The Downing Street Spider had leaked yet another anonymous diary entry
to HIP.

“With one bound he was free” … perhaps that has too much of the Dick Tracy and not enough of the Promethean about it! And when we speak of Prometheus I DO mean the original Aeschylus version … not that Johnny-come-lately Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mind you I quite like his moniker. Not really the ring that ‘Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’ has, but not too bad for a poet. Anyway, I digress. We were speaking of narrow squeaks and lucky escapes.

I suppose I have partly to thank my Russian opposite number Vlad the Putin (good thing his parents didn’t name him Boris eh?). If he hadn’t launched his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and afforded me the opportunity to appear statesmanlike, all the papers would still be banging on about Partygate and suchlike. 

Actually, though, I think it’s really Richboy Sunak who’s been my saviour. Without his disastrous spring budget (more anon) all the pundits would be backing him at 3-1 to succeed me after the May local elections. (Hmm. Don’t tell anyone but sometimes I wake up in a night sweat, thinking that the Red Wall has collapsed on top of me and I’ve lost all my support. Uneasy lies the head … and all that!)

But talk of shooting yourself in the foot … Richboy really excelled, didn’t he? A cut in fuel duty that helps those rich enough to own a car, and a cut in the basic rate of income tax just before the next general election – which also only affects those in work and will, anyway, be cancelled out by inflation and the rise in National Insurance which is going to ‘save’ the NHS.

Sounded great. Positively Thatcherite. Cuts in duty, cuts in taxes etc etc. Should have had the 1922 Rottweilers positively drooling. But even they realised that it was not doing much (anything?) to help the really poor. Not a sign of increasing welfare payments to cover inflation. No sign of keeping the Covid benefit increase running a bit longer. Hardly guaranteed to promote my ‘levelling up’ agenda. And rightly trashed by almost every commentator – including our most loyal right-wing newspapers. And the best thing about it is that it was Richboy who got all the flack and not me! I know I shouldn’t gloat, but there really is the most delicious stench of Schadenfreude about it all.

Of course, I may not exactly be out of the frying pan yet. There’s that stupid promise I made to own up if the rozzers handed me a fixed penalty for the party ‘misunderstanding’. And there’s still that awful Gray woman and her absurd report that might point the finger Boris-wards. I think that my fellow OE Rees-Moggie got it about right when he described it all as “disproportionate fluff”. Trouble is fluff can be damned hard to get off one’s best serge suit.

But all in all it’s been a pretty good week here at number tenners. Of course, there are still whack-a-moles popping their heads up here and there – viz the absurd accusation that I did two u-turns in one afternoon over those transgender ‘conversion practices’. I’m no mathematician, but doesn’t the first cancel out the second? Aren’t we back where we started? What’s the bally problem?

It’s all a bit Sisyphusian isn’t it? You’ve no sooner pushed the rock up to the top of the hill than the boulder is rolling back down again and threatening to crush you! But nil desperandum – just you wait and see, we shall overcome. Some day.

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