the parapet to make his first big speech of the year, in which he made one or two easily kept promises.
The most salient, in terms of digging at the roots of the wave of industrial action, is his pledge to get inflation down.
Given that most economists think that’s going to happen anyway, he can’t miss there.
But he also says he wants to get NHS waiting lists down, which will be nice. Or, rather, would be. We await developments.
The underpinning difficulty, highlighted in December’s seminal report from the King’s Fund think tank, is lack of cash.
What it termed ‘a decade of neglect’ under the Tories has left the service woefully lacking in staff, equipment and up-to-date buildings.
Ministers’ response, that they’re throwing oodles of lolly at the problem, conveniently ignores the obvious.
A generation ago, average life expectancy was sixty-seven. Now it’s somewhere in the eighties. And as people get older, and frailer, they get more needy.
Put brutally, when they were pushing up the daisies they weren’t pushing up healthcare costs. Well, they are now.
Another of Sunak’s promises is more maths teaching, for longer. He’s very good at this subject, so whether or not he likes to admit it, he can do the sums.
Which brings us on to Sir Keir Starmer’s vision for Britain’s future under Labour.
Notwithstanding the pollsters’ verdict that Labour’s on course for a massive win at the next election, he’s leaving as little as he can to chance.
Hence his determination to burnish to bursting his party’s economic credentials.
Though he’s promising to fix loads of things, he stresses: ‘None of this should be taken as code for Labour getting its big government chequebook out again.’
Actually, this should be taken as code for: ‘Fear not, folks, I am not Jeremy Corbyn.’
This break with a former leader scaring the pants off people with impossible promises finds an echo in what Sunak’s been up to since he took over.
Credit where it’s due, he has managed to repair much of the damage inflicted on the British economy by his immediate predecessor at Number Ten.
And, in spite of successive rebellions by the naughty boys and girls on his own back benches, he has managed to steady the party ship.
Meaning no return to the terminal chaos engulfing 2022’s other Prime Minister. Beautifully characterised by Starmer as: ‘The sinking ship deserting the rat.’
Indeed, Boris Johnson’s first claim to fame, that he ‘got Brexit done’ is now hitting choppy seas.
The consensus among statisticians and economists is that the terms of our departure have made us all noticeably poorer. And the penny, or lack of it, is starting to drop.
A YouGov poll just before Christmas revealed only one in three leave voters now believe their chosen way out has been a success.
Sunak and Starmer are aware of this shift in the zeitgeist (apologies, Brexit hardliners, for using a nasty foreign word), but fear of just this faction is paramount.
That’s why, for now, they’re both pussyfooting round the issue of improving trade links with le continong. After the election, whoever wins might be a bit braver.
As for Johnson’s other legacy, getting wavering Western leaders to back Ukraine in its struggle to beat back the fascist invader, the history books might be kinder to him.
The existential nature of the threat to us all is now hideously apparent, hence the ever raising stakes in the proxy war between the free world and the Kremlin gremlin.
Which makes our home-grown spectacle of a right royal punch-up feel like a gripping but pleasantly harmless update to The Crown series on the telly.
Harry’s latest revelations/allegations/self-indulgent whingeings have at least generated an award-meriting headline in the Daily Star newspaper.
Put Your Dukes Up!
But, on a darker note, the Firm has form.
Consider World War One, when our King George took on one cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm, and left another, Czar Nicholas, to be slaughtered with his family by the Bolsheviks.
Of course it’s not that simple. But it is indicative of the power the royals do and don’t have as they try to swim with and against the tide of history.
Plus it’s a harsh reminder, bringing us back to the Ukrainians’ current struggle, of humanity’s capacity for mindless brutality when the dogs of war are unleashed.
Our epoch is also notable for humanity’s capacity for turning a blind eye.
Witness the endless succession last year of extreme weather events and the arguably absurd way the world has failed to grasp the climate emergency nettle.
Efforts are being made, but in the opinion of many of those in the know, they’re looking ever so late and far too little.
That’s certainly the view of teen superstar environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg.
And she’s happy to take on all comers, including the, put politely, uninhibited American-British social media ‘personality’ Andrew Tate.
When he defiantly tweeted about the ‘enormous emissions’ emanating from his collection of no fewer than thirty-three cars, she said she’d like to know more.
Her tweet, that’s garnered millions of views, contained the request that he mail the info to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
Dontcha just love ’er?!
Watch Peter’s report HERE
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.