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Whatever Next?

Whatever Next?

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At home and abroad there’s a sense of foreboding. Are Middle East tensions spiralling out of control? Is Putin winning his war? And is our Prime Minister on the point of losing his? As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Rishi’s rebels are certainly sharpening their knives.

With parliament back this week, the Prime Minister’s hoping for a quick victory, finally getting his illegal migrants bill done and dusted.

But that’s far from the end of the story, given the legal challenges awaiting their moment. Not to mention the continued unwillingness of commercial airlines to actually ferry unhappy asylum seekers to Africa.

Certainly, in Rwanda itself there’s evidence of declining faith in the project. Most of the properties on a new housing estate earmarked for deportees from UK have already been sold off to locals.

A quarter of a billion pounds and counting of British taxpayers’ dosh already shelled out – money well spent? We’ll see.

And then, with barely a fortnight to go until the local elections, which pollsters predict will mean meltdown for the Tories, it’s thought that those who blame Sunak for everything might just choose that moment to strike.

Hardly needs saying that going for a sixth leader in under a decade will do less to ensure Conservative victory at the general election than consign them in voters’ minds to La-La Land.

But the Westminster bubble is a curiously introspective, and at time astonishingly hysterical place.

Arguably, Sunak’s critics do have a point when they cite his lack of political nous as one reason why the polls so consistently refuse to budge in their favour.

The sleaze row rumbling on over the MP William Wragg’s sexting silliness says it all, they reckon.

Caught in a honeytrap scam set up by a man he met on a dating site, he passed on contact details of various colleagues, creating a major security scare. An open and shut case, you’d think. The bloke’s got to go.

Instead of which, Sunak sent his chaps out to defend him, on the grounds that he has said he’s awfully sorry. In the end, Wragg took matters into his own hands, giving up his senior posts in parliament and quitting the party.

A sorry end to a sorry tale? As one former cabinet minister texted last week: ‘If it wasn’t so stupid. It would be genuinely funny. The script of the Thick Of It. A few of us messaged centre at weekend to say WTF. His resignation was inevitable.’

Still, the ‘centre’ referred to in that message keeps on trying. Pressing on the sore afflicting the Labour party over money matters concerning deputy Leader Angela Rayner.

It’s about whether she diddled the taxman when she sold her council house a few years back, by muddying the waters over whether or not she actually lived there.

It’s all a bit complicated, same as her own private life at the time. As anybody who’s ever broken up with the other parent of shared kids will testify.

The Old Bill looked into both that and the matter of whether she’d also broken electoral law by not telling the truth about whether her gaff or ex-hubby’s was actually home. Then decided there was no case to answer.

Under pressure from a Conservative MP and the far from politically impartial Daily Mail, they’ve agreed to have another look. It’ll take time, ensuring the story will linger for longer.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that the ball was initially set rolling by former Tory bigwig and donor Lord Ashcroft.

And, as Private Eye has pointedly pointed out, while Ms Rayner may or may not owe a few grand, her accuser has managed, by ducking and weaving between properties in Britain and overseas, to save himself over a hundred million in taxation.

Nonetheless, you can see why the Tories would love to do the woman down. She is that archetypal attack dog working-class heroine, constantly needling them for their poshness.

At one point they thought they’d got her on hypocrisy, when she accepted an invitation to go to the super-rarefied Glyndebourne opera festival.

In turn, she reminded them that Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro starred a smart servant who outwitted his dim-witted master. Which made them hate her all the more. Natch.

All this, however, looks trivial when set beside the really nasty stuff facing the world.

The hideous Palestinian death toll, of mainly women and children, continues to escalate. And so too does the fear that Iranian reprisals following the Israeli strike on their consulate in Damascus could spark a wider regional conflict.

And closer to home it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Putin’s grotesque invasion of Ukraine is finally starting to go his way. Largely thanks to the waning will of Western allies to arm the defenders.

The gamechanger would be the sixty-billion-dollar package of fresh aid that the US President wants to give them, but which the House of Representatives speaker Mike Johnson is blocking.

The guy is almost certainly doing this at the behest of his chum Donald Trump, who probably wants to chalk up a swift resolution to the war as an early triumph on his return to the White House.

Seeing as he has in the past referred to Putin as ‘a genius’ and ‘savvy’, it’s pretty obvious who’d come out on top in a Trump-brokered peace deal.

Which is one reason why Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was on such a mission last week to engineer a change of heart.

Has to be said, our Dave’s past references to The Donald as ‘divisive, stupid, wrong, protectionist, xenophobic, and misogynistic’ didn’t exactly get him off on a good foot.

And if he didn’t get far with the organ grinder he had even less luck with the monkey, as Mike Johnson didn’t seem to have time in his busy schedule to see him at all.

More’s the pity, argues the former Tory Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood, who fears the West is ‘in denial’ about Putin, who, he argues, is now more powerful than the genocidal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

What’s more, he believes, the man is hiding in plain sight his ambition not simply to rebuild the USSR but the old Russian Empire. Meaning smashing Ukraine is just for starters.

Of course, now that Cameron’s the UK’s face on the world stage he’s not going to put things in quite such impolite terms, but it’s no secret that he shares his colleague’s basic premise. Which must have made his getting the bird from the Yankee fixer all the more maddening.

In fact, he must have wondered what he was doing Stateside at all. But stranger things have happened.

A visitor to a station platform in Australia last week attired only in a rug attracted a great deal of attention, as the consensus was he shouldn’t really have been there either.

The transport authorities reported, alarmingly: ‘He appeared to pursue an informant along the platform before unsuccessfully attempting to board a train service.’

More reassuringly, though, the statement continued: ‘The individual then moved to the car park area where he was … returned to his residence in a stable condition.’

Then came the conclusion: ‘No one involved in the incident is intending to take any further action as the individual was only horsing around!’

Guessing you’ve guessed it by now. The station is near a racecourse, and the speedy mover of an intruder does have four legs.

Watch Peter’s report at

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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