Rishi Sunak

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to apprentices Kate Watson and Ruby Holland during sheep drenching as he visits Writtle University College near Chelmsford on September 21, 2023.

| Alastair Grant | AFP

No sympathy for government as crises bombard Britain

Scarcely a day goes by, it seems, without a new crisis hitting UK headlines. No wonder they call us “Broken Britain”.

In just the last few weeks, a large number of schools were found to contain a dangerous, crumbling form of concrete; an official inquiry reported that a migrant centre was more like a prison and racist workers moved detainees around naked; more than 1,000 Metropolitan (London) Police officers were suspended or demoted in a crackdown on the corrupt and incompetent.

Sparking a major security concern, dozens of officers from the same force turned in their gun permits after a colleague was charged with the murder of an unarmed civilian. Soldiers were put on standby, but the Met said later enough armed police were available to cover needs.

A leading medical authority reported that almost 400,000 patients had spent 24 hours or longer waiting in hospital emergency departments. “We just don’t have enough beds,” said Dr Adrian Boyle.

Even worse, more than a million National Health Service appointments have been cancelled because of strikes by nurses and doctors.

As for governance, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak provoked widespread anger by watering down measures aimed at fighting climate change, notably pushing back the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

Critics claimed Sunak’s aim was to secure votes for the Conservative party in a general election due next year. A recent restriction on old vehicles in London was unpopular with many drivers and is thought to have narrowly won a London by-election for the ruling party.

Environmentalists denounced Sunak for “playing politics” with the country’s future. After 13 years of Conservative rule, the party in power finds itself 33 points behind Labour and desperate for rescue.

The public, however, do not seem to be in a forgiving mood – and that goes for politicians of all stripes.

Opinion polls show that in recent years the sense that politicians are “only in it for themselves” has grown dramatically from 45 per cent to 80 per cent.

Commentator Julia Langdon found this figure “scarcely surprising” in a culture where “parliamentarians have been exposed for corrupt and improper behaviour, where ministers have faced legal action for breaking their own laws and truth has grown to be a challenging concept for so many at the dispatch box”.

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An occasion that passed barely noticed amid the noise and clamour of day-to-day politics was the first anniversary of the reign of King Charles III.

The former Prince Charles spent September 8 at his castle, Balmoral, in Scotland, with prayers and reflections on the life of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who died on that day one year ago.

That was the way the late Queen would mark the date of her own accession to the throne upon the death of her father during a visit to Kenya by the then princess.

After the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, there was uncertainty here about what the transition would mean and whether there would be major change. One year on, it is evident that has not been the case.

“The king really has set a very neutral course,” said royal commentator Justin Vovk. “Many people were expecting a lot of reform and change because of the way he had acted as Prince of Wales. But keeping things balanced has become his hallmark.”

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Moral conundrum:  A few weeks ago, I spotted a ten pound note on the floor of a bank. Reluctant to donate a tenner to a rich financial institution, I gave the money to a beggar.

Feeling a bit queasy about this later, I mentioned the incident to a couple of friends and both said I was right. However, my sister said I was wrong, as sisters always do! The money might have belonged to someone poorer than me, she said, and I should have handed it in for the loser to claim.

Further muddying the waters, another friend said what I did was actually illegal. “Illegal!” I expostulated. “What about “Finders keepers?”

Of course she was right. A little research showed that keeping money you happen to spot lying around is “theft by finding.”

Just please don’t mention my name.

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Air travel 21st century-style: Passengers are sitting comfortably 34,000 feet above earth. A voice comes over the Tannoy: “This is your captain speaking. I’m working from home today.” Passengers are now sitting less comfortably.

Not for the first time, Edith, was late at the office. Said her boss angrily, “You should have been here at 8 o’ clock.” “Why,” asked Edith, “what happened at 8 o’ clock?”

The importance of tea to the elderly: “Without tea, I go into rooms and forget why I went there. With tea, I still don’t remember, but at least I have something to sip while I try to figure it out.”