Express & Star

Toby Neal on politics: The great bounder is almost home and dry

Toby Neal casts his eye on the world of politics.

Parties over, Boris Johnson is ‘getting on with the job’

All raise a glass to Boris Johnson. With one bound he is free, which should be no great surprise, as bounders are adept at bounding.

The sense of disappointment is palpable. The great Houdini of British politics has done it again. No more fines from the Met, and the much-anticipated Gray report, considered in news bulletins more important than mass child murder, European war, and soaring bills for ordinary people, in essence found that while knees-ups in Downing Street were not a good look at the height of a deadly pandemic, on most occasions the Prime Minister wasn’t there, and even when he was there, he wasn’t much involved.

So much less than had been hoped for then, and it came on top of the damp squib Metropolitan Police inquiry which hardly touched him either, issuing a single fixed penalty notice against him.

That was not much to show as a political result following the toils of a team of 12 detectives at a cost approaching half a million pounds.

According to one Tory commentator, the Met Police inquiry was the last opportunity to get rid of Boris, but that’s not quite right because there’s the little matter to come of the inquiry about him misleading Parliament. If you are a paid-up member of the Get Boris campaign, don’t get too excited about that, as that should be a doddle for him as well. All he has to say is that to the best of his knowledge at the time, what he said in the House of Commons was true.

Time to move on, he says. Moving on was a favourite of Tony Blair as well.

If you still haven’t had enough of Partygate and its ramifications and rumblings, it is quite possible that the best twist is yet to come.

In this scenario, Sir Keir Starmer gets a fixed penalty notice from Durham Police for drinking that beer. Sir Keir will then immediately resign, him being a politician of honour and his word and all that.

With Boris staying put in spite of everything, resignation by Sir Keir would be a quite ludicrous act of political self immolation, and not even very convincing as he has repeatedly maintained that he did nothing wrong, and even if Durham Police finds that he did, at its highest it was an almost completely harmless and minor transgression.

The upshot would be that Labour would be without a leader, and claiming to hold the high moral ground doesn’t really compensate for that. Who would take over? Nobody readily comes to mind. It couldn’t be Angela Rayner, as she was rubbing shoulders with Sir Keir at the same event, and anyway she is from up north at a time when Labour’s electoral centre of gravity is in London.

Here is what would happen. There would have to be a leadership contest, which would be fast-tracked by Labour with just one candidate – one Sir Keir Starmer.

Having shown he was as good as his word in resigning, after a short interregnum he would be re-elected leader, and all in time for the pantomime season.

Remember, you read it here first.

I’ve been reading a history book. It’s quite interesting. It’s all about the past (as Yogi Berra might have said).

In the past there used to be things called heretics who challenged orthodox views and so were burnt at the stake to teach them a lesson and as a warning to others.

Of course, that was all a long time ago, and doesn’t happen any more. Well, not the burning at the stake bit. These days the punishment is to deprive heretics of their jobs and livelihoods.

A senior HSBC banker has been suspended for questioning whether the end of the world is nigh due to climate change. Brave stuff in the current climate (no pun intended).

He made a reference too to “nut jobs” which was probably unwise, as it’s a very inelegant term. “Head cases” is to be preferred. As his comments were made at a bank event, apart from some corporate embarrassment it’s likely no great harm was done, as there were no ordinary members of the public present to be infected by his quirky views.

But we have to be careful to clamp down on such irresponsible outbursts – otherwise ordinary folk might start to have theological doubts.