Rhodes on the Irish Question, Putin's face and is it time for a new name for Beergate?

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

The face of a saviour?
The face of a saviour?

With hindsight, it would have been much better to refer to Keir Starmer's embarrassment in Durham not as Beergate or Currygate but as Curtainsgate.

For that damning video of him with a beer in his hand could never have been filmed from outside the building if someone had only drawn the curtains. That oversight could lead to curtains for Keir. Oh, the irony.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, commenting on Sinn Fein's success in the Northern Ireland elections warns: “Our cherished Union has never been under greater threat.” Cherished? By whom, precisely?

I suspect most Brits regard Ulster as a nuisance, a relic of history that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of pounds, with precious little gratitude in exchange. Whatever some politicians would have you believe, losing Ulster would not be an unparalleled tragedy.

From the days of the Treaty 100 years ago, a United Ireland was always the long-term prospect, as soon as a majority of Northern Ireland people voted for it. That demographic tipping point may one day arrive and, far from seeing it as a threat, we should welcome it as a triumph for democracy. But don't expect any change soon because, as the old line goes, Ireland has a question for every answer. Even if Catholics become a majority of the electorate, there is no guarantee that all, or even most, of them will vote for a United Ireland. And there is certainly no great enthusiasm in the Republic to embrace a million stroppy Protestants.

That glorious spoof of British history, 1066 and All That, tells us that the great prime minister William Gladstone “spent his declining years trying to guess the answer to the Irish Question; unfortunately, whenever he was getting warm, the Irish secretly changed the Question”. 1066 and All That was published in 1930, and I dare say the Irish Question will be going strong at least until 2030.

Vladimir Putin reviews his troops and declares once again that he had no option but to launch his “special military operation” in order to save Mother Russia from the Nazis on her doorstep. In other words, it is a war of salvation. Look again at him, at the stiff, unnatural body language and those curiously dead eyes. If he's a saviour, Stalin was a saint.

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