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Every Little Helps?

Every Little Helps?

until debt tear us apart graffiti on a brick wall

Everyone, from cash-strapped Brits agonizing over whether to eat or stay warm, to Volodymyr Zelensky struggling for his nation’s survival, would agree with that. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Boris Johnson too is hoping he’s done just about enough to save his skin.

All three existential struggles are heavily intertwined.

The war in Ukraine has ratcheted up energy, food and fuel prices in UK as elsewhere. And Johnson’s not very mini budget is a powerful distraction from his own woes.

But will the multi billion pound package presented by the Chancellor do the trick?

Unlikely, it seems, as far as rail workers are concerned. They’ve already voted overwhelmingly to walk out en masse over jobs, pay and conditions.

And while they’re threatening to bring the country to a standstill, civil servants too are planning industrial action hitting airports, ports, courts and other things we all rely on.

Happy days are here again? Er, not.

Still, the promise of four hundred smackers lopped off all energy bills, plus a six-hundred-and-fifty quid one-off payment to the poorest households is nice. Very nice.

And a very conveniently timed bundle of goodies, coming as it did just hours after the long-awaited booze-up bust-up that threatened to pit Johnson against his party.

‘Doubtful it stood. As two spent swimmers, that do cling together And choke their art.’

That line from Shakespeare’s Scottish Play sums up the stakes for Tory MP’s in the run-up to publication of top mandarin Sue Gray’s partygate report.

Anticipation both of enough of them finally demanding a change of leadership, and/or a disgusted electorate ultimately opting for a change of government.

In the play, Macbeth rides to the rescue in the battle and is hailed a hero. Cue Johnson, hoping, obvs, he won’t share the character’s later comeuppance.

A few more Tory MP’s have now joined the rebel faction, but nowhere near enough to finish him off.

Of course there was plenty in the dossier to be outraged by. Set out in excruciating and excoriating detail.

The culture, if you can call it that, of people getting slaughtered every week. Being sick, having barneys and being beastly to cleaners and security staff.

All this under the twinkling eye of the C in C. WTF? For Wine Time Friday, read What The .. well, you know.

Folk who couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in their death throes, because they dutifully obeyed lockdown rules, will never forgive those who flouted them.

But however intense their grief and anger, they represent quite a small proportion of the population.

And however ever so bad the behaviour undoubtedly was in Downing Street, public disgust is blunted by the simple fact of having heard about it so many times.

In parliament the Labour leader did rail furiously at the Tories’ tolerance of Johnson, saying: ‘They set the bar for his conduct lower than a snake’s belly.’

The uncomfortable question is, though, whether the voters too did that, a long time ago. And maybe with the rider: ‘They’re all the same anyway.’

Yes, Labour does still enjoy a healthy lead over the Conservatives, though only one poll suggests they’re in real trouble.

Also, a strikingly telling and arguably depressing insight emerged from a YouGov survey for The Times last week.

Three-quarters of those asked believed Johnson knowingly lied about whether he broke the rules. But four-fifths of them thought he wouldn’t quit anyway.

In a word, then, whatevs.

Has to be said, mind, the high-powered committee of MP’s looking into that very question may decree otherwise.

But even their potential knockout may be averted by a nifty bit of footwork on Johnson’s part.

He’s changed the rule that says telling porkies in parliament is a resigning matter. Hardly in the spirit of Queensberry, that. His critics are understandably enraged.

The punters too will have their say in a couple of by-elections coming up in June. The bookies’ money is on the Conservatives losing both of them.

Admittedly, one was triggered by the resignation of the sitting MP after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenaged boy.

And the other, in the hitherto rock-solid Tory territory of Tiverton and Honiton, follows the departure of Neil ‘Tractor Fetish’ Parish.

Catching out one of their number drooling over pornography in the Commons chamber is not a particularly good look for any party.

But, back to that law of diminishing returns on responses to nasty stuff, it’s a ploy sometimes used in courtrooms if there are truly ghastly photos available.

Bandy them about enough times and the jury eventually becomes desensitised.

Hideous as it is to report, and whisper it softly, there are signs that same numbness is slowly creeping in regarding Putin’s putrid warmongering.

Initial images from Ukraine horrified the world. But, as the old brute continues to lay waste to swathes of that once thriving democracy, senses have become dulled.

President Zelensky can but hope that drift doesn’t extend to friendly governments that’ve been pouring weapons into his armouries.

To give credit where it is due, the Johnson administration has energetically done its bit. Some other nations, including Germany, haven’t always been so keen.

Bad move on their part, according to the World Bank President, who says the war could spark a global recession, with Germany’s economy already hard hit.

And there’s no doubting that thanks to Russia’s overwhelming firepower, including now creaky old long-mothballed tanks that should be in museums, force majeure works.

Formerly prosperous cities are being reduced to rubble and civilians are being routinely and indiscriminately slaughtered.

But whether or not Putin does in the end hang on to the earth he’s so comprehensively scorched, he has already marked himself out, in the scheme of things, as a loser.

Far from fragmenting the Western Alliance, he’s cemented and in time almost certainly enlarged it.

He’s also marked his country’s card as the pariah of the world. Even his Chinese chums are wondering if he’s a bedfellow best kicked out.

And the massive sanctions coming at him from all directions are going a long way to strangling his country’s economy.

Little wonder there are reports of dissatisfaction within the ranks.

According to independent news website Meduza, which is based in Latvia but has a handle on the inner workings of The Kremlin, the grumbles are getting louder.

The site suggests the possibility of replacing Putin is now ‘increasingly being discussed’.

In addition, it claims, many senior business and government figures are displeased that the potential impact of sanctions wasn’t factored into Putin’s thinking.

Strikingly more publicly, a high-ranking diplomat at Russia’s permanent mission to the United Nations in Geneva walked out in protest at the war last week.

It’s the first defection of its kind since the fighting began, and Boris Bondarev’s only regret is it took him so long.

‘I should have done it at the start of the war, but not everyone is a hero,’ he admitted, adding a great number of his colleagues are privately appalled at what’s going on.

There are also suggestions there’ve been a couple of failed assassination attempts on Putin during the fighting.

Third time lucky? It’s an old saying, but sometimes the old ones are the best.

Certainly, fans at a popular girl band rock concert in St Petersburg last week weren’t mincing their words.

In defiance of new laws criminalising anti-war protests, thousands of them chanted in unison ‘f*ck the war’.

Doubtful even the primmest of prim Sunday school teachers could resist saying ‘amen’ to 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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