Peter Rhodes on Trump's final exit, vaccine side-effects and the infinite fascination of chess

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Simply the best: Anya Taylor-Joy (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Simply the best: Anya Taylor-Joy (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The Long View (Radio 4) reminded us that when the original smallpox vaccine was produced in the 18th century using cow-pox pus, the first anti-vaxxers denounced the vaccine as unnatural. Some claimed that vaccination was unChristian. And some alleged that children injected with the cow-pox were starting to show bovine characteristics. Which makes you think.

Apparently one of the new anti-Covid vaccines contains extract of chimpanzee organisms. How will you know this is the one you've been given? I would think it's a fair bet if you get a sudden craving for messy tea-parties and develop an unerring accuracy in throwing your own dung.

There is one thing pandemics do that no vaccine can fix. They simply pack their tiny bags and go away. The Spanish Flu erupted in 1918 and in four waves killed tens of millions of people worldwide. And then, in 1920, it simply vanished. Nobody knows how or why, although it may have mutated into something harmless. It would be ironic indeed if the greatest public-health mobilisation in a century reaches its peak next year with the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine costing untold billions of pounds - and the unsporting virus doesn't hang around for the big fight. In nature, there is no law more powerful than sod's law.

Never thought I'd be binge-viewing a series about chess. The Queen's Gambit (Netflix), starring Anya Taylor-Joy, is the best thing on the box. It leaves you asking a single question. Is it possible to be a world-class chess player and keep your marbles?

Now that Jeremy Corbyn has accepted that claims of anti-semitism in the Labour Party were not overstated, what happens to Baroness Shami Chakrabarti? Her 2016 report into the issue concluded that Labour was “not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism,” but that there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere.” A few weeks after producing this encouraging report, Chakrabarti was appointed to the House of Lords. She also earned the unofficial title of Baroness Whitewash. Any reflections, your ladyship?

Donald Trump has allegedly asked his advisers about the pros and cons of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. Alarm bells ring. Throughout history, despots have started wars as a means of unifying their people and securing their power. But even in a democracy there are surely ways and means to prevent a sore loser from shedding blood in the hope of staying in office. I have in mind a squad of US Marines arriving at the White House. Their leader explains: “You're right, Mr President. There's been a recount. You won the election fair and square and we're here to take you to a huge celebration. Now, just step into this limousine.” And we never see him again.

As for theories that the US election was stolen, what sort of anti-Trump chicanery would fix it for Donald Trump to win millions more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016? Funny sort of conspiracy.

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