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Westminster View - May 2018

May. The House Of Peers is revolting and the Speaker of the House Of Commons is on the rack.A meeting between The Tramp and The Young Un is on and off and possibly on again as North Korea stages a non- nuclear explosion. The Italians form a Government. Or not. And European markets get the jitters. It is not The Tramp’s fault that dozens die or are injured while his daughter attends the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. Is it? Mayor Boris call for ‘ time and space’ for the Prime Minister to negotiate Brexit. That would presumably  be the same Mr. Johnson  who calls Number Ten’s trade policy “ crazy” while a safe distance away from home. Milipede the  Elder makes a comeback visit to the UK and there are rumours of a new anti- Brexit political ‘party of the centre’. Again. The head of MI5 breaks cover to accuse Putin of the attempted murder of the Skripals and Vlad says that “ it couldn’t have been us ”Because  if it had been they would be dead”. Believing in his own infallibility the neo- Soviet dictator’s logic is impeccable .Talking of Dictators , Turkey’s Tayip  Erdogan gets the red carpet treatment in Downing Street. The Irish Republic votes by a country mile  to ‘liberalise’ it’s abortion laws and the ‘ me too’ effect ripples across into Northern Ireland with potential consequences that could yet fracture the Tory/ DUP alliance and bring down the UK Government .Russian  oligarchs begin to feel the Siberian chill in London.The  Grenfell fire inquiry commences, the Labour Live “Jezfest” is heading for the buffers, “ Shock, horror” as a rich man buys a home close to the Palace of Westminster and there was  a wedding.


The Westminster Village, an institution that not infrequently finds itself up its own Library corridor, loves nothing better than a good home- made drama. With a press gallery on tap to report every frisson without having to move from their armchairs these internal stories tend to generate a disproportionate amount of coverage. Nevertheless when the Speaker of the House of Commons is overheard allegedly describing the Leader of that same House “ a stupid woman” and “ effing useless” with the hacks in the gallery sitting just above his head it is not surprising that this generates, for Speaker Bercow, some less than welcome coverage. ‘Mr Squeaker’, as he has been dubbed by the parliamentary commentator from the Bourgeois Women’s Tabloid,  has has been under pressure for some time following allegations of bullying made by a former and widely respected lady Commons clerk and, additionally, no less a grandees than a former Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod,  David Leakey. “Bercow is on the brink” shout the tabloids in a tedious repetition of previous failed endeavours to self-prophesy the downfall of Speaker Martin`s successor. It is true that John Bercow announced that he would hand in his cards and head for the House of Lords and the cross-benches on the anniversary of his election to the post which is 22nd. June. That, though, was some time ago and while he may yet surprise many the one thing that Speaker Bercow does not like is the suggestion that he is being pushed.  While Mad Hattie Harman has sent her supporters ` on manoeuvres` on the off-chance that a vacancy might occur sooner than expected the obvious successor and current Chairman of Ways and Means (First Deputy Speaker) has maintained his dignity and his counsel. On the basis that Speaker Bercow was elected as a Conservative, the party for which he was returned to parliament, and although he has moved considerably away from the right-wing tenets of his student youth, it is now `Labour`s turn` that will not stop at least one and possibly more Tory candidates throwing a hat into the ring `to give the electorate a fair choice` and in so doing will split the vote.  The chances are, though, that the sisterhood will back Mad Hattie and that a majority of the remainder will recognise that Lindsay Hoyle, as Deputy Speaker, has held the ring under difficult circumstances and will vote to give him the position that he deserves. Life is not kind, however, and it may be that Lindsay will go the way of his predecessor in the Ways and Means job, Sir Alan Haselhurst, and be by-passed for a role that he had understudied and exercised with courtesy and quiet control. Sir Alan has now been elevated, entirely properly if belatedly, to the Peerage and Mr. Deputy Speaker Hoyle may have to console himself by following his dad into the Upper House. In the meantime we await the outcome of investigations by the various bodies to whom Mr. Speaker Bercow has been reported but the man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the personal details of every Member of the House is unlikely to go quietly if push comes to shove.


The future of the House of Lords itself is once again under scrutiny. The Conservative Party in in a sizeable minority in the Lords while the Liberal Democrats, who find themselves kicked upstairs every time one of their number loses a seat, enjoy a representation wholly unrepresentative of the number of seats that they hold in the House of Commons. This means that the combined strength of the Labour and Liberal parties together with some left-leaning Crossbenchers can and does inflict defeats on Government legislation with tiresome regularity. The purists idyll of a `revising chamber` is fine in theory but in practice is increasingly abused in the interests of party-political bloody-mindedness. That has been particularly so during the `House of Wreckers`  passage of the Brexit bill during which some nineteen Tory `Remainers` have also joined with the opposition to a `meaningful vote` on the final Brexit deal and have resorted to some fifteen amendments collectively designed to thwart the will of those voting Leave in the referendum and to deliver an “EU membership, Mark 2” that would embrace continued membership of the Single Market.  This has reduced the self-styled `European Research Group` led by Mister Mogg, long with Mister Bruges  and Mister Grumpy and Mister Bully and Mister Arrogant and Mister Trick  and the rest of the happy band of Hard Brexit Mister Men to apoplexy.


Their Lordships have, though, been playing fast and loose also with the Data Protection Bill and in an amendment tables by one Baroness Hollis and subsequently carried  by 252 votes to 213 they sought to introduce a “Leveson Two” inquiry into the activities, for which read `freedom` of the Press. Most of us in public life have been subjected to media criticism and comments that we regard as unfair and there are a number of Members of the Upper House who have been caught with their hands in the till and even served prison sentences for matters that they would have preferred to have remained undisclosed. Nevertheless, a free democracy requires a free press and we are fortunate that in the United Kingdom we do not enjoy the numbers of journalists that are, in places such as Russia and Turkey for example, imprisoned because it is an offence to annoy the Government.


It is, perhaps, not surprising that in a recent survey some 76% of those sampled believed that the time has come to reform the House of Lords. Others, myself included, believe that it is well past that time. I have said for years that we should have four national parliaments, each led by a First Minister, to represent the parochial interests of the Nations and Regions, and an elected Senate, retaining Her Maj as the Head of State and with a Prime Minister to embrace the whole of the United Kingdom, to deal solely with Foreign Policy, Defence and Macro-Taxation. In other words and as in days of yore, raise the money to fight the wars to enforce the foreign policy – or at least to maintain security and diplomacy. But we`d better not scrap the Lords until Lindsay Hoyle has had the chance to don his ermine, if that is to be his fate!


We are, says the Head of the Civil service, John Manzini, `still not ready for Brexit`. An ill-informed observer might be forgiven for thinking that so dominant is the issue that parliament has no time for anything else and there is no doubt that the matter is all-pervasive. In the midst of all of this gloom, however, and while Red Jerry is riding high and Tory rebels seem hell-bent on delivering a Marxist government there were local government elections. In London Mayor Khan had said that “there is now no longer any corner of London that Labour cannot win”. Post-Grenfell Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster and Wandsworth , not to mention other seats to the north of London, were all within their grasp. But it was not to be.  Having reportedly planned a `victory party` to celebrate the Red Flag flying once again over Barnet Town Hall Mr. Corbyn had to slip down to Plymouth, in the West Country, to capitalise on an unfortunate Tory loss.   The Conservative Party actually made gains in the Midlands  taking the towns of Nuneaton, Derby, Walsall, Redditch and Peterborough while the Liberal Democrats “we are on the way back” had to content themselves with regaining Richmond and South Cambridgeshire. The big losers of the night were those 123 UKIP Councillors who saw their party virtually scrubbed out of the history books.  Conservative Party has claimed (well, we would, wouldn`t we)  that `Corbyn is past his peak`, which may well be true judging by sales – or lack of them – of tickets for his `Jezfest` Labour Live music festival.  Clearly believing on the strength of his appearance at “Oooooooh Jeremy Corbyn” Glastonbury the Leader of Her Majesty`s  Opposition  authorised the hiring of the White Hart Lane Tottenham stadium for a `youth appeal`  rock jamboree.  By the back end of the month the UNITE trade union had bought a thousand of the two and a half thousand tickets sold which is going to leave a lot of elbow room in a venue that can accommodate twenty thousand people.


The Tramp has demonstrated his grasp of events in Britain`s Capital City by describing the UK as `a knife-crime war zone` with `blood all over the floors.`  There are, he said, `no guns, just knives,`. That his audience was that peace-loving organisation the National Rifle Association of the United States explains this idiocy in part but more probably it was an attempt to divert further unwelcome attention from the Thoughts of Stormy Daniels, the American Hard Porn `star` to whom his lawyer generously paid significant sums of money for no apparent reason. That the former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani  confirmed that The Tramp did know of this payment as he reimbursed the $130 thousand  paid to Ms. Stephanie “Stormy”  Clifford “but not out of election funds” was not, perhaps, as helpful as Mr. Giuliani had hoped.


Mayor Boris, meanwhile, resorted to an appearance on The Tramp`s favourite Fox Television Station to appeal to the President not to break the O`Bama administration`s nuclear deal with Iran.  Tis was clearly a highly successful piece of diplomacy as the President announced almost within minutes of the programme being aired that he was in deed unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran agreement prompting `anger in Teheran` and unleashing the prospect of a nuclear arms race in Iran. While Ayatollah Ali Khamenei`s  threat to `feed the President`s body as food for worms` , a fate that awaits us all eventually, may not have struck  `shock and awe` on Capitol Hill an already dangerous world just got a little bit dangerouser. The visit of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to Israel to inaugurate the new US Embassy in Jerusalem and the ensuing riots and deaths did contribute greatly to peace in our time in the Middle East either.


The candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize was due to be meeting with North Korea`s Dictator, The Young Un, in Singapore on 12th June .On the back of US military exercises  in the Far Eastern Theatre North Korea threatened to pull out of the talks. Then The Tramp threatened to pull out of the talks. Then The Tramp did pull out of the talks. Then the Young Un blew up a nuclear test site, or what might have been a nuclear test site, anyway and there was a lot of unverified television coverage . Then The Tramp decided that the talks might be on again – are you still with me – and there have been high-level meetings between go-betweens and now the talks are back on again but `this is just the beginning of what may be a very lengthy process`. Which is probably the most accurate observation to emanate from the Commander-in-Chief to date.


In other news The Prime Minister has held a series of meetings with Tory MPs .to say “Trust me” over Brexit, which is pretty demeaning for The Darling Bud because most of us do trust her and we certainly trust her a lot more than the headbangers on the two extremes of the Brexit divide who are busy wrecking our national negotiating position in the interests of their own vastly inflated self-opinions and importance.


Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United boss, has had surgery for a brain haemmorage at the age of seventy-six. This has led to an outpouring of good wishes towards a 1`national treasure` who is recovering well.


It has been revealed that The Legacy Blair`s Britain was complicit in extraordinary rendition and torture under the watch of former Home Secretary `Poor Jack` Straw and the Netherlands and Australia are holding Russia legally responsible for the shooting down of the civilian Malaysian flight MH17 over Ukraine. The Boeing 777 with two hundred and ninety eight people on board was shot down by a Buk missile fired from a Russian-based military unit.. OFCOM has announced that the Russia Today television channel will not be stripped of its UK broadcasting licence following the poisoning of the Skripals. Good to know that the TV watchdog is protecting the neo-Soviet mouthpiece.


Davis `Milipede the Elder`, former Blairite Foreign Secretary, has returned at least briefly to the UK to assist with the launch of a `new centre party` that has the support of former Tory Minister Nicky Morgan, former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister St. Nicholas of Clogg and others, with possible funding from George Soros.  Could it be called The SDP?  “Red Ken” Livingstone has quit the Labour Party and Comrade Corbyn is described as “too stupid” to tackle anti-semitism.


In Germany Foreign Minister Maas backs the Russian Nordstream 2 Pipeline project. This, if built, will enable the neo-soviet Union to hold Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine hostage over power supplies. The new policy is `Deutchland First`.  Meanwhile at a Security Chiefs` conference in Berlin Andrew Parker, the Head of MI5, has emerged from the shadows to castigate Vlad Putin for an “aggressive and pernicious agenda” that is “deliberate and malign” following the Salisbury attack. Given a choice I would back Andrew Parker`s opinion against that of Mutti Merkel and Herr Maas any day. In Britain Yulia Skripal, Novichok attack survivor,   has appeared on television to announce that contrary to Vlad`s view she is not being held against her will and does not wish to avail herself of the services of the Russian Embassy.


The Republic of Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to relax its historic anti-abortion laws.  It is said that pro-abortion students were flown in from universities around the world to vote for the change. Pressure is now building up for similar changes, resisted by the Democratic Unionists Party, in Northern Ireland. This cause, which has the support of some Tory Ministers and former Ministers, could cost the Government its majority in Westminster and precipitate a General Election.  Down South the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, insists that “Britain must help to keep single market ties” to avoid a hard border with the North. Stick to abortion, Mr. Varadkar. It`s less contentious than Brexit.


And then there was the wedding. Tom Markle was prevented through heart surgery from walking his daughter up the aisle of St. George`s Chapel, Windsor, so his place was taken by the bride`s future Father-in-Law, Prince Charles. The bride`s mother Doria Ragland, won hearts and minds worldwide and the Chicago-born Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal (Anglican Union) Church preached the sermon. At some considerable length. The United Kingdom`s  reputation for “doing these things rather better than anyone else in the world” remains intact, it was a glorious day, rainforests worth of timber were felled to provide newsprint for coverage of the event from every conceivable angle and Harry Wales and Meghan Markle are now the happily married Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  The Best of British – in every sense.





The Football Association is out to tackle another aspect of sexism in Britain`s winter game. Subbuteo, played on table tops since the 1940`sis to issue a limited edition  of the all-female Arsenal and Chelsea teams. “We aspire to equality from boardgames to boardrooms”we are told.


A shortage of courtrooms following closures is leading to the prospect of some cases being held in other locations, such as pubs. Which gives a whole new meaning to being “called to the bar”.


President Trump will be the thirteenth (unlucky for some?) US Commander-in-Chief to have been met by Her Majesty the Queen when he finally visits Britain. Queen Victoria` tally exceeds that of Her Maj: there were eighteen American Presidents during her reign – but she met none of them.


There are calls for the creation of a `Star Wars Day`.  Not surprisingly the chosen date is 4th, May.  “May the Fourth be With You”.


The Justice Department is proposing to introduce (by mutual agreement only) “Click to Split” online divorces.


The National Union of Headteachers is apparently supporting, in the interests of a “final statement of gender identity”,  the wearing of black ties by girls and ballgowns by boys at “End of Year Proms”.


During the wedding Myers of Keswick in New York`s West Village have been purveying, in addition to Meghan and Harry memorabilia, Crumpets and Pimms, HP Sauce and te recipe for cucumber sandwiches for US cousins determined to `celebrate British` on the day.


Anthony Horowitz, author of two 007 novels, has announced that in the light of #MeeToo there is no place for `Bond Girls`. People, he says, “are very quick to take offence.”


The House of Commons Commission has decided that there will be no “Big Bong” from the clocktower to mark Brexit. “It is not” says the illustrious Commission “an important national event”.




Bruce Tullogh (82) won the 1962 European Championships 5000 Gold Medal running barefoot and was the fastest man over one, two and six miles. In 1969 he ran the 2876 miles from Los Angeles to New York.


Peter Temple Morris ( 80)was the Tory Member of Parliament for Leominster for twenty three years from 1974. He crossed the floor to Labour over Europe in 1997 and took a Blair peerage in 2001.


The Dowager Duchess of Harewood(91) was s an Australian violinist and fashion model who married to son of the Earl of Harewood in 1964.


Tom Wolfe (88) wrote for the Washington Post and the New York Herald Tribune before creating The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff.. He was known for his sharp wit and his equally sharp white suits.


Ray Wilson (83) was the oldest member of Sir Alf Ramsey`s 1966 World Cup England Team. The left back earned 63 caps for his country, played for Huddersfield and Everton and was also a member of his team1`s 1966 FA Cup squad.


Viewers of black-and-white television will recall Peter Byrne (90) as DS Andy Crawford alongside Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green. He appeared in every episode of the television series between 1955 and 1975 and was in the stage version `The Blue Lamp` that preceded the TV dramatization at the Hippodrome Theatre in 1952.


Des Saunders (91) was the director of the Gerry Anderson `Thunderbirds`, Stingray, Captain Scarlett and Joe 90 shows and of `The Prince and the Showgirl` with Marilyn Monroe.


Gwilym Roberts (89) was the Member of Parliament for South Cannock who in 1976 secured private members` legislation raising the age at which fireworks might lawfully be purchased from 13 to 16.


Alan Bean (86) was the fourth of twelve `moonwalkers`. He piloted Apollo 12 on its 1969 mission and spent eight hours strolling across the Sea of Storms.


And Dame Tessa Jowell (70) succumbed to cancer after a long and brave fight against the disease. A Minister in the Blair administration she will be long-remembered for her speech in the House of Lords as Baroness Jowell when she promoted the cause of those suffering from her condition. One of those rare occasions when the House afforded well-earned applause.


And finally………..


This month marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of Operation Chastise.  Squadron Leader Johnny Johnson, now ninety-six, was one of one hundred and thirty-three men from 617 Squadron (Lancaster Bombers)  who took off from Scampton in Lincolnshire to embark upon what became immortalised in RAF history as “The Dambusters” raid on Nazi Germany. Barnes Wallis`s `bouncing bomb`, tested off  Reculver near Herne Bay in Kent, breached the German`s dams and did serious damage to that country`s war effort. The squadron lost 53 men that night.


And in May 1953 Sir Edmund Hilary and  Sherpa Tenzing reached the summit of Mount Everest.


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