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Alison Rowat: Sturgeon and Salmond reunited. What are the chances of that happening?

Boris Johnson has never been a politician to settle for a quiet life. Days after 41% of his MPs said they had no confidence in his leadership, another Prime Minister might have taken time to reflect, perhaps even consider suing for peace with some of the rebels.

Not this Prime Minister. His fightback plan appears to consist of just that – picking fights wherever he can see an advantage in doing so.

The campaign starts today with the publication of a bill that will ditch parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, despite warnings that this will involve the UK breaking international law.

On Tuesday, barring a last minute move in the courts, the first deportation flight to Rwanda is scheduled to take place – a policy Prince Charles finds “appalling”, according to a report in the Times on Saturday.

The green lobby is set to see red over plans to step back from radical reforms to agriculture; and the week after next, three days of strikes take place on the railways, placing the government on a collision course with the unions.

Who better to sell this strategy on the Sunday shows than Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary? Not only is he comfortable with the complexities of the protocol, he is a staunch but amiable defender of the Prime Minister, one of a select group called upon in testing times.

True to form, Mr Lewis was in full reassurance mode about changes to the protocol. “What we’re going to do is lawful and it is correct,” he told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday. But it was not clear that the Government would publish the full legal advice it had received.

Speaking later on the same show, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the Minister was “talking through his hat”.

“Brandon Lewis should know, the Tory government should know, that where there are issues to be resolved with the protocol, issues of smoothing out its application, there are mechanisms through which that can happen. There is a willingness here, a willingness to engage by the European Commission.

“But the British Government has refused to engage, has not been constructive, has sought a destructive path and is now proposing to introduce legislation that will undoubtedly breach international law.”

Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, said it “does look like” the Government plans to break international law.

Reeves had a difficult morning on her tour of the TV and radio studios. With a rail strike looming, Labour leader Keir Starmer and every member of his shadow cabinet can expect to be asked if they back the strikers. Wes Streeting (health) and Lisa Nandy (levelling up) have already said they would have voted for strike action. Would Ms Reeves say the same?

Not if she could possibly help it seemed to be the answer. “I don’t work in the rail industry,” she needlessly told Sophie Raworth on Sunday Morning, adding that the job she was interested in was Chancellor. As a piece of fence-sitting, it looked painful.

Fence sitting and avoiding a fight have never been activities one associates with Alex Salmond, who was interviewed by Gary Robertson on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show.

It was an intriguing encounter. While one could not say the Alba leader and former First Minister was conciliatory towards the current holder of the job, he was not as openly hostile as he has been.

He was “delighted” for example, that the Scottish Government would this week publish the first in a series of papers adjusting the case for independence in the light of Brexit and other major events. Yet at the same time he questioned why it had taken so long.

Similarly, he asked why the Scottish Government did not get on with asking for the power to hold another referendum. They were not going to get it but at least this could fire the starting gun on a campaign to boost support for independence. Now was the time to do it. “Boris Johnson’s difficulties are Scotland’s opportunity.”

Asked if Ms Sturgeon would be the “right figurehead” to lead the campaign, there was nothing as straightforward as a simple yes or no.

“Nicola has been elected to head the Scottish Government, inevitably she’ll lead the independence campaign.

“Listen, there will be no problem with unity in the independence campaign, once the starting gun has fired.”

Salmond, Sturgeon, unity. Even by the law of “stranger things happen” that has governed much of politics lately, that will strike most as far-fetched.

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