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The Glorious Twelfth

The Glorious Twelfth

busy high street decked in bunting

Traditionally, the twelfth is anything but glorious for grouse, in the month of August. But this month, for humans, it’s set to be a lovely day, with shops, pubs, holiday lets and, blessing upon blessings, hairdressers, back in business. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the government’s ‘play it safe’ strategy looks to be paying off.

As a result, according to chief medical officer Chris Whitty, lockdowns look pretty soon to be a thing of the past.

He argues Britain will in future treat coronavirus like flu, accepting some deaths are the inevitable price for keeping schools and businesses open.

In a bad year, he points out, flu claims twenty-five thousand lives. Horrible, but not headline-making.

Meantime, the government does have pitfalls to navigate. Like whether to introduce a system of covid passports.

Maybe even for domestic use, as people move more freely.

They’ve been called ‘papers for the pub’. And probably worse, as upwards of seventy MP’s, more than half of them Tories, are noisily opposed.

At this stage it is only an idea, unlike rolling them out for overseas travel, which the Prime Minister says is ‘definitely’ a runner.

Where we might be allowed to go, and when, remain open questions. Much will depend on other countries’ vaccination rates.

And some Gulf states have outrun mainland Europe by miles. Prompting one of the Sun’s better headlines.

‘The planes to Spain now mainly to Bahrain.’

No place here for schadenfreude, but the reversals of fortune over the last year are staggering.

When the pandemic first hit, UK had the worst death toll in Europe. Now its infection rates are among the lowest.

Last week Parisian hospitals were overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients, while in London the daily fatality rate hovered around zero.

All about the jab. Official stats show roughly half of us now have anti-corona antibodies, mostly thanks to vaccination. Well over thirty million so far.

It was a gamble that paid off.

Our government stumped up for the Oxford/AstraZeneca research. In return it got vital supplies before other nations.

And now a newer inoculation, Novavax, is being made in Teesside, with the finishing touches added at its plant in Barnard Castle.

Yes, that’s right. The place where Bojo’s ex-Svengali enraged the nation by visiting during a lockdown, then claimed he wasn’t breaking rules.

Definition of chutzpah: Boy who shoots both parents then demands clemency from the court on the grounds he’s an orphan.

That’ll be Cummings then.

Arguably though, what he did was so bad it was good. The local tourist chiefs want to erect a life-sized bronze statue of him.

Help put the town on the map, so to speak. Like Hartlepool, famous as the place where they mistook a monkey for a Frenchman and hanged him.

This story may or may not be true, but there are plenty like that around.

Ex-PM David Cameron may or may not have a case to answer over his links to the controversial Australian banker Lex Greensill.

It seems during his time at Number Ten, Dave gave this guy preferential access to the corridors of power. Then went on to lobby on his behalf.

Private Eye’s latest issue has a picture of him looking chilled on the steps of his twenty-five grand garden shed.

The caption reads: ‘Nowadays I’m taking it sleazy.’

Boris Johnson’s also on the magazine’s front cover, thanks to fresh claims being made by the American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.

As London mayor he shelled out in her direction rather a lot of public money, and gave her a generous dollop of inside access.

Though, given her allegations that they had a four-year affair it could be argued that cut two ways, pardon the pun.

The Eye’s pic shows her draped in a Union Jack, which we’re told should be on all public buildings.

Her thought bubble reads: ‘All official mistresses must fly the flag.’ While another says: ‘Boris’s trousers are at half mast!’

They might say that. This column couldn’t possibly comment.

Nor would it dream of passing judgement on the former holder of the highest office in the United States.

But things do seem to have quietened down in the White House since the new guy took over.

The best Biden can come up with is his dog taking a chunk out of a couple of staffers.

Worth bearing in mind the standard definition of what hacks write about.

‘Dog bites man is not news. Man bites dog is news.’

So far no reports have emerged of the previous POTUS biting people. At least not physically. But all things are possible.

More than possible, it’s judged by the World Health Organisation most likely that corona did originate in bats before jumping to humans.

Which makes it a tad ironic that boffins have been told to take special precautions to stop them catching it back from us.

The US Geological Survey says researchers studying endangered species should get tested and wear protective equipment before handling them.

But the animal world never ceases to amaze.

Researchers in one city in Japan have spotted crows teaching one another the best way to crack nuts.

Just dropping them on rocks doesn’t always work. But leaving them on pedestrian crossing and waiting for cars to crush them does.

Another better way of getting food has been discovered by some dolphins in Western Australia.

A lot of the best food lies under the sand, but digging it out involves scraping their noses.

The solution? Protect the nose by bunging a sponge on it. Far from obvious to the average dolphin.

Which is why, the scientists believe, those who’ve mastered the technique stick together.

While for Canadian sparrows who just want to get it together the solution is to sing a special song.

One day, it’s claimed, one little birdie made up his own tune, and it was such a hit with the girlies that the other males copied it.

And it’s gone from being a niche melody to the dominant call in those parts.

Professor Ken Otter, from the University of Northern British Columbia, freely admits he’s amazed:

‘We don’t know of any other study that has ever seen this sort of spread through cultural evolution of a song type.’

The journal Science claims it’s proof that humans aren’t alone in doing things just because they’re cool.

To clinch the argument it cites a particular group of chimpanzees in a particular part of Zambia, that took to sticking a bit of grass in their ears.

This trend emerged in 2014. They don’t do it now, obvs. So last year.

Oh, and btw, all this was reported in The Times on April the second. NOT the first.

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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