Boris Johnson dressing up in police clothes and the party that never was…

BORIS Johnson likes dressing up as other people and cannot glimpse a hi-vis jacket without pulling it on over his ill-fitting shirt and skew-whiff tie.

When football was fleetingly his thing, he wrestled himself into an England shirt, yanked on over the indecorous shirt and that askew tie.

A couple of days ago, he took his dressing-up habit a stage further by pretending to be a copper (Johnson of the Lard, perhaps). It was hardly fetching, matching an over-sized jacket with body protection and a woolly hat branded with the world ‘Police’.

For continuity’s sake, that tie poked out of the jacket. His eyes peeped above a face mask, looking out for hardened criminals or possibly a passing headline.

The reason for this ludicrous charade was that Johnson had joined police in Liverpool on a morning drugs raid. According to later police comments, no arrests were made.

Why was the prime minister doing another fancy-dress turn? The official reason was to launch the government’s new drugs policy. Well, I say new, but it was hard to spot the difference from previous drug policies. More money was promised (keep an eye on that, officer) and Johnson was going to be tough on drugs and the causes of drugs. The BBC news obediently led with what seemed to be a bit of government spin.

The unofficial reason was surely to deflect all those hostile headlines about the party that might or might not have been taken place at Downing Street last Christmas.

You know the one, the party that wasn’t held but if it was it broke no rules, but anyway it categorically wasn’t held, unless it was.

Johnson burbled out his slippery explanation as usual, and then last night ITV News obtained a video of a mock briefing showing Downing Street staff joking while talking about a gathering where cheese and wine were served.

The prime minister’s former press secretary, Allegra Stratton, is shown laughing on many of the front pages, with the Times among other accusing Boris Johnson of “lying” – which is a bit like saying a leopard suffers from spotty pigmentation.

This story has traction because the alleged Tory knees-up happened at a time when everyone else had been ordered to stay indoors to comply with Covid rules, and when other rule-breaking partygoers were getting themselves arrested. And, much more seriously, it happened when people were prevented from visiting ill or dying relatives thanks to the lockdown.

This is how a small story becomes a much bigger story; how a little spot becomes a festering boil, and so on.

Plenty of us saw Johnson as a conniving scoundrel from the start, an unserious show-off who pretends to be an amiable clown. Lovable toff or hateful, chaotic incompetent – oh sometimes it’s hard to spot the difference.

After trying to bend the parliamentary rules to save his pal, Owen Paterson, and after the great northern railway let-down, Johnson needed some good news. Instead, he is haunted by the ghost of last Christmas, and a growing sense that rules only apply to the little people and not to himself or those within his queasy orbit.

Anyway, fun was had on Twitter with that police picture. The best response was from Jed Mercurio, the writer of Line Of Duty…


“Totally bent” – yup, that raised a weary smile.

j j j

Writers, the reason you can’t get published is all down to Remainers…

TRYING to get a book published is a wearying business, but it seems that those of us who struggle to find a deal have got it all wrong. We need to blame Remainers, which in my case involves blaming myself.

Thanks to the bumptious Tory MP Mark Francois for this useful insight into how publishing is a plot against brave Brexiteers such as himself.

In case you need educating, if that’s the word here, Francois is the small and belligerent, Brexit-loving MP for somewhere or other. I could look it up, but those wasted seconds don’t grow on trees.

He is known for his shortness and the tottering height of his right-wing opinions. Enter his name into Google, and one of the first options is a question about his height.

Hilariously, a celebrity height site (honestly, I am not making this up) says the following, which has been copied verbatim: “At 55 years old, Mark Francois height not available right now. We will update Mark Francois’s height soon as possible.”

Perhaps he is updating his own height as we speak by trying on different shoes or something. Happy to recommend the High Dudgeon Shoe Lifts I have just invented, designed to give a boost to small, shouty men everywhere. As a smallish, non-shouty man, I am happy to donate this invention to those whose ego needs a wedge.

Anyway, here is what Mark Francois has to say about publishing, as told to the Daily Telegraph, whose ear is always open to right-wing, Brexit-addled politicians with a very small axe to grind, or possibly a pair of nail scissors.

He has written a book about the ‘battle for Brexit’ and is having to self-publish as no publisher would touch it, apparently, as they’re all Remainers. These Remainers get everywhere, plotting against a hard-working small man whose height has yet to be made publicly available. And to those of you putting up your hands to say, “Ahem, perhaps it was a just another shit boring book”, well, yes.

The likes of Francois always want someone to blame; there’s a plot going on; someone’s got it in for them.

Francois told a Telegraph politics podcast: “In a nutshell, the problem was that the orthodoxy within the publishing industry is very, very much Remain. I got some nice compliments about the book and the writing, but it became fairly evident after a while that no publisher wanted to publish.”

And if the book was written as Francois speaks, those Remainer publishers may just have done us a favour.

Apparently, Francois’s agent touted the book “to a staggering 24 publishers who all refused”, according to the Daily Express website. I have always hated that usage of ‘staggering’, which is dropped into newspaper copy like a soggy firework that never goes off. But I’ll make an exception here: perhaps they were staggering after reading a few pages of Spartan Victory: The Inside Story of the Battle for Brexit. Or perhaps they were staggered after reading the title alone.

Being rejected is what happens to writers – good writers, poor writers and puffed-up politicians jumping up as they try to see over the wall.

My main deal was with an American publisher about ten years ago, for two York-based crime novels featuring the Rounder Brothers. They did all right; and then they faded away, which is what happens.

I have two novels on the go now, almost ready to be sent out. I am off to look for one of those Remainer publishers.

j j j

Richard Thompson Beeswing Tour

Richard Thompson Beeswing Tour, York Barbican, October 25

Richard Thompson, Beeswing, Fairport, Folk Rock and Finding My Voice 1967-75. Written with Scott Timberg, published by Faber.

RICHARD Thompson is touring to promote the book about what he does when he stands on stage.

In some ways, this was like any other concert. Thompson alone with a loudly amplified acoustic guitar for company, an instrument that seemingly contained another band in its sound chamber. How can one guitar make that much music?

His rolling baritone voice barrelled away as usual, steeped in life and undiminished by 72 years and many more songs.

First up was a storming version of Stony Ground, a tale of aged lust, which Thompson grabbed by its mucky collar and shook, producing runs of chords and notes that were gloriously improbable.

Between songs he spoke wryly, as he always does. Yet this time the chat was more to the point. Thompson read passages from his autobiography, explaining how songs came about before he played them.

Walking The Long Miles Home recalled a ten-mile tramp home after seeing The Who. Turning Of The Tide dates from when Fairport played in Hamburg, where along Reeperbahn legal sex workers “in garter belts and bustiers” advertised for business. Young Thompson “decided to try the goods” and “felt a bit hollow afterwards”, fictionalising the experience in song years later.

Beeswing the book is fascinating and written in the man’s own voice, often dry and amusing, yet sombre when life turns that way; the section on the fatal van crash of 1969 shocks with its sober clarity. He also skirts the glory days and the difficult days of his duo with Linda.

At the end, Thompson wonders if Fairport have been an important band with their innovations in folk-rock. “We really did invent a genre of music, and not many can say that. We rattled a few windows without actually blowing the house down.”

As for Beeswing the song, he played that at the Barbican, of course he did, it’s always a favourite with fans, although no story, shameful or otherwise, was told.

Also played were favourites including Persuasion and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Thompson was joined by his partner Zara Phillips for a rousing version of I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, and they sang newer songs too, including the stomping When The Saints Rise Out Of Their Graves.

And, in a wry nod to what we’ve all been through, they rattled the rafters with ­Keep Your Distance. Thompson joked that he’d hoped that song might have become the pandemic anthem.

The book is a fascinating account of how a life in music took its baby steps; on that stage, Thompson was shown to be still striding vigorously down that long path.


Julian Cole


j j j

What happened yesterday should make us think again. Sadly, it almost certainly won’t…

The front pages of our national newspapers offer one way of looking at how something has been reported or recorded, and some days the words used are telling.

After the drownings yesterday of 27 people who were trying to reach Britain, the newspapers offer varied responses. Typical of the old-school way of thinking is the Daily Telegraph, which has the headline: “27 migrants die in Channel disaster.”

That might seem straightforward enough, until you swap the second word for ‘people’. In some contexts, it is acceptable to call people migrants, if you must, but this Telegraph headline has is a subconscious message: these weren’t people, they were migrants.

Beneath that main headline are three sub-headings, including: “Johnson demands France ‘step up’ and help stop gangs ‘getting away with murder’.”

This is a common theme for newspapers on the right and plays into the government stance that none of this is anything to do with Britain. It’s all the fault of those foreigners who won’t stop other foreigners trying to come to our country.

This then brings up what you might call the immoral geography excuse, which maintains that because people trying to reach this country cross other countries, none of this has anything to do with us.

Under this way of thinking, you can blame the French, or the EU or the people smugglers, without taking any responsibility. Yet one reason more people are trying to cross the Channel in such a dangerous way is because the legal routes have been made much harder.

The Daily Mail, having lost its more sceptical editor, Geordie Greig, dutifully follows the Johnson line with: “You’re letting gangs get away with murder.”

The Sun has the word ‘SHAMEFUL’ beneath the strap: “Now will leaders finally act.” The shame, in case you’re wondering, being that the French seemingly let this happen.

The i newspaper has: “Horror in the Channel: 31 die in search of a better life” – which acknowledges why those tragically lost people, including children, were trying to reach this country.

The Daily Mirror allows the full impact of what has happened with its headline­ – “A human tragedy”, although a strap heading blames “watching French cops”.

The Guardian goes for the factual-emotional approach: “Tragedy at sea claims 31 lives in deadliest day of migrant crisis.”

The number of lives lost varies between 27 and 31, although the lower figure is the one being reported now by the BBC.

Whatever the appalling tally, there is little chance the government will take any notice.

Boris Johnson’s attitude to migration is determined by the intolerant right-wing of his party, by those newspaper front pages – and by the stalking figure of Nigel Farage, who can’t see a wound without rushing out to buy a bag of salt.

That man is too appalling for words, but sometimes words are all we have, so let’s just say that he is a moral scumbag and ceaseless agitator who profits from easy anger and offers no solutions. Worth remembering as he is threatening to enter politics again.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, is always saying that she is going to “overhaul our broken asylum system” ­– somehow overlooking that her party has had 11 years to mend that system. She also told a parliamentary committee that 70% of those crossing in small boats were economic migrants, whereas a recent Refugee Council report indicated that most were in fact people fleeing war zones.

We are a wealthy country, and those of us who live here do so by happy accident of birth. Other people’s unhappy accidents of birth should not be held against them.

Asylum applications to this country are down on a year ago, while the more visible Channel crossings are up. What happened yesterday is a human tragedy that should make us think again. But sadly it almost certainly won’t.

j j j

A friend asks why Andrew Marr is off, sparking these thoughts about the BBC…

Our Dutch friend in York asks a question about Andrew Marr leaving the BBC to get his own voice back. “Is this as concerning as I think or part of British culture/tradition?”

I shall attempt to answer that by referring first to that other Andrew, the growly old Neil variety. Neil took the BBC shilling – very many BBC shillings ­– for 25 years and then slunk off grandly to set up the right-wing GB News network while grumbling about the wokeness of the BBC. That didn’t end well, and he left GB News soon afterwards in what amounted to a right-wing paintball fight.

Then there is John Humphrys. He was a mainstay on the BBC Radio Four Today programme for years. Once he’d finished, the puffed-up ingrate started mouthing off about the BBC in the Daily Mail.

Andrew Marr hasn’t mouthed off about anything yet, just said that in joining the media company Global he will be freer to say what he thinks. The company owns LBC and Classic FM, and Marr will present shows on both.

Here is part of what Marr said on Twitter: “I think British politics and public life are going to go through an even more turbulent decade and, as I’ve said, I am keen to get my own voice back. I have been doing the Andrew Marr show every Sunday morning for 16 years now and that is probably more than enough time for anybody.”

Perhaps Marr has been glancing enviously at LBC where James O’Brien has a high-profile gig sharing his unfiltered opinions about life and politics. Taking much-shared pops at the government has not done O’Brien any harm.

Will Marr follow the same path? At the online Aye Write Glasgow book festival last May, he was already musing about politics changing. The interviewer, Ruth Wishart, asked if he felt “a desperate urge to come out of the closet” about his political views to which Marr replied, “Yes, absolutely.”

Will those unfettered opinions fall to the left or the right? Left-wing types on Twitter think he’s a dreadful right-winger; right-wing types on Twitter think he’s a dreadful left-winger. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

The implication, of course, is that he feels he cannot say what he thinks, whatever that may be, while working for the BBC. The “British culture/tradition” bit, to quote our Dutch friend again, is that the BBC is always stuck in the middle whatever it does, risking pleasing no one as it wraps itself in media bureaucracy and rules on impartiality.

And that’s just got worse.

It’s a surprise to remember that the BBC used to stand up to Margaret Thatcher, whereas now it seems craven before the shamble-bum Boris Johnson. Part of the problem is that, to borrow from that M&S slogan, this isn’t just a rabid Conservative government… it’s a Boris Johnson rabid Conservative government.

And a government moulded to the unreliable shape of Boris Johnson is hard for the BBC to handle. Especially as Johnson & Co (purveyors of shifty right-wing politics to the fooled masses) seem keen on limiting the powers of the BBC, along with anyone else who might criticise what it does.

Back in October, the BBC produced what its own website described as a ‘significant’ ten-point impartiality plan. Bizarrely, this seemed to have been motivated by the recent media furore about how Martin Bashir conducted an interview with Princess Diana in 1995 – 26 years ago!

This 10-point plan from director general Tim Davie, a Tory-friendly appointment, looks designed to prevent the BBC from saying anything about the government, or anyone else, without first jumping through assorted impartiality hoops.

All that will do is make the BBC even more timid and neuter its journalism even more. That may please Boris Johnson, but everyone else should be worried.

Maybe that’s why Marr is off.

j j j

Northern Powerhouse Rail and why we’re up to our necks in kallifudging…

Do you remember the Northern Powerhouse? George Osborne and David Cameron dreamt that one up long before the nice-but-dim concept of levelling up.

Nice because it’s a genuinely good idea that should be pursued by governments of all persuasions; dim because it’s just another high-wattage slogan that ends ups delivering little by way of light.

The Northern Powerhouse sort of sounds good too and even has its own website. But there’s a difference between creating a shiny website and making something work for the people who live in that bit of England that isn’t London.

Then there is its offshoot, Northern Powerhouse Rail. Tomorrow a government announcement about high-speed rail links in the north is expected.

According to many stories, not least from Arj Singh, deputy political editor of the i newspaper, Boris Johnson is going to water down a promise to fund such links in the north and will instead upgrade existing routes.

A key part of the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail has always been a new section between Leeds and Manchester. Now it seems that Johnson lost an argument with Chancellor Rishi Sunak over funding.

Instead, we will have upgrades to the existing transpennine track. You know the one: painfully slow and out of date, with York to Manchester taking about as long as York to London.

Anyone who travels on trains in the north knows there are problems on many routes, especially on the east-west axis. They needed sorting out long before calamitous amounts of money were blown on HS2 so that people could get from London to Birmingham a little quicker.

Tomorrow’s announcement is also expected to confirm that the final phase of HS2 high-speed rail between Birmingham and Leeds will be scrapped.

In many senses, HS2 always seemed like a bad idea, hugely expensive and environmentally damaging. But if we must swallow all that, a high-speed link that stops in Birmingham is a botched job that doesn’t help the north at all.

Why didn’t the government prioritise the north first? Easy answer: because it’s the north. Boris Johnson might have a temporary interest in the north thanks to those red wall seats – “Buckets of Beaujolais, some of these northerners seem to like me!” ­– but the underlying message is the same. Don’t get your hopes up if you live in the north (but do live in the north, as it’s the best).

You may recall that northern newspapers came together to launch what was called the Power Up The North campaign, aimed at telling ministers that the country needed rebalancing.


This morning the Manchester Evening News and other Reach newspapers share the same front page, while the Yorkshire Post got in early with a plea last Friday, followed up by another this morning. Further north, the Northern Echo makes its own case today.

Regional newspapers now are undeniably weaker than they were, and we are all the worse for that. But they still have power when they come together like this.

If would be nice to think that the government would listen to this massed newspaper choir, but don’t bet your season ticket on it.

Of course, it’s possible that everyone has got this wrong, and that tomorrow’s announcement won’t be so gloomy; possible but the sharp side of unlikely.

What’s the likelihood that they will try to befuddle us with meaningless statistics and dodgy accounting?

As the indefatigable Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News says in her Postcards from the North bulletin…”

“This quote from a senior civil servant about the overall plan is worth repeating in full: ‘This is a half-arsed attempt at building a high-speed rail network in the North. What sounds like a big pot of money is really a lot of smaller scaled back projects piled together into one big announcement to hide that they are in reality delivering fewer things over a longer period of time. It’ll be downgrading the North compared to the levelling up that other areas are getting from the benefits of HS2 and Crossrail over the decades to come.”

Believe what you wish about levelling up, but let’s leave with this from Pat Oliver, who ten years ago contributed a wonderful word to a Yorkshire Post feature about dialect: “Kallifudging, meaning chicanery or underhandedness”.

Oh, Pat, we’re up to our necks in kallifudging today.

j j j

Paul Dacre really isn’t the man for this job…


Paul Dacre

Worrying about who chairs Ofcom is a minority sport, although it does agitate obsessive people on Twitter, including the writer of this blog.

In its own words, Ofcom is “the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day”. It’s a behind-the-scenes government-approved body with a wide remit, and the person in charge has influence over TV, radio, the internet, postal services and more.

That’s why Boris Johnson wants the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, above, to be slipped into the role. It’s the usual stich-up: he thinks a member of the Tory tribe will do him favours.

Oliver Dowden, the former culture secretary, was tasked with making this happen last year, but fumbled the job. Dacre was rejected by the interview panel, who concluded that he didn’t know enough about the role, being an old-fashioned newspaper man with no wider experience.

This morning Dowden has been scuttling round the studios in his new role as the Conservative party co-chair. Sleaze and corruption were raised, and he brushed the muck off his trousers with the usual flick of complacency.

On the Today programme, Nick Robinson, more bolshie by the day, asked about the interview process for the Ofcom job. Instead of appointing someone else, Dowden did a typically Johnsonian thing and reopened applications.

The job specification was rewritten to be more favourable (“This job would ideally suit a right-wing despot type with experience of stirring up hatred while editing a national newspaper” – that sort of thing), allowing Dacre to apply again.

Robinson pointed out that the government didn’t appear to take standards seriously.

Dowden argued that this proved the process was working: “Well… you’re actually proving the point that it is a proper, independent process. Because had it not been a proper, independent process, if it was the case that Paul Dacre was our preferred candidate, he would currently be chair of Ofcom.”

Ahem, so it’s a stich-up but not yet stitched up. And, by that logic, if Dacre does get the job, then the process will be shown to have been rigged.

When Robinson pointed out that the government was changing the rules for its own convenience, Dowden replied: “There were various issues with that process…”

Not least that the man they wanted was found not to be remotely suitable. Dowden also said, “we had a very, very small field of people that were found eligible, a small number of people that applied for it”.

As Peter Riddell, the former public appointments commissioner, has pointed out, after the government briefed that Dacre was going to get the job, others felt there was no point in applying.

Worrying about this is, as I said, a minority sport, but we should be exercised by such dubious fixes.

Should you wish to trawl through the comments on Twitter, you will find the opposite view put, namely that ‘lefties’ run everything, so why shouldn’t someone right wing run Ofcom.

This is the rather peculiar view than the Conservative Party, which is usually in charge, is somehow the poor, whipped underdog cowering beneath the boot of those mighty liberals.

Of course, if those liberals were any good at controlling things, they’d be in charge.

Also in Twitter-land, you will find anti-Dacre types backing up their posts with a spread of shameful front pages from the Daily Express; same shame, wrong newspaper.

Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project – seemingly at times a better opposition than the Labour party ­­– has organised a petition arguing that Dacre should not win this rigged position.

I’ve signed it and so should you, unless you belong to the ‘lefties run everything’ school of thought, which seems unlikely considering the views usually to be seen from this ledge.




j j j

Geoffrey Cox, second jobs and what Gordon did…

THERE is a defence to be put for Tory MP Geoffrey Cox reportedly earning nigh on a million pounds a year with his second job as a QC, but you won’t find me making it here.

The legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg is your man for that unseemly task. On his blog, Rozenberg says “being a backbench MP should not be a full-time job. Our representatives in parliament should remain in touch with the real world”.

Former Tory MP Dominic Grieve also mentioned the real world when he popped up on the Today programme.

This ‘real world’ doesn’t seem to be the one the rest of us live in, where you do one or perhaps two jobs to make ends meet.

No, this is a smug stratosphere where people paid £82,000 a year from the public purse are offered even more for sitting in a meeting or two, preparing the odd talk, having a quiet word in ministerial ears.

MPs of all parties have other jobs, it is true, some in the real world. MPs who are also doctors and medics, for example, can make informed contributions to the debate about Covid-19.

But most of the MPs raising eyebrows on the register of interests are older male Tories who are already well-padded. Being an MP should be a platform for public service, not a job advert for snuffling up money.

I mean, how do you explain £100,000 a year for Chris Grayling to advise Hutchinson Ports? Sadly, Grayling gets the last laugh here. ‘Failing Grayling’ they used to call him, and not without reason, but now he’s raking in an extra hundred grand for offering advice on a topic about which he once knew so little.

Then again, Boris Johnson is reported to have cleared a million in his last year before becoming prime minister, including around £300,000 for writing his tatty weekly column in the Daily Telegraph.

And yet even with all that money, when Johnson can’t run to the cost of a holiday or a few rolls of gold wallpaper, a rich pal with deep pockets steps in.

Tory sleaze and MPs’ extra jobs have resurfaced thanks to the Owen Paterson lobbying row. The now former Tory MP was said to be creaming in £100,000-plus a year extra for lobbying on behalf of two companies.

But that pales next to that true master of the game, David Cameron.

The former prime minister – biggest achievement in office: the unending shitshow of Brexit ­­– celebrated his resignation by landing a job lobbying for Greensill Capital and reportedly earned £7.2m in salary and bonuses before the firm collapsed.

What on earth did he do to earn that much? How that was never a bigger scandal must just be one of those mysteries.

Geoffrey Cox, a man whose appearance suggests he’s spent some of those side earnings on a good meal or two, added to the outrage by voting from the Caribbean while working his side job.

Maybe not all second jobs for MPs should go, but earning a fortune while sitting in the Caribbean – isn’t that taking the piss?

Still, sometimes with MPs you don’t know what you’ve got till they’ve gone. Interviewed on the Today programme, the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown was challenged about his second jobs…

Q: You earned nearly £1 million in 2014 on top of your parliamentary wage.

A: No, I  didn’t actually. I gave all the money to charity, I’ve always done that.

I wouldn’t always have said this, but I do miss Gordon.

To close, as the veteran broadcaster Adam Boulton is leaving Sky News, here is an unforgettable clip of him talking about Cameron, as shared on Twitter by Mahyar Tousi…

j j j

One rule for you, none for us…

Tories being sleazy, it’s an old story. In a dusty drawer somewhere, you will find the expression “Sleazy does it”, as used often and long ago in my newspaper column.

That phrase is back again today, not from me but on the front page of the Daily Star, so perhaps I will step away leave it in that drawer.

The behaviour of the government yesterday certainly betrays sleazy attitudes, entitlement, one rule for you, none for us. All attitudes that are rolled into the oafish, bullying and entitled shape of the man in the ill-fitting suit – a clumsy concoction, by the way, designed to distract us from his true nature.

In case you need a refresher course on this one, the Conservative MP Owen Paterson was found guilty of repeatedly breaching lobbying rules by parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone, who recommended he be suspended for 30 days.

A relatively mild punishment, you might think, for a man who was reportedly paid £120,000 by two companies to lobby parliament on their behalf. But Boris Johnson kicked over that independent system for combating sleaze in parliament and ordered his MPs to back a vote protecting Paterson.

You may recall that Johnson himself is facing what would be inquiry number four for breaking those rules, this time into the funding of the absurdly expensive refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

As we now know, Johnson cannot tolerate any criticism or the upstart notion that anyone other than himself might have the final say on anything.

What happened yesterday was that a Tory MP found to have been abusing lobbying rules complained about the system and the verdict. And the government said it would abolish that system and set up another more to its liking.

There was much huffing, not least from Mr Paterson himself, about “natural justice”. This appears to be the sort of justice you call on when you’ve been caught out but wish not to be caught out. Natural justice would surely require Mr Paterson to have submitted to his mild punishment while reflecting on why he needed another £120,000 to add to his MP’s salary of £82,000.

Without wishing to make this party political, here is what the 25-year-old Labour MP Nadia Whittome said in the Observer magazine the week before last…

“I give away all that I earn above the average salary. I’m in Parliament to represent workers – why should I earn so much more than them? Instead, I put that money to good use, donating to strike funds and causes locally.”

There you have one MP feeling guilty about what she earns and donating the excess to wider social good; and there you have a Tory MP trousering what he can get, then having a tantrum when told he has broken the rules.

You may have heard assorted Tories, such as Dame Andrea Leadsom, whose idea this shabby wheeze was, explaining that this has nothing to do with partly politics or indeed Owen Paterson. And if you believe that, you may wish to have your credulousness levels checked.

This is the sort of government you get when you elect a man like Boris Johnson. A shameless, self-serving man who wouldn’t know a scruple if he sat on it.

But don’t just take my weary word for it. Here is Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, speaking to the Times:

“It just looks wrong for the powerful to be able to change the system when they get a judgment they don’t like.”

I don’t always stand next to Kevin but will happily do so today. Equally, I don’t offer rub shoulders with the Daily Mail, will happily do so today as it leads with the headline “Shameless MPs sink back into sleaze.”

And should you wonder what Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a man whose hesitancy can frustrate, thinks about all this, he has written a stinging article for the Guardian with the headline: “Let’s call out the Tories’ behaviour for what it is: corruption.”

Yes, let’s do that. Whether enough voters will pay attention is another matter, but it’s time something stuck on this conniving government.

j j j

Mind the gap between rhetoric and action at Cop26…

Is there something unpalatable about all the private jets and all the polished limos gathering in Glasgow at Cop26 so that world leaders can tell us what an ecological mess we are all in?

Is there something unpalatable about Boris Johnson giving a speech both frivolous and silly – complete with James Bond jokes and quips about what he’ll be like when he’s 94 ­– and yet almost suitably sombre in parts, only for him to hop back on a private jet the next morning for the return flight to London, trailing fumes?

Is there something unpalatable about a photograph widely shared on social media showing the prime minister slumped with his eyes shut during a speech, and not wearing a mask while those around him are suitably covered?

Yes, all round, and especially to that photograph in which Johnson is sitting next to Sir David Attenborough, who is 95, a year older than the self-referential projection the prime minister slipped into his speech, and clearly vulnerable.

To have put a mask on while he sat there would not have been a sacrifice.

If a Labour prime minister had done such a thing, that picture would be displayed all over the media to a chorus of hostile derision.

With Boris Johnson, not so much.

Such behaviour seems to be factored in, and anyway he always gets away with everything; it’s his crumpled birth right.

Are we to believe the greening of the previous climate sceptic whose columns so often berated those who worried about climate change? Back then he used the same cheap oratorical tricks against ecological campaigners that he now uses to convince us of his own green credentials.

People can change their minds, of course, and perhaps he’s changed his, although it’s always wise to wonder. How much of this is a genuine desire to protect the world, and to be judged, as he said in that speech, by the “children not yet born and their children”, and how much of it is political expediency?

Flying all over the place in private jets is not a good look when you are lecturing others on why we must all save the climate. Lowering the tax on domestic flights is hardly a good green look; wanting to licence more oilfields in the North Sea is hardly a good green look; wanting to build more roads is hardly a good green look.

And an unwillingness to speak straight about coal, as exposed in an unusually tough interview with the BBC’s chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, is hardly a good green look.

As to the wider conference, once all those private jets and polished limousines have gone away, we shall see.

The pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade is an encouraging start, but we need to talk to the indigenous people who live and work in the forests of the depleted Amazon rainforest, and elsewhere, not just lecture them from afar.

It’s encouraging that the world is talking about the climate (even if Russia and China have handed in a sicknote), but there is still something queasy making about the ecological damage caused by getting everyone to gather in the temporary green chapel of Glasgow.

j j j