Gale's View from Westminster - February 2016
February. Leap month, leap year, a leap of faith? Or a leap in the dark? Make-your-mind up time in Britain, in Europe and in America. The government searches for fresh ways to upset its` supporters. If the EU referendum does not do the trick there`s the centralisation of the Tory Party machine and a kick in the groin for the grassroots membership and if all that fails there`s always Sunday Trading to fall back on. Not that Red “Who are you”? Jerry is having an easy time on the Opposition benches either. “Buy one, get one free” is off the agenda but how long before the Brothers and Sisters snap and say “BOGOFF” to Mr. Corbyn? Most would not give a second-hand trident for his chances. In the United States the marching feet go “trump, trump, trump” and it may be that only Slick Willie`s Old Lady will stand between the Free World, Vlad “The Bomber” Putin and World War Three. Back at home Dame Janet Smith`s investigation into the BBC`s handling of the late and reviled DJ Mr. Savile generates the scorn reserved for what are received as bucket loads of whitewash; the Director General of the Salford Broadcasting Corporation offers an apology to “the victims” tempered by a sigh of relief that none of the surviving luvvies` heads are required to roll; no such apology is forthcoming from the Commissioner of the Police over the Met`s treatment of Field Marshall Lord Bramall; the Brussels eurocracy has decided, for the moment, to keep it grubby hands off British electric kettles and the Scotsman flies again from London to York in a style that would leave the late Mr. Richard Turpin green with envy.
“Who Will Speak For England”? is the tabloid cry. Home Secretary May, Defence Secretary Fallon and Foreign Secretary Hammond are all “speaking for England” when they say that Britain will be more secure within a reformed European Union. The Bourgeois Women`s Chip Wrappings does not see it that way, of course, and anyway what does “reform” mean? Different things to different people is the answer to that question as Man David will find out upon his return from Brussels. Back at the beginning of the month, though, the hard pounding lies ahead. Letters from European `President` Donald Tusk, Cameron accused of slighting Conservative Associations, Legacy Blair and Clunking Fist Brown delighting Brexit campaigners with their support for the EU, all this is still to come. “The migrant crisis may yet force the UK out of Europe says `President Tusk. It is “Like the Eve of World War One. On the Eve of Waterloo there was revelry by night but no such joy as we go into tortuous European Council meetings. Prime Minister Cameron is “breaking the taboo of referendum”, “there is a rising tide of radicalism “and, perhaps, “the start of a trend”. Marine le Pen, the hard right in the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, jackboots pounding across the continent once again. Cassandra seems positively jovial when compared with M. Tusk.
The European Commission vows to send `thousands of migrants` back to Greece and Brussels gives Tsipras three months to hold back `the tide of refugees` and establish border controls. The pending collapse of Schengen generates panic within the faint hearts of the European Project but just how the Greeks are supposed to unilaterally turn back the armada of rubber craft beaching on the longest shoreline in Europe Brussels does not make clear. Send a war galley, perhaps? Summon Scylla and Charybdis? Brussels and London and Berlin and Paris have to wake up to the fact that these are not only migrants, they are women and children and they are refugees fleeing for their lives from an appalling war zone for which we all bear some responsibility.
Jean-Claude Juncker says that Britain will not leave the EU and that there is, therefore, “no plan B”. In Britain a clutch of Cabinet Ministers are champing at the bit and waiting to be let off the leash to strive to prove J-CJ so very wrong. President Donald – Tusk not Trump – says that there is no guarantee of a deal. He, at least, is right. Eighty of the FTSE 100 announce that they want Britain to stay within the EU and Mayor Boris perches in an agonised fashion with one leg on either side of the razor wire. Lord Lawson of Blaby proclaims loudly that `the negotiations have failed`. Do you have to be called `Nigel` to be a Europhobe? There is not much more `ex` than an ex-chancellor pontificating from God`s Waiting Room, Nige.
The deal is done. Not quite “I hold in my hand a piece of paper” but given the scorn with which Her Majesty`s Media Opposition has greeted the outcome of Man David`s long hard nights of negotiations you could be forgiven for thinking that it was Munich and not Brussels that he was returning from to address, first, the Country from the steps of Downing Street and then The Commons. As Europe Minister David Lidington, who sweated through the wee small hours with Cameron, said “He could have brought back the severed heads of the entire European Commission and some would still not have been satisfied”.
We did, not, of course, get all that we were looking for and there are those who will say that we got very little but looked at from an EU perspective the Prime Minister got a great deal that others would have preferred to deny him. Particularly the opt-out from `Ever Closer Union` and protections for the City of London and the Pound Sterling against the Eurozone. Will the deal stick legally and politically? Will the ECJ try to over-rule the heads of all of the Member States of Europe? Will the EU honour its undertakings to write the concessions into treaty change at the appropriate time? Only time itself will tell. These were negotiations and negotiations will always be about compromise but even Cameron`s enemies in the Commons – I am talking about those behind him and not those in front of him – were compelled to concede that securing the deal at all, then flying back exhausted to face the nation and, in short order, to spend hours on his feet taking a battering in the Commons, was a tour de force. I know of no other politician within the living memory of most, and that includes the indefatigable Margaret Thatcher, whose stamina would have stood up to such an ordeal.
With the cat out of the bag the mice were, of course, off and the moment the Cabinet Meeting was over and the Government`s official position to seek a “Remain” vote in the referendum had been agreed they were scuttling out of the back door of Downing Street to take part in a “Vote Leave” photo opportunity. Michael Gove, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary was out of the blocks with the Leave gang of six and it swiftly became apparent that over a light snack cooked up in his parlour, a deal had been struck with Mayor Boris to follow in his wake. At a widely-publicised and reported `confidential` meeting of the 1922 Committee held immediately following the PM`s statement to the House of Commons one Euro-headbanger with loads of `previous` asked Cameron to `be a bit nicer to Boris`. There is a feeling, which I do not share, that the PM put the boot into the King-Over-The-Water rather hard during his statement. Even trying to be `nice` and `fair` to BoJo it has to be said that if the amount of dithering and agonising over what is best for Britain (for which read “what is best for my Leadership chances”?) is to be used as a yardstick then the man whose views have swerved around like an over-loaded luggage trolley with square wheels might just not be the same man whose finger you would want hovering over whatever is left of the nuclear button.
Nevertheless, the Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid now has its` voices that speak for England” in the form of Messrs Gove (Justice), Grayling (Leader of the House), Duncan Smith (DWP) and Whittingdale (Culture, Media and Sport) and Mesdames Villiers (Northern Ireland) and Patel (DWP). Boris, on the other hand, appears to want Britain to vote to leave while at the same time negotiating to re-join under better terms. I do not think that the PM was unduly unkind to suggest that the Mayor of London has to be the only man seeking a political divorce while simultaneously preparing to renew his marriage vows! The bottom line is, simply, that if we vote “out” then over a protracted and messy couple of years we shall come out and there will be no going back.
Over the next three months we shall become sick, if we are not already, of “A leap in the dark” “Safer, stronger and better off” “Something for Nothing”, “Best of Both Worlds”, “Strength in Numbers” and the like. We shall be told that this is no more than “Project Fear” and with two defeated former Party Leaders (Iain Duncan Smith and Michael, now Lord, Howard) plus an aspirant Party Leader voting leave and only one defeated Party Leader (William Hague) voting Remain you might think that the odds were stacked against the official Government line. If, though, you take into account the man who has delivered the first majority Conservative government for a generation, a Chancellor of the Exchequer who is, notwithstanding the fall in the value of the pound generated by referendum jitters, getting our finances back on track, and the views of May, Fallon and Hammond, all of whom have access to real security briefing, and you get a different picture. I do not think that it is “fear” that motivates the Eurosceptic scribbling this twaddle to put his grandchildren`s future first and to say that “in” is the least worst of the two options. That may not be quite the positive message that the “wee lassie in the tin hat”, Nicola Sturgeon, wants to sell but if we are to be either a medium-sized fish in a secure and large pond or a bigger fish in a diminishing puddle that does not include Scotland then I think it is a no-brainer. I have heard, to date, absolutely nothing other than hot air and the “the Germans will still want to sell us BMWs” mantra to convince me that our safety in an increasingly dangerous world and our trading partnerships with the huge market that is on our doorstep are likely to be improved by quitting. We are, indeed, a great Country and we have always, in coalitions and alliances, punched way above our weight. I do not doubt that if we had to we would and could stand alone but is it really necessary to embark upon another battle for survival? And are we not bigger and better and prouder helping to solve the challenges that face the world that our kids and the refugees` kids will grow up in rather than walking away from them? In an address at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Diplomatic Awards at Kensington Palace, the future King William, perhaps echoing his Mother`s thoughts, said “We are an outward-looking nation. Our ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential. We have a proud tradition of seeking out allies”. To maintain that tradition will take courage and leadership. At present we have friends and allies on both sides of the Atlantic and we are going to need them all.
As a footnote to this months` eurostuff, former Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that “we must resist the urge to throttle each other”. Assuming that that caution does not apply to Farridge or George Galloway he is right. On the day after the referendum and whatever the outcome we have to join together and move forward in the national interest.
Life in the Corbyn politburo has not been entirely easy going either. New Labour`s favourite matelot, The Admiral Lord West, has been scathing about Emily Thornberry`s Islington view of the future of our Trident submarine fleet. The Shadow Defence Secretary who did not know why she had been given the job may by now be wishing that she had not accepted the brief as the latest idea to emerge from Red Jerry`s kremlin is to replace our nuclear-armed boats with nuclear armed aircraft! You can just about make a case that says that future technologies such as undersea drones would make hitherto undetectable submarines vulnerable but one of the reasons for the phasing out of the Vulcan nuclear bomber fleet was their existing vulnerability. Back to the drawing board Emily. Labour`s leadership can appear at CND rallies all it likes but the unilateral cause is not aided by the GMB Union`s Scottish convenor, Gerry Smith, who, mindful of his members` jobs on Clydeside, describes Corbyn and Thornberry as `Professional posers sipping lattes in Islington`. It is left to the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, to guarantee sufficient Labour support to guarantee the renewal of Trident when it comes, eventually, to a Commons vote.
Given Tory divisions and Labour`s mostly unity over Europe it might have been expected that the Opposition Front Bench would make some hay out of the Government`s discomfiture over its internal Cabinet divisions when the Prime Minister came to report back on his travails with the Council of Ministers. The hapless Corbyn, rising to question the Prime Minister, said “When I was in Brussels last week people were asking……..” and in the unfortunate pause came the clear response “Who are you?!” The House convulsed, on both sides, in laughter from which the Leader of the Opposition never fully recovered. “Hansard”, the official report, does not give the name of the person responsible for what is recorded as an (interruption) which is a pity because the witty Chris Pincher, the Member of Parliament for Tamworth, deserves recognition for his opportune aside. Would you want to be Leader of the Opposition if you grow up? Probably, at present, not.
In the real world beyond Westminster life goes on although in the American Colonies politics has acquired its own surreal twist. Asked a year ago if the Grand Old Party would run, as its Presidential candidate, a boorish multi-millionaire draft-avoider with an improbable hairstyle and most commentators would have laughed derisively. As the awful prospect of “The Donald” , the man who Pope Francis has described as `not a Christian`, making the Republican running for the White House looks as though it might well become a reality the commentators and almost all of the present incumbents in the House of Representatives, are no longer laughing. The favourite son Jeb Bush, has seen his campaign end literally in tears and when the other candidates have finished knocking bits off each other it seems increasingly likely that the contest will be between Mr Trump and Slick Willie`s Old Lady, Hillary. And you thought we had problems.
In other news the British Medical Association wants to withdraw GP cover from care homes while Junior Doctors first call a further strike and then, faced with a public backlash, call it off. With talks failing the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, takes the nuclear option and seeks to impose a new contract on the Doctors. Who then announce three 48-hour strikes to be held starting on March 9th, April 6th and April 26th while also threatening a judicial review of the proposed new contract? Additionally, they want to “re-enter” into the talks that they abandoned.
Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer or “Nanny-in-Chief” as she is unkindly dubbed, declares a link between wine drinking and breast cancer and there is a move afoot to `harmonise` English drink-driving laws with Scotland and reduce the permitted intake from 80 to 50 milligrams which in real money means one pint of beer or one glass of wine. Transport Minister Andrew Jones will be discussing the matter with his Scottish counterpart to see if the experience north of the border has been successful. A lower limit would effectively mean that a driver taking a car to work in the morning would be unable to take more than a large glass of wine at dinner the night before. The booze trade also predicts that a lower limit will spell the end of the rural pub.
With an estimated seventy thousand Syrians fleeing the Russian destruction of Aleppo and Putin ordering the bombing of Azaz near the border, leaving schools and hospitals destroyed and fifty civilians dead, the Prime Minister has announced a doubling of UK spending on Syrian refugees. A London round-table has raised seven billion pounds in aid pledged by the international community with £1.2 billion of it flowing from Britain. “Shires turn on Cameron” says the headline. Or to put it another way “Shock! Horror! Prime Minister shows compassion”. President Assad, meanwhile, has vowed to take back `all of Syria`. Or what is left of it after the Russians and his own forces have conspired to reduce his country to rubble.
Cuba has opened its airports to American Tourists and President Borat O`Bama becomes the first US Commander-in-Chief to visit the Caribbean island for ninety years. Borat has also decided that, with just 91 detainees remaining, the time has come to close the Guantanamo Bay enclaved facility. Given that this was a 2008 Presidential election pledge some would say “not before time” but it`s not as simple as that. The President has to secure the consent of Congress to transfer prisoners to the US mainland and not every Republican in either House is keen to grant that approval in an election year.
Field Marshall Lord Bramall still awaits an apology from The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, for the manner in which he has been treated and his home and privacy invaded by Messrs. Plod. “I cannot apologise for investigating a complaint” says Bernard of The Yard. Informing the Home Affairs Select Committee that he “will not be bullied into apologising to Lord Bramall” the most senior police officer in the land also considers that the use of 20 officers to search the old warrior`s home was “proportionate to the allegations”. He has had his contract extended by one year rather than the three that he had wished for but there are those who still believe that that is twelve months too long.
The Secretary of State for Culture, John “Heavy Metal” Whittingdale, is due shortly to publish his review of the BBC`s Charter and accompanying White Paper. He may have paid some attention to the DCMS Select Committee report that describes the Salford Broadcasting Corporation as `arrogant, bureaucratic and introspective` with a Director General `accountable to nobody` and a Trust that has no teeth and has lost confidence and credibility. He might also have noticed the £6.5 million report published by Dame Janet Smith into the squalid activities, on BBC premises, of the late Mr. Savile. While this report has been dubbed “an expensive whitewash” by lawyers acting for Savile`s victims it is pretty clear that other BBC `stars` knew of Savile`s preferences for very young girls and boys. That being so it stretches credulity to accept Dame Janet`s acceptance that BBC senior management, however rarefied that the air that they were breathing on the Upper floors of Television Centre and Broadcasting House, were living in blissful ignorance of the sexual mayhem being made beneath their feet and gaze. The Chairman of the Trust, Lord (Tony) Hall has apologised to Savile`s victims and sacked a DJ, Tony Blackburn, against whom Dame Janet has exercised “no judgement about his conduct”, for good measure. The illustrious Lord Hall, has opined that the assistance that Mr. Blackburn gave voluntarily to the Smith inquiry, “fell short of the standard of evidence that such an inquiry demanded` prompting Mr. Blackburn to observe that he had been “hung out to dry” to distract attention from the embarrassment felt by the senior management of the BBC following its obvious failings. I have to declare that I have known Tony Blackburn for more than 60 years. We grew up together in Poole in Dorset and we worked on Pirate Radio Caroline together before he went off to launch Radio One for the BBC, an organisation to which he has devoted about half a century of his professional life. I know him personally and well and given a choice I would prefer his judgement and recollection of events to that of a Lord Hall acting on second-hand information. I hope that he is afforded the justice that is due to him.
In footnotes Jack Straw, who has held major offices of State during thirteen years in Cabinet is denied a peerage by Mr. Corbyn for, it is alleged, Poor Jack`s support of the Iraq War. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has, we are told, upset the panjandrums of the Foreign Office by visiting those of our armed forces doing such a sterling job in the Falkland Islands. The F&CO considers the Secretary of State`s visit “bellicose”. Now there`s a surprise! Meanwhile Mr. Fallon himself has declared that he regards a Jeremy Corbyn that has indicated a willingness to over-ride the expressed wishes of the Falkland Islanders, to be a greater threat to the future of the Islands than the Argentine. The head of Google UK, one Matt Brittin, has told the Public Accounts Committee that “I don`t know how much I get paid” and the Head of Her Majesty`s Revenue and Customs, Dame Lyn Homer, has informed the same committee that “I am not a tax expert”. “Three Million UK workers are now foreign” and this figure includes “one hundred and twenty thousand Eastern Europeans” says the tabloid. The same report added as an afterthought that there are now, in the UK, 31.5 million people in employment which is the highest level since modern records commenced in 1971, which sets the Eastern European cohort in a rather different context. Following a laser attack on a Virgin airliner, forced to turn back to Heathrow after the strike temporarily blinded the co-pilot, the Airline Pilots` Association is calling for controls on easy-to-purchase `weapons`. As a tribute to those murdered and injured in terrorist attacks on the Bataclan concert and other venues in Paris the US Eagles of Death Metal band have returned to the City and played again for fans at the Olympia Concert Hall. England won Rugby`s Calcutta Cup and Mrs and Mrs Andy Murray are now the proud parents of a baby daughter.
Jesus College, Cambridge, looks set to lose its cock. The bronze bird, acquired as a symbol in recognition of the former Bishop of Ely, John Alcock, the founder of the College, was nicked following an Imperial punishment visit to Benin City in 1897. Political correctness clearly demands that the property is now returned to its rightful owners but as Benin is now a part of Nigeria and as there are now identifiable owners the restitution may prove a tad complex. In the meantime the bird remains on the pedestal upon which he has been perched since 1930.
Talking of statuary a bust of the inventor of the friction match, John Walker, Commissioned by his home town of Stockton upon Tees in 1977 has turned out to be an imposter. The bust is, in fact, not of the inventor at all but of a thespian of the same name who lived between 1732 and 1807. Oops.
There are now four times as many eighteen-year olds on Facebook than there are on the electoral roll. Those campaigning for votes for sixteen-year olds please note.
Cherie “Mrs. Legacy” Blair`s Omnia law firm is heading up the legal challenge to the Government`s tax changes to the buy-to-let mortgage/tax regime. Remind me again. What is the Blairs` property portfolio worth?
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service `bariatric service` is finding it necessary to invest £280 thousand in the purchase of a crane to lift overweight customers from their beds.
A United Nations working group on Arbitrary Detention has found that the Swedish Wikipedia wizard Julian Assange has been `unlawfully detained` in the Ecuadorian Embassy. If Mr. Assange would care to walk out through the front door of the embassy, in which he has chosen to take refuge from Swedish justice, then perhaps he could be `lawfully detained` and handed over to the Swedish Authorities at considerable saving to the British Taxpayers who are funding his `security` in the Ecuadorian outpost!
An enterprise instigated by Elsworth Parish Council in Cambridge has been terminated courtesy of the South Cambridgeshire District Council. An old phone box was, for four years, used as a library in which villagers deposited books and from which they borrowed them. Free of charge and at no cost to anybody. The South Cambridge pen-pushers, clearly with too much time on their hands, decided that the box required `change of use` at a cost of £400 for the privilege. The District Council says that it “wanted to help”.
Following a case brought by an independent film maker, Jennifer Nelson, before a Los Angeles Court, Warner Music, part of the film company, has found itself with a £9.7 million bill. Warner has been charging `royalties` on the tune “Happy Birthday to You` at a rate of two million dollars annually since 1949. Improperly says the Court. Nelson was not prepared to turn a blind eye to the rip-off.
A tussle between the Lords and Commons of an arcane kind. For a thousand years the papers of Parliament have been written or printed and stored on vellum. The veal skin will last, we are told, for five thousand years and the records stored in the Victoria Tower include such documents as The Doomsday Book. To save £80 thousand a year their Lordships have taken it upon themselves to have works printed, henceforward, on paper with a mere 500 years of shelf life. The Commons are furious but a nineteenth century ruling gives prerogative over the decision to the Upper House. An offer by the Cabinet Office to fund the vellum appears to have been rebuffed. Time to replace the unelected Peers with an elected Senate?
English Heritage is accused of vandalism. The custodians of our histories have permitted the carving of a likeness of the legendary Merlin (the mythical wizard) in the rock below Tintagel Castle, the `birthplace of King Arthur` in Cornwall. This, says Heritage, is “bringing legend and history to life”. The less lively “Kernow Matters To Us” organisation does not approve.
Benidorm, the holiday resort, is installing “look left” signs at pedestrian crossings. This is for the benefit and safety of drunken Brits whose natural tendency, if they look at all, is to look right.
Sir Paul McCartney (aka `Macca`), a musician, was chucked out of a post-Grammy Awards hip-hop party hosted by those household names Tyga and BowWow. An ungruntled Macca was heard to mutter, on being shown the door, “How VIP do I gotta get”?
Campanologists want their pastime to be re-categorised as a sport. An article in the widely admired “Ringing World” pleads the cause on the grounds that sports status would boost funding and attract new recruits to bell-ringing. Judging by Sport England`s criteria based upon the European Sports Charter the ringers tick many of the boxes. In addition to the necessity to climb the belfry staircase ringers engage in “physical activity stimulating fitness and mental wellbeing” and “the forming of social relationships”. (I can vouch for the latter. The only way for a young schoolboy to get out of the boarding house to see his bell-ringing girlfriend was to take up the challenge. Sport indeed!) Sadly, the Central Council of Church Bell-ringers does not support the pitch so no Olympic gold for the Grandsire Triples.
Sacre bleu. Tescos are promoting the straight croissant. Nothing to do with sexuality. No matter that the very word implies a crescent design, the straight jobs are `easier to pack and to fill`. Fill? We`re talking patisserie not sandwiches. Do we detect the dead hand of `Vote Leave` in this?
Talking of culinary matters Alexandre Collet, mine host of the Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant Les Ecuries de Richelieu in Paris sought a seventy-thousand euro loan to expand his business. When refused he posted a sign outside his emporium stating “Dogs Welcome – Bankers banned” and adds for the enlightenment of patrons that the banks are “sabotaging the economic fabric of France”.
That bastion of learning the London School of Economics has banned a visiting professor from kings College London from speaking on the subject of benefits and the welfare state on the grounds that his line might “offend students and lead to negative social media activity”. Free speech? You heard it last here.
Frank Finlay, star of the 70`s Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Casanova has departed at 89.
Lord Lucan is dead. Official. After forty years of disappearance his son, George Bingham, who is now forty-eight years old himself, inherits the title while the controversy over his “death” remains. Conspiracy theorists believe that, like Elvis, he is still alive.
The young pop music band Viola Beach have been killed in a car accident in Sweden following their first touring performance. The vehicle careered off a closed bridge and into a ravine under circumstances that have yet to be explained.
Lord Avebury, better known as the MP Eric Lubbock, the `Orpington Man` of the famous 1962 Liberal by-election victory has died at 87. He won the seat with a 27% swing against the Conservatives and heralded a Liberal revival but lost again and went to the Lords in 1970.
The author of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee, has departed in her home of Monroeville at 89. The prize-winning novel of 1960 was her only published work until Go Set a Watchman, penned before Mockingbird, appeared in 2015.
Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, DSO AFC, who has taken off for the last time at the age of 97, has been described as “The World`s greatest test pilot”. He flew an unbeatable 487 different types of planes and carried out 2407 Aircraft Carrier landings including the first in a DE Havilland Sea Vampire jet aircraft. “One of the top five aviators of all time” we are told.
Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary General of the United Nations between 1992 and 1996 was 93 when he left us.
Closer to home, Sir Anthony Durant, erstwhile Member of Parliament for Reading, has gone to the Great Division Lobby at 88. Tony Durant was a gentleman and, as a Government Whip, a Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household. Bearing his `snooker cue` wand of office he reported in writing and in person daily to the Lady to whom he referred as “my Monarch”. He Chaired the Channel Tunnel Bill though its hybrid committee stages and led the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. And David Menhennet, Chief Librarian of the House of Commons between 1976 and 1991, has written his last briefing note at 87. He was responsible for the overhaul and re-organisation of the library from a magnificent collection of books into a Members` reference and briefing service that is unequalled in any legislature in the world.
Archaeologists working on a site at Whittlesey on the East Anglian Fens have uncovered a Bronze Age wooden wheel. The invention, which is around three thousand years old and about a yard in diameter has led to the site being dubbed the “Peterborough Pompeii”. There is no truth in the rumour that the wheel was clamped.