Just a week after telling Americans not to worry their pretty heads about it, because virtually nobody except sick, old people were affected, POTUS got COVID. Which puts people over here who’re on the naughty step for breaking the rules in the shade. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson still has to carry on ducking and weaving.
Crystal balls, anyone?
The doctor’s diagnosis on the President Of The United States answers one question, but begs a million more.
With the election just a month away anything could happen. Much depends on how bad he gets. The medics insist he’ll be just fine, but there are factors at play.
A lifetime’s diet of cheeseburgers, for a start. The man’s clinically obese. Also he’s on medication for his heart.
And he’s seventy-four. Nearly all Americans who’ve died in the pandemic certainly were senior citizens. He got that bit right.
But bodily responses vary widely. Likewise political reactions in his horribly polarised country.
As a rule, folk rally round the Pres during crises, but these are not normal times.
To his fans, Donald Trump is the all-embracing all-American hero. Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett, Popeye, Al Capone, Robert E. Lee, to name but a few.
While many of those of a different persuasion have got the prayer mats out, begging Beelzebub to claim his own.
Sorry, but it’s true.
World leaders have sent get-well-soon messages. Unlike some others, Bojo probably meant it, having been there himself.
Doesn’t change the fact he’s got more than enough on his own plate just now.
His dad rather blotted his corona copybook by letting himself get photographed, minus mask, at a west London newsagents.
Seems no one’s told him about the Eleventh Commandment. Thou shalt not get caught.
But he’s in good company. Remember Jeremy Corbyn? Former Labour leader? Went to a dinner party for seven. Plus he and the missus makes nine, surely.
Maybe a spot of dyscalculia. But sounds suspiciously more than six.
Then there’s the Scot Nat MP Margaret Ferrier, who trained it down to Westminster in spite of having Covid symptoms. Then back up again even though she’d tested positive.
Her own party leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, told her to step down. ‘I did so with a heavy heart .. but her actions were dangerous and indefensible,’ she tweeted.
Ferrier, btw, called for Bojo’s Svengali Dominic Cummings to quit after he popped out to test his eyesight when no one was supposed to be going anywhere. Oops.
Since then the rules have, on the Prime Minister’s own admission, got more complicated.
So much so that even he got in a muddle while talking about new restrictions in the North East, which the deputy Labour leader found ‘grossly incompetent’.
After the slip-up, during a visit to a further education college, even his own old paper weighed in.
According to the Daily Telegraph’s associate editor Camilla Tominey, ‘it quickly emerged that Dilyn the dog had eaten Mr Johnson’s homework’.
That said, Boris was smart enough last week to head off a commons defeat, inflicted by his own MP’s, by giving them a say on who can do what, where, and when.
The compromise was thrashed out after commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle accused him of treating Parliament with ‘contempt’. Basically, ruling by diktat.
Not that he stepped that far back, mind. The government can still do whatever it fancies in ‘an emergency’. And there’s to be no consultation over local lockdowns.
So, given that most of the north of England has already joined Wales in tough new restrictions, we could end up with a national lockdown by another name.
Meantime, Johnson appeared on the box last week to buck us all up and tell us, in effect, to keep taking the tablets.
The pre-briefing told its own story. No drastic new announcements for now, but, to quote one adviser, he’d ‘impart more stern words about people not taking the piss’.
Worth remembering, though, the picture’s not as bleak as it looks.
Hopes are rising that every grownup in Britain could get the jab by next Easter, if the front-running Oxford vaccine gets the go-ahead. One seriously big deal, that.
Meantime, both Bojo and top boffin Sir Patrick Vallance have conceded for the first time that infections at the height of the pandemic were probably around a hundred thousand.
A helluva lot worse than the seven thousand we’re seeing now.
Experts stress current gloomy figures are ‘misleading’, as lack of community testing in the early days meant for a long time we’d no idea how many people had caught it.
Nor have we any idea where the European Union’s new ‘see you in court’ threat will lead.
Ministers have already fessed up to being guilty as charged. Breaking international law by reneging on the withdrawal treaty Bojo himself signed.
But the legal tussle will drag on for months. While, much more importantly, talks on the terms of our departure are carrying on regardless.
And the chances of a deal? Hopes pirouette on a daily basis like demented dervishes.
However, as key deadlines loom there’s a feeling all sides recognise a bit of goodwill would be a good idea.
Not that there’s been much of that around recently between the Home Department and the Foreign Office.
All manner of tales have been told about new and ever weirder ways of dealing with asylum seekers.
Everything from carting them off to processing centres on remote islands or mothballed oil rigs to pumping waves across the channel to discourage crossings in little boats.
No, that last bit isn’t a joke. The Financial Times doesn’t go in for them.
And the Home Secretary suspects those Foreign Office wallahs have leaked the stories to the papers to make her look silly.
Against that, it could be the work of unseen hands trying to make the government look tough on something. As opposed to ditzy on coronavirus.
Commentators have noted this populist posturing has come just as polls start striking terror into Tory hearts.
For the first time since Johnson got into Number Ten, Labour’s edged into the lead.
An Opinium survey for last week’s Observer put Keir Starmer’s party three points ahead of the Conservatives. The comrades haven’t been on top in well over a year.
Of course voters’ fears are fuelled by the ending of the furlough scheme. And yet more people falling through the increasingly fragile state safety net.
Many theatres, already in dire straits, could be sunk by the loss of their biggest money-spinner of the year.
Cue pantomime dames, parading past the Treasury, bearing banners demanding: ‘Are you behind us?’
Point being most of their income for the year is already behind them. Is that funny? Oh no it isn’t.
But at least there’s been light relief for visitors to Lincolnshire Wildlife Park.
Five parrots who were adopted in August and quarantined together had, when they finally got to meet the punters, words to say to them
Rude words. Lots of them.
Oh, how everyone laughed. Well, not quite everyone. Some mummies and daddies didn’t.
Tough titty. When one swore, to get a response, the rest would join in. Badly behaved birds. African Greys, turning the air blue.
Alternatively, you might just say, b*ll*cks, it’s f***ing hilarious.
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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