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Right in front of our eyes, Britain’s entire political order is being demolished | Aditya Chakrabortty



The critical observation about this week’s Tory mutiny comes from neither frontbench politician nor pundit, but a former backroom boy who faced a putsch nearly 30 years ago. Jonathan Hill served as political secretary to John Major while he the then prime minister negotiated the Maastricht treaty, and suffered constant, debilitating attacks from the “bastards” on his own backbenches. A ruling party exhausted after a decade in power, its members were minded only to fight turf wars and marinade themselves in tawdry scandal. It was a low period in British politics whose high point came when Major faced a vote of no-confidence. Yet Lord Hill thinks Boris Johnson’s situation is even more dangerous – for one vital reason.

Back in the early 90s, he says, “there wasn’t a sense that all of our institutions were collapsing, that Whitehall was collapsing and No 10 didn’t work”. What does that look like? Let me pick just three stories from the past few days – items you may have missed amid the Westminster melee, which is at present centred around flogging an already disastrous revival of the right-to-buy scheme. Since Johnson’s aides had hoped this would be health week, let’s make that our theme.

On Monday, a huge survey of nursing staff showed eight out of 10 reporting that their last shift had had insufficient nurses to look after patients safely and effectively. In other words, staffing levels in today’s NHS are so low as to put patients in danger. At the weekend, sick and injured people at major hospitals in Devon were waiting more than 15 hours to be seen in A&E.

And – as Huw Edwards still says – finally: the nursing director of the West Midlands Ambulance Service admits that patients are “dying every day” because of delays, and predicts that his entire service will capsize within two months. “Around August 17 is the day I think it will all fail,” says Mark Docherty. “That date is when a third of our resource [will be] lost to delays, and that will mean we just can’t respond … It will be a bit like a Titanic moment. It will be a mathematical [certainty] that this thing is sinking, and it will be pretty much beyond the tipping point by then.”

You may ask why we haven’t heard more about these grave developments, and I would agree. Yet don for a moment the green visor of our finest media commentators. On the one hand, a region comprising almost 6 million Britons faces losing its ambulances; on the other, doesn’t Jeremy Hunt look tasty?

I could carry on. Petrol will soon hit £2 a litre. Swaths of our transport infrastructure are mired deep in chaos that shows no sign of ending soon. As schools wind up for summer, it is shamefully obvious that kids from less well-off families will never get the resources essential to catch up on the education they missed during the pandemic. And when elections roll around, polling stations open right next to food banks.

What turns these symptoms of acute crisis into a chronic national breakdown is, as Lord Hill says, the rottenness of our political institutions. So profound is their decay that they can no longer properly face the problems, let alone tackle them.

Still reeling from the revelations of lockdown booze-ups, No 10 is focused solely on saving Big Dog. Cabinet ministers dare not call a halt to the entire farrago, perhaps realising that under another leader two-thirds of them would struggle to find gainful employment as milk monitors.

Huge tranches of the press have shredded their credibility through years of declaring that Boris Johnson was a, to quote the Times’s leader column, “pragmatic, responsible” leader while Jeremy Corbyn spelled “economic chaos”.

The Treasury and the Bank of England have spent the decade and a half since the banking crash assuring the public that everything is under control – that their policies and £900bn of quantitative easing will spur a recovery the envy of the rich world, even while the actual result is an economy stuck stubbornly in second gear and a historic squeeze on workers’ living standards. The OECD forecasts that next year the UK will languish among the worst performing economies in the entire G20 – second only to Vladimir Putin’s pariah state.

The greatest exhaustion of all lies in the realm of political ideas. The unparalleled expertise of Boris Johnson’s team in prosecuting culture wars is no use to it now that there is an economic crisis where it is flush out of ideas. Just look at the government’s wheeze this week for dealing with the housing crisis: to copy Margaret Thatcher’s fire sale of council homes and extend the principle to property owned by housing associations and charities. This is itself a policy that George Osborne scraped together five years ago, before dropping it back to the bottom of the barrel.

But that is the modern Tory party all over: whenever it wants to right the wrongs of Thatcherism, its solution is yet more Thatcherism – only this time with Boris bombast where ideological conviction should be. Listen to them now: tax cuts! Levelling up! Privatisations! Except even the most blinkered of Tories can catch the pungent whiff of policies that years ago went putrid.

Something much bigger than the fate of Johnson or his wretched party is at stake now, something that happens only every few decades. Right in front of our eyes, an entire political order is dying. Just as the second world war led to Clement Attlee and the 1970s produced Thatcher, so post-crash, post-pandemic Brexit Britain stands at a historic hinge point.

In his forthcoming book, The Death of Consensus, the BBC documentary maker Phil Tinline traces how those two crises produced a new political settlement. Each time, he argues, insiders were able to take the chaos and craft from it a compelling and wide-ranging narrative for radical change. In 1940, the then journalist Michael Foot and friends adopted the pseudonym of Cato and wrote Guilty Men, a polemic that yoked the humiliation of Dunkirk to the misery of the Depression and, as Tinline writes, tied “the appeasers in parliament to their cronies in the City”. The result was a sensation, selling out 12 impressions in four weeks. And it was followed by many similar works, each taking a sledgehammer to an orthodoxy ripe for toppling.

How many such people stand ready today to do something similar is a big question. Perhaps Thatcher’s greatest achievement was to tell the British that “there is no alternative”, while doing her damnedest to make that the case – filleting the BBC, cowing the Labour party and crushing the unions. The Iron Lady acted as a giant bulldozer against any powerful opposition, and today the view from SW1 remains barren.

Not so in this country’s hinterlands. A few years ago, while reporting for this paper on the political and economic alternatives springing up in a country roiled by austerity, I kept coming across people who could see how the system was failing them, their families and homes – and they were right. They can read their maps of power; they can see where it lies. What they need now is to get their hands on its levers.

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Kevin Lankinen, Predators take down Islanders 4-1



Kevin Lankinen made a career-high 48 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the New York Islanders 4-1 on Friday night for their seventh victory in nine games.

Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi scored and Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund added empty-net goals. The Predators have won nine straight games against the Islanders, the longest active streak against a single opponent. The Predators are 11-1-1 in their last 13 overall against the Islanders.

“Lanky knew what he was doing. We had great goaltending,’’ Forsberg said. “The reason we are happy is the play of our goaltender.”

Mathew Barzal scored for New York midway through the third period.

“That’s a good hockey team over there,’’ Barzal said of the Predators, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. “They are heavy and strong with good D. It could have gone either way.”

The Predators were coming off 4-3 comeback win at New Jersey on Thursday night in which they scored with nine seconds left in the third period and won 33 seconds into overtime.

“We played two solid games against two very good teams,″ said Duchene, whose goal was the 300th of his career. “The Islanders threw the kitchen sink at us in the third.”

Forsberg opened the scoring on a power play with 5:42 left in the first with his eighth goal of the season. Duchene and Josi assisted.

Josi, the Predators captain, made it 2-0 on a power play at 8:22 of the second. Forsberg and Duchene assisted.

Josi has 10 points in his last seven games against the Islanders, including four assists in Nashville’s 5-4 home Nov. 17. The Swiss-born defenseman is four points from tying David Legwand for most points (566) in Predators history.

Lankinen made nine saves in the first, 18 in the second and 21 more in the third. The 27-year-old Finnish goaltender played the previous two seasons with Chicago.

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“Kevin was great. He was really good down the stretch,’’ Predators coach John Hynes said. “It’s great to see him get rewarded.”

Islanders Lane Lambert said he was pleased with the Islanders’ offense which generated a season-high 49 shots. But Lankinen was there to stop all but one as the Islanders lost for only the fourth time in 12 home games.

“We did a good job at times,’’ Lambert said. “It was just one of those nights.”

Predators defenseman Ryan McDonagh left the game nine minutes into the third period after he was struck in the nose on a shot by Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov. McDonagh, the former Rangers captain, wears a face shield.

The Islanders scratched forward Kyle Palmieri, who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday retroactive to Nov. 21 … The Islanders also scratched forwards Cal Clutterbuck (day-to-day with an undisclosed injury) Ross Johnston and Hudson Fasching, who was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Thursday along with Cole Bardreau who skated in Clutterbuck’s spot on a line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin … The Predators scratched forwards Eeli Tolvanen and Cody Glass.

Islanders: Host Chicago on Sunday night,

Predators: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

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WHO estimates 90% of world have some resistance to Covid | Coronavirus



The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the world population now has some resistance to Covid-19, but warned that a troubling new variant could still emerge.

Gaps in vigilance were leaving the door open for a new virus variant to appear and overtake the globally dominant Omicron, the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

“WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world’s population now has some level of immunity to Sars-CoV-2, due to prior infection or vaccination,” said Tedros, referring to the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

“We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over – but we’re not there yet,” he told reporters.

“Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality.”

Last weekend marked one year since the organisation announced Omicron as a new variant of concern in the Covid-19 pandemic, Tedros noted.

It has since swept round the world, proving significantly more transmissible than its predecessor, Delta.

Last week, the latest real-world study of updated Covid boosters showed that new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are likely to provide better protection compared with the original shots.

The study of more than 360,000 people indicated that the boosters offer increased protection against new variants in people who have previously received up to four doses of the older vaccine.

Since their introduction to the US in September, the vaccine boosters, which contain both original and Omicron BA.4/5 coronavirus strain, provided greater benefit to younger adults aged 18-49 years that those in the older age group.

Tedros said there were now more than 500 highly transmissible Omicron sub-lineages circulating – all able to get around built-up immunity more easily, even if they tended to be less severe than previous variants.

Around the world, 6.6 million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, from nearly 640 million registered cases. But the UN health agency says this will be a massive undercount and unreflective of the true toll.

Tedros said more than 8,500 people were recorded as having lost their lives to Covid last week, “which is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives”.

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Kevin Durant, Nets beat Raptors to tally fourth win in a row



Make it four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Nets are one of the hottest teams in basketball and moved two games above .500 with a 114-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout 17,732 fans at Barclays Center on Friday night.

They led by as many as 36 points before letting the Raptors creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter.

After digging a 2-6 hole to start the season, the Nets (13-11) have pulled a complete 180. They are inching closer toward contender status, though they still have tremendous ground to cover separating themselves from the cream of the NBA crop.

And it both looks and feels different when the Nets aren’t leaning too heavily on Kevin Durant — or Kyrie Irving, as they did for unending stretches last season.

Durant’s minutes have become a point of contention in Brooklyn, as they were last year. He entered Friday’s matchup as the league’s leader in minutes, points and field goals. At age 34 and in year 15, the Nets star is averaging 37 minutes per game for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said ahead of tipoff. “That’s just kind of where we are. He understands that.”

It hits different, though, when Durant has help, and it reflects on the scoreboard.

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Sharpshooter Joe Harris got hot early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. After breaking out of his shooting slump to hit four out of six threes in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Harris, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Simmons (calf strain), hit another five threes for 17 points against the Raptors on Friday.

Royce O’Neale hit a trio of timely threes, and Kyrie Irving shouldered a large chunk of the scoring load, scoring 27 points on 17 shot attempts. Veteran forward TJ Warren, in his Nets debut after missing two-plus seasons with consecutive stress fractures in his left foot, scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting off the bench.

And Nic Claxton added 15 points and nine rebounds, sealing the game with a putback dunk, then offensive rebound and finish that extended the Nets’ lead back to 16.

He forced Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call his second to last timeout with four minutes left in the fourth.

It was Durant’s lightest workload of the season. He still played 38 minutes but they were low impact. He only took 10 shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets built a lead as large as 36 and watched the Raptors whittle the deficit down to as little as seven in the final minute of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a pretty finish but nothing has come easy for the Nets this season.

They have a chance to make it five in a row on Sunday, though they’ll have to go through last year’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to get there.

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