Shropshire Star

Political column – November 19

As Jeremy Hunt sat down, Rishi Sunak patted him on the back.


Not actually on the back, as he couldn't reach. He patted him heartily on the shoulder. In any event, in politics backs are for stabbing, not for patting.

It was probably a congratulations for being a Chancellor of the Exchequer who gave the impression that he knew what he was doing. After the Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng years... er, weeks... giving the appearance of knowing what you're doing is quite a novelty.

At the time of writing the financial markets haven't exploded a bomb under Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement, so we don't yet know how long it will be before he returns to the Commons to explain it was all a mistake and he is going to reverse everything, sorry.

Perhaps they won't, and what we've seen and heard is what we'll get. It seemed to go down well on the Conservative benches, anyway.

In his autumn statement Mr Hunt did have a "difficult message" for the Labour opposition.

"You cannot borrow your way to growth," he said.

Strange. Just a few weeks ago the Tories were cheering measures which did just that. They have had, to borrow words from Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, a Bobby Ewing moment. If that means nothing to you, Bobby Ewing was a character in the TV soap Dallas who was killed off, but later returned to the show with the explanation that his death had all been a bad dream.

To be precise, it was not Bobby Ewing's bad dream, but Pammy's, played by Victoria Principal, who believe it or not had a few years earlier had a duet with Andy Gibb called All I Have To Do Is Dream, although that's besides the point.

Going back to the Dallas dream, Pam goes to the shower and is surprised to find undead Bobby Ewing in it, who says "good morning!" to her.

So the entire dream season was effectively erased, as has the Truss-Kwarteng era from collective Conservative memory.

As for the meat of the Chancellor's autumn statement, who knows? In such matters the truth only becomes apparent after a few days' study of the fine print.

A lot of it was in the usual smoke-and-mirrors code. For instance, he said "not a penny" would be cut in capital budgets for two years and they would then be "maintained at that level in cash terms for the next three years." In other words for three years they will be cut by the amount of inflation.

And while he acknowledged some local financial difficulty, that was all down to a "made-in-Russia recession" and a "once-in-a-century pandemic."

Rachel Reeves' response lashed the villainous energy giants as the enemy who would be made to pay for everything, and invoked "ordinary working people", and even plain "working people", a zillion times as the heroes being made victims by the nasty Tories.

Other forms of people are available. Hundreds of thousands of people stopped being working people during the pandemic, either by choice or by no choice.

Anyway, let's turn our thoughts to the World Cup with a simple question or two. Could you point to Qatar on a map? And why is the q not followed by a u as it is in almost every other word beginning with q?

One thing I do recall about Qatar came from the lips of Colonel Gaddafi's spokesman during the Libyan war during which Qatar supplied weapons to the rebels in open defiance of an arms embargo – Britain and France looked the other way – and also, it turned out later, sent hundred of troops.

Gaddafi's spokesman said Qatar was not so much a country as an oil corporation. Which if correct means that the World Cup is being hosted by a giant oil corporation at a time of climate change concerns.

It's been controversial because of Qatar's human rights record. Ten years ago there was similar controversy over the decision to hold a Grand Prix in Bahrain, and politicians and activists popped up on telly to complain about human rights violations there. The Grand Prix was held, and the politicians and activists then promptly disappeared from the screens.

On that basis, there is something to be said for holding events in such places, as at least such issues come under the international spotlight, albeit briefly.

Still looking at the map?

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