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Westminster View - December 2018


December. After four days of debate the “meaningful vote “on Brexit is on, then off; The challenge to the Prime Minister`s leadership is off, then on as disgruntled Tories suffering from SMS (Sacked Minister Syndrome) and their acolytes scrape together the forty-eight votes required to trigger a ballot. The much-vaunted TV debate between the Darling Bud and Red Jerry is on. Then off. Comrade Corbyn does not like the terms and conditions for the proposed tryst. Mr. Speaker Bercow feels the heat as he wrestles with the impartiality of the Chair. The `bloody difficult woman` is not stupid but `people` are says the Leader of the Opposition. Lip-readers queue up to vouch for the fact that this is a bare-faced lie. Gatwick Airport is grounded by real or phantom drones, Mr. Plod from Sussex apologises for nicking the wrong suspect and hundreds of thousands of Christmas holidays are ruined or delayed by what the Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid rightly describes as morons. Only problem is, they identified the wrong `morons` which might prove a costly error. On the High Streets of Britain there is gloom and panic but fewer shoppers than are needed to keep retail outlets afloat. HMV, the once dominant recording company and music chain, goes into liquidation. Pre-Christmas the Home Secretary releases a long-awaited White Paper on immigration while illegal travellers take advantage of the festive break to launch an armada of small craft upon the shores of Kent.   Further afield The Tramp loses more key staff as he announces the withdrawal of troops from Syria because the war against Daesh is `won` and on his home front faces a nation with public services at a New Year standstill because the House does not want to pay for his Mexican Border wall. There is talk on The Hill of impeachment in the New Year. In Indonesia yet another festive season tsunami causes death and devastation and Nazanin Zahari-Ratcliffe spends her fortieth birthday in an Iranian prison. Ex Foreign Secretary Johnson please note. Back at home the Defence Secretary announces that the UK will maintain forces in Afghanistan whether the Commander in Chief of the United States does so or not. Twiggy, the 60`s model and chanteuse, becomes a jolly Dame and Alastair Cook receives a well-deserved knighthood in the New Year`s Honours list for his services to cricket. Gareth Southgate, England`s World Cup Team Manager and Captain Harry Kane also receive gongs as does the winner of the Tour de France. Political honours, which include knighthoods for the former Cabinet Minister and arch Eurosceptic John Redwood and the devoutly Christian Gary Streeter and awards of membership of `Her Majesty`s Honourable Privy Council` get the thumbs down from the press. Of course. Gratifying, as one of the three new members of the Privy Council that colleagues were kind enough to think otherwise.  And in her Christmas Message Her Maj has called upon people to `treat each other with respect`. Which, given the likely events of the coming year, suggests that she does not need a Privy Council to help her to offer wise advice.   

At the beginning of the month Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs and an ardent brexiteer, warned that if the Prime Minister`s Withdrawal Agreement was voted down in the Commons then Brexit would be at risk.  He is right. I have expressed   before and stand by the belief that the Agreement, while like any compromise not perfect is the best deal on offer and the least worst solution that, whatever the outcome, is never going to satisfy more than fifty per cent of the population. There are those, of course, on the Opposition benches and some on our own, who have never accepted the result of the referendum and for whom Gove`s threatened `no Brexit` would be an ideal outcome.  Indeed, the campaign for a `People`s Vote` is no more than a thinly-veiled attempt to secure a further referendum in the hope of overturning the result of the last one. Even as one who voted to remain part of the European Union I regard that as a travesty of democracy and one that would almost certainly deliver another knife-edge result and very possibly civil unrest. The British people have expressed a clear view and parliament has a duty, whether we like it or not, to deliver on that verdict.  If “No Deal” is an option that would result in colossal damage to our economy and to our security, which whatever else we can safely assume is not what most people voted for, then the Prime Minister`s agreement, signed off on behalf of the other twenty-seven member states, is the only show in town.


Those on both sides of the argument have, as became clear during the four days of the debate, no viable alternatives   to offer. When I put to Mr. Johnson on the first day and in an intervention that received coverage to which I am normally unaccustomed, the thought that he appeared to prefer the grievance to the solution, that the Prime Minister had delivered a solution and what, please, was his Big Idea?  answer came there none. They are long on criticism and very short on original thought. Former Prime Minister. `The Legacy` Blair, has said that the choice on offer ` is between a bad Brexit and a pointless Brexit` but speaks as one who has consistently refused to accept the outcome of the June 2016 vote and simply wishes to turn back the clock to those distant pre-Corbyn `glory days` of New Labour.  

Into this debate was injected the sub-plot of the Speaker`s decision to permit an Opposition debate calling upon the Attorney General to publish the legal advice offered to Government in respect of the “backstop provision2 that has been the subject of most of the some would say synthetic outrage against the Withdrawal Agreement generated by the Democratic Unionist Party and their supporters and deal-opponents on the hard-Brexit wing of the Tory Party. Attorneys General do not, as a pretty hard-and-fast rule, ever publish the advice that they give the Cabinet but the motion was carried and Mr Attorney (Geoffrey) Cox, a senior and hitherto very expensive Queen`s Counsel by trade, came to the House to present an extravagantly theatrical brief to the Commons. A superbly bravura and expansive performance certainly but one that did not satisfy those in Opposition who scented blood and wanted to see the actual and verbatim opinion given.  A further debate that determined that the Government was in contempt of the instruction of the House left the Attorney reportedly in tears and the administration with an egg-covered face. That the well-known Thin Ice Dancing Duo, Johnson and Mogg, supported the Opposition in their quest did little to endear them or their sidekicks to those who understand the true significance of confidentiality.  If the Government`s law officers are unable to give candid and often unwelcome opinions to those running the Country without fear of publication then that advice will inevitably be watered down and anodyne when circumstances might otherwise require that it be robust.  The Speaker and The Commons have set a very dangerous precedent. These chickens will one day come home to roost and while schadenfreude demands that the authors of this ploy are themselves the future victims of it I trust that Messrs. Corbyn, Johnson, Mogg and others will never be elevated to positions in which they may reap the whirlwind that they have severally and collectively sown. In a further sideswipe the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice has determined, in contradiction of the opinion offered to our Government, that Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by the United Kingdom. Not a good month for Law Officers. 

With the odds stacking against the Prime Minister`s agreement Government Whips were forced to advise Downing Street that the vote, if pursued at the end of the five-day, debate, would be lost by a very significant and possibly three-figure margin. The Ulster Unionists upon whose support the Government has relied for its majority, were opposed to the measure as was a for once united Opposition and many on both wings of the Brexit debate within the Tory Party.  Bowing to the inevitable and recognising that discretion is the better part of valour Theresa May pulled to vote that earlier in the day Downing Street and Cabinet Ministers had said was `definitely going ahead`. This has bought the Prime Minister time to seek further `clarification` of the backstop arrangements relating to Northern Ireland and the chance to seek to win over sufficient opponents to `get the Agreement across the line` and move on.  Given that the Agreement is really just a paving measure for the negotiation of trade and other relationship agreements with the EU that have yet to be discussed we have to live in the hope that come the New Year and when, after four more days of debate, the `meaningful vote` finally does take place on, probably, 15th January, sense will prevail.  The difficulty that the administration has is that so many colours have been nailed prematurely to the wrong mast that finding an honourable escape route to allow those colours to be torn down will not be easy. But it is not yet impossible. 

The Grand Old Mogg of Yore has marched his “no confidence in the Prime Minister” troops up and down the hill so many times that they must have been exhausted by the time the moment to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory was finally offered to them.  In the wake of the No Vote debacle Dad`s Army finally managed to secure the forty-eight letters necessary to compel the Chairman of the Conservative Back Bench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, to hold a ballot to determine whether or not the Prime Minister still had the confidence of the parliamentary Party. Sir Graham, as the custodian of letters that have flowed and ebbed from his office safe over many weeks, plays a very straight bat. Inevitably he was criticised for affording the Prime Minister, before announcing the fact to the world`s press, that the trigger-threshold had been reached and he was criticised again for then swiftly holding the necessary ballot. Given that the Government of the Country was at stake you might think that in the interests of stability the matter needed to be resolved rapidly but those who could not organise a booze-up in a brewery and having had many weeks to work at their plots wanted more time to `organise`. In the event Sir Graham announced that “The Conservative Party does have confidence in the Prime Minister. That vote was by a two-to-one majority (200/117) and the Darling Bud actually secured one more vote than she did when she took over the Leadership of the Party and the Premiership in 2016.  Churlish, therefore, of the ordinarily extravagantly courteous Mr. Mogg (“She ought to go to see the Queen and resign”) to criticise the strength of the result, particularly as he heads up a European Reform Group that argues hard and passionately that the 4% margin secured by those campaigning to leave the European Union represents significant mandate. Either way the net outcome is that the Prime Minister may not now face internal challenge for another year. She also, in her address to the Party before the vote, indicated that she would not lead the party into the next (2022) General Election and that, of course, has brought out into the open a successor contest that was already well under way but ostensibly clandestine.  Those who triggered the challenge to Mrs May`s authority will no doubt take national pride in the fact that they have further weakened her negotiating position at a time when she needs all of the support and determination that she can muster to succeed not in the Withdrawal Agreement but in what lies ahead and beyond that. As one hack put it following the leadership vote “After the apocalypse the only things left will be ants and Tory MPs complaining about Europe”. 

The internal hatchet job was not the only or even the most important challenge that failed.  First, the Prime Minister offered to meet the Leader of the Opposition head-to-head to discuss Brexit on television. Faced with a divided Labour Party – Comrade Corbyn himself wants to leave the European Union while very many of his MP`s want a `People`s Vote` leading to, they hope, a “remain” result in a second referendum.  Red Jerry refused to pick up the gauntlet that Mrs. May had thrown down pleading the “terms and conditions” of the proposed broadcast as a lame excuse.  Next, and under severe pressure from his own backbenches and supported by all other Opposition parties, Mr. Corbyn tried to table a vote of `no confidence` in the Prime Minister rather than, as is the form, in the Government that she leads. That bluff was immediately called by the Lady in Number 10 who challenged him to table and debate the full `No Confidence `motion The Leader of the Opposition who says he wants a General Election but is opposed, against the wishes of his Party and Shadow Chancellor McDonnell, to a second referendum bottled it. The `confidence` stunt backfired leaving Red Jerry staring at an open goal with no balls and his Party limping despairingly off the field. 

Prime Minister`s Question Time is always something of a pantomime even in midsummer. Notwithstanding the Speaker`s best efforts to prevent the protagonists from being shouted down and trying to maintain something resembling order it was ever thus. The difference – and one of the great arguments that I deployed against the televising of the House all those years ago-  is that instead of being watched by a handful of people in the public gallery it is now watched by millions of views around the world.  Those that only see, and therefore judge the British parliament by, PMQs are rather like those who judge a school only by the behaviour of the kids in the yard at playtime, which is more or less what the now once-weekly PMQ session represents. From the start of the final punch-up before the Christmas break a weakened Leader of the Opposition knew that he was on the back foot. “His Party is not behind him” said the PM. “Oh yes we are” said the Labour backbenches. “Oh No You`re not” replied the Tories. The genie was well out of the bottle when Comrade Corbyn threw in the towel and sat down muttering “stupid woman”.  Outrage. Did the Labour sisterhood come to the defence of one of their slighted number? “Oh no they didn`t” and neither did Mr. Speaker who had” not heard the aside nor seen” Red Jerry`s lips move.  More outrage, this time backed up by instant social media footage waved in front of Mr. Speaker`s face.   Having fled to the tearoom to discuss the gaffe with his inner circle and to agree a line the Leader of the Opposition returned later to the Chamber to confirm that he had, in exasperation, said “stupid people”. His difficulty was that by this time legions of highly-qualified lip-readers hired by the media were queuing up to confirm that the anti-Semite had in fact said the sexist “stupid woman” and that, in short, Mr. Corbyn was quite simply lying. Nearing the end of a fairly grim session of parliament the Prime Minister might have been forgiven for allowing herself a wry smile. But vindictive is not part of her lexicon. 

And so off we went for our Christmas getaway holidays in the sun. Or not. Those who chose to stay at home and spend Christmas with our families turned out to be the lucky ones.  It seems incredible that a drone, or even a couple or a flock of drones, could bring Britain`s second-largest airport to a standstill but so it came to pass. As literally thousands of families headed to Gatwick to take off for warmer climes on the Friday before Christmas the drone, or drones, were spotted and the flying of commercial aircraft ceased for three days. Brexit, which is now used as an excuse for anything at all that Government departments have not had the time, the finance, the energy or the inclination to do, is blamed for the fact that measures to protect airfields from drone attacks have not been implemented by the outfit responsible, Transport. The hapless Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, already wrestling with the possibility that Britain`s ports and freight transport systems could come to a grinding halt on the 31st March 2019 in the event of a No Deal` departure from the European Union, - more of that in a moment -  finds himself under siege. Sussex constabulary, whose manor includes Gatwick Airport , rush around like Labradors  searching for fallen pheasants ,every pundit that you have never heard of is wheeled out by the media to describe in graphic details the possible effects of drone meets plane,  the military are eventually called in, the departure lounges begin to resemble refugee camps as cold, tired, hungry, unwashed and frustrated children, women and men see the tatters of their dream holidays disappearing not over the horizon but stuck on the tarmac and Mr. Plod arrests two people.  The wrong two people.  It turns out that the middle-aged couple, one of whom has the misfortune to fly drones as a hobby, have a cast iron alibi and are completely innocent. They are, of course, released without charge but not before the world`s press has beaten a path to their unassuming suburban door in Crawley and the Mail on Sunday has named them under the banner headline “Are these the morons that ruined Christmas”?  No, it is the morons at the Mail on Sunday that are forced to publish the “Innocent couple held over Gatwick freed” follow-up story and may well find themselves forking out more than an editor`s annual salary in damages. At the time of writing it has transpired that at least some of the drones may in fact have been police surveillance machines, the culprit, if indeed there is one, is still at large, over 1000 flights were grounded at a cost of many millions of pounds and at least fourteen thousand passengers had their travel plans cancelled or severely delayed. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson and the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, met on Christmas Eve to discuss the deployment of military-grade technology at British Airports.  If the incident has exposed the flaws in our armoury and if as a result security is, at whatever cost, radically strengthened then as no lives were lost on this occasion it may have been worth the pain – although those whose Christmases were ruined are unlikely to see it that way. We can only hope that the insurance companies do not try to shelter behind the `exceptional circumstances` clauses in their contracts and take an enlightened view of the losses that have been suffered by so many people. 

To return, briefly, to the post No-Deal Brexit freight transport issue there is a very real concern that the County of Kent, part of which I have the honour to represent, could become one giant lorry-park if negotiations fail and strict border controls and customs checks on goods are imposed at Dover and Calais.  The Straits of Dover are the busiest sea-lanes in the world and cross-channel ferries carry massive amounts of freight mainly to but also from the United Kingdom in literally thousands of lorries daily. 

We have seen in the past how strikes of French travaillistes can cause delays and tailbacks almost within minutes as articulated vehicles pile up at a rate of what the Dover Harbour Board has estimated to be one mile per hour. It is twenty-six miles only from the port of Dover to the M25 and in the August of 2015 the highways and byways of East and West Kent were choked with stationary traffic. Not only were the freight vehicles and holiday making travellers not moving but as “Operation Stack” took hold local people found that they could not get to work in or visit their places of work, shops, hospitals and the like. And that was in just a couple of days.  In an endeavour to meet a possible need Ministers have dreamed up “Operation Brock” which includes plans to store thousands of lorries on the at present closed Manston Airport (which we are working hard to get re-opened, ironically as a post-Brexit long-haul freight and passenger hub) near Margate in my constituency.  It matters not, apparently, that Manston is mikes across country roads and fifteen roundabouts from Dover and still further miles from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. Neither is it of concern that Dover Harbour, the Constabulary, elected politicians and just about anyone else with reasonable local knowledge knows that this plan is unworkable: the trucks have, at all cost, to be kept out of West Kent where they might cause some inconvenience.   

All of this has, inevitably, been described as “Project Fear Mark Two” by those who are determined not to recognise the economic disaster and the chaos that a Hard Brexit is likely to generate. In fact, there is another and more probable scenario and rather than traffic jams Kent, and the port of Dover, could find itself with little or no freight traffic at all.  There is a shortage, throughout mainland Europe, of freight vehicles and, particularly, of long-distance lorry drivers. It cost about £250 per day to keep a truck sitting doing nothing and faced with a choice between seeing their investment stranded on either side of the Channel or trading throughout the whole of the wider Europe without impediment it is highly likely that the logistics companies will simply choose the latter. Which means that whether there are ferries running or not there may be no vehicles available to bring the just-in-time car parts that our motor industry is dependent upon or the pharmaceuticals that the Health Service needs on a daily basis or the perishable foodstuffs that we all consume from Europe into Britain. Or to carry our products back on their return journeys. Which is another very compelling reason for parliament to sign up to the Prime Minister`s Withdrawal Agreement and move on to discuss and settle our future trading relationships as swiftly as possible. 

The other cross-channel traffic that has made the news and troubled Westminster over Christmas has been the increase in illegal immigrants, mainly from Syria and not infrequently with considerable resources, using small inflatable and highly unsuitable craft to make the shortest sea-crossing from France to Britain. Lurid, xenophobic and irresponsible deadlines have overblown the scale of what is, nevertheless a very real humanitarian disaster waiting to happen.  For the years dating back at least to the 1970s there has been a steady trickle of people seeking to exploit the many hundreds of miles of undefended coastline that is the British Isles in order to enter the country illegally.  More recently those who have reached mainland Europe from war-torn Syria, from Afghanistan and from much of North Africa have then travelled onwards to Calais, often aided and abetted by human traffickers, to try to use the trucks on ferries or the Channel tunnel to smuggle themselves into what they believe, often incorrectly, to be a better life in Britain.  Modern slavery is not an attractive substitute for, even, civil war or famine and those who are forced to live below the radar are wide-open to exploitation. 

As the counter-measures have proved increasingly effective and as the French authorities have dispersed the “Jungle” communities around Calais increasingly desperate human beings are now resorting to rubber dinghies to try to cross what in recent days has been a calm but is often a stormy and very hazardous stretch of water to land in England.  We should not exaggerate the scale of this exodus. The couple of hundred migrants that have been rescued or who have landed and handed themselves in to the authorities here, even when added to the numbers who have not been intercepted and apprehended, pales into insignificance beside the millions who have fled Syria and are now resident in refugee camps in Turkey, beside those who have crossed the Aegean in unseaworthy craft to reach the islands or mainland Greece or those who have left North Africa to seek asylum in Italy. Our border patrol craft have been rightly and wisely deployed on humanitarian work saving lives in the Mediterranean and it is a moot point whether bringing those ships home to join other forces patrolling the English Channel is a sound decision.  There is the very real risk, bordering on certainty, that as the wind rises it will not be inflatable dinghies but bodies that are washed upon the shores of Northern France and Kent and Sussex and anything that can be done to save at least some of those lives must in the name of humanity be done.  On the other hand, there is the equally real danger that an increase in the number of life-saving as well as enforcement facilities may simply and inexorably lead to an increase in the numbers buying or stealing boats in the hope and expectation that they will either land safely or be rescued before they drown or die of hypothermia. 

In these days of dog-whistle politics it was inevitable that the Home Secretary had to cut short his family holiday on a game reserve in South Africa and return home to be seen to be “getting a grip” and “doing something”. Doing the right thing, though, is a harder task and I do not envy him the dilemma. 

Unless a case of “No Sense, No Feeling”, Yuletide in the White House must have been a fairly chilly affair.  With John Kelly resigning from his administration and leaving at the end of the year The Tramp faces the necessity of appointing his third Chief of Staff in as many years. This flows from the Commander in Chief`s eccentric decision to withdraw US troops from Syria in the teeth of Pentagon opposition and on the basis of the flimsy assertion that “Islamic State has been defeated”.

Following the mid-term elections, the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives on the first Thursday in January 2019 with public services in the United States into the second fortnight of the third shutdown of Research Laboratories, NASA and the National Zoo in Washington. (We have to trust that somebody is still feeding the animals). Failure on the part of the House to authorise $5 billion or even at today`s rates about £3.9 Billion of expenditure on the building of the Mexican border wall – the one that, you may recall, The Tramp said that the Mexicans were going to have to pay for – has led the President to threaten to shut the Mexican border completely.  It remains to be seen who will blink first but in the meantime the change in the House majority raises the very real prospect of impeachment with a debate about not “if” but “when”. There are Democrats who want to move against The Tramp immediately but sounder counsel suggests a wait until the Mueller Report into Russian interference in the2016 Presidential election is released. That report is widely expected to implement Candidate Trump in improper electoral activities.  In the meantime, the new House majority has the opportunity to investigate the President`s tax affairs and to question Michael Cohen, the President`s former lawyer, before the latter starts his gaol; sentence. All of which may be why The Tramp carelessly asked a seven-year old, in a pre-Christmas PR telephone call, “Do you still believe in Santa”.? Oops! 

In other news the streets of Paris have been ransacked by the `Gilets Jaunes` campaigners protesting against M. ` Macrobe` Macron`s economic policies.  Scarcely can a French President`s popularity plummeted from hero to zero in such a short space of time. On the first Sunday the Champs Elysee and the Avenue Kleber were trashed and the Arc de Triomphe which holds a place in French culture akin to the Cenotaph in Whitehall, was vandalised. Visiting Paris on Council of Europe business shortly before Christmas I found that every bank in the Avenue Kleber, in which the offices that we use are located, had had all of their cash machines ripped apart and very many plate glass windows were shattered and boarded up. Following several weekends of militant action – the French do not ordinarily campaign during the working week – a President accused of `ancestral arrogance` ran up the Drapeau Blanche and made the concessions that he had sworn he would never offer. Thirteen billion euros worth of “sweeteners” have restored order to the Avenues of Paris, at least for the time being. 

In the town of Strasbourg, which styles itself “The Capital of Europe”, there was another terrorist attack on a Christmas Market leaving dead and injured for the murderer was cornered and shot by French police.  

Indonesia has suffered another tsunami following the eruption within the Krakatoa group of volcanoes. The resulting tidal wave has left widespread destruction and many dead in its wake. “Stile the post-prandial yawn and give help” is the seasonal message from aid workers still struggling to reach the injured and the dead. 

Mr Farridge, former Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, has quit UKIP following the recruitment as a member of the hard-right Tommy Robinson . He is joined in his departure by other former UKIP royalty and now threatens to form a new post-`BNP UKIP` organisation because “my destiny is to fight for Brexit” 

Labour`s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnel has, in a back-to-the-future announcement, indicated desire to abolish Margaret Thatcher`s trades union laws and to once again permit British Workers to engage in currently illegal `sympathy strikes`. Given a chance they will no doubt be out on the streets supporting the `Gilets Jaunes`. 

Mr. Johnson has been cleared by the Conservative Party of offence caused by his reference to wearers of the burka looking `like letter-boxes or bank-robbers` in an article in the Daily Telegraph. A spokesman has said that the ex Foreign Secretary was ` not in breach of party rules` in making his `satirical` comments. The Muslim Council has described the determination as `a licence to bigotry`, 

And it may be counter-intuitive but it is a fact that home-ownership in Britain is on the rise for the first time in thirty years. 



PETA, the animal rights, vegan and vegetarian-supporting organisation has called for a cull of `meat and dairy sayings`. On the hit list are “Bring home the Bacon” and “Killing two birds with one stone”, They would like to replace “Take the bull by the horns” with “Take the flower by the thorns”, “Flogging a dead horse” with “Feeding a fed horse” and “More than one way to skin a cat” with “More than one way to peel a potato”.


St Cuthbert`s Catholic Primary School in Darwen, Lancashire, has been accused of `ruining the magic of Christmas` by posing the question `Is Santa Real`?  to nine year olds (President Trump please note.)

In a subsequent debate the young students reached the entirely proper conclusion. Santa does exist


Barclays bank has discovered through research (no wonder banking charges are so high) that Grandfathers receive fewer Christmas presents than the dog.   As a dog-owning grandfather that seems to me to be an entirely proper sense of priorities


Gangsters have seized control of farms in the Michocan region of Mexico to enable them to grow….avocados! The `Knights Templar` Drug overlords are making £150 million a year out of “blood avocados”

In a business that has grown by 184% in five years. Remember that next time you buy “green gold” from Waitrose.


A professional comedian has pulled out of a University of London student charity event having been told that he must avoid sexism, classism, ageism, atheism, transphobia, xenophobia islamophobia, and anti-religion. The soviet born Konstantin Kism who has lived in Britain for20 years and clearly understands the meaning of freedom of speech said “What can I joke about”. The losers are the on-campus UNICEF society.


And the Committee on Advertising Practice has proscribed stereotypical advertisements showing “men with their feet up while women are  doing the cleaning” “boys being daring, girls being caring” and “belittling men doing the cooking”.


A national Audit Office report reveals that the BBCs new East Enders set is running five years late and at £87 million is £27 million over budget.  The ”High Definition ready” facilities will host the programme that has been made at the Elstree studios since 1984. Glad I am not required to pay the licence fee any more.


When the London correspondent of the New York Times called for examples of crime in London some interesting responses were generated.  “£5.50 for a pint of beer is daylight robbery”. “Standing on the left-hand side of the escalator” and “awkward eye-contact with strangers” were some of the Capital offences mentioned.


Prescot on Merseyside claims to have been “ravaged by austerity”. This would be the same local authority that has just invested in a new £16 million leisure centre and a £5.3 million fire and police station.


The President of the United States has sought to establish his country`s first `Space Force` under the auspices if the Pentagon 11th Combat (Space) Command. The project, which has yet to gain Congressional approval, will `instigate space capabilities`.  There is probably no truth in the suggestion that Luke Skywalker will take over11th. Command.


A trophy hunter in Missouri who killed buck for their heads has been convicted and sentenced. To ensure that the punishment fits the crime the deer-murderer will be compelled to watch the 1942 film Bambi every month for a year.


Emily Thornberry (aka Lady Nugee), Labour`s Shadow Foreign Secretary, has said that “Jeremy (Corbyn) is too upset to rid Labour of anti-Semitism” adding that “There isn`t a racist or anti-semitic bone in Jeremy`s body”. The Simon Wiesenthal (Human Rights) centre has put Corbyn in to its annual top-ten list of anti-Semites saying that he has reintroduced “the world`s oldest hatred back into mainstream society”.


Geoff Oliver and his Cuban wife Maria have been told by Greater Manchester police that following ` a complaint` they must remove a Che Guevara flag from their El Cuba Libre restaurant.  Good to know we live in a free country. Comrade Che would have been proud.


The Old Knuckleduster, David Davis, former Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union (Brexit) has said:

“Go out into the world with hope”.


Which reminds me of the Liberal  leader closing his Party`s conference with the words:

“Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government”




Mark Wolfson (84) was the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks from 1879 to 1997.during the Thatcher and Major governments. He opposed the route of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and secured alterations to the final 1993 proposals. He served as PPS to the Minister for Northern Ireland in 1983, resigned and was then made PPS to the Armed Forces Minister, Archie Hamilton, in 1987.


Peter Boizot (89) established the first of five hundred Pizza Express outlets in London`s Wardour Street in 1965 “because I couldn`t find anywhere to buy a decent pizza”. The former owner of Peterborough United Football club retired in 1996.


Lord (Paddy) Ashdown (77) was known as `The action man politician`  He served with the Royal Marines Special Boat Service for thirteen years, was a spy with MI6 and was elected to represent Yeovil in parliament in 1983. He became leader of the Liberal Democrat party in 1988 and paved the way , over eleven years, for its growth under Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg to secure  an eventual forty-six members. Having left the Commons for the Lords in 2001 he then became the United Nations High Representative in Bosnia Herzegovina.


Dame June Whitfield (93) was discovered by Noel Coward and performed in the Ace of Clubs. During a seventy year career in show business she took parts in The Jimmy Edwards Show and Hancock`s half hour on radio and in television and will remembered by today`s audiences for the Carry On films, the long-running Terry and June series with Terry Scott and most recently for Absolutely Fabulous .


Sister Wendy Beckett, (88) a Roman Catholic Carmelite nun, earned fame as a television fine art presenter. When not working she returned to her caravan in the monastery grounds where she lived, without telephone, radio or television, for twenty years.


And Nigel Hague, (90)  Father of the former Tory Leader and Foreign Secretary William (Lord) Hague said when his son left the Foreign Office “I`m glad you are no longer working with those goons”! He is reported as “hating liberals, do-gooders, environmentalists, golfers and foreign food” but through abseils and sky-dives raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity.


And finally……………


In her Christmas message Her Majesty the Queen has said:


“Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding”.

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