Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on a climate challenge, a growing trend and a soldier's reflection on warfare

A week into the job, Rishi Sunak will by now have learned the first lesson of being a Prime Minister: you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Sharm can wait

Consider Sunak's decision not to attend the Cop27 climate-change conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh (why do they never go to Cleethorpes?). The PM's excuse is that he has rather a lot on his plate, thanks. Who can argue with that? He is trying to put together a national spending plan to restore confidence in the UK. Taking a break to be seen cycling in Egypt on bicycles made from lentils is not a top priority.

And supposing he did opt for Egypt. Can't you just see the headlines howling him down for putting a climate conference in a sunny resort ahead of Britain's financial future? The same critics who harangue Sunak for not going to Cop27 would harangue him for not staying at his desk. Why? Because this furore is not about doing the right thing by the economy or the climate. It is about taking Tory scalps.

Political enemies have seen off Boris and routed Liz Truss. How ecstatic they would be to score the hat-trick by getting Rishi Sunak out of Downing Street. This is nothing to do with principles, it's all about power.

Incidentally, in reporting politics, no word is more useful than “growing,” as in “the minister is facing growing calls . . .”

Next time you spot this word, ask yourself if anything is really growing. Are the alleged calls and controversies actually declining, or on a plateau? Or are the journalists who invoke the word “growing” merely hiding the fact that they missed the story and are trying to catch up? Watch out for it. It's a growing trend.

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the momentous Battle of El Alamein. I recall interviewing a veteran 30 years ago who spoke about the camaraderie of serving in a tank crew and the fascinating places he saw in the desert war and the Italian campaign.

I have interviewed hundreds of veterans but that old trooper's words stick with me. They are odd but absolutely authentic. He said: “I don't mind admitting I thoroughly enjoyed the Second World War – apart from the fighting.”