That is the question – haunting the government as the planned 21st June lifting of most restrictions looms closer. The abrupt downgrading of Portugal’s holiday destination status is a brutal reminder that all bets are off. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson is in an unhappy place.
Those supposedly in charge like to look that way. Trying to pretend they’re leading, by data not dates, fools no one.
They’re as in control of where they’re at as babies in prams.
For the past week hopes of a return to something like normal this month have bounced around like yo-yos on naughty powder.
And the glass is set fair for no change there until the very last moment.
It’s all about the race against time. Getting enough people protected to hold back the tide of likely new infections.
Most UK adults have had one jab, and half their second as well. The aim is to fully vaccinate all over fifties this month.
And one day last week we recorded zero Covid deaths.
But forty-eight hours later that situation changed, with the number of positive tests shooting up by more than a fifth.
The problem being the Indian variant. It’d become dominant, with cases almost doubling in a week.
Oh, and btw, it’s now called the Delta variant.
Even language is getting knocked round. What was a lockdown just became Lockdown. As normal as Lent or Christmas.
Grotesquely abnormal, however, is people happily jetting to the sun one minute, suddenly having problems when they get back.
The last-minute decision to put Portugal on the amber list has enraged holidaymakers and the travel industry alike.
And it threatens all trips abroad this summer, as ministers fear Europe’s vaccination levels won’t catch up with ours for months.
Yet more evidence that, far from being in the driving seat, the British government is wedged in the boot.
And, soaring ahead though the Tories still are in the polls, Bojo has one or two other problems on his plate.
Like what looks like a serious goof over the not unrelated problem of schoolkids’ post pandemic catch-up.
Sir Kevan Collins, the teaching expert hired by the government to sort it, said it’d cost fifteen billion to put things right.
And, when the government said here you go, here’s, er, one-tenth of that, he quit.
‘In parts of the country where schools were closed for longer, such as the north, the impact of low skills on productivity is likely to be particularly severe,’ he raged.
So much for Johnson’s soi-disant ‘levelling up’ agenda. Sir Kevan was saying Red Wall voters who turned Tory had been had.
Unions agreed, as wholesale extra schooling, tutoring and staffing shrivelled to a bit of free tuition and a few more teachers.
Even the Education Secretary admitted ‘more is required’ as the blows rained down on him.
Gavin Williamson’s had a lot of grief for a lot of reasons in recent months.
And the consensus seems to be building that the Prime Minister must try harder … to give him the bullet.
Meantime, Johnson faces another major problem.
Potentially the biggest backbench revolt since he came to office, which could even force him to change course.
Dozens of Conservative MP’s, including former ministers and ex-PM Theresa May, are spitting nails about foreign aid.
They say a planned multi-billion pound reduction will mean tens of thousands of deaths around the globe.
And, with world leaders about to meet in Cornwall to discuss the pandemic, blaming it for the cut looks shabby indeed.
Besides which, top international bodies insist, now is the time for richer nations to give more, not less.
Because if they don’t it might come back to bite them. As it risks more new variants springing up in poorer countries.
No question, given his eighty-strong commons majority, Johnson will look pretty silly if he loses a vote.
Some say he looked pretty silly too on his wedding day last week.
His blushing bride, aka Carrie Johnson, née Symonds, rented an appliquéd embroidered tulle gown worth nearly three grand.
He went for what the Daily Mirror described as a ‘wrinkled white shirt’.
And one of that paper’s sub-editors got a gold star, for one of the better headlines of recent years.
‘Beauty and the Creased.’
Not to be outdone, perhaps, the Labour leader too last week laid bare an offence against fashion.
In a highly emotional interview with Piers Morgan, he talked of how horrid his dad was. And cried about his mum’s death.
But, in a lighter moment, Keir Starmer claimed his best physical feature as a lad was his hair.
Anyone, anyone, who’s seen the picture will spot the problem.
Still, perhaps we can all cheer up now that scientists have finally worked out the secret of happiness.
According to boffins at University College London it’s all down to a simple formula. Well, relatively simple:
(t)=w0 +w1∑j=1tγt −jCRj +w2∑j=1tγt −jEVj +w3∑j=1tγt −jRPEj.
Or, put another way, best lower your expectations but not so low for so long that it makes you unhappy.
Ergo, says the uni’s prof Robb Rutledge: ‘When our happiness drops, it may be a sign that we should try something new.’
Oh really, whatever next?
For a start, a gent called Howard Simon has returned a record to an Ohio library, after hanging on to it for nearly fifty years,.
He admitted he’d taken out the Bob Dylan album when he was at school, but now he’d retired he had time to put things right.
Confessing this was ‘a transgression of my youth’, he added: ‘It’s quite late, and I’m quite sorry.’
Library staff were quite pleased to get it back, along with a cheque for a hundred-and-seventy-five dollars.
The more so as they don’t even charge for being kept waiting these days.
Seems things haven’t gone totally quiet Stateside since President Combover got his comeuppance.
They’re also keeping a look out for little green men hopping in and out of spaceships.
And the British government is considering a relaunch of the Defence Ministry’s UFO desk, which was closed in 2009.
Much depends on a forthcoming Pentagon report, which is expected to show the US is taking aliens increasingly seriously.
Former President Barack Obama confirmed as much in a TV interview.
‘There’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.
‘We can’t explain how they moved.’
Watch this space? Something like that.
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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