RICHARD PORRITT with the week’s big stories
‘Can she last until Christmas?’ That is the question we pose on the front page of this week’s paper… and it’s a question a Number 10 insider answered with a sigh moments after her doomed conference speech last month.
‘Well,’ he continued amid the shock of the worse speech in British political history, ‘she’ll be gone before Christmas. She was weak before and now she looks weak and tired and finished. It’s over.’
She is so weak she dithered over the fate of her scheming International Trade Secretary when it was revealed she held secret meetings with foreign powers. And even though the blundering Foreign Secretary puts the wellbeing of a British citizen abroad at risk he stays in post.
What the hell is going on? Has there ever been a cabinet so crammed with people so utterly out of their depth? Or a PM for that matter?
Weak and tired and probably finished by Christmas.
The Paradise Papers scandal has everything – money, lies and rich folk feeling embarrassed.
Some of the names included in the leak of more than 13.4 million documents are jaw dropping: The Queen, Prince Charles, Bono, Wilber Ross, Lewis Hamilton, Lord Ashcroft. Others not so much: Members of the cast of BBC shit-com Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Of course there is no question of any laws being broken – this is a question, for the most part, of public perception. The man on the street thinks it unfair that he has to pay tax on his earnings while millionaire rock stars perform a dodge.
These are by no means the first tax avoidance stories we have read in recent years. Each time there is outrage and each time the laws remain as slack as ever. If May is looking for a popular policy, look no further.
One set of documents we are not going to get to see for some time are the Brexit Impact Papers.
Commons Speaker John Bercow had demanded the papers were released immediately after a stunning Labour victory forced the Government’s hand.
But Brexit minister Steve Baker has now told the House it could take as long as three weeks – to howls of ‘cover up’ by some on the green benches.
Black marker pens at the ready chaps…
Has Paris banned Christmas?
Well not quite, but changes to the popular Christmas Fair on the Champs-Élysées have caused quite a stink in the French capital.
Carnival workers who had been planning to set up stalls soon were told that City Hall would no longer permit what had become a festive favourite among Parisians and tourists alike.
In a bid to get the local politicians to think again carnival workers staged a go-slow protest on the city’s roads and motorways to coincide with the morning rush-hour.
The so-called ‘escargot operation’ had the desired impact bringing roads to a grinding halt.
Last week there were 11th-hour crunch talks between city officials and the carnival boss Marcel Campion. But the authorities were not convinced citing claims the carnival had become too commercial. Bah! Humbug.
Right-wing party Forza Italia has caused an outcry after demanding the colourful grave of a well-known gay rights campaigner be toned down.
Carlo Annoni, a 61-year-old nurse, died in April after a lifetime spent campaigning for LGBT rights. After his death long-term partner Corrado Spanger decided to decorate the burial site with their favourite colours and pictures of his late partner.
But the yellow and blue grave sparked anger among Forza members who demanded the grave in Como, Lombardy, should be in keeping with more traditional head stones.
Councillor Andrea Ballabio called the grave ‘too showy and colourful’ adding that the design was ‘almost an insult to the other deceased and their loved ones’. Have Forza got nothing better to do?
Dark days in Spain as the country turns in on itself over the Catalan crisis.
And in Belgium – where disposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is currently in exile – politicians have even started using the F-word. That’s right ‘Franco’.
The leader of the biggest party in Belgium’s government has said Spain’s governing Popular Party is increasingly harking back to the days of the dictator.
N-VA leader Bart De Wever said: ‘You know where the past of the Popular Party is, and ever more its present, and it is Franco, it is repression, it is jailing people because of their opinion, it is the use of violence against its citizens.’
Belgian authorities have to decide whether to extradite Puigdemont in the coming weeks but De Wever has refused to reveal what his party would do if the courts decide to send him back.
The Catalan fall-out has only just begun.