The Wider World April 2023 – Politics, Climate Change & Ukraine

There’s talk of a spring drought, and while it was intermittent (meaning not quite every day) in February, the rain fell incessantly during the whole of March. That’s Cumbria (or, after the local government reorganisation up here, more correctly Cumberland, and Westmorland and Furness) for you. Despite a short, sunny, and very welcome respite recently, the clouds have opened once again, the temperature is plummeting, and the webs between my toes are spreading daily. However, a swallow flew past the other day, so, indeed, things are getting better.

But maybe not for our erstwhile glorious leader. Boris Johnson decided that it would be a good defence to tell the inquiry into whether he misled Parliament by design or by sheer stupidity that no-one advised him that the lockdown parties in Downing Street might really be parties after all. He went on to tell them that he, the Prime Minister, could not be expected to be able to make up his own mind even though he was there in person and he had made the rules in the first place. So, simply a liar or simply stupid? The Commons Standards Committee will tell us in due course. As they will on a complaint that Rishi Sunak failed to declare a financial interest regarding his wife’s involvement with a provider of nursery school facilities at a time when such facilities are receiving government-funded assistance. We are told that between them Sunak and his wife are worth £730m.

Just to balance the books, Kier Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn are, most amusingly, having a very public primary school playground spat about whether they were ever ‘friends’ or not. As if anyone really cares.

Speaking of liars, as we were…Donald Trump is being taken to task in a Manhattan courtroom. Thirty-four charges of business fraud have been levelled against him, most relating to illegal payments of hush money to ‘adult actress’ Stormy Daniels for services rendered. ‘The only crime I have committed is to furiously defend the United States of America against those who would destroy it,’ he announced to a small room full of adoring Trumpettes. ‘And to furiously split my infinitives,’ he could have added. We won’t hear any more formally until December.

We haven’t lost a Prime Minister or even a First Minister since the last blog, but to keep the trend happily moving forward, we have lost a Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, following an investigation into accusations of serial bullying. He jumped, protesting loudly of his innocence and the unfairness of the ‘Kafkaesque’ process, before he might or might not have been pushed by a Rishi Sunak currently beleaguered more by his own party than by the Official Opposition.

Scotland, too, has its problems. Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, Chairman of the SNP, was arrested and then released following revelations that £600,000 or so cash was missing from the SNP accounts …oops, bit of a miscalculation there…Subsequently, the party treasurer was also arrested, also later released, and now bets are being taken as to when Nicola Sturgeon herself will be invited to attend her local nick to discuss just why she quite recently blocked a call for an internal inquiry into the party’s finances. How are the once mighty fallen. The question now is, will the SNP survive this?

In France, there were large demonstrations that in some towns and cities (Paris being one of them, of course. Remember 1848, or even 1968? No? Never mind…) turned into serious riots. Despite these, President Macron, with the support of the French Supreme 

Further east, Vladimir Putin has been cited by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes in Ukraine relating to the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia. He can now safely visit only a very small number of countries other than Russia without fear of arrest. Seeing just who is still willing to visit him there will be interesting – so let’s start with President Xi of China. 

In Ukraine, the fighting remains a stalemate of slaughter. In a case of ‘we can kill more of you than you can kill of us’, the Ukraine armed forces supported by western armaments seem to be slightly ahead of the Russian mercenaries fighting with the support of Chinese electronic chips. Although the balance might have shifted slightly given the public posting of thousands of US ‘high security’ documents, including references to Ukraine’s military vulnerabilities, by a 21-year-old US National Guardsman. He seems to have wanted no more than to show off to his social media ‘friends’, at least one of whom lived in Russia…

Strikes continue in the UK public sector. Postal and railway workers have settled their claims, but teachers haven’t. “I have no direct line of communication with serving teachers,” said the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, rather proudly, it seemed. The NHS remains in crisis, with 400,000 ‘routine’ procedures postponed so far, and junior doctors, paramedics, physiotherapists, and half the nursing workforce still at odds with the government. The government has now decided to take the Royal College of Nursing to court rather than talk to it. 

The cost of living is still in crisis, too. Inflation has dropped from 10.4% to 10.1%, but this is far less than forecast as food costs rocket, and food banks continue to report a steady rise in attendance. The IMF tells us that the UK economy is in a worse state than any other in the G20 list of European countries, a list that includes sanction-hit Russia.

Reports continue to flood in as a testament to the fact that world governments, including our own, are doing far too little to prevent climate catastrophe. The promises are poor and even these are almost invariably broken. We can do our own tiny bit in our own backyards, and we should, but without concerted international efforts the tipping point will arrive far sooner than we think and we and whatever wildlife is left by then will be plunged into ‘climate hell,’ says UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. 

Just to emphasise the point, in a joint statement, Hilary McGrady, the director general of the National Trust, Beccy Speight, the chief executive of the RSPB, and Tanya Steele, the chief executive of WWF (UK), said: “The amazing wildlife and wild places that make the UK so special are being destroyed at terrifying speed. Huge numbers of animals, birds and habitats have been quite literally wiped out in our own lifetimes and we must now accept that without urgent and collective action, our economy, the climate and the stability of future generations living in our wild isles all face a ticking time-bomb.” As someone once said, ‘There is no planet B’.

The death of Dame Edna has just been announced. It will take some time for this to sink in. One of the genius comic characters of a generation, Barry Humphries’ creation was more than just funny; she was incisive, she was clever, she was controversial, she was wicked, she burst more pompous bubbles than hot dinners ever dribbled down the Australian Cultural Attaché’s tie. Farewell, Possum. 

Finally, on a much lighter note, Harry Kane became England’s all-time top scorer with a penalty against Italy in March, in a 2-1 win in

The Wider World April 2023 – Politics, Climate Change & Ukraine

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