To Russia with puns…

MRS Maybe has issued a ‘midnight ultimatum’ to Russia over the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on a former spy and his daughter. The Sun rallies behind the prime minister with the headline: “WE’VE VLAD ENOUGH” – the second time in days that pun has been dragged onto the page.

Perhaps that bit of feeble wordplay will be used until we’ve all “Vlad enough” of hearing it. The Mirror joins in the game, urging Mrs Maybe to “Put-in the boot.”

Putin sends us deadly poison – and we reply with puns.

Yesterday, The Daily Mail was worrying about the Duchess of Cambridge’s hands – “Why are Kate’s fingers all the SAME length?”. This question that precisely no one had been asking was illustrated by a picture below the masthead of her allegedly ill-formed hand with a dotted line drawn to make the point: a framing device that showed they weren’t all the same length, but never mind, the blurb box was filled for another day.

Today the never knowingly less than incandescent Mail joins the spy fury with a different sort of hand-wringing – “HOW CAN WE GO TO PUTIN’S WORLD CUP NOW?”

That’s a great threat, isn’t it? If you don’t come clean, we’ll refuse to go out in the first round of your World Cup. Yes, I know we won the Jules Rimet Trophy once. I was ten at the time and now I am 61.

Sadly, I am more likely to see England win again than I am to see the Russian President quaking in his army boots over anything Mrs Maybe says.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson went rogue in a speech the other day, saying that if the Russians were behind the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, then Britain would not compete in the World Cup – seemingly forgetting that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had taken a principled stand by losing the qualifiers.

The prime minister has a difficult task in dealing with Russia, partly because Russia doesn’t much care what she says or thinks. It is perfectly proper that she should get tough with Russia over what many say is a state-sponsored poison attack. She couldn’t really say anything different: but that doesn’t mean Putin will give a vodka tot for whatever action she demands.

Incidentally, Mrs Maybe’s fury over Russia doesn’t seem to extend to Russian donations to the Tory Party. Last weekend, the Sunday Times reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates (a sinister-sounding job title) had registered donations of £826,100 to the Tories since she entered No 10 Downing Street.

A cynical person might wonder at that: don’t send us your poison, but your pounds will do very nicely.

World politics is in a sense just local politics writ large and shouty. President Trump is claiming credit for ‘forcing’ Kim Jong-un to the summit table. The North Korean leader claims the provisional agreement to meet as a personal triumph. It shows his country can sit at the big boys’ table, as it were.

Both men say they are winning, as you’d expect. But Donald Trump would say he was getting the better of a quagmire even as it closed over that eccentric plumage he calls hair.

With regards to Mrs Maybe’s threat to Putin, I don’t think I shall bother staying up until midnight to see what happens.

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