Boris Johnson has a lot of people to thank for his survival in 10 Downing Street, but Keir Starmer should be at the top of the list. The Labour leader whipped his MPs to side with the government when lockdown votes looked tricky. Labour even saved Johnson from a defeat in the Commons over vaccine passports. But Starmer’s greatest service came last month, on a day that could have finished Johnson for good.
Members of the 2019 crop of Tory MPs had met to discuss their problems with the Prime Minister.
You have the advantage over me. It may be that you are reading this now in your makeshift fallout shelter, hair falling out and bleeding from the gums as the nuclear winter descends. More likely you are saying, rather smugly, to your neighbour: ‘I knew he was taking the piss. He’s a right one, that Putin.’ Or perhaps Vlad’s forces are already in London, having swept through western Europe in about eight hours, the Germans for once outdoing the French with their alacrity to surrender.
One of the few things I have learned in this life is that Dante Alighieri was wrong. In the Inferno portion of The Divine Comedy (the only part most people read), the great Florentine poet describes hell as having just nine circles. Whereas whenever I survey matters it has always seemed me that this figure is on the low side. In fact I would go further. I would say that if you look down there is always a circle below every circle.
‘Never interrupt your enemy,’ said Napoleon, ‘when he is making a mistake.’ A Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine would prove (perhaps, by the time this Spectator is published, ‘will’ prove) a terrible mistake. Were it not for the death and despoliation such a mistake would bring — an outcome one could never welcome — the response to Vladimir Putin’s implicit threats should surely be: bring it on! When we told Russia they’d only be hurting themselves, did we not mean it?
For the free world, an invasion would be a dark cloud; but, though I hate to speak of silver linings, the ultimate downfall of Putin, the severing of prospective Russian gas supplies to Germany and the kicking of Westminster into finally squaring up to the City’s dirty trade in money-laundering would be a silver lining.
OK, I finally watched Netflix’s Don’t Look Up. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it — especially before its effective subtitle for us thickos, THIS IS A METAPHOR FOR CLIMATE CHANGE, YOU F-ING MORONS. Otherwise, the film might have playfully dramatised the more general phenom of fiddling with celebrity bodices while Rome burns.
The comet at which I’m looking up could arrive far more immediately than perilous global warming. Money is in trouble.
When Sir Tony Brenton writes a letter to the Times, as he frequently does, it always says at the bottom that he was British ambassador to Moscow. The uninformed reader could be forgiven for thinking the sub-editors have got it back to front and he was actually Russian ambassador to London. Sir Tony’s message in every letter is ‘It’s all Britain’s fault’. In his latest, his particular target was the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, after her visit to Moscow.
I’ve had the opportunity recently to take part in wage-rise discussions for several small entities in which I’m involved. The conversation has been much the same everywhere. ‘How about we offer them 3 per cent?’ ‘But that’s less than current inflation and they didn’t have a rise when they were on furlough last year.’ ‘So how about 5 per cent?’ ‘Safer to say 7, but they’d still be worse off than before the pandemic. And they’ll get 10 per cent or better if they move anywhere else.