ON Tuesday, all of the national newspapers led with the story of the Downing Street Christmas party, complete with a still from the leaked footage of adviser Allegra Stratton laughing off lockdown. The one glaring exception was The Sun, which splashed on a story about Storm Arwen and senior energy bosses “feeling the heat”.

Stratton, in tears, quit next day. Then, on Friday, the plot thickened with the news that the head of communications at Number 10, Jack Doyle, was at the party that never was and handed out awards at the rave which didn’t take place but went on past midnight anyway.

The Sun mocked up Boris Johnson as The Grinch on its front.

How to explain this complete lack of news judgment by the red top? Perhaps The Sun’s deputy editor-in-chief James Slack can provide the answer? At the time of the party, on November 18 last year, Slack was one of the Johnson’s most senior advisers. More than that, he is alleged to have been at the jolly in Downing Street. Could this be why The Sun dodged the most sensational and important story of, not just the week, but certainly the current session of Parliament?

American justice

A US citizen, who is a member of the intelligence community and perhaps of the CIA, drives on the wrong side of the road, kills 19-year-old Harry Dunn outside a military base in Northamptonshire and flees to the States.

The US refuses to extradite her. A British court subsequently agrees to send to the USA a man who has killed no-one, but published a video on WikiLeaks showing an Apache helicopter crew machine-gunning innocent Iraqi civilians. A man the CIA plotted to kill.

Compare and contrast Anne Sacoolas and Julian Assange and the different and one-sided treatment of extradition in the two countries.

Lossiemouth linesman

THE forgetful Douglas Ross went into hiding during the week, or rather self-isolation after a staff member tested positive for Covid. His memory failure was over his third job, as a football linesman, and the £28,000 he had earned officiating in 42 games which he should have declared in his first job (or is it his second?) as an MP.

He’s also an MSP, so it must get a touch confusing. Perhaps one day he’ll turn up at Holyrood in shorts and a Day-Glo top sponsored by Specsavers waving a chequered flag? Which is the kind of stunt pioneered by the LibDems’ Willie Rennie.

To mark Ross’s sadly temporary exit from politics, the singer-songwriter Jim Wilkie has composed a little singalong ode called The Lossiemouth Linesman (with apologies to Jimmy Webb).

I am a linesman for the country

And I drive the main tracks

Searchin’ in the sun for ways to avoid, the tax

And I’m needy more than wanty

and I’ve been wanty for all time

And the Lossiemouth linesman

is still on the line

Drugs tragedy

ON Thursday, I went to the funeral of a statistic. I don’t know what number she will become in the shocking and shameful toll of drug deaths in Scotland in 2021. We were up to 772 by the middle of the year. Hearts are broken and politicians wring their hands.

I’ll call her Ms M, to shield her loved ones. In the church, on the wall behind where her small coffin lay, as the priest went through the funeral mass, a large screen showed illuminated and changing photographs of her, of a bright and pretty young woman. Smiling, happy, particularly in those with her young son.

The image on the front of the order of service also shows her kneeling down with her arm round him. They’re in the open and all about them on the grass is fallen pink cherry blossom. It seems impossible that she will never cuddle him again. Her mum and stepdad cared for the boy as she fought addiction. Now gran and grandpa will look after him until he’s an adult, which Ms M will never see.

There were 30 or so mourners there, some of them schoolmates of hers, who had grown up with her. Later, at a buffet after the cremation where Leonard Cohen sang Hallelujah, fond memories were passed around. There was genuine affection and love for the woman she had once been, even a few smiles.

When the grim, half-yearly statistics on drug deaths were published in September, the Minster for Drugs Policy Angela Constance called them appalling and sprinkled some more cash, a miserable £2.3 million over three years, to the laughably-named Healthcare Improvement Scotland, to dole out to our 14 health boards.

Even my pitiful maths can work out that this is less than £55,000 each this year. Even if you divvied it up between the three worst-affected areas – Glasgow, Ayrshire and Tayside – at £250k each it’s derisory.

More statistics. Drug-related deaths are up nearly five times on what they were in 2000, so it’s not all at the door of the SNP.

However, since they came to power in 2007, these have more than trebled, from 421 to 1339, and the response has been just dole out more methadone and wait for it all to die down in a couple of days.

Probably it’s because the vast majority of deaths are of people in the most deprived areas, although Ms M’s was an exception.

When these figures come out and another grisly record is set it provokes faux outrage and point scoring. Tory MSP Sue Webber said of the latest: “It’s shocking that the SNP Government appears to be clueless that hundreds of taxpayer-funded phones given to prisoners are being used by criminals to deal drugs. Nicola Sturgeon didn’t even know it was happening.”

Webber is the one who sniped at her leader Douglas Ross on WhatsApp, calling him “out of his mind” for not opposing Covid travel bans, that the effects of the disease were being exaggerated and the NHS was not being overwhelmed.

“People die ... more people die in winter.”

Hearts are broken and politicians wring advantage from it.