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Westminster View - August 2010

August.  Sunshine for the banks but no showers of cash for small businesses.  In the Gulf of Mexico the” Spillionaires” rake it in.  Dirty Diamonds are a major inconvenience. Old Macdonald clones a cow.  Political paralysis Down Under, No bowlers are stumped. The Legacy re-writes modern history and the Milibandwagons get set to roll.
Billions of  pounds worth of profit for the banks, HSBC and Barclays and Lloyds  in rude financial health, champagne on  ice and bonuses back on the agenda but still no real help for struggling small businesses.  The buzz is that the taxpayer may yet do very nicely, thank you, out of our investment in failing financial institutions but did we bail them out to see them return to old habits while continuing to neglect hard pressed customers in need of funds?  The phrase “morally bankrupt” is used.  Is that better than literal bankruptcy? Possibly not.
Down on the farm there is shock horror that we have, it seems, been supplied with milk from cloned clandestine cattle. Cloned beef and cloned veal, also is on sale.  This causes far more grief than the vast quantity of halal and kosher meat from animals slaughtered under conditions that would not be permitted without the thin veil of  religious practice, that is being sold in huge surplus to supply the requirements of school and hospital catering.  Never mind. Just think of the amount of ritual  butchery that could be generated if a fifty million pound `megafarm` housing  eight thousand cows accommodated in sheds covering an area the size of twenty-two football pitches in Lincolnshire gets the go ahead. We are, of course, an animal-loving nation.
Across the channel in the Hague the `supermodel` Naomi Campbell is called to give evidence at the trial of Charles Taylor, the alleged war criminal behind years of civil war in Sierra Leone. Ms. Campbell, it transpires, was visited in dead of night by a man bearing a gift of dirty rocks.  These uncut and probably blood diamonds did not please the international celebrity who is, we are told, more used to receiving “shiny diamonds in a box”.  She handed them to the minder of one of Nelson Mandela`s charities who stuffed them into his safe for the sake of security and there is, of course, no suggestion that he was keeping them to add to his own pension fund.  Our long-legged friend told the International Court that she really did not want to be in The Hague at all and indicated that “this is a major inconvenience for me”.  I have news for this young lady. I have been to post-war Sierra Leone and I have visited the “amputees’ village” that houses those survivors of wanton brutality that had legs and arms chopped off at random by machete-bearing and drug-crazed young thugs.  They find the loss of limbs “inconvenient” as well.
If Ms. Campbell were to be found guilty of perjury she could, of course, be sentenced to a couple of years in gaol.  There is rather a good one built at a cost of many millions of United Nations pounds. It is located right in the heart of Freetown – in Sierra Leone!
Barack Petroleum has succeeding in capping off its rogue oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.  On the bayou in Alabama the shrimp-boats are a-coming in laden not with crustaceans but with far more compensatory dollars than fishing could ever generate.  With the oil-spillionaires taken care of and seventy five per cent of the contamination reported to have been dispersed  the ass-kicking Borat O`Bama remains curiously still silent on the subject of US compensation for the victims of corporate negligence in India.  But then the President is probably pre-occupied with working out how to avoid a humiliating defeat in the mid-term elections in a couple of month’s time.  In this he will not have been helped by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, offering an “inherently uncertain outlook” for the US economy.  We should take no pleasure from a predicted second US recession; that sneeze could well lead to a cold in Europe.
With Parliament in Recess (or “recession” as my constituents have an unerring habit of calling “the long summer holiday” of tabloid comment) it is left to the mice to play.  St. Nicholas of Clogg, soon to become the `deputy father`, says that the referendum on voting reform is “a priority for the government” which means that it is a priority for the Liberal Democrats as the government has rather more pressing economic issues to deal with. St. Nick also believes that Housing Benefit (payment of) is more important than Trident. Home Guardsman Chris Huhne declares that the popularity of the coalition will crumble as the cuts begin to bite and almost simultaneously corrects the `misunderstanding` that he is opposed to the creation of a new generation of nuclear power stations as “an important part of our energy mix”.  It is rumoured that former Liberal leader Charles Kennedy is in talks with the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool is to examine the possibilities of a future alliance with Labour.  Meanwhile he Speaker`s wife, Ms. Sally Bercow, says that “we” are recruiting Liberal Democrats. The “we”, of course is socialist, not royal.  I assume.
Let us wish our Australian cousins the full joys of the hung-parliamentary coalition or minority government experience.
A less than Thatcherite David Willetts tells Mr. Andrew Marr that the government may scrap free school milk. While the BBC programme is still hot on air Milk-snatcher Two Brains is smartly slapped down by a message from Downing Street indicating that this cut is not on the agenda.  Undeterred, the expensively-educated Minister for Higher Education, he who upset the Tory grassroots and many backbenchers when ruling out new Grammar Schools, proclaims the need for Universities to take students on `potential aptitude` rather than examination grades. This drift towards social engineering is enhanced by the Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Gove, who wishes, it seems, that schools should entertain students on the basis of `ability banding` in order to dilute, one has to assume, what might otherwise become an excess of excellence.  And I always thought that a comprehensive levelling down to the lowest common denominator was socialist policy.  Silly me!
Talking of social engineering, the BBC`s ludicrously expensive attempt to manipulate programme making out of London in the interests of one overpaid executive has described as a desire to “broadly reflect the regional areas” of the United Kingdom continues to backfire. As the Director General Mark Thompson uses the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival to try to defend the indefensible extravagance of the Corporation many of those responsible for the ill-conceived shift from White City to a new multi-million pound “Media City” in Salford quit their extravagantly rewarded posts rather than head north.  One day Mr. Thompson may do the decent thing and fall on his sword and a new DG may be allowed to recognise that the National Broadcaster has been centred upon the National Capital City because that is where the National engine and those who run it is located.  In the meantime, expect more waste. (I was invited, only a couple of weeks ago, to be flown at your expense to Belfast and accommodated overnight, in order to participate in a Sunday morning studio discussion about the rights and wrongs of putting cats into wheelie bins!  The programme had nothing whatsoever to do with Northern Ireland and its transmission from there was pure regional tokenism.)
Because parliament under its new Puritanism has to be seen to be hyper-active there will be a costly re-instatement of carpets and furniture for a September fortnight so that we can discuss matters that could equally well have been talked about in October, November and December. We shall then depart for the conferences and the carpets will be taken up again to allow the essential deep maintenance programme to continue.  This brief return to Westminster will, though, allow the House to enjoy the Labour Leadership Show. 
With the Milibandwagons rolling and the Little Organ Grinder and his younger brother upsetting Mother Marion Miliband and going at each other hammer and tongs in a great sibling punch-up the result (a Miliband win) might seem to be a foregone conclusion. Not so. Andy Burnham still believes that the real Labour party can be persuaded to shun the “London-centric war of the Milibands” and instead to choose someone with “real life experience” while Ed Balls and Diane Abbot both struggle for the soul of the real Labour Party.  I am not a betting man but the gaffe-pone banana man Milipede can have done himself no favours by trying to organise Obama-style “house parties” in support of his candidature.  The “house party guidelines” issued by his campaign were so banal and cringe-makingly awful that they are impossible to parody.  A fiver, then, on Ed Miliband and, out of residual affection, a couple of quid on Ed Balls to win.
The National Game (cricket) is in disarray.  The Pakistanis, one would have thought, have suffered enough this August.  Criticised for exploiting terror by an unrepentant Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and having experienced truly devastating and life-taking floods a one-match win in the test series appeared to inject, momentarily, a little but welcome thread of relief and pride into a proud and battered nation.  The subsequent match-fixing no-ball betting scandal is too cruel to bear more than passing comment.  They have surely had enough. They do not deserve even this on top of all other misfortunes.
WebCam.SamCam and now FloCam.  It is left to the impetuously arrival of Miss Florence Rose Endellion Cameron as the youngest daughter of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Samantha Cameron to put a smile back onto the nation`s face at the end of the summer.  Thank you, little girl.
Chancellor George Osborne invites the Governor of the Bank of England to partake of a fish and chip lunch in his office.  Learning that Charlton House Caterers will charge them £148 for this privilege the team takes the lift down to the staff canteen and dines for just £32.88. Watch out for some catering scrutiny in Whitehall.
Pop legend Mike Stock (if you remember Stock, Aitken and Waterman) lashes out at the performances of today`s divas, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.  “99% R&B and 99% Soft Porn and not fit for children” says the geriatric rocker.  Not like the Rolling Stones, then!
And talking of geriatrics, a 77 year old protester lies down in the path of travellers` caravans trying to enter a playing field through a hole in the fence that they have torn down.  No prizes for guessing who the Birmingham police remove.
Young 72 year old Mike Russell and his wife, on holiday in Colwyn Bay, take time out to try to watch Glamorgan play Lancashire.  At the gate they are told that their strawberry spoons and tea flask are “offensive weapons”. The England and Wales Cricket Board confirms that “metal cutlery is not allowed” in cricket grounds.  Try telling that to the occupants of the Lord`s pavilion!  It might, though, help to explain why cricket grounds are so sadly empty.
It`s a bad month for the elderly. Having refused to pay a £75 fixed penalty for dropping litter on the pavement (not a cigarette butt but some cigarette ash) a 70 year old widow in Oldbury, West Midlands, is threatened with a £2500 fine.
The BBC has launched a competition to attract multi-cultural programme ideas describing the present sitcom output as “too white and middle class”. Farewell, after 37 years, the highly successful, beautifully written, brilliantly directed and wonderfully performed “Last of the Summer Wine”.
Mr. Fayed, the ex-owner of Harrods emporium, reveals that following the withdrawal of the Royal Warrants from his corner shop he burned them because they brought bad luck.  Shame.
And the European Union`s Diplomatic Corps and seven thousand civil servants are to move to a ten million euro a year new headquarters.  That should be grand enough, even, to house Baroness Ashton, the `not-the-EU-foreign minister` and the “European External Action Service” upon whose throne she temporarily sits.
And finally……
We are to be blessed, with effect from October, with a freshly designed and “more secure” British passport to be issued by the ID and passport service at a cost of £77.50. Its pages will contain scenic views of Britain, which should be of great comfort to those who find that not all immigration authorities allow the bearer, in the name of Her Britannic Majesty, “to pass freely without let or hindrance”. 

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