Peter Rhodes on reassuring Russia, guarding the Green Belt and keeping news in proportion

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

A newt – stop the building!
A newt – stop the building!

Bring on the bulldozers. Those damned newts have had it their own way for far too long.

I refer, of course, to the new Tory Government proposing the mass building of new homes, aided by an end to today's practice, under EU rules, of scouring sites for any creatures that can be described as “endangered.”

We have reached the stage where proposed homes for humans can be scrapped by the discovery of a single great crested newt. I have a friend whose loft extension was delayed for six months after a bat inspector found three tiny bat droppings which even he admitted could have been left by a bat that was merely passing through, not a resident. A reader told me how she had to pay for a survey of an old outbuilding she wanted to restore. The report, complete with glossy photos, concluded “no bats” yet still cost her £600.

The Green Belt matters. It is a national treasure and we should cherish and preserve it. At the same time we should do the best we reasonably can for the birds and beasties that share this island with us. But if animals are entitled to somewhere safe to live and raise their families, so are Homo sapiens. Newts are sensible creatures. I'm sure they will understand.

Two of Truss's other statements worry me. Her outright refusal to give in to Putin's nuclear blackmail is all very well but she is talking to the wrong person. She should be speaking directly to the Russian people to remind them that Britain and Russia were once great allies and that the UK, in common with Nato and every other Western nation, poses no threat to Russia and has no ambition to occupy a single inch of Russian soil. At a time like this, bombast is no substitute for reassurance.

The other alarming Trussism is her curious ambition to scrap all restrictions on bankers' bonuses. This is the first time I've heard any politician suggest the cause of Britain's economic weakness is that we don't pay the bankers enough.

Meanwhile, this snippet from a reader is a great line for stating your working-class credentials: “I had no idea what a nanny was until I saw Mary Poppins.”

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