Westminster View - April 2018
April. Possible peace in Korea, possible world war in the Middle East. The most dangerous international climate since the Cuban missile crisis. On the domestic front The Tramp needs a distraction and Syria could provide the answer. The Skripals continue to recover from Russia`s failed murder attempt and the Federation`s Ambassador to the UK accuses Britain of a self-inflicted attack as a `Brexit Diversion`. No signs of a trade deal with mainland Europe yet while extreme Remainers and die-hard Leavers do their best to undermine the UK`s negotiating position and in the House of Lords the unelected Chamber inflicts wrecking defeats on the Government`s Brexit Bill. The elected UK Senate whose cause I have promoted for a quarter of a century may be a project whose time has come. Commonwealth Heads of State meet in London, Her Maj and Prince Charles go on a charm offensive and although it is not a hereditary role The Prince of Wales will, when Monarch, become the next Head of the Commonwealth. Royal Wedding invitations are mailed out but not to The Tramp, President Obama or the Prime Minister. The Duchess gives birth to HRH Prince Louis of Cambridge, as the baby will from now on be known. The Salford Broadcasting Corporation re-runs Enoch Powell`s “Rivers of Blood” speech and some of “The Windrush Generation” of Caribbean Immigrants are threatened with deportation. Red Jerry exploits the political fallout from a problem that has its genesis under the 1997 Labour Government. Rudd is not `Forever Amber`. The Home Secretary is replaced by Sajid Javid and returns to the back-benches and Anna Soubry and the failed Labour Leadership contender “Chuckkup” Umunna form an unholy alliance to promote a “People`s Vote” on Brexit. Now there`s a novel idea. Did we not have one in 2016 and was it not called `A Referendum`? For the foreseeable future the British will still be able to spend a penny and post Brexit we shall be offered a choice of dark or light blue passports.
The relationship between the Russian Federation and the civilised world is just about as it has been since well before the ending of The Cold War. The botched attempted murder of the Skripal Father and Daughter on British soil generated a storm of criticism not only from the United Kingdom but from the four corners of a free world that the former KGB operative now running Russia clearly does not aspire to be a part of. That incident pales into insignificance, though, beside the neo-Soviet Union`s support for its puppet Dictator Assad and his use, in Syria, of chemical weapons against the men, women and children of the country over which he is, with Russian patronage, still allowed to preside. On the fringes of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and organisation of forty-seven European Member States from which the Federation withdrew following the annexation of Crimea and the consequent removal of its voting rights, hovered Putin`s mouthpiece Mr. Slutsky. Mr Slutsky, one of a triumvirate of Putin`s thugs that includes a Mr. Tolstoy and a Mr. Kalashnikov, whined, for the benefit of anyone still prepared to listen, that Russia had “only obligations, no rights”. The nation that six times has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to expedite an inquiry into the chemical assault in Syria presumably wants the `right` to hold political prisoners, the `right` to annexe land belonging to another Member State, the `right` to intervene in the internal affairs of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and, of course, the `right` to breach an international treaty that has prevented the use of chemical weapons since the end of the first World War.
The rhetoric emanating from the White House following twenty-four Assad-authorised air strikes on the innocent civilians of Eastern Ghouta (in which scores of people were injured and at least thirty-two people, including many children, were killed by what was almost certainly chlorine gas possibly combined with nerve agents) sounded like the overture to World War Three. Certainly, the pictures of tiny corpses still foaming at the mouth was enough to move any parent to homicide. The Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on earth, harnessed the twittersphere and sent it into battle. ” There will be a Big Price to Pay” for the gas attack The Tramp told Putin as he sought the support of the United Kingdom and France for retaliatory measures. “The Missiles Are Coming” said the C-in-C and “They are Nice and New and Smart”. As British submarines closed in on Syria and RAF strike aircraft moved to the Sovereign base at Akritiri in Cyprus the Cabinet met in London to prepare for and authorise the inevitable military action. At the United Nations in New York the Russians vetoed efforts to secure a swift and effective inquiry into the use, by Assad, of chemical weapons.
At 06.30 am on 12th April The Tramp tweeted that Assad was “a gas-killing animal”. The British Cabinet approved military action against selected targets in Syria and the Russian Federation deployed an untested S400 air defence system. A Kremlin apparatchik announced that `The UK faked the chemical attack in Syria` described the accusations against Assad as `a blatant lie` and `planned provocation` and the Federation`s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused Britain of arranging the poisoning as `a Brexit Diversion’. At home the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that the material used in the attempted murder of the Skripals was `weapons-grade Novichok` probably produced in the Shikany laboratory near Volgograd. and the security services revealed that their information indicated that the Russians had been `watching Yulia Skripal for five years`. The Labour Opposition declined to offer any support for military action and Red Jerry called for `an inquiry` to kick the issue into the long grass.
By the fourteenth of April The Tramp was tweeting that `We are locked and loaded` for further strikes. Those of us who found ourselves at Chequers on Friday afternoon, at the invitation of the Prime Minister and her husband, found her relaxed and cheerful, an attentive and welcoming hostess. Earlier in the day she had unveiled a memorial to one of her constituents killed in the Great War a hundred years earlier and following our gathering she was heading back into London for a little light canvassing in support of the Conservative Local Government election team. Shortly after midnight she called the Leader of the Opposition and the Scots and Welsh First Ministers and at 2am one hundred and five US, French and British Missiles were on their way to take out three chemical weapons facilities in Syria with RAF Tornados flying from Cyprus as part of the mission. In the Commons on the Monday Labour was divided with Red Jerry calling the strike “legally questionable”. On the other side of the Atlantic the Commander in Chief, in a perhaps unwise echo of George Bush`s May 1st 2003 Iraq war banner, proclaimed “mission accomplished”.
Call me biased if you will but out of this Theresa May emerged as courageous, determined, decisive and with nerves of steel. As another once said: “Remind you of anybody”? In contrast The Great Appeaser, Corbyn, was calling for the introduction of a “War Powers Act” with emergency debates and a vote before military interventions. Theoretically, I suppose, the Prime Minister could have recalled Parliament at the end of the Easter recess and held a debate before agreeing to approve action but, no doubt reminded both of Man David`s defeat on this matter and the need to protect the element of surprise, the buttons were pushed, using the Royal Prerogative, in the small hours of the Saturday morning before Parliament sat again.
In the debate that did follow much was made of “the sovereignty of Parliament” I`m sorry but you cannot run national security of the basis of a `Committee of the Whole House` Anyone even half bright understands that there are matters and information that, for the benefit and safety of our agents in the field, simply cannot and should not be disclosed. Intelligence is exactly that. What Governments can reveal to the House they release but I find it sickening that the Leader of the Opposition, having been briefed on confidential Privy Council terms, should then find it appropriate to suggest to the House of Commons that “other parties have access to chlorine gas” and that, notwithstanding assurances that the allied missile strikes were well-targeted “there may be casualties that we do not know about.” Her Majesty`s Loyal Opposition has a duty to hold the Government of the Day to account, certainly, but it also has a duty to bat for Britain and not for those that wish us harm – something that Red Jerry has never, during his thirty-five year career in Parliament, seemed to be able to grasp. The Prime Minister did not act, as he suggested, “at the whim of the President of the United States”. She, in concert with M. Macron and Mr Trump acted in the interests of the free world and of the persecuted people of Syria.
Mr Corbyn`s woes did not stop with the Syrian missile debate. On the Home Front the accusations of a Momentum-driven party rife with anti-semitism continued to reverberate around the House of Commons and beyond. During a main Chamber debate his own troops rounded on him with accusations of bullying and intimidation within their Party, singling out the Labour MP Luciana Berger as the victim of “a torrent of abuse” and condemning Comrade Corbyn for “a lack of leadership”, for his support for the anti-Israeli organisation `The Jewish voice for Labour` and for attending a meeting of the far left `Jewdas` movement. He was punished when his backbenchers deserted him on the vote on the War Powers Act and delivered a minority Conservative Government a majority of 61. Appearing on Television`s Question Time his Foreign Affairs spokesman, Emily Thornberry, was booed for supporting Labour`s stance over the gas attack in Syria. “Corbyn haters” his party threatened darkly “will be held to account” and should “quit and stand as independents”. “Stalinist” might be too strong a word but the unpleasantness continued when one of his “promiscuous critics”, Ruth Smeeth, had to be provided with a human shield while running the gauntlet through hard-left protesters on her way to a public meeting. It is perhaps not surprising that Corbyn`s personal rating has plummeted by eleven points this year and by 23points since the 2017 General Election.
Not that it has been all plain sailing for Downing Street either. The “Windrush Generation” storm broke as Leaders from all over the World, including of course the Caribbean, were gathering in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). West Indian immigrants arrived in their thousands in post-war Britain, the first arriving ion the MV Windrush from which the new arrivals took their name. They were welcomed by the government of the day for their help in revitalising and rebuilding a battered nation. Now, following the “hostile environment” created for illegal immigrants initiated under the last Labour government and pursued by the coalition Government while The Darling Bud was in charge of the Home Office and in the wake of measures introduced in 2012 and designed to facilitate the removal of those with no right to be resident in Britain, people who had settled here sixty years ago, had raised families and regarded themselves rightly as British were faced with deportation. Exactly how many, if any, “Windrushers” have actually been deported nobody, at the time of writing, seems to know. The MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, who frequently does a strong line in outrage, referred to “thousands” subjected to “inhumane and cruel treatment” and it is clearly the case that some – and one is one too many – were faced with the terrifying prospect of being “returned” to lands that they had not hailed from or did not remember. These good folk who had contributed so much over so many years to the United Kingdom were being `denied rights afforded to EU citizens`. That the European Great Panjandrum, Guy Verhofstadt, felt compelled to express `Windrush worry` over the future of those EU citizens resident in the UK did not assist their cause as many in Britain are far more concerned about the long-term future of UK nationals living in Mainland Europe than about the rights of those EU citizens who, post-Brexit, wish to remain living and working in the UK.
The Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Noakes, was the first to apologise on the airwaves to the Windrush Generation and she was followed in short order at the despatch box first by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and then by the Prime Minister herself who unreservedly apologised to Commonwealth and particularly Caribbean Leaders for those who had become the victim of unintended consequences.
Theresa May, it was said by Red Jerry, had presided over the destruction, by the Border Agency in 2010, of landing card records that could have been used to prove the right to citizenship of many caught up in this saga and who, having not troubled to register or acquire the British passports to which, through residency, they were entitled, had no other means of proving their provenance and right to declare themselves as British. This, indeed, was the accusation levelled at the Prime Minister at Question Time by the Leader of the Opposition. There then followed one of those surreal parliamentary moments when the Prime Minister revealed that the policy of destruction had in fact been introduced by a Labour Home Secretary in 2009. A stunned silence was followed by the squealing of a freshly-shot fox as the Prime Minister rammed home the fact that the “hostile environment”, another invention of the Labour Party, related not to Mr. Corbyn`s `migrants` but to `illegal immigrants` and was a policy that had cross-party support.
That might have been the end of the matter but sadly for an excellent Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, hitherto tipped as a possible successor to Theresa May, it was not. Appearing before the Home Affairs Committee Chaired by Yvette Cooper (Mrs. Ed Balls) she albeit inadvertently mis-led Members of Parliament during her evidence. And that is a hanging offence. It is claimed by the Opposition that `The Government knew two years ago` about the `Windrush Deportation` issue and that, of course, was while the present Prime Minister was still Home Secretary and therefore, Labour would say, in the frame. When memoirs are written, many years from now, our successors may learn whether Amber Rudd laid down her political life to act as a human shield for her Prime Minister or whether she simply felt that having been forced to apologise from the Despatch Box for errors on three consecutive days he had to resign. She did the honourable thing and far from being diminished has grown in stature as a result but her own Leadership ambitions may have been holed below the waterline.
The Left, and that of course includes not only MPs but media fellow-travellers in The Guardian, on Channel Four and the like, refuse to acknowledge that the “Windrush” issue and illegal immigration are inextricably linked although there has never been any suggestion other than that the Windrush Generation have every right both to be here and to claim British Citizenship. I found myself caught up in this when, appearing on Channel Four news alongside Mr. Umunna, an aspirant Labour Leadership contender, I dared to suggest that illegal immigration was a serious issue, leant itself to human trafficking, modern slavery and prostitution and damaged the cause of legal migrants. This generated the response from the slouching inquisitor on the other end of the television camera “Why are you talking about illegal immigration? I did not ask you about illegal immigration” in a manner that clearly indicated that this was not on his personal political agenda. When I suggested that this was a relevant issue and that “people like you” (television reporters) needed to understand that, the race card – “are you saying that because I am an Asian”? - was swiftly played. There is a breed of younger television reporters and presenters that likes to think of themselves as another Jeremy Paxman but, lacking the great man`s skill and intellect, simply come across as rude and arrogant. It was my misfortune to come across one such on Channel 4. But, as they say, “it goes with the territory”.
In other news The Young Un, “Little Rocket Man” Leader of North Korea and South Korea`s President Moon Jae-in have met on the border of the two countries. Following a strange little pantomime dance backwards and forwards across the boundary holding hands the two men signed a peace treaty to formally end the Korean wars. This is not the first time that meetings have been held and agreements signed between the two countries but it bodes well for the meeting between The Tramp and The Young Un when that great event is finally staged.
Brexit, of course, like taxes and the poor, is always with us. Former Tory Minister Anna Soubriquet and the terribly important Labour backbencher Chuckkup Umunna have joined forces to launch “The People`s Vote”. Those who might reasonably be forgiven for thinking that the outcome of the EU referendum, like it or not, was clear have obviously been reading the wrong script. A £1 million campaign to stop Brexit, the People`s Vote is backed by Peter “Lord Foy of That Persuasion” Mandelson, St. Nicholas of Clogg, “The Legacy” Blair, Former Tory Health Minister Stephen Dorrell, The Father of the House and inveterate Europhile Ken Clarke and, of course, the ever-helpful brooding presence of Lord (Michael) Heseltine. Lords rebels have also been using their unelected powers to try to sabotage the Brexit negotiations. In a vote on customs union issues Lords Lansley, Patten, Heseltine and twenty one other Conservative Peers joined with Labour and the Liberal parties to inflict a 348/225 defeat on the Government to `make a statement in Parliament’ which prompts Downing Street to re-affirm that” We Will Leave The Customs Union”. Over in Brussels, on the `helpful` front M. Barnier says that there is still no agreement on twenty-five per cent of the Brexit deal and the opinion is expressed that `Britain cannot be trusted, post-Brexit, with sensitive data arising from the Galileo military applications. A bit rich emanating from a bureaucracy that leaks more than a colander!
President Macrobe of France is living through what has been described as his “Margaret Thatcher moment” in conflict with his country`s trades unions. The Macrobe faces `Black Tuesdays` of rail, Air France, dustcart, utilities and national television strikes arising from his industrial policies but the `Sun President` has still found time to express the desire to re-introduce hunting in the grounds of his tied cottage in Versailles, a practice terminated by M. Sarkozy if you remember him.
The Tramp is ploughing on through uncharted and dangerous waters. His Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has targeted the President`s tax returns in a move reminiscent of the final downfall of Al Capone. This is regarded by the White House as a `Red Line` and The Tramp has the power to order his Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the ¬Russian Links` probe, to fire Mueller.
FBI raids on the offices of The Tramp`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, did not go down well either. The Fed seized documents relating to the payoff given to the porn star Stormy Daniels, allegedly on behalf of the then Presidential candidate to buy her silence.
James Comey, former Director of the FBI fired by The Tramp has published his memoir “A Higher Loyalty” in the teeth of opposition from the President`s lawyers. Comey, described by The Tramp in a tweet as “a slimeball” has spilled a whole can of beans in his narrative of `unfettered truth` that also reveals that it was Comrade Putin and not Theresa May who was the first to call The Tramp to congratulate him on his election victory.
Not a happy time for Auntie. The Beeb`s expensive adaptation of Agatha Christie`s classic thriller “Ordeal by Innocence, first published in 1958, has been slated as ‘explicit, crude and with foul language` causing ratings to fall by 1.4 million viewers. Spokesmen for the Corporation have `declined to comment`. Worse, though, has been the revelations from a civil court case in which the veteran pop-star Sir Cliff Richard, has announced that `The BBC ruined my life` by broadcasting, live, a South Yorkshire police raid on his home as part of an `investigation` into alleged paedophile activity. This `scoop`, perpetrated by a local BBC newshound Dan Johnson, was, if you believe the BBC, `in the public interest`. We must not pre-judge matters that are before the court but the South Yorkshire constabulary have already coughed up, presumably out of taxpayers` money, in recognition of the error of their ways although protesting that “we were held over a barrel” by the reporter. “The BBC has left my name tainted” the singer told the court and asserted that the damage had cost him £3.4 million in potential earnings as a result of the cancellation of record and merchandise sales. Gary Smith, then BBC UK News Editor and now Head of News and Current Affairs in Scotland, sent to the BBC`s Norther Bureau Editor after the raid on Sir Cliff`s home a memo that he may live to regret. “Congratulations and Jubilations” might cot the Licence Fee Payers who will, of course, ultimately pick up the tab for any costs and damages that may be awarded a very great deal of money.
The Gover, Britain`s Secretary of State for the Environment, is introducing the world`s toughest ban on sales of ivory of all ages. With a very few exemptions for particular historic pieces regarded as works of art those seeking to trade in ivory in the United Kingdom will face unlimited fines or sentences of up to 15 years in gaol. It is estimated that at present some twenty thousand elephants a year are killed, worldwide, to feed the trade and the ban has the support, in his capacity as Patron of the wildlife charity TUSK, of the Duke of Cambridge. The Gover, an arch-Leaver, is, though, under fire for his “Green Brexit” proposals which, say critics within the Cabinet, will generate red tape, slow construction projects and damage the economy.
My young colleague Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, has been having a torrid time. In the febrile atmosphere that has pervaded Westminster since the start of “Me Too” Charlie learned, in a late night telephone call from a journalist just before Christmas that he had had the Conservative Party Whip suspended pending `serious accusation` that had been levelled against him and reported to the constabulary by the Whips office. Officially informed of this only after he had first learned of it from a well-briefed media source Charlie was then advised that he could not be told what the allegations against him were or who they had been made by because to do so might impede Mr. Plod’s inquiries. Since then, and for five months since the allegations were made this elected Member of Parliament with a wife and two young children has been left in limbo with a supportive Dover Conservative Association and good friends standing by him but fearful of the effect upon his mental health. This month Charlie Elphicke has been interviewed by the police. The leaked pre-briefing against Charlie suggested that “serious allegations” had been made and hinted darkly at was rape and child abuse. So far as he can ascertain two female former employees have indicated inappropriate conduct although one of these appears to have more to do with an assertion of severance pay owing than anything else. Charlie says that he is “completely confident” that his name will be cleared and assures me that none of the” serious allegations” of rape or other offences were referred to during his interview. One has to assume that, were any serious allegations to have been supported by evidence then the constabulary, if they were doing their job properly, would have moved swiftly to bring charges but to date no such charges have been brought. Once again it appears that people in public life are now assumed to be guilty until proved innocent and that insinuation and innuendo are accepted as fact.
A seventy-eight year old pensioner, Richard Osborn-Brooks. was arrested for the murder of a thirty-eight year old burglar following a struggle in Mr Osborn-Brooks kitchen where he confronted the intruder who was stabbed with a screwdriver.
It is some years since, in the wake of the Tony Martin (a farmer to took his shotgun to an intruder) case, I introduced bill to give householders and landowners the right to protect their property. This followed a stunt involving the BBC who balloted listeners of the Today programme on the promise of a bill to be introduced by the Labour MP, Stephen Pound. Embarrassingly for Auntie the Great British Public voted for a measure to allow people to use reasonable force to defend their homes and land., whatever the consequences for the criminal. Mr. Pound declined to introduce the measure so I picked it up and ran with it. The bill was never going to make the statute book and I do not believe that it is within the remit of the Salford Broadcasting Corporation to try to introduce legislation but the message – “protect the victim not the criminal” – was clear
David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, announced that people had a right to take on burglars. It transpired that the deceased felon, one Henry Vincent, was one of the constabulary`s `most wanted men ` and a member of a family of criminals with a string of convictions for unpleasant offences. Richard Osborn-Brooks who was defending a wife who suffers from dementia and was asleep upstairs has been freed and the Crown Prosecution Service have dropped all charges. Note to burglars: for your own health and safety don`t break into people`s homes. This is natural, not vigilante, justice at work.
Meanwhile a thinner blue line has led to two thirds of burglary cases being abandoned and the number of unsolved cases has risen from 47% to 64% in just two years. And commenting on the `gang culture` and the growth in knife crime the head of what used to be known as the Association of Chief Police Officers and former Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police Force, the formidable Sarah Thornton, has called for the re-introduction of “stop and search” which, it is strongly believed, has a beneficial `chill effect` upon those thinking of carrying weapons.
Oleg Deripraska, the Russian `Oligarch`s Oligarch` who has had his assets frozen in the USA and who infamously entertained Peter Mandelson and George Osborne on his superyacht in 2008, is seeking to float on the London Stock Exchange. Americans are barred from doing business with his companies which have attracted the interest, also, of the Financial Conduct Authority. He is said to be `worth` £4.7 billion.
Another good month for the Royal family. Her Maj has celebrated her 92nd birthday with a concert in the Albert Hall and although she must be ruing the day that she revealed her liking for George Formby, whose works have been performed for her relentlessly ever since it was apparently a joyous occasion. Whether she enjoyed the `rap` performance or not is a closely guarded secret. Sir David Attenborough, who shares her age, has suggested as a birthday present for the Girl Who Has Everything, a plant. This chimes nicely with the Green Planet policy that the Head of the Commonwealth is seeking to promote throughout all fifty-three member states of the Commonwealth. Whether it will materialise or not one idea floated during the CHOGM gathering in London was that Her Maj should receive a Nobel Prize for her sixty years of service to the Commonwealth but one present that she really wanted was to secure the future of Prince Charles as her successor as the `Head of the Family of Nations`. Exceptionally she gave a steer in this direction at a Heads of Government meeting in the ballroom at Buck House indicating that `one day` she hoped that her son would be allowed to make the pledge that she herself had made at the age of 21 following the death of her Father, King George V1 who was the founding head of the Commonwealth in 1949. The role is not hereditary but at Windsor Castle the Commonwealth obliged and in due course the Prince of Wales will, as King, take the chair of an organisation that has grown from eight nations to an enterprise that embraces one-third of the world`s population. There was also, of course, the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge`s third child, now Prince Louis (after Lord Mountbatten) on St. George`s Day but the best present of all must have been the return home in rude health of her husband, the 96-year old Duke of Edinburgh, following a hip operation. The only cloud on this horizon has been the death of The Queen`s fifteen year old Corgi, Willow. The little dog was the fourteenth generation of the line descended from Susan, given to the then Princess Elizabeth on her eighteenth birthday. Willow achieved international fame when she appeared in the “James Bond Sketch” with Daniel Craig and Her Maj at the start of the 2012 London Olympics.
Post Brexit UK citizens are to be offered choice of new British passports in either dark or light blue. The additional cost of offering this choice will be £ 1. 2billion.There is no truth in the rumour that the Scots will be offered passports with a tartan cover. (Publication date April 1st)
Theresa May is to be allowed to jump the twenty-seven year queue to become a member of the MCC. Her sponsors are two former Prime Ministers, David Cameron and Sir John Major. She also has the support of Henry Blofeld, Geoff Boycott, Alec Stewart and Mike Gatting and should be able to sport an MCC blazer in time for the Cricket World Cup final next year.
Ben Goldsmith, the environmentalist, wants to reintroduce wildcats to the British countryside. At present the animals, which predate upon grey squirrels, are only found in northern Scotland. The National Farmers Union has predictably poured cold water on the idea saying that “any species introduction can have a massive impact” upon livestock.
Vice Admiral Sir Tim Lawrence, the Princess Royal`s husband and Chairman of English Heritage is on a mission. There are, says Sir Tim, not enough “She Lived Here” blue plaques for women. The plaques, proclaim the former residences of the deceased great and the good around the land are male-dominated with only thirteen per cent of nomination recognising women.
In the interests of `equality` the Singing Policeman`s Group has been forced to sever its ties with Derbyshire constabulary. The choral group which has raised £750 for charity since its formation in 1956 will in future be known as “The Derbyshire Community Male Voice Choir”. In an endeavour to combat food waste French Bistros and Cafes are to be compelled to introduce `Le Doggy Bag`
Woking Borough`s illustrious Councillors have voted to reject a Tree Preservation Order to protect a 100-year old sweet chestnut tree. The felling of the tree which is located within the grounds of St. John`s Primary School at Knaphill in Surrey is, you see, necessary to `enhance nursery provisions` by protecting infant students from falling chestnuts.
A market trader has been banned, by Lymington Town Council in Hampshire, from too vocally advertising his wares. The aptly named Wayne Bellows, a fourth generation costermonger who has been in business for thirty-five years, can now only shout from mid-day onwards. Lymington may get up at the crack of noon but the whole point of markets, surely, is that it is the early bird who gets the freshest produce. “Who will buy my Sweet Lavender”? Nobody, apparently, before lunchtime.
Debretts, that infallible guide to etiquette, has ordained that it is now acceptable to kiss on the first date – provided, of course, that you are over fifty. “Modern romance offers a briefer courting period” say the Guide to online dating.
I am indebted to John Markham, from Canada for reporting as seen in the Ottawa press, that “Schools in Britain are removing analogue clocks from the walls in examination halls because “teenagers are unable to tell the time”. The original article in The Daily Telegraph reveals that not only young people used to digital timepieces in the form of mobile phones and are unable to read round clock faces but that “pens and pencils are now obsolete”.
Boys at the £36k a year Uppingham School in Rutland are to be allowed to wear skirts as the school is now fully co-educational. And in an effort to introduce `gender-neutral` representation Guernsey Grammar School scrapped Head Boys and Head Girls. As a result, they ended up with two boys as `Chair` and `Vice-Chair` of the Student Voice Leadership Team with three girls as members of the committee.
The Guides (presumably now Boy and Girl Guides) are to go into partnership with Google to create a “Digital Design Badge” for fourteen to eighteen year olds on the basis that “technology is as important as outdoor adventure”.
The Youth Sports Trust is prescribing softer balls for use in PE classes. “Negative experiences” generated by the use of hard balls creates “a low self-image”. Changing traditional games is necessary to make them “more appealing” and girls, particularly are “switched off” by competition Failures must be celebrated as `” trials that create opportunities for constructive feedback and learning”. Try telling that to the splendid John McCormack, a former professional boxer who now runs “Skip to be Fit” classes in primary schools and generates whole school half full of kids wanting to improve on their personal best and take home a trophy at the end of the day. It`s just possible that our Olympic athletes might have something to say about it as well. Never mind. When we are knocked out of the Neo-Soviet Football competition we can always regard it as “an opportunity for constructive feedback and learning “. Or complain that the ball was too hard.
Manchester Metropolitan University has established that teaching Socrates and Plato to those detained at Her Majesty`s Pleasure helps to develop `tolerance and empathy`. Terrorists, murderers and drug-dealers seemingly welcome a challenge to their `hyper-masculine survival behaviours`.
Whitstable Carnival Committee, in Kent, is inviting applications from Boys to sit on their carnival float having had no expressions of interest from young; ladies in a role described as `archaic and sexist` The Carnival King and Carnival Princes will take the positions hitherto occupied by women since 1897. Down the road in Herne Bay, in my own constituency, we have no such problems. We recognise not that the job is sexist but that it is time consuming, requires dedication, makes a great contribution to the Town and that those that serve as Ambassadors for The Bay generally grow in stature and experience, get good references and go on into worthwhile careers. I wish the young men of Whitstable well.
The High Court has determined that dogs can pee on lampposts. In Richmond Council Vs. Canines it is found that the Public Spaces Protection Orders designed to prevent `damage to Council property or turf` do not apply to street lighting.
French Petanque players have been banned from wearing jeans during National championships. Some twenty million boules players including four hundred thousand who are members of the country`s seven thousand clubs are going to have to jolly well smarten up. This is a “high level sport” that the French authorities would like to have included – presumably in the expectation of winning gold medals – in the 2024 Olympic Games. Well if you can have Curling why not boules?
Winnie Mandela, for years the Prima Donna of South African politics and sometime wife of Nelson has departed at eighty-one. Will she be remembered as the lady who endured trial and prison for her husband`s cause and stood by him during his years in gaol on Robben Island or as the `Coach` of the Mandela United Football Club and the brutal and horrific `necklace` burning-tyre killings in which it engaged and as the instigator of the murder, in 1990 of the 14-year old Stompie Macketsi?
Lord Stewartby, better known as Ian Stewart and the former Member of Parliament for Hitchin and North Hertfordshire, was a Minister for Defence Procurement and Nigel Lawson`s Economic Secretary before becoming Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Responsible for security in Northern Ireland in 1988 Ian Stewart was knighted in 1991 and made a Life Peer in 2015. He was eighty-two.
Eric `The Crafty Cockney` Bristow, champion professional darts player of the 1980s, has hit his last bullseye at just sixty years of age.
Gertrude Jeanette (103) was the first woman in New York to be issued with a motorcycle license and one of the first to drive a New York cab. A Broadway Actress she is also remembered for her role in American Negro Theater.
Milos Forman, the eighty-six year old director of “One Few Over The Cuckoo`s Nest” and “Amadeus” was a compatriot of and went to school with Vaclav Havel and one of the inner circles of Czech intellectuals and a prominent member of Prague`s Performing Arts Academy that helped to eventually liberate Czechoslovakia, as it then was, from communism. In Paris during the “Prague Spring” of 1968 and the Soviet crushing of Alexander Dubcek`s revolution, he fled to America and Hollywood. During his professional lifetime Forman accumulated most main Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
Dale Winton, the sixty-two year old `camp and funny ` host of TVs `Supermarket Sweep` between 1993 and 2000 and the National lottery “In it to Win it” show told friends before he died that “I`ve had enough”.
Barbara Bush (92) was First Lady of The United States under the Presidency of George H W Bush from 1988 to 1993. Her secret service codename “Tranquillity” befitted her life. “I married the first man I ever kissed “said `The Silver Fox` who mounted a personal and gentle campaign against adult illiteracy.
John Stride, who appeared in The Omen, A Bridge Too Far, Roman Polanski`s Macbeth and Franco Zefferelli`s Romeo and Juliet opposite Dame Judi Dench was invited by Sir Laurence Olivier to join the Old Vic and National Theatre Companies. He played in St. Joan, Midsummer Night`s Dream, Henry 1V and The Merchant of Venice and was eighty one when his curtain came down for the last time.
Those who remember the “Vernon’s Girls” will remember Maggie Stredder. (82) An ITV star of the `50s she was one of the Ladybirds and part of the backing group for Top of The Pops for twelve years.
And the last person alive to be born in the nineteenth century has died at the age of 117. Nalin Tajina from Japan has one hundred and sixty descendants.
Squadron Leader Allan Scott, DFM, has celebrated the centenary of the Royal Air Force by taking a spin in a Spitfire from Biggin Hill where he first flew the plane himself as a pilot with 124 Squadron in 1941. Allan Scott was three years old when the RAF was officially created.