Westminster View - July 2018

July. A House in turmoil. A challenge to the Prime Minister fails to materialise from either within the Tory Party or from an Opposition also in disarray. Moggites and Soubristas at war. Malice in Blunderland as The Tramp lashes out at NATO, is ‘honoured’ to take tea with Her Maj and finds himself on the wrong side of the Apprenticeship in the Kremlin. Novichok is on the agenda again and claims a life in Wiltshire. Not an issue raised by The Tramp in Moscow. The RAF celebrates one hundred years of those magnificent men and the NHS is in need of yet another cash transfusion at seventy years of age. The Cabinet signs up to the Chequers Disagreement at the PMs country home and then has some second thoughts. A second referendum kite is flown by an ex Education Secretary of State, a Synagogue of Rabbis sends a stiff note to Red Jerry Corbyn and former Minister Margaret Hodge let’s rip at The Leader behind the Speaker’s chair. Tight votes in the Commons and accusations of skulduggery and bad faith in the Government whips’ office but the slender majority holds and Brexit and Trade legislation scrapes through. July is always a torrid month in the House, sticky, scratchy and bad tempered. This is the worst for many years. Talk of a General Election but the turkeys will not vote for Christmas and nobody wants to fight a campaign in August. On the brighter side there was a blood moon (mostly covered by cloud), thirteen souls were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand and there was a World Cup held in a Russia that did not, of course bribe corrupt FIFA officials to secure the tournament. A Welshman won the Tour de France for the first time generating mixed emotions on the Champs Elyse and it was very hot. 

I have not been in Parliament anything like as long as the Father of the House but in thirty-five years the last month has been just about as bad and unpleasant as it gets and certainly the worst that I have known. That includes some fairly torrid moments during the endorsement of the Maastricht Treaty and it is, of course, the same Europe and some of the same ‘usual suspects’ that are the source of most of the problems. 

On the Conservative benches it is the mad, the sad and the bad on the militant Leave and Remain wings of the Party, egged on by Her Majesty’s disloyal fourth Estate to whom they pander, that are causing grief and making it well- nigh impossible for the current or any other Prime Minister to implement the expressed will of the British people and to negotiate a half- decent Brexit settlement. Within the Labour Party, itself riven by well- founded accusations of anti- Semitism, a handful of stalwart ‘Leavers’ have kept the Government afloat in the teeth of rebellious Tory Remainers voting with the Opposition. These Labour dissidents are described by the ‘ Leaver Media’, which is just about every widely consumed outlet apart from the Salford Broadcasting Corporation, as “heroes” and “ courageous” Frank Field and Kate Hoey, both now facing de- selection by the Momentum factions of respectively the Birkenhead and Vauxhall Labour parties are most certainly not lacking in guts or fierce independence but to what passes for their own Leadership they are presumably as much of a pain in the asp as those of our own less than collegiate colleagues. It is not so much a tail wagging the dog as the wiggly bits of several packs of opposing hounds that are currently allowing the fat cats of Brussels to sit back and divide and rule. J-C Druncker must be weeping with laughter into his glass of gin. Sorry, water. 

Splinter groups of Tory MPs, of whom many have names that you will not recognise, have written to the Prime Minister urging her to 2stand firm2 in the teeth of Brussels intransigence. Not surprisingly these are given prominence by The Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid and other Leaver tabloids.  Some MPs have written to the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, seeking a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The dial – a – quote members of this sad little band again not surprisingly earn fleeting publicity. Do they seriously want a divisive three-month Conservative Leadership election in the run-up to the Brexit deadline? Or do these pygmies merely want to damage the Prime Minister and to weaken her negotiating position still further? Your guess is as good, possibly far better, than mine but the net result is that by the date of the recess at least one of a number that has fallen far short of that required to trigger a vote has had the courage to state that he was wrong and has withdrawn his letter. That, of course, sparks the accusation that this was a stunt organised by the Government whips` office!  There are, in fact, more than a dozen MPs, which is the Government`s majority, who have stated that they will not support any new Leader who usurps the Prime Minister`s position. For the record, I am one of them.  That means that Hatchetman (or woman) will not be able to form an administration and that, in turn, would mean a General Election and the prospect of a Government led by Comrade Jerry with an avowed Marxist dreaming up a Labour budget in No. 11 Downing Street. It would also mean an `independent` foreign policy, an end to the NATO Alliance within five years and withdrawal from the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance upon which much of our national security depends.  Could it happen? Unlikely if only because the sense of self-preservation is strong in parliament but yes, it could, possibly by accident. We may be sleepwalking into a political meltdown of a kind that few if any living can remember. Happy days. 

With the British Chambers of Commerce indicating that business patience with Brexit is `at breaking point` and with stark warnings of job losses, a potential cost of £1.2 billion a year in increased tariffs and possible re-location from Jaguar/Land Rover ringing in her ears The Prime Minister summons her Cabinet, all of them, to Chequers to hammer out an agreed line prior to the publication of a Brexit White Paper. This summons is preceded by the Darling Bud indicating that her `New Customs Partnership`, `Frictionless Trade with the EU ` and proposals for a Common Rulebook can give the UK the best of both worlds and her Brexit Secretary, the Old Knuckleduster David Davis, saying that her plan is unworkable. It is also preceded by a meeting between the Prime Minister and Mutti Merkel in Berlin and a statement from the German Interior Minister, Herr Seehofer, suggesting that “Brussels rigidity over Brexit is putting European lives at risk and could undermine a fundamental need for security”. 

At Chequers members of the Cabinet are relieved of their mobile phones, presumably so that they cannot “phone a friend” such as Mr. Mogg to take instructions, and they are reminded that those who choose to resign over a matter of principle will be losing the Ministerial limo and taking a taxi back home. Mayor Boris called the deal “a turd” and it has been; leaked since that Andrea Leadsom, The Leader of the House, was rather more ladylike but nevertheless strident in her criticism. Presumably, however, they were all either satisfied with the offer or principles played second fiddle to personal convenience and transport requirements. Either Way Theresa May was able to emerge waving a piece of paper and announcing that her team was united and unanimous in support of the finally agreed proposals to put to Brussels and The Chequers Agreement was born. 

It took about ten minutes for the package to start to unravel with both head-banging Leavers and die-hard Remainers screaming “treachery” and “sell-out” and suchlike and in case the dial-a-quote brigade were not sure, given that their Principals (not to be confused with the absent principles) had signed up to the package, what to think or to say the tabloid Press was full of helpful advice for them. Small wonder that an electorate that, like most Members of Parliament, had not read the details of the Chequers Agreement or a yet-to-be-published White Paper swiftly gave the suggested plan the thumbs down.  The Irritable Duncan Syndrome describes Chequers as “a betrayal of 17.5 million voters” and “Four out of ten reject Brexit deal as a betrayal” bellow the tabloid headlines.  My miserable maths suggest that that means that six out of ten, or what in a democratic State used to be called “a majority”, do not object but why let a mere statistic get in the way of synthetic outrage? 

At around midnight on the Sunday following the meeting at Chequers, just forty-eight hours after signing up to the Prime Minister`s proposals her Brexit Secretary rang her to tell her that he was quitting his post and taking at least one of his Ministerial team, Steve Baker, with him. A few of his very close confidants were apparently in on this decision but he did not call those of his chums who, like myself, had hitherto believed that he was a fighter not a quitter and who would have urged him to stay and see the matter through. Davis` resignation statement said that he could `no longer support` the Prime Minister`s plan. What had changed in two days is not clear. Those in the inner inner circle suggest that out of courtesy he `needed to consult his constituency Chairman` before announcing his decision. Others, less kind, have said that he did not want to have to take a taxi and a train home with the paparazzi on his tail. 

Mayor Boris was then left in a dithering quandary. This, remember, is the man who even now has aspirations to lead his Party and to be Prime Minister, the man who was a Remainer, who in a Damascus Road conversion became a Leaver, who promised (The Boris Bus) £350 million a week for the NHS and who ultimately withdrew his hat from the Leadership ring.  Whether there was, as some surmise, a deal between Davis and Johnson to co-ordinate resignation history and memoirs (probably to be written in a couple of years` time) will reveal but one way or the other by Monday Stanley`s little boy was no longer Foreign Secretary. As Michael (Lord) Heseltine, an arch-Remainer, said tartly “It took me two minutes not two days to realise that I had to leave Margaret Thatcher`s Government”. The original blond darling of the Tory conferences, Tarzan, may be ageing but he clearly still knows the precise spot, between the shoulder-blades, in which to insert the stiletto.  As a footnote and while most are convinced that he has blown any remaining vestige of a shot as Leader Mr. Mogg has opined that Mayor Boris would make “A brilliant PM” which probably says as much about Mr. Mogg as it does about Mr Johnson. That the Tramp then referred to “my friend Boris” was possibly the coup de grace but the Foreign Secretary who signed up to the Chequers agreement is at least now free to describe the document to which he leant his name as “a disaster” that would generate “a fog of uncertainty”. On that latter point he must, of course, be regarded as something of an expert. 

We are, it seems, heading inexorably for a No Deal Brexit and preparations for that scenario are quite clearly now well-advanced.  The Darling Bud has little or no more room to manoeuvre or compromise and although M. Barnier initially suggests that “a deal is 80% agreed” it is the intractable 20% that contain all of the real sticking points. With J-C Druncker`s `sciatica` deteriorating to the point of   total incapacity it is not clear whether even now the Brussels walking egos are able to grasp that when Mrs. May said “A No Deal is better than a bad deal” she actually meant it. The Prime Minister issues a “Back me or there will be no Brexit” warning in a Sunday newspaper article, a fair observation as under a Red Jerry Government there really would be a ` Hotel California` (we check out but never leave) settlement. Then her sacked Education Secretary, Justine Greening, undermines her negotiating position still further by calling for a second referendum.  This of course is the Euro-style of democracy (as in Ireland and France) where you go on “consulting the people” until you get the answer (Remain) that you want. 

The Government survived key votes on the `Brexit Bill`, and on the vital Trade legislation that is essential to the process, by a handful of votes. The lowest majority was just three with some Labour members supporting the Government and on the really key vote the Liberal Leader St. Vince of Cable, if you remember him, and his sidekick Tim Farron absent were unpaired on more important business. Whether the Government Chief Whip did in fact demand that the Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, break a pair with the Liberal Jo Swinson, absent on maternity leave, to help to secure the majority or whether it was, as claimed, ` a genuine mistake` that Lewis is still a matter of conjecture. Breaking a pair is a hanging matter but the Government Chief, Julian Smith, survived calls for his resignation at least until the recess.  

Downing Street has, it seems, prepared seventy papers for a No Deal Brexit and the Prime Minister is putting the Country on a No Deal footing.  M. Barnier`s warnings of “fundamental principles” that cannot be abandoned will be of small consequence if there is no agreement and the new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, who was the Old Knuckleduster`s protégé, has reminded Brussels that No Deal means no `divorce settlement` and that the Commission can kiss goodbye to thirty-nine, or however many, billion euros if there is no trade deal with the EU. That might make a modest dent in the Berlaymont`s wining and dining budget.  No amount of “Project Fear Mark 2” allegations from the hard-Brexiteers (some would argue that “Project Fear Mark 1” was actually “Project Fact”) can mask the realisation that No Deal will be bad for Britain and very bad for the European Union. Forty six million insurance contracts and £26 trillion of derivatives deals will, apparently, be thrown into total confusion, disruption of `just-in-time` car part transactions may well bring the motor industries to their knees, there are likely to be real problems facing the exporting and importing of life-saving drugs between Britain and the EU, HMRC has warned that importers will face in the region of £700 million a year  in added administration costs , the IMF has indicated `significant damage` to the economy of the Irish Republic, and `steps are being taken to ensure food supplies` for the UK in the event of our crashing out of the EU in only a few months` time. 

The recess has afforded Cabinet Ministers the opportunity to set off around Europe to try to sell a Chequers deal that M. Barnier has already described as unacceptable.  Foreign Secretary Hunt, Chancellor Hammond, Brexit Secretary Raab, and a Prime Minister who has now taken personal charge of the negotiations in a move that can only be construed as side lining her Brexit Secretary, are travelling the capitals of the Twenty-Seven to seek support from politicians where little or none is forthcoming from the EU`s Chief Negotiator and the Commission. Polls now suggesting that Brexit will be bad for Britain (I hesitate to say “I told you” so but it has taken longer than some of us expected for the penny to drop) are lending fuel to the fire blazing under calls for a second referendum. 

Old Windy`s Almanac, which is marginally less reliable than the original Old Moore`s, predicts rejection of the Chequers Proposals by Brussels and the European Parliament, a No Deal Brexit rejected by the UK Parliament, an Autumn or an early Spring 2019 General Election and, unless the electorate wakes up to the awful reality in time, a Corbyn-led far-left Government. I just hope that Old Windy is not right.  As an alternative to the Almanac you could, of course, consult a reliable astrologer.

 

How about a brief interlude of almost good news?  At the start of July we learned that twelve young members of a Thai football team had, together with the Coach that was leading them, disappeared and were trapped, possibly dead, in an underground cave complex that had then flooded in early monsoon rains. Cave divers were despatched and Buddhist prayers were said but there seemed little hope for survival as a preliminary search revealed chambers cut off by water and no sign of life It was some days before two British expert cave divers, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, who had travelled to assist in the search and retrieve mission and had penetrated deep into the labyrinth, found all thirteen souls trapped on a ledge, cold, starving but alive.

With the prospect rising flood waters the rescue team were faced with a dilemma; wait for months until the water subsided, try to reach the stranded footballers by drilling down through tons of rock above or swim out young people some of whom could not swim at all and none of whom had ever attempted the highly specialised craft of cave-diving. With lifelines established the loss of one brave Thai Navy SEAL who tragically ran out of air while returning from the trapped boys, coupled with forecast further heavy rains, concentrated the minds of those co-ordinating the attempt to get the team out alive and mission impossible was launched.  Those of a certain age will remember how the world held its breath while that ill-fated Apollo mission disappeared behind the dark side of the moon before finally returning, safely, to earth. The Thai cave rescue embraced that same element of awful suspense. On the first long day of what was in effect a military exercise the weakest four young men were brought to safety and, as we now all know, in the fullness of time all thirteen, including the coach, were brought to the surface alive and, given the ordeal that they had been though, remarkably well. The extraordinary details of how this task was carried out are still emerging and it will be months before the full tale, almost certainly as a feature film, is told. The Seal, Saman Kuran, who gave his life in this cause will have had family and it must be the duty of the Thai government to ensure that they are well provided for but a story that bore all of the initial hallmarks of tragedy had, mostly, a happy ending. Just occasionally miracles do happen and dreams come true. 

So, unfortunately do nightmares.  

The Commander-in-Chief is on manoeuvres again. From Mainland Europe, via the United Kingdom, to the Russian Federation. Prior to his excursions The Tramp observed that he was due to meet Mrs. May, NATO and President Putin and that “Putin will be the easiest of the three”. That, given the `close relationship` between Russia and the Presidential election results in the United States, a matter that is still heavily under investigation, may have been an unfortunate comment. Neither, as it turns out, was it true although The Tramp inevitably proclaimed his visit to the Kremlin as a success. 

First, to Belgium and the summit of the twenty-nine counties of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The President of the United States has long been critical of the fact that while sheltering under an umbrella largely paid for by the USA some of the wealthiest NATO Member States, including Germany, are not paying their way. “Germany” says The Tramp “is Putin`s captive”. There may be more than a vestige of pots and kettles in this statement but there is also an element of truth. Mutti Merkel is clearly desperate to secure the completion of the Nordstream 2 project that will deliver 80% of Russian gas exports to Europe via Germany while effectively throwing Ukraine and some other former Soviet states to the wolves. The real bone of contention, though, is hard cash. The Tramp demanded 4% of GDP and his message was “pay or we walk”. While that may have been music to the ears of the KGB Colonel currently in command of the neo-Soviet Union, which may be why it was said, it was scarcely either realistic or reassuring to those in the Pentagon and others who see NATO as the bulwark between Russian missiles and Washington. It also prompted “President” Tusk to remark of the United States that the Land of the Free “needs to remember who your real friends are”.  Well, the United Kingdom as a matter of fact but we`ll come to that in a moment.  Before leaving Brussels the self-proclaimed `genius` from the White House proclaims a `victory` over NATO defence spending. 

The Tramp seems to have a boorish facility of insulting those whom he is about to visit and then retracting and proffering the tiny hand of friendship upon his arrival.  He took the opportunity of an “exclusive” interview with one of Rupert Murdoch`s hacks to peddle a little of his own brand of `fake news` before leaving Belgium for the UK.  While Sadiq `Mayor of London` Khan`s approval of the flying of a Trump-shaped balloon wearing a nappy was a cheap shot that will not have gladdened a thin-skinned President`s heart his own pre-arrival criticisms of Theresa May were, if nothing else, plain bad manners. “The UK is in turmoil” said The Tramp “and it is up to the British people to decide who they want as their Prime Minister”. Yes, Mr. President. It is, and they have, and it is not your friend Mayor Boris or that buddy of yours Mr. Farridge. “Millions of Brits” claims The Tramp “back my policies”. Would that, Mr. President, be the racism or the trade tariffs or the abusive relationship with women or the Mexican wall or your friendship with NATO`s enemies? Or what?  Sadly, there will be in the UK as there are in the United States, some who will support some or possibly all of these populist posturings in the mistaken belief that this represents `strong leadership’. More happily, though, I suspect that the majority will regard these `attributes` with undisguised disdain – which may be why the Commander in Chief`s visit to the United Kingdom had to be orchestrated away from demonstrations.  The President of the United States may not be one of them but there are still many in High Places in America who understand that our respect is for the Office not the man and that our special relationship – and it does remain very special – is with the nation and not with the individual. If the two coincide then so much the better but if not then the relationship is more durable than one or even two terms of office in the White House or, for that matter, even a lengthier tenure of occupation of Number Ten Downing Street. Somewhere between Brussels and London that penny seems to have dropped and by the time the President arrived in Britain he seemed to be in damage limitation mode. Even a large mouth, one supposes, has room for only so many feet. 

Let me digress.  When God was a boy I undertook, as a young Member of Parliament, a lecture tour in the United States. The first campus that I visited was the University of Southern California, an impressive establishment occupied by impressive young men and women who were paying their own way through college and were determined to get value for money.  At the end of a serious and well-attended discourse I threw the floor open to question “on any subject that you like”. ” Excuse me, Sir, but have you met The Queen”? was the very first query.

Fortunately, I was able to rely in the affirmative but that young man brought home to me the sheer awe in which an institution that we sometimes take too much for granted is held on the other side of the Atlantic. As Britons we are justifiably proud of our unelected Head of State. She is a grand and magnificent now elderly lady who has devoted and continue to give her life and that of her family in the service of her nation. Most of us hold her in deep respect but that is a sentiment born not of subservience but of a deep and real affection and a recognition of her determination to do, always, what is right for her country.  Our American cousins can only year for a monarch and having discarded ours they have tried, over decades, to create their own dynasties to no good purpose. I will criticise the American President for many things but I do not believe that we should deride him or his wife for the obvious pleasure that they derived from taking tea with Her Maj at Windsor. If just a little stardust rubbed off on them then that might just be a very good thing. 

Back to reality.  The dinner at Blenheim Palace with `our closest of allies` was the kind of event that, whisper it softly, even austerity Britain can still do better than most. The meeting with the Prime Minister at Chequers also appears to have passed off without too much more blood on the carpet although The Tramp did tell the PM that her proposed Brexit deal could well kill off any trade agreement with the United States. And then it was north to his Turnberry Golf Course in Scotland and an estimated five million Scottish pounds ‘worth of policing for a quick eighteen holes before flying off to Helsinki to prepare to welcome President Putin for a meeting that rather took the shine off the rest of his grand diplomatic tour de force. 

The media `spin` was that the American President had “low expectations” of his meeting with Comrade Putin. That “our greatest foes”, to quote the President, were “the EU” did help to set the scene and while he was awaiting the arrival of the leader of the New Russian Empire back at home the investigation into `The Russian Connection` with the US Presidential election and revelations about the seamier side of The Tramp`s private life. In a gaffe worthy of `Dame` Diane Abbott The Tramp apparently “miss-spoke” when he said that there was `no reason why Russia “should” have interfered ` in his election to the White House when he actually meant “shouldn`t”! Suddenly it was not Angela Merkel but the President of the USA that was, following his lengthy private meeting with the Russian, of being `in the pocket of Putin. ` Is this the man that has his finger on the nuclear trigger?  “Ooooh Betty – wrong button” as Frank Spencer might have said. 

The footnote to this further `triumph` is that The Tramp has invited his new best friend Vlad to visit him in the White House, which should give the US security services and Melania something to think about. Interestingly, the United States` Head of Security was not told of the invitation and actually heard about it while on stage at a conference!  And following a meeting with J-C Druncker he may, or may not, have struck a deal with the EU to avoid a trade was and to agree a zero tariff on all goods except cars. Quite how well that has gone down in Germany has yet to emerge. 

If the Tory party has its internal difficulties then back at home Red Jerry`s band of brothers and sisters is not exactly happy either.  Aside from the comrades` divisions over Brexit, which run much deeper than just four Labour rebels in the voting lobbies might suggest, there is the thorny issue of Corbyn`s reluctance to sign up whole heartedly to an international code of conduct to counter anti-Semitism. Britain`s “next Prime Minister” has found himself on the wrong end of sixty-eight of Britain`s leading Rabbis who have publicly declared that Labour has `chosen to ignore the Jewish community` and was `institutionally racist`.  Following the Commons vote on the Customs Union proposals I left the chamber to the rear of the Speaker`s chair and walked straight into a blazing row between Dame Margaret Hodge, a pillar of the Jewish Labour sorority, and Red Jerry.  La Hodge, in a tirade laced with expletives, told her Leader in no uncertain terms that “You`ve proved that you don`t want people like me in the Party”. Labour`s John Woodcock has left his Party stating that Red Jerry is “A clear threat to National security”. The Jewish Labour Movement, pro-Corbyn, has compiled a dossier of complaints about Margaret Hodge who is now threatened with disciplinary action following her outburst against the Dear Leader and Jewish campaigners are threatening to sue the Labour Party. Jewish Labour MPs are now seeking to go over Corbyn`s head and while Shadow Chancellor McDonnell, cognisant of the damage that his being done to his Party`s election prospects, is trying to defuse the row and to have charges against La Hodge dropped his colleagues are pressing their National Executive Council for recognition of the anti-Semitism with their midst. La Hodge, meanwhile, repeats her `Racist Corbyn` claim. In a wholly exceptional move the Jewish Chronicle, the News and the Jewish Telegraph all carry the same front-page article stating that “The stain and shame of anti-Semitism has coursed through the Opposition since Corbyn became leader in 2015”.  Labour MPs, including Deputy Leader Tom Watson and some Shadow Cabinet members, and Peers are now in open rebellion and Lord (Melvyn) Bragg lends his weight to the accusation of “feebleness” in dealing with the issue. Corbyn`s failure to exorcise Peter Willsman, who has dismissed those making accusations as “Trump fanatics” suggests, as is alleged, that the Leader of the Opposition has lost the plot. 

In other news what police in Wiltshire first announced as `a major incident` in the village of Amesbury turned out to be a reprise of the Novichok nerve agent poisoning issue.  Charles Rowley, an Amesbury resident, found – precisely how and where is not yet clear – an unopened bottle that he though contained perfume. His partner, Dawn Sturgess, sprayed the contents on her wrists and neck and the couple found out, too late, that the bottle in fact contained a lethal substance subsequently identified as Novichok by the scientists at the military establishment at nearby Porton Down.  Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess were in comas by the time that they were discovered and taken to the same hospital in Salisbury that provided the treatment for the original targets of Russian State aggression, Mr Skripal and his daughter. The Kremlin, it should be said, deny any involvement in the first attempted murder or in this subsequent event.    While the Government`s COBRA committee met to discuss the implications of this further incident the constabulary continued to search for the source of the poison and the City of Salisbury, still recovering its trade from the first incident, went into lockdown once again. Sajid Javid, now Home Secretary, accused the Russians of using the UK as “a dumping ground for poison”.  Efforts to save Dawn Sturgess, who had inadvertently so liberally applied the substance to herself, defied even the acquired expertise of the Salisbury medics and she lost her life. Charlie Rowley, who suffered less exposure, responded to treatment and was released from hospital within three weeks, well enough to assist the police with their inquiries and to attend his girlfriend`s carefully guarded funeral. 

The indomitable ninety-seven year old Harry Shindler is taking the UK to court because he was denied the right, as an ex-pat, to vote in the 2016 referendum. MEPs are to be allowed to keep the manner in which they spend their £3900 per month `expenses` the current closely-guarded secret and Conservative MEPs are in the process of forming an alliance with a Swedish white supremacist movement.  The World Cup was held in Russia, leading Comrade Corbyn to liken British celebrations of early success to the manner in which Adolf Hitler used sport to glorify the Nazi regime. Gareth Southgate`s English squad went on to reach their first semi-final for twenty-eight years before seeing their dreams of world-cup glory shattered by Croatia in a 2-1 defeat.  Sutherland, on the North Coast of Scotland, has been chosen as the location for Britain`s first Spaceport and a £2.5 million investment in a vertical Launchpad.  In the courts Sir Cliff Richard has won his action against the BBC following `Auntie`s` intrusive live coverage of a Yorkshire police rain on his home.  No arrest was made and no charges were brought. Sir Cliff described the Corporation as acting as “judge, jury and executioner” and called for heads to roll following a judgement that will cost the BBC, and therefore the licence fee payer, dearly. To date the Director of News who presided over this episode, Fran Unsworth, and the Director General Lord (Tony) Hall are still in their posts and although they have been denied leave to appeal the BBC is seriously contemplating wasting still more of our money pursuing the matter because it and the possible introduction of a “Cliff`s Law” to prevent similar action by journalists in the future could have “worrying consequences for a free press”.  When the media claims that `revelation` is `in the public interest` what they usually mean is that it is `interesting to the public` and it sells newspapers or attracts viewers.  Odds are shortening on an early General Election and Red Jerry and his cronies are working on a draft budget and Queen`s Speech containing thirty-five `red in tooth and claw` pieces of legislation. Having resigned as Foreign Secretary Mayor Boris finally vacated his official residence and has made his address to a less than packed House of Commons.  The right-wing tabloids described this event as `transfixing`. It was not. The heatwave has caused a myriad of transport problems on roads, with melting tarmac, and on railways where tracks have buckled. Interviewed on LBC radio the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, revealed that he was `not an expert on trains`.  There were also long queues at the Channel Ports as air conditioning faults on car transporters decimated the Eurotunnel service.  The Environmental Audit Committee has made the stunning revelation that `Britain cannot cope with heatwaves` and suggests that heat-related deaths could treble to seven thousand a year by 2050. Warnings of temperatures reaching 91.9 degrees were issued by the Met Office and in Greece wildfires near Athens claimed many lives. In Pakistan the former test cricketer Imran Khan realised a lifelong ambition to be elected as his Country`s political leader after an election scarred by violence. In Zimbabwe Mugabe`s former henchman Emerson `The Crocodile` Mnangawa looks set to win a rigged election against his MDC rival and that is likely to generate still kore violence on the streets of the capital, Harare. President Macron has offered to comforting reassurance to the people of France that his male bodyguard is not his lover. Does anyone in France actually care? It has been revealed that the terrorist that perpetrated the Manchester Arena bombing, Salman Abedi, was a Syrian who had been rescued by Royal Naval forces. Robert Nisbet, Regional Director of the Rail Delivery Group, is reported as having said that British trains are “the envy of Europe” and that other nations could “only dream about our performance and punctuality”. Those statements were made in 2013, before the dreams turned into still more nightmares. 

Ballswatch 

First, credit where credit is due.  The man who gave his name to this column, Ed Balls, has proved that he is a shrewd and brave television reporter. In his Travels in Trumpland documentary he has not only gone deep into the lion`s den of the Deep South and taken on American Southern Legacy wrestlers in what can only have been a literally bruising experience but while clearly not subscribing to the Tramp view of political life or to the President`s policies he has demonstrated why so many Americans, unbelievably to many on this side of the Atlantic, still idolise the man who they clearly believe will “Make America Great Again”. Ed wore Strictly no fake tan.

 

The National Health Service has spent £3.4 million on prescriptions for sun cream, Colgate toothpaste and other toiletries. One of a number of wasteful reasons why the service, for all the massive injections of finance in this, its seventieth anniversary year, remains cash-strapped. 

Forty secondary schools have now introduced a ban on girls wearing skirts.  The idea that “children should be offered choice” seems to have been abandoned and the name of today`s game is `gender neutral`. Shiny jeans (presumably not `neutral` enough) have also been banned along with ear piercings. 

Under Government guidelines introduced by Justine Greening when Education Minister primary school pupils are to receive compulsory lessons in transgender and gay relationships. These guidelines are, says Whitehall, designed to generate “happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world” and will be applied in an “age-appropriate way”. 

Minimum living standards for two adults with two children have been decreed as an income of £40 k per year – plus smartphones. 

Wallace the Great, the mule banned from dressage events by British Dressage, has been allowed to compete following harmonisation with the “accessible and inclusive” rules of the Federation Equestre, Internationale.  In a blow for Mule Equality Wallace was ridden in his first event by Christie McLean beating eight horse rivals to secure victory.

Pauline Horrigan had seventy six years of safe driving behind her when she became, at ninety-one, Britain`s oldest drink-driver when piloting her Audi A3 into a lamp post while twelve micrograms over the 35 microgram limit. 

A children`s paddling pool in the communal garden of a block of six flats in Strood in Kent has been banned by `elf `n safety officials concerned that burglars might down in it. This is in spite of the fact that the pool has been emptied every night. A lockable surrounding fence is required to protect the burglars. 

Lady Nugee (aka Emily Thornberry MP) and her husband have reportedly made £500k out of a house acquired from a Housing Association. The property was sold because it no longer represented `a cost-effective use of a limited budget`. 

`Liberal fascism` is alive and well in the University of Manchester where students have had a mural of Rudyard Kipling`s “If”, created in 1995, painted over as Kipling, who in 1899 wrote of "The White Man`s Burden” is now considered racist.  The poem has been replaced with Maya Angelou`s “Still I Rise” which was read at Nelson Mandela`s inauguration.  Strange, then, that Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, with the final words changed appropriately to “You`ll be a woman, my sister”, used “If” to celebrate international Women’s` Day. 

Valete 

Dame Gillian Lynne (92) was the first non-Royal to have a London Theatre (formerly the New London) re-named after her. She was a ballerina and the choreographer responsible for Cameron Mackintosh`s “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera” and worked with Sadler’s Wells, The Coliseum, the ENO, The Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Alan Longmuir (70) was the founder of the `Tartan Army` Bay City Rollers boy band that in the 1970s sold more than 100 million records including `Bye Bye Baby` and `Shang a Lang` 

Peter Carrington (99) resigned as Margaret Thatcher`s Foreign Secretary over the Falklands War in 1992. The 6th Baron Carrington won the Military Cross arising from an `incident` on the Rhine. He brokered the Rhodesia settlement in 1980 and spent thirty years in office starting as a junior Agriculture Minister in the 1950s and then as First Lord of the Admiralty, Leader of the House of Lords, Defence Secretary, Secretary General of NATO, Conservative Party Chairman and Energy Secretary.  Peter Carrington was the last surviving Minister to have held office under King George V1. He was also the longest-serving Knight of the Garter. 

Clive King (94) created the children`s story `Stig of the Dump` in 1963. The book sold over two million copies and has become a classic. 

Tab Hunter (86) was the 1950s `Bobby-soxers Dreamboat`. He appeared in Damn Yankees, The Sea Chase and Ride the Wild Surf, and in 1957 recorded the biggest selling ballad of the decade, “Young Love”. With Natalie Wood and James Dean he was the last of the stars signed to Warner Brothers Studios. 

DJ Fontana 987) played drums for Elvis Presley from the mid-50s until 1968. He also worked with Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton and Gene Vincent. He was enrolled in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. 

Wing Commander Tom Neil (97) was one of the last two surviving World War Two Battle of Britain Aces. With 249 Hurricane Squadron he claimed 9 German aircraft before moving to Malta with HMS Ark Royal to command 41 Spitfire Squadron. He was awarded the DFC and bar, spent three years as a test pilot at Boscombe Down with the 208 Gloster Meteor Squadron. He also served for three years with the British Embassy in Washington.

 

And the war`s youngest Spitfire pilot has died at the age of 96.  Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum took part in the Battle of Britain on September 9th 1940, at the age of eighteen, with 92 Squadron based at Biggin Hill. `Boy` Wellum was flying three sorties a day “because these are the King`s enemies”. In 1941 he served with Fighter Command over Northern France earning the DFC. in 1942 he joined 65 Squadron over France and Belgium. He then joined HMS Furious on The Clyde and sailed to defend Malta. He was a test pilot with the Gloster Aircraft Co. Flying Meteors and Typhoons before joining 192 Canberra Squadron. His book `First Light` was a best seller. 

Commander Keith `Scratch` Evans (98) was one of the last pre-war survivors of the battleship HMS Hood which he joined as her most junior officer in 1938. He was the Duke of Edinburgh`s Sailing Master and served on four ships each of which was sunk after he had left them. HMS Hood went down in May 1941. 

Mary Ellis (101) was the last surviving World War Two spitfire pilot.  The `ATAgirl` delivered seventy-six different kinds of aircraft including 47 different Wellington bombers. During more than one thousand flight she also pilot the first military jet to enter RAF service, the Gloster Meteor. After the war she became to Commandant of Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight. 

Nuella Considine (90) was the crossword compiler for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph for thirty years.  She published her first crossword in the Irish Times when she was eighteen. 

Reginald Davis (93) was an ex Royal Navy photographer who began taking pictures of the Royal family in the 1950s. He accompanied The Queen and Princess Margaret on more than fifty state visits and covered fourteen Royal Weddings in seven different countries. He also photographed Winston Churchill, The Shah of Iran, Sophia Loren, Liz Taylor and Gene Kelly. 

And Chris Svensson (52) who has died of cancer went to Sunderland Polytechnic and the Vehicle Design course at Coventry University before finishing his studies at the Royal College of Arts. Working for Ford of Germany he was responsible for the Ford Ka (1966).and as the senior designer for Ford North and South America for the GT Supercar. He worked on the first series of the Focus and the Mondeo and is also known for Thunderbird`s six-wheel FAB 1, Lady Penelope`s car. 

And finally……….. 

Her Majesty has honoured the heroes of the London Bridge terrorist attack. Police officers and members of the public have received, variously, the George Medal, the Queen`s Gallantry Medal and other commendations for bravery.

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