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War War? Jaw Jaw?

War War? Jaw Jaw?

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Perhaps that should read paw paw, judging by the behaviour of the Prime Minister’s chum who couldn’t keep his hands to himself last week. Boris Johnson might take comfort from his success in channelling Churchill as the Western military alliance snarled at the Russian leader. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, that’s not much help on the home front.

First the good news. A poll’s revealed that among Ukrainians Johnson’s almost as popular as their own president.

Then the bad news. Hostility towards their own leader within the ranks of the British Conservative party gets worse all the time.

Chris Pincher, aka Groper, landed the job of sorting backbench discipline in spite of questions about his past behaviour as a reward for services rendered.

He it was who pulled Tory MPs into line when the scandal over Downing Street’s lockdown-busting parties kicked off.

Now that he’s gone too far, touching folk up in his cups in a club, Johnson’s judgement in hiring him in the first place comes under renewed scrutiny.

Of course it’s just the latest in a long line of grubby episodes.

Remember those by-elections the Conservatives lost so spectacularly last month?

One of the sitting Tory MP’s had been spotted watching porn in the commons, and the other had been convicted for sexual assault.

The party’s got so much form it’s hard to keep up.

Not that that’s stopping a high-powered group of MPs limbering up – to shaft the man who in his childhood wanted to be world king.

Or maybe, to riff on the title of a hugely popular musical, the Liar King.

It was thought the Privileges Committee was to look into whether – in telling MPs lockdown rules were not broken – he knowingly misled parliament.

In other words, if he didn’t realise all those parties were, erm, parties, then he’s off the hook.

However, in a nifty bit of footwork, the Labour party managed a few months back to slip through the commons a line that knocked out the word ‘knowingly’.

And it now looks like that’s what the committee will run with.

If so, all Johnson has to have done is tell parliament something that wasn’t true, whether he realised it or not, to land himself in deep doodoo.

May not come to that. Then again, it might. Meanwhile, as the committee cracks on, staff are being encouraged to testify anonymously.

Which will make it much easier for them to dob Johnson in it without putting their own jobs at risk.

No wonder the gossip of the past few days about Tory MP’s cutting and running to Labour has been overtaken by fevered speculation about a snap election.

Until earlier this year this wouldn’t have been a runner, because of the law passed by David Cameron’s coalition that set specific timetables.

Now that Johnson’s scrapped it he can choose his moment. And, in anticipation of an up yours from the MPs, he could take his chances with the voters instead.

The very fact that it’s being talked about, and talked about seriously, is indicative of how must faith his own side doesn’t have in him.

Another factor worrying Conservative MPs with small majorities is the evidence from those two by-elections of a resurgence of the Lib Dems.

Following that party’s gobsmacking win at Tiverton and Honiton, the latest polls give them their highest rating for more than two years.

According to YouGov, they shot up four points in a week, at the expense of both the main parties.

Factor in punters’ new savviness about so-called tactical voting, that’s to say squeezing out the party they don’t like, and even more Tory seats are at risk.

The picture’s opaque, however. While low-charisma Kier is regarded as the government’s greatest asset, Labour feels the same about Johnson.

But for all his dubious reputation for honesty and human decency, much of his eighty-seat majority is owed to his skill at wowing the fans.

And few would dispute that his advocacy helped concentrate minds at last week’s international summits.

As Russia perpetuates its scorched earth policy and wholesale slaughter of civilians, Ukraine needs all the help it can get.

So the near-tenfold increase increase in NATO’s high-readiness troop numbers, combined with Finland and Sweden joining up, will be welcome.

The extra billion pounds of military aid Britain’s chucking in won’t go amiss either.

And the more nails Putin spits about it all the more it marks him out, in strategic terms, as the loser.

Also, as the tally of war crimes committed at his behest is duly filed away, he might one day have nowhere to hide.

While the head of the army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, is warning we’re facing our ‘1937 moment’, that dark period still resonates.

Witness the jailing just last week of a Nazi concentration camp guard for thousands of counts of accessory to murder.

The fact that he’s a hundred-and-one years old made no difference to the court. Something for Mad Vlad to bear in mind for future reference.

Not that we in the West haven’t had our moments. Think indiscriminate American bombing raids in Vietnam.

A photograph of a child screaming in pain from napalm-inflicted burns became a haunting metaphor for a war driven by Putin-style paranoia.

Against all odds, the girl survived. But only now have the doctors decided she doesn’t need any more skin grafts. Fifty years on.

Scroll forward to the Capitol Hill riots in Washington in January, and the implication that Donald Trump favoured a coup to save his presidency.

According to the testimony of a then senior aide, he tried to force his driver to get him closer to the action by grabbing the car’s steering wheel.

‘I’m the f*cking president, take me up to the Capitol now. I don’t f*cking care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,’ he’s alleged to have said.

Nor was he impressed that his agents were using metal detectors called magnetometers to locate the rioters’ military-style semi-automatic rifles:

‘Take the f*cking mags away. Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here.’

So much for the West’s much trumpeted (sic) rule of law and civilised standards of behaviour.

But just as Trump is notoriously thin-skinned about having his macho image called into question, Putin apparently has the same problem.

And he really really didn’t take kindly to Western leaders poking fun at his penchant for topless photo-ops.

You lot, he whined, would look disgusting if you undressed ‘above or below the waist’.

Touch of the grumps there? Certainly suggests Johnson’s jibe, that the way to demonstrate toughness is to ‘show them our pecs’, hit a nerve.

That said, Putin probably had a point, for once. The image of all those pecs is an argument against going to … Specsavers.

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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