Gale's View from Westminster
In spite of local difficulties the United Kingdom remains attractive to some and the flow of cross-channel trafficked migrants continues delayed only by inclement weather. Cruella Braverman hangs onto her job as Home Secretary by manicured fingertips but another one, Gavin Williamson, bites the dust. The Prime Minister attends the COP 27 climate summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock joins B-list `celebrities` in the Australian jungle, loses the Tory whip but earns grudging admiration for his performance. The Farcical International Football Association launches its World Cup in that bastion of democracy Qatar. One Love armbands will not be worn. The spread of avian flu within the wild bird population penetrates our domestic fowl establishments and threatens the Christmas dining table. Following the Muskrat`s takeover of the anti-social media platform mass redundancies are imposed and the twitterati face the payment of monthly access fees. Ukraine re-takes the Kherson district from Russia and reveals further evidence of Putin`s war-crimes as the neo-soviet `Leader` orders the destruction of more of Ukraine`s vital infrastructure. The cornered bear is wounded, possibly terminally, but increasingly desperate and dangerous.
At home Chancellor Hunt`s `eye-watering` Autumn statement offers necessary but equal measures of economic pain and grief for businesses and domestic households alike. Mayor Boris`s `vanity project` replacement Royal Yacht is holed below the waterline before the keel has been laid. The Trades Unions promise strikes and a winter of discontent across the Royal Mail, Health Service, Border Force, Transport, and other public sectors. The Government`s emergency `COBRA` committee meets to formulate the administration`s response. King Charles the Third, in the presence of the current and seven former Prime Ministers, lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday for the first time in his own right as monarch. At the G20 summit in Bali Rishi Sunak describes Russia, in the absence of Putin but in the presence of his sidekick Lavrov, as a `rogue state` and US President `Sleepy Joe` Biden calls for a resolution of the Northern Ireland protocol issue by April 2023.
America`s mid-term elections, widely expected to deliver a landslide victory for The Tramp and his acolytes, produces a Democratic majority in the Senate, a less-than-impressive Republican majority in The House and sends a clear message that the United States is no longer as in thrall to the ex-President as he would like to have his followers believe. Nevertheless he has thrown his hat into the ring as an aspirant for the next Republican Presidency – but the much younger and more attractive Ron De Santis from Florida may throw a spanner into those works.
Canadian Members of Parliament, visiting London, express their `fury` at the failure of the UK to resolve the matter of frozen ex-pats` pensions. The Government`s flagship `levelling up` legislation is put on hold as Ministers face a Tory back-bench rebellion over housing targets in the South. The entente between Macron and Sunak remains more cordiale than previously but the word is that the French President seeks to block non-EU candidates, including UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, from succeeding Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO. And on the `Plutonium Jubilee` of Britain`s atom bomb tests the veterans of those experiments are, after seventy years in waiting, finally to be recognised by The Prime Minister and King Charles.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt`s Autumn Financial Statement has been described as `The rhetoric of George Osborne and the politics of Gordon Brown` and looked at from any angle this package is austerity with knobs on and socialist in all but name. Thirty billion pounds worth of strategically delayed spending cuts designed to explode in the face of an incoming Labour Chancellor should there be one in a couple of years` time. Twenty five billion pounds worth of tax increases. The biggest single cut in living standards in modern history. A windfall tax on energy companies` profits. Tax allowances, income tax, national insurance and inheritance tax frozen. Vehicle Excise Duty (The `Tesla Tax`) imposed on electric vehicles from April 2023. Overseas Aid frozen at 0.5% for at least six years. The household energy bill average cap raised from £2500 to £3000 with effect from April next year. An Office of Budget Responsibility forecast of a 1.4% shrinkage in the economy before emerging from the recession, hopefully, in 2024. Inflation to peak at 11% before falling to 7.4% next year. Rises in mortgage costs peaking at 5% in 2024, a 5% increase in council tax and a `lost decade`of pay growth. But inflation linked increases in pensions, Universal Credit and benefits to help those on the lowest of incomes and the go-ahead for the construction of the Sizewell C nuclear Power Station as an investment in our future energy security.
It would be easy to blame the brief Truss/Kwarteng administration for the nation`s financial woes and the disastrous` not-the-budget ` has certainly contributed to the problem but the hangover from the heady draught of spending to alleviate the worst effects of Covid and the war in Ukraine with its associated increases in global energy costs are responsible for most of the debts that have been racked up. Not that Chancellor Hunt has been given much credit from politicians for trying to sort out this mess: on the Tory back benches the low-tax advocates were quick to criticise Hunt for causing `further pain to working Britons` and The Daily Truss , which of course hailed the Kwarteng unfunded tax-cutting debacle as `At last a Tory Budget`, was quick to howl that `The Middle Classes plundered to fund welfare and pensions` under a banner headline that screamed `Tories Soak the Strivers`. The `strivers` being those who can still afford to buy and believe the Bourgeoise Women`s Tabloid and like to be told what they want to hear oblivious to what is happening in the real world.
For my money, and yours, the Chancellor has had the balls to do what had to be done. Not pretty, no frills, no smoke and mirrors. But if we are going to rebuild our economy as we must then that has to be done on the good old Thatcherite principle of `sound money` and not on the fallen fruits from Mr Corbyn`s Magic Money Tree. Some of my younger colleagues, eager to preach the Thatcherite gospel of low tax, have clearly forgotten the vice-like grip that the Iron Lady sought to exercise, as First Lord of the Treasury, over the nation`s purse strings. Grocer Roberts` little girl from Grantham knew that if you have not earned it you cannot spend it.
Back to the `boat people` and those who are illegally trafficking them from France to England. At the start of the month Home Secretary Braverman took the trouble to call to see the Manston processing facility in my constituency for herself. She was widely and unfairly criticised for `hiring a Chinook helicopter` to fly her from Dover to Manston when in fact the aircraft, on a training flight, was used to give her an aerial view of the French Coast, La Manche, the Port of Dover and all that lay beneath before dropping her off for her three-hour tour of the facilities at Manston. I like to give credit where credit is due and I think that having viewed the accommodation, catering services, and medical centre and having spent some time fielding not unhostile questions from members of the Manston staff she will have emerged with a better understanding of the situation. As I have said before there is no quick fix to the asylum issue and as the Home Secretary discovered for herself when she faced Tory questioning during her appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee, if there is no `safe and legal` route into the United Kingdom then desperate people, whether economic migrants or those genuinely fleeing from persecution, will seek unsafe and illegal routes to reach our shores. Mrs Braverman, when confronted with the `safe and legal route` issue floundered and failed because she knows, as do we all, that the concept is a myth. Meanwhile the Minister of State at the Home Office, Robert Jenrick who, according to the dismally small and unrepresentative sample that goes to make up those polled for Conservative Home, is the most unpopular member of the Government, has been picking up the pieces of the Home Secretary`s misguided embargo on the renting of alternative accommodation and has begun to get the proceedings back on track. Mr Jenrick is not going to win Tory party brownie points for placing illegal immigrants in taxpayer-funded hotels in other Members` constituencies but what is needed now is a real drive by the woman responsible, the Home Secretary, to get to grips with the huge backlog of outstanding asylum claims and to allow those whose claims are granted to work to fill the vast gaps in our manpower and to start paying taxes themselves instead of remaining a burden upon the State.
Across the pond Joe Biden, the man who fairly and squarely denied Mr. Trump his second term in office as President of the United States of America and Commander-in-Chief of that nation`s armed forces, announced that in the US mid-term elections `democracy would be at stake`. The Tramp, endorsing a network of his own placemen as Republican candidates, looked forward to seizing control by proxy of both the House of Representatives and The Senate and to his own subsequent coronation as the Grand Old Party`s candidate for the next Presidential election. “Tuesday” opined our over-inflated self-publicist “will be an exciting day for a lot of people. “ Tuesday was indeed an “exciting day, Jim, but not as we know it”. The predicted landslide emerged as a trickle, the Republicans scraped home in Congress but actually list ground in the Senate and worse, from the point of view of the Fallen Idle (sic), down in Florida Ron “I`ve only just begun” De Santis stormed home as the elected Republican State Governor and showed how America really might be made great again under a De Santis Presidential candidacy. Suddenly The Tramp was describing his erstwhile protégé as `average` and blaming his aides for his slate`s poor showing in the mid-term polls. The subsequent and unsurprising confirmation that he intended to run again for the Presidency in 2024 received an underwhelming response. America, after all, likes to back winners not losers.
In other news the departure of Gavin Williamson, the former Government Chief Whip , fleetingly Secretary of State for Defence and Rishi Sunak`s appointee as Cabinet Minister without Portfolio was regarded as mildly embarrassing for the Prime Minister but no great loss to His Majesty`s Government. Mr Williamson , regarded by some as `a highly-rated backroom operator` has been sacked by three of the last four Tory Prime Ministers. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Keir Starmer, who appears to believe both at there are too many migrants filling UK jobs and that we need overseas workers to fill our staff shortages, faces another problem: under Boundary Commission proposals his Holborn and St. Pancras parliamentary seat, formerly the stamping ground of the late Frank “Dobbo” Dobson, will be absorbed into the Hampstead and Highgate constituency represented by the ambitious Tulip Siddiq. Will the Comrades effect an accommodation for Starmer? Or are rumours of a David (not Ed) Miliband return to parliament as Leader of the Labour Party well-founded?
And in China protests across the country against Covid lockdown measures faced the predictable police clampdown and arrests. But the roots of insurrection should not be dismissed as meaningless. Even under totalitarian regimes the natural longing for freedom and democracy will find a voice.
Egg on red faces at the Ministry of Justice following the launch of their ` One career – Many roles` Prison Officer recruitment campaign on Facebook. All of the prison officers portrayed were stereotypically white and all of the inmates were stereotypically black. Those Anglo Saxon scions of London`s East End who take great pride in their masculine criminality (my stereotypes of course!) will no doubt have been deeply offended by this gross misrepresentation.
National Grid is planning yet hundreds more miles of overhead cables strung on hideously unattractive pylons across this green and pleasant land to meet the net zero demand for more power to charge electric vehicles in a programme of `industrial electrification`. What joy.
Whitehall`s mandarins are planning the introduction of `Wellness Apps` coupled with `mindfulness` and `guided meditation` as well as bedtime stories to meet the needs of WFH civil servants. ” Once upon a time there was a wicked Cabinet Minister who wanted people to stop working from home, get back into their empty offices and…….”
Ed Milipede, if you remember him, has been reincarnated as a Labour Front Bench spokesman, and has supported a COP 27 proposal to make `reparation` to countries like Pakistan and the Maldives for centuries of damage caused by climate change generated by the more developed world. China and Russia will, no doubt, be at the front of the queue to contribute to The Milipede`s largesse.
Comforting to know that the forces of repression represented by China`s People`s Liberation Army are receiving training at Sandhurst and RAF Cranwell. The Royal College of Defence Studies used to be accused of `training tomorrow`s dictators` but the RCDS is for high-flyers only. Sandhurst and Cranwell are presumably supplying the basic officer training .
Mr Speaker Hoyle has condemned reference to `Japs` as `an outdated racist slur`. Meanwhile the former Government Chief Whip, now in the Department for Levelling Up, has engaged in a `not just any stereotype – this is a Mark Spencer stereotype` in his breakfast television reference to being spied upon by `little Chinese people`.
It is said that nurses dealing with patients suffering from dementia have given up asking people, as a test of memory, who the Prime Minister is. The turnaround, you see, has been too rapid.
An astronomer from Oxford has been locked out of Twitter for posting images of shooting stars. The platform`s automated `moderation tools` determined that the display constituted `something explicit`. Did the heavenly bodies move for you?
The soon-to-be-enobled (perhaps) Nadine `Mad Nad` Dorries` next book is said to be “The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson”. Will this be a documentary or yet another of Dorries` works of lurid fiction.?
Number Ten is seeking to curb the breakfast-media appearance of Ministers trundled out to propagate Government policy followed by Opposition Spokesman wheeled out to criticise the same policies and then to be `analysed` by political correspondents . Spare a thought, please, for the editors who would then have to find real news to fill the airwaves with.
`Be bold, Be proud, Be yourself , says `Fly the Flag` airline British Airways. Male cabin crew and pilots will henceforth he allowed to carry handbags and use lipstick, `a touch of` mascara, false eyelashes and nail varnish`. ` Small comfort to those of a certain age like myself for whom make-up for TV appearances sends the make-up artists reaching for the Polyfilla!
The Civitas Think Tank tells us that by 2062 the yearly marriage rate will be just one in four hundred people as a result of `societal shift`. The Government response to this revelation is `neutral``. Which is a pity given the cost to society of the breakdown in relationships and the fact that nine out of ten couples with children aged between thirteen and fifteen and still together are married. A case for the re-introduction of marriage allowance?
The British Postbox Campaign reveals that only a third of today`s children have ever written a letter and that most of those are to the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas. On the other hand eighty four per cent of those questioned would like to receive a letter (postal strikes permitting) and thirty-nine percent of letter writers communicate with family members.
The newly-promoted down-to-earth Universities Minister, former Chairman of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, has described `decolonisation courses` as `a nonsense`. Spot on, Robert – but when did sense ever have anything much to do with the politics of woke?
The Salford Broadcasting Corporation has proudly announced that the 69th final of its Brain of Britain contest was an all-women event. Which has led some to question the `historic` nature of this claim as one of the participants was transgender. Some lights, Auntie, are better hidden under a bushell.
The Independent Parliamentatary Standards Authority has announced that Members of Parliament may fund their staff Christmas parties at the taxpayers expense – provided that MPs do not seek to claim for alcohol. This crass piece of policy which reduced the` Bourgeoise Women`s Tabloid` (Aka The Daily Truss) to howls of self-righteous indignation (who ever heard of a news editor not paying for his own drinks?) was introduced without consultation with MPs. The IPSA has now apologised for the embarrassment caused to the majority of colleagues who cheerfully fund their own staff jollies, with alcohol as appropriate, out of their own taxed income.
James (Jimmy”) Roose-Evans (94) was the theatre director who in 1959 founded in a Scout Hut the Hampstead Theatre Club that promoted the careers of Harold Pinter and Jude Law and Ewan McGregor. In his time he directed the West End successes “Under Milk Wiood”, “Cider with Rosie” “Private Lives” “The Seven Year Itch and “A Personal Affair” . He also adapted Joyce Grenfell`s letters into a one-woman show for Maureen Lipman and won a Best Director Award for “Charing Cross Road”, starring Rosemary Leach, in 1981.. The Hampstead Theatre Club moved to Swiss Cottage in 1962 and emerged as the purpose-built Hampstead Theatre in 2003.
John Perkins (76) was the journalist and broadcaster who in 1974 helped to launch Liverpool`s Radio City and then led the London Broadcasting Company (LBC) and Independent Radio News (IRN) where he was home affairs editor and industrial editor. In 1989, He received his Fellowship from the Radio Academy in 1999 and was placed on the Roll of Honour in 2013.
John Blackburn (90) was the abstract artist who trained at the Thanet School of Art in Margate, in my constituency, where he studied textile design. In 1979 he founded, with his wife, the toy-making company Canterbury Bears whose teddies sold worldwide. He was awarded an MBE for services to manufacturing and export in 2013.
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce (79) succeeded General Sir Charles Guthrie as Chief of Defence staff in 2001 and held that post until 2003. He had earlier served as Commander-in-Chief Fleet and Commander-in Chief Eastern Atlantic and briefly acted as First Sea Lord. He was highly critical of Blair`s `Just in Time` approach to procurement in the run up to the Iraq War and described the Labour Government`s approach to the conflict in 2003 as `without political cohesion`. Following his retirement from the navy in 2003 the former submariner Michael Boyce became Lord Warden of the Cinq Ports in 2004, a role previously held by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. He was made a Knight Companion of the Garter ion 2011 and Admiral of the Fleet in 2014. Lord Boyce dedicated much of his time in `retirement` to charitable work. He was the Chairman of the RNLI and a dedicated supporter of St John Ambulance. He was a Patron of the Kent Charity The TryAngle Awards Foundation that recognises the achievements of the young people of the County and from personal experience I know that he took care to ensure that those receiving awards were aware of his personal interest in them. An extraordinary and wonderful man who will be hugely missed.
Leslie Phillips (98) starred in the BBC Radio seventeen – year comedy series `The Navy Lark` before forging a career for himself on film in the “Doctor” and “Carry On”series of films in the 1960s and more seriously on stage ( “The Lost Generation”, “The Cherry Orchard” ) and television (“Midsomer Murders” “Marple” and many others). He was called up during the Second World War and served in the Durham Light Infantry returning to the West End Stage in 1947. Most recently he was the voice of the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films. He was appointed an OBE in 1998 and a CBE in 2008.
Lord Jones of Cheltenham (74) was, as Nigel Jones, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham and Party Spokesman from 1992 to 2005 when he was made a life peer. In January 2000 he wars attacked in his constituency surgery by a constituent wielding a samurai sword. His assistant, Andrew Pennington, died trying to defend his MP (receiving a posthumous George Medal) and Nigel suffered serious injuries to his hand.
As the Member of Parliament for GCHQ he defended the cause of the “Spooks` Centre” in his patch . Following two heart attacks he retired from the House of Commons and was recommended for a seat in the Lords by the then Leader of the Liberal Party, Charles Kennedy.
With the late Tom Cox, the Member for Tooting, Nigel and I made up a trio of international election observers and, working mainly in Africa, oversaw a number of presidential and parliamentary elections usually describing the results as `a fair reflection of the opinion of the electorate on the day ` - a euphemism for ` If it was rigged it was rigged in the weeks and months before we arrived`!
Mickey Kuhn (90) played Beau Wilkes as a child actor in the 1939 film “Gone With The Wind” alongside Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard as his parents. He was the last credited surviving member of the cast. In 1951 he appeared in “A Streetcar Named Desire” becoming the only other actor to appear in both of Vivien Leigh`s Oscar-winning films.
And Marjorie Campbell (90) was the child actress who in 1932 was cast as a baby in Laurel and Hardy`s “Their First Mistake” and in 1933 was due to appear in “Secrets” with Mary Pickford but was removed from the set in tears. She was seen in “National Velvet” (1944) and in 1946 in the Bette Davis film “The Harvey Girls”.
Anna McCurley (79) was elected tp parliament in 1983 to represent Renfrew West and Inverclyde as a Conservative and as one of only two Scottish female MPs. She lost her seat at the next General Election and in 1998 finally re-joined the Liberal Democrats in which she has begun her political career. As one of the large `83 intake of new one-nation Tory MPs she was hugely popular on both sides of the House. She was a member of the first delegation of MPs to visit the Falkland Islands after the war against Argentina and was a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.
Doddie Weir (52) was the Scotland and British Lions rugby player who made his debut for Scotland in 1990 and won his last cap, against France, in 2020. He was a member of the squad that won the Five Nations championship in 1999 and was the first recipient of the Famous Grouse Scotland Player of the Year Award. Having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease he devoted the rest of his life to fundraising for the Doddle Weir Foundation and was awarded the OBE for services to MND in 2019. In the same year he received the Helen Rollaston Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. In 2020 he was inducted into Scotland's Rugby Union Hall of Fame.
Jiang Zemin (96) was the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party for thirteen years and President for a further ten years. He presided over China`s rehabilitation after the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre of students and positioned his country as the major rival to United States superpower. His 1997 visit to Washington during Bill Clinton`s Presidency was acclaimed as a diplomatic success but hopes of democratic reforms were dashed and in 1999 he instigated the crushing of the Falun Gong movement. Under Jiang`s leadership China joined the World Trade Organisation and in 2001 he was one of the first world leaders to condemn the 9/11 atrocities and his support for America`s war on terrorism.
A combination of the skills of Joss Butler and Ben Stokes helped England to lift the T20 trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
At the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida seven hundred thousand gallons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen , fifteen per cent more than that used by the Saturn V space rocket, sent Artemis off on a journey that will take the at present unmanned Orion Crew Capsule to forty thousand miles beyond the far side of the moon and back. Astronauts will participate in 2024 and a further manned moon landing is planned for 2025. The last time that man set foot on the moon was via Apollo 17 in 1972.
And the Post Office art deco nativity stamp collection designed by Kent-based Katie Ponder issued this Christmas will be the last bearing the headof Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. The Arnold Machin silhouette facing from right to left has been in use since 1967.