Who can now remember that far off time – those few weeks between the election and Xmas – when it seemed as if the agonies of the previous three years were finally over? For good or ill, there was a government with a majority, Brexit (at least the departure) would no longer agonise the country (at least not quite so painfully and visibly), Corbyn was on his way out and there was the interesting spectacle of seeing how the Tories would reward their new Northern voters to look forward to. It seemed as if more normal political events were on their way.
Well, as Italians know very well: “Uomo propone e Dio dispone”. (“Man proposes; God disposes”.) A virus coming out of nowhere (now officially a pandemic) has turned into this year’s Black Swan, severely impacting Italian life and the economy, with who knows what knock-on effects on the euro, restricting every day life elsewhere, showing up Trump’s Nero-like approach to US public health, scaring the bejesus out of the financial markets, threatening economies across the world (and, most unfairly, just as wages in the Western world had started to rise above 2008 levels – how malicious is it!) and giving yet more impetus to a Nixon-to-China-style Tory spending spree.
It is quite enough politics to be going on with, you’d think. And yet look at all these other events which are, inevitably, being ignored (for now):-
- The Labour leadership election. Yes, yes, we all know Keir Starmer is going to win. And he’s hardly Mr Charisma and will now be faced with a Tory government even more spendthrift and ruthlessly populist than the wildest fantasies of John McDonnell could dream up. But there are some odd stories about recent Labour members not getting ballots (could there be an upset in the offing?) and the suspension of Trevor Phillips suggests whoever takes over will have quite a job sorting out Labour’s internal machinery before he/she will be able to make an impact on voters.
- And then there’s the EHRC report on Labour and anti-semitism. What will that say and mandate and what will the consequences be?
- Talking of reports, will the Intelligence Committee’s report on Russia ever be published? And what of the Home Office-commissioned report on grooming gangs, reportedly withheld even from Priti Patel? A petition calling for this to be debated in Parliament has reached the 100,000 threshold. Will that shed any light?
- The fall out between Saudi Arabia and Russia and what this portends. Relatedly, what is going on at the top of the Saudi regime? Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a nasty war in the Yemen, is fighting the Shia Iranians for dominance, is now arguing with Russia and has internal problems. None of this bodes well. The Middle East has not gone away, you know.
- Talking of which, what on earth is happening inside Iran? Will the current Iranian regime survive what appears to be a human tragedy caused from the virus? If it does not – or is left weakened – it might be Assad, ruling – with Russian help – over the smouldering ruins of his country, who will be the great survivor and, possibly, the dominant force in the area.
- Russia: Putin is still there and will, if his latest proposals are accepted – and who would dare bet against him? – be there for another term and, more likely, for life. Fake news, interference in other countries’ elections, invasions by proxies, a player in the Middle East: can we expect more of the same from him? Almost certainly.
- Turkey: its activities in Syria, its increasing friendship with Russia and now its weaponisation of the 3 million migrants in its borders. Just what Europe needs in the middle of a pandemic.
- Australia: the apocalyptic bush fires are off the front pages. But they probably did more to bring home – literally in some cases – the realities of climate change than any number of rallies. How will Australia respond?
- The Comeback Geriatric: Biden or Trump. Someone has to win out of this dismal choice.
- Netanyahu losing power in Israel.
- The Metropolitan Police ignoring the lessons of Operation Midland and deliberately hiding the Henriques report recommendations from its own officers and the public. That’s one way to learn lessons, eh!
And, finally, the UK – EU FTA talks. I know, Brexit again. They have been postponed understandably. Will we get a walk-out in June as promised or will there be nothing to walk out from? So will it be the same drama at the end of the year about extending – especially if Covid-19 is still causing mayhem this autumn/winter – or do we face an overnight move to WTO rules? It’s nice to see that in British politics some things, at least, never change.