Express & Star

Toby Neal: Has Boris got more lives than Larry the No. 10 cat?

Toby Neal casts his eye on the world of politics.

Larry has escaped a fine, so far...

Larry escapes again.

After another big batch of fixed penalty notices, Larry must be one of few left within the walls of Downing Street not to have been hit with a fine, despite his cavalier disregard of the Covid rules.

Being a cat does have its advantages.

As the fines avalanche continues at Number 10, we await the biggie, one that will really determine whether Boris Johnson can remain Prime Minister.

In a masterstroke, the work of a political genius with a brilliant, nay forensic, lawyer's intellect (either that, or a complete clot) Sir Keir Starmer has said that if he gets a fixed penalty notice from Durham police he will resign as Labour leader.

That will put Boris Johnson in an impossible position, as his conscience will be racked at the thought that Sir Keir has resigned in an exhibition of high moral principles while he is clinging to office outrageously.

Eventually Boris will come to the conclusion: "The decent thing would be for me to resign too."

Bye, bye Boris!

And if you believe that...

The problem is that while there isn't an Aesop's Fable about The Scoundrel and The Preacher, if there was, it would apply. When a scoundrel acts like a scoundrel, nobody is surprised. But when a preacher transgresses, it is a very British trait for people to take great delight in putting the boot in.

As for Sir Keir resigning, there is no greater clottishness than to lay down your political life for your enemies, especially when you think you have done nothing wrong.

All Sir Keir actually did is have a beer and takeaway during an office break which, in the scale of harm during the pandemic, has to be close to zero.

A paradoxical feature of the Covid restrictions has been the way that people who would normally be considered liberal have linked their level of virtue to how authoritarian they can seem. For instance, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Kim-Jong Ardern, was hailed a heroine by liberal opinion for holding an entire nation hostage for months.

Now we are in a world of lifted restrictions we can perhaps start to evaluate what actions were taken during the pandemic in an audit of harms. The lockdowns were extremely harmful, economically, socially, educationally, and in many ways medically – just ask a cancer patient or somebody in a queue waiting for hospital treatment.

Those harms were justifiable if, on balance, they were outweighed by good, through arresting the spread of the deadly virus and saving millions of lives.

From the standpoint of public trust, we must hope that that is the case, and that the lockdowns weren't just a waste of time that made no difference and that the only thing that really made a difference was the vaccines. There is food for thought in data from the World Health Organisation which has shown that Sweden, which chose not to impose strict lockdowns, had one of Europe's lowest Covid death rates.

Meanwhile, the scale of Putin's superhuman stupidity is underlined by Finland's moves to join Nato, which is exactly the opposite of what he wanted, which was to stop Nato's eastwards expansion. And if it was ever true that Putin backed Brexit, that calculation has backfired too as Britain has led the world in challenging his aggression in the Ukraine, to such an extent that Boris Johnson is now the Kremlin's public enemy number one and a hero of the Ukrainians.

Finland and Russia have history. Stalin's Russia invaded Finland in 1939 but it was a shambles. Britain tried to give the Finns what support we could. But then when Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, the Finns took advantage and went to war with Russia to recapture lost territory. That was a diplomatically tricky situation for Britain, which had supplied military equipment now being used against an ally in our fight against Hitler.

In other developments this week, there was a bizarre interview with Michael Gove in which at times he appeared to be impersonating a serious politician.

Lastly a classic BBC question to Conservative MP Marcus Fysh from Evan Davis on Radio 4's PM programme reporting on the council election results.

"If I gave you the choice of booting Rishi Sunak out of the Treasury, or Boris Johnson out of Number 10, which one would you choose?"

I think it's the BBC's idea of multiple choice.