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Gale's View from Westminster - October 2016

October. A Tory coronation in Birmingham, a UKIP abdication and a quite close-run thing in the Witney by-election caused by the resignation of Man David. Brexit dominates the agenda at home, in Brussels and in Strasbourg. Britain is in danger of becoming a one-party State as the Labour rift widens. Russian war crimes in Syria, Trump and Clinton both on the ropes in the United States, bulldozers in The Jungle, Marmite wars on the supermarket shelves, Heathrow is cleared for take-off – in fifteen years` time, the Nobel prize is a-changing, the fake Sheikh gets his long-awaited come-uppance and GlitterBalls keeps on spinning.

In the days before Parliament embarked upon a brief mid-recess return, a futile and ludicrously expensive exercise introduced by The Legacy and designed to try to persuade a disbelieving Press that MPs were not taking the “three month holiday” that they like to report, the Party conference season used to conclude at the end of the Summer. This provided a useful last-minute burst of business for the seaside hotels and guesthouses, bars and restaurants in the seaside resorts in which these conventions once sensibly and properly took place. With the House now sitting for the first couple of weeks in September the season starts later and with the Conservative Party going in to bat last it always now spills over untidily into the beginning of Autumn. No matter. The beaming faithful head off towards the Midlands and just about as far away from an attractive coastal town as you can get in Britain. God forbid that anyone should be allowed to think that conference delegates are actually enjoying themselves.

On the eve of the Tory Conference Chancellor Philip Hammond ruffles feathers with the announcement that this Tory government wants to see workers on the boards of companies while Prime Minister May trails a review of Workers` Rights post the `hard Brexit` that she now appears to be seeking. This does not sit too comfortably with the Exchequer view that the Brexit decision in the referendum was `not a vote to shut down the economy` or, as Chancellor Hammond puts it we must not introduce immigration controls `at the expense of growth`. The Spring 2017 Queen`s Speech will, though, contain a Great Repeal Bill. which, as the Old Knuckleduster and now Secretary of State for Out says will mean that EU law will be transposed into domestic law on “Brexit Day” and we, not Europe, will then make the changes to restore national sovereignty in those areas in which Brussels has hitherto encroached upon our powers.

At the conference the “Three Brexiteers”, Johnson, Fox and Davis, present a unified front. Behind the scenes `Mayor Boris`, now our illustrious Foreign Secretary, may still be waiting to get his hands on the keys to Chevening, the desirable country residence that he will be required to share with Fox and Davis, but in public they are “looking beyond Europe”, seeking to create a “truly global UK “with friends in Canada, China, India and Singapore, bringing back blue passports even. Home Secretary “Forever Amber” Rudd will “name and shame” companies that hire too many foreign employees, will “limit the number of non-EU workers (a power that existed pre-referendum of course) and will seek to differentiate between `high-skill` and `low-skill` immigrants. Quite how this will make provision for hospital ancillary staff and agricultural labour, for example, is not clear but never mind the detail, hear the dog-whistle.

The European Court of Justice is a busted flush and designated for the scrap heap so far as Britain is concerned and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon scores real points with his determination to derogate from those sections of the European Convention on Human Rights that encourage the awful `Ihat` (historical abuse) investigations into the alleged misdemeanours of our troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In her closing speech to Conference the Darling Bud is supremely confident enough to coin and re-cycle her own phrase and to dub Corbyn`s Labour as “The Nasty Party”. In a thinly-disguised swipe at die-hard Tory `Remoaners` she calls upon colleagues not to seek to subvert democracy or to `sneer at patriots as parochial`. Article 50, which starts the clock ticking on the two-year time limit for Brexit negotiations, will be triggered by the end of March 2017 and the delegates are sent whistling cheerfully home after the customary but in this instance justified standing ovation.

Brexit is all-pervasive. Frau Merkel says that she will “Put the EU before a UK trade deal” in spite of the act that, according to the German Industrial Federation (BDI) 7.5 % of exports, including a lot of cars, are to the UK. Spain is rattling its` cage over the post-Brexit future of Gibraltar It looks as though all EU migrants will be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom which means that some 3.6 million people will, after 5 years of residency, qualify for UK citizenship provided that they can speak English and pass the Britishness test. There were roughly 1.6million EU people who came to the UK from the “EU 14” prior to 2004, about 1.5 million from the “New Eight” Eastern European States during the past 12 years and 600 thousand granted amnesty. Don`t blame me if the sums do not add up; there is always a degree of flexibility in migration figures.

The future of UK migrants within the EU, particularly with regard to healthcare and pension rights, remains undefined. The pound has slumped against the dollar and at one stage went below one Euro to the pound. Ex-pat pensioners have seen the value of their sterling incomes fall by getting on for 20%, a fact that does not seem to bother some of my sanguine colleagues a very great deal. Chancellor Hammond clearly wants the UK to remain within the EU customs union but the free-movement price may be too high for some members of the Cabinet to swallow. He is accused of “acting like an accountant” and “arguing from a Treasury point of view” but as the poor man is in charge of the economy it`s hard to see what else he is supposed to do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it very clear that he intends to remain in his post and continue to `set out the economic realities of Brexit`. That may not please the editors of the Daily Telegraph, The Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid and The Sun, all of whom remain in denial of that economic reality, but it is in the interests of Parliament and the Country that we are told the truth.

As a warm-up to the European Council meeting Jean-Claude Drunker announces that “The EU must stand firm against UK demands” and remain “intransigent” while the soon-to-be outgoing President of France, Mr. Holland, talks darkly of “a threat-risk price” and “economic and human consequences”. The Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia confines his comments to a criticism of “The unpleasant face of British nationalism”. In the House of Commons The Old Knuckleduster tells colleagues that “pushing us won`t work” while Tory MPs are dragged back from all points East and West on the likelihood of a vote demanding a Commons say on Article 50. In the event some skilful behind the scenes wheeling and dealing heads off a putative rebellion and a compromise is reached: there will be a debate and vote on the finally negotiated Brexit deal and a new Treaty, presumably in about two-and-a-half years` time. At the European Council in Brussels the Prime Minister finds herself afforded about five minutes at the end of a long day`s dining and whining to hammer home the fact that there will not be a second vote on the principle of Brexit and the representatives of twenty-seven other Member States had better get used to that reality. With Holland posturing, Juncker criticising and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz (I thought he was the creator of `Peanuts`) describing Britain`s position as “a trap” the entente was clearly not overly cordiale but La May bashed on with a condemnation of Moscow over the bombing of Aleppo and calls for tougher sanctions against the neo-Soviet Union. Even in the foetid atmosphere of Brexit there are other more serious matters to which the EU might devote a little attention but the slaughter of civilians in Aleppo was only on the agenda because the UK put it there. In the midst of all this I found myself, as the Leader of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (not to be conflated with the EU), at a “colloquium” in Paris called to discuss the future direction of the CoE. Having spent a day of my life in an airless subterranean torture-chamber listening to speaker after speaker mis-represent Brexit as an act of treachery and having nearly lost the will to live I demonstrated my complete lack of diplomatic skill and let the assembled company have both barrels. The reason why the great British public voted to quit the EU is because in the UK that organisation is perceived as spendthrift, bureaucratic, over-staffed, over-paid, meddlesome and on occasions downright corrupt and unless the EU and the CoE get their respective houses in order and undergo radical restructuring and reform then the people of the Member States of the Forty-seven countries that make up the Council of Europe might follow the same path as Britain. That observation did not, sadly, get the mandatory round of applause but at least the lunch at the French National Assembly was good.

It would be wrong to suggest that everything in the Tory garden is hunky-dory. The Darling Bud has an overall majority of, now, just eleven Members on paper but there are, of course, sub divisions within the ranks that make that figure illusory. The kamikaze Remoaners and the head-banging hard-Brexiteers are never going to be collectively satisfied and if you add to those numbers the disgruntled demoted and the slighted overlooked it is clear that The Lady is going to face choppy water not over EU policy but over a number of other issues as well. Whether that will culminate in an early General Election that the Prime Minister has set her face against (current polls suggest a Tory lead of around forty seats following a snap election) only time and “Events, Dear Boy” will tell but one thing is certain: on the Labour benches there are a lot of turkeys that are in no rush to vote for Christmas. If Theresa May has problems then Red Jerry has got them with knobs on. Fresh from his own Party Conference and resounding endorsement as the Leader of the Labour, Trades Unionist and Socialist Workers` Party, Comrade Corbyn once again set about annoying as many of his Brothers and Sisters as possible with the appointment of his Shadow Cabinet. The London Elite now includes John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor, Emily Thornberry as Shadow Foreign Secretary, Diane Abbott as Shadow Home Secretary and Shami (Baroness) Chakrabarti as Shadow Attorney General. Ms. Chakrabarti as was was elevated to the peerage following the production of a report exhonerating Labour of anti-semitism. What is much less clear is when Ms. Chakrabarti was told that she was in line for a job in the Lords. She denies all knowledge of the fact that her name was on a Labour long-list before she undertook the inquiry but back-bench comrades remain highly sceptical. Clive Lewis, formerly Shadow Defence Secretary, did a lateral arabesque and ended up down the pecking order at Business after a row over the replacement of Trident, paving the way for the appointment of Nia Griffiths who is not known as a supporter of our nuclear deterrent. Rosie Winteton, Opposition Chief Whip and a very close friend of Lord (John) Prescott was booted out of her office to make way for a resuscitated Nick Brown. Nick is not unpopular but he is not Rosy. All of this has prompted The Legacy Blair to hint at a comeback and to say that Red Jerry is “taking the Labour Party back to the 1960`s and creating a one-party state”. The accusation is that “May wasn`t elected as Prime Minister”. Neither, for the record, were Gordon `The Clunking Fist ` Brown (remember him?) nor James Callaghan when he took over from Harold Wilson. Political memories can sometimes be conveniently short.

The UKIP bandwagon-that-never-was has hit the buffers. Diane James, elected as Leader to replace Fuhrer Farridge, lasted just eighteen days in office before deciding that this was a Ship of State of which she did not wish to be the Captain. Fleetingly, therefore, The Farridge once again took the helm and is now setting course cheerily for the rocks, pint of claret and cigarette in hand. “UKIP`s Next Leader”, one Steven Woolfe, was revealed as having entertained the idea of Further afield the Teflon coating appears to be peeling off Donlad Trump ‘joining Theresa May`s Tories` which went down so well within the Kippers in the European Parliament that Mr. Woolfe is alleged to have engaged in an altercation with Mike Hookem, UKIP`s Defence spokesman and an RAF veteran. This `clash` ended with Mr. Woolfe on the floor having two `epileptic-like fits ‘and is now the subject of interest from Belgium`s latter-day Hercule Poirot. Right-Hookem described the incident as “handbags at dawn” and suggested that they had behaved “like a pair of tarts” although quite from where he gained this intimate knowledge of the red-light habits of Europe is obscure. Mr. Woolfe has now quit the “death spiral” United Kingdom Independence Party in the wake of “toxicity”, Arron Bankroller, UKIPs chief donor, had threatened to take his toys away but is now backing another leadership candidate, Raheem Kassam, who has been accused by another Farridge Wannabee, Suzanne Evans, of being of the `Far Right` and the MEP Paul Nuttall is hoping to come through the middle and snatch the crown for a few weeks at least until the next Return of Nige. Just another month in the UKIP office really.

Further afield the Teflon appears to be peeling off Donlad Trump. The seemingly indestructible Oaf-in-waiting for the White House came up against his first nemesis in the shapely form of Miss Argentina 1996, Miss Alicia Machado Venez and the small matter of a `sex tape`. It was, with hindsight, perhaps unfortunate that Ivanka Trumpette leapt to Dad`s defence with the immortal words “My father knows what women want”. Donlad`s association with the Playboy 2000 Tour of America, involving as it did young ladies wearing not a lot (well, nothing, really) and his less-than-chivalrous description of the Argentine as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” have not endeared him to the flower of US femininity. The Playboy 2000 material was followed by the Playboy 2003 videos. Trump sought to dismiss this as “locker room banter” but allegations of multiple unwanted and unsolicited groping suggest that “My Father did not know what women want” after all. An objective observer might say that Slick Willie was no saint either but it is his Old Lady and not Bonking Bill that is running for the Oval office and when Trump has to fall back on the “media conspiracy “defence then it is clear that he is in deep trouble. To then suggest that the election is being rigged looks to the seasoned observer very much as though he is acknowledging defeat and seeking to get his retaliation in first. A loyal Melania Trump may defend “boy talk” but when, during the final TV debate with Hillarious, the `boy` refuses to say whether he will accept the election result or not you cannot help feeling that you are looking at a loser. Even the awful Donlad-supporting Farridge is now hedging his bets and Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has withdrawn his backing for the Republican Presidential candidate. It`s now every man for himself on Capitol Hill as the Grand Old Party looks set to lose control of both the House and the Senate on November 6th.

The fat lady, though, has yet to sing. Just when we were beginning to think that the free World might be spared a Trump White House along came America`s Mr. Plod in the form of The Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI, had determined that Hillarious, while guilty of some carelessness in setting up private e-mail accounts and using them for Government purposes, had not committed any indictable crimes. Then, as the Presidential election campaign enters its final week, comes the `revelation`, leaked with, at the time of writing, no supporting evidence that as a result of “investigations into other issues” the Clinton case is to be re-opened. The obvious inference is that this further inquiry, which cannot possibly be determined and brought to a conclusion before polling day (indeed many of our Colonial cousins have already posted off their ballots) has been timed to do as much damage as possible to the Hillarious campaign and to deliver a coup de grace to hand victory to the appalling Tramp. The latter, with all of the grace and charm of a pig in manure, is needless to say making hay while the Florida sun shines down upon him claiming justification for his “Crooked Hillary” message. While nobody in their right minds would suggest that Hillarious is as pure of the driven snow – Fifty Shades of Grey might be closer to the mark – and while she is one of the least liked Presidential candidates in what, in the United States, passes for history, this latest `revelation` is likely to prove to be another Trumped-up smear. Nevertheless the thought that America`s First Female President could be elected while facing the possibility of criminal charges is likely to give some undecided voters pause for thought. The question clearly is whether or not this will do enough damage to de-rail the Clinton Express and hand a narrow win to one of the most obnoxious reality television presenters since John Logie Baird created the gogglebox. Or are their more `revelations` and still more molested and abused young women waiting to emerge from the Donlad woodpile? It would be a good story if it were not, for the future of humanity, so serious.

October saw the start of the new school term in the Middle East. Incredibly, even in Aleppo in Syria children are back in the classroom – in underground bunkers trying to study. Those bunkers, like the hospitals, have been targeted by `government forces` and by the Russians acting on Putin`s personal instructions. There are Member States of the Council of Europe, an organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights, and there are officials in very high office, that are promoting the cause of lifting sanctions and re-admitting the Russian Federation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE. While the situation in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine, which was the original reason for the suspension of Russian voting rights and their consequent walkout, was debated at this month`s plenary session in Strasbourg the plight of the Syrians was not. We have provision to accommodate Current Affairs debates (we debated Turkey post the attempted coup) and Urgent Debates (there were none). So on the humanitarian crisis in Syria the Council of Europe was, effectively, silent. Earlier in the month former President Mikhail Gorbachev said that “the world is at a dangerous point”. That was stunningly perceptive! Russian missiles are now once again stationed on the Polish border. A Russian flotilla has steamed from home towards Syria via the Mediterranean. Russia has used its Security Council vote to block a referral to the ICC. US Secretary John Kerry describes the bombing raids on hospitals as “war crimes” and refers to the “strategic targeting designed to terrorise civilians”. Is the closure of the Russia Today Television channel`s bank accounts by the Royal Bank of Scotland an adequate international response? At the risk of sounding facetious in the face of German, French, Spanish, Norwegian and other national interests might we not do a little more to send a message to Putin that the murder of women and children and hospital staff is not an acceptable form of warfare. Anywhere and at any time.

Not that humanitarian crises are confined to the Middle East although that may well be at least in part the source of the tide of refugees and economic migrants that has swept through Italy and Greece and then, largely unimpeded, across Europe. It is estimated that some ten thousand mainly young and fit males but also including women and some children have populated “the largest shanty-town in Europe, known as the Jungle, off the approach road to the Port of Dover. In this French election year grandstanding has been the order of the day with seemingly every politician at every level of government from the President of the Republic down seeking to make political capital out of the plight of the would-be migrants trying to reach the United Kingdom. On this side of La Manche the “Do something” school of politics has had a field day and MPs have been inundated with e-mails urging every form of `solution` from the practical to the bizarre. Now, at the end of October and with French law making it illegal for people to be `evicted` from their homes from now until the Spring, the Government has moved in the gendarmes and the troops to remove the inhabitants and bulldoze this third encampment in the Calais area. Will there be a fourth? Almost certainly. A significant number of those living in the Jungle have melted away into the countryside of the Nord Pas de Calais region rather than be transported to `reception centres` across France. While the Government of the United Kingdom is seeking to assist with finance and through the acceptance of child refugees and those with families already in Britain this is not, as has been claimed by some, a problem of the UK`s making. The porous nature of Europe`s southern borders combined with the freedom of movement generated throughout the Schengen area has inevitably meant that those wishing to cluster on the shores of The Channel and to seek illegal entry into Britain are free to do so with impunity and the `first safe haven` rules of asylum have gone by the board. That is a French and mainland European problem and it is one that they and not the UK must address. David Cameron`s policy of taking 20,000 refugees from camps in Turkey and Jordon, screened by and under the guidance of the UNHCR was correct and sent out a clear signal to People Traffickers that they would not succeed. The policies adopted by some other European countries and most notably by the German Chancellor, while possibly well-meaning, have created a logistical nightmare and a politically unacceptable situation for which Frau Merkel may well pay a considerable price in her forthcoming election.

It will be Heathrow. After years of prevarication by successive governments, the loss of billions of pounds of UK business to mainland European airports and frustration of the global travelling public

The May administration is finally addressing the shortage of runway capacity in the South East of England. Sort of. The Cabinet has endorsed the view of Sir Howard Davies, expressed in the most recent of a number of reports on the subject, and concluded that Heathrow `is the only choice` for a hub airport and new runway. Not that `The Cabinet` is unanimous in its view. The ever-populist Mr. Johnson who, as Mayor of London, had promoted the cause of a `Boris Island` new airport in the Thames Estuary will now, as Foreign Secretary, lend his not inconsiderable bulk to the anti-Heathrow movement and the new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, is one of a number of Ministers representing South and West London seats who are not best pleased and would have preferred to have dumped any increase in noise and air pollution upon Gatwick airport instead. Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative Member of Parliament representing Richmond Park, has resigned his seat and will contest the resulting by-election as an independent candidate unopposed by either the Conservatives or UKIP. This is regarded by many colleagues as a singularly pointless and self-indulgent piece of `grandstanding`. Mr. Goldsmith stood in 2015 on an anti-Heathrow manifesto, was elected with a handsome majority and therefore has a clear mandate to represent his point of view. He has now handed to the Liberal Democrats the opportunity to turn the by-election into a mini-second-referendum on Brexit. As Richmond was one of the relatively few seats in which the electorate voted Remain the outcome may not be quite as clear-cut as Mr. Goldsmith would like to think, particularly as the Liberals are also opposed to the further expansion of Heathrow. Meanwhile the Government`s overall working majority has been reduced to eleven.

Following a period of `consultation` the House of Commons will be invited to vote upon the Government`s decision in about a year`s time. With the support of the Scottish Nationalists and most of the rational wing of what remains of the Labour Party the Government is likely to win. There will then follow a series of legal challenges, wrangling over the necessary Development Consent Orders and Compulsory Purchase agreements and years of disruptive re-location, demolition and construction. There will not be any wheels on new tarmac at Heathrow for at least fifteen years, if ever. In the meantime, the United Kingdom will continue to haemorrhage business to Schiphol, Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle and Dubai while Manston Airport in my Kent constituency, with one of the longest runways in the country and capable of immediately buying time for the nation as a freight hub, lies derelict under the control of one Ms. Gloag, the Scottish multi-millionaire shareholder in the Stagecoach bus company. Ms. Gloag and those who risibly claim to `own` Manston want to turn a national asset into an overspill housing estate for London and an unwanted business park for which there is no demand.

In other news Sharon White, the CEO of the communication regulator OFCOM has asserted that the BBC needs more older women presenters. As OFCOM are taking over the regulation of the Corporation Auntie may need to listen. Kathryn Hudson, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Watchdog wants MPs to `give up outside work`. This is an obsession with an office that believes that MPs should be “full-time”. office. Is an eighty-hour week, which is what many of us devote to Membership of The House, not sufficient? Time was when MPs were legislators, not social workers, were paid less and had other financial and declared interests. I have been in the House long enough to remember the days when a wealth of external knowledge and wisdom was brought to parliament by those who were very much in touch with the commercial, industrial, legal and Trades Union worlds and the House is poorer without that first-hand experience. The Duchess of Cambridge is emerging as a secret diplomatic weapon, using charm to engage in `bridge-building for Brexit` during a recent visit to The Netherlands. More than a hundred Members of Parliament are signed up to the campaign to build a new Royal Yacht and the Government is said to be `listening`. St George`s Hospital in London is piloting a scheme to require the provision of passports before receiving treatment. Given the amount of money lost to the NHS as a result of foreign nationals engaging in health tourism this measure or something like it is not before time. In a stand-off between Unilever and Tesco over the price of Marmite it is the manufacturer that blinks first. Whether you love it or whether you loathe it Unilever wanted a ten per cent price increase to reflect `the increased costs of Brexit. Marmite, though, is made in Burton-upon-Trent and nor Brexit-sensitive. Questions in the Commons, Unilever share price trashed and the white flag goes up. We can expect, though, that this is just the first of many such price-hikes as the real costs of leaving the European Union begin to bite.

Times they are a-changing. Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for literature. The first songwriter to receive the Laureate penned Blowin` in the Wind and Mr Tambourine Man amongst many other gems. The Nobel panel was offended that the star did not immediately communicate his appreciation of the recognition. Dylan`s explanation, delivered after a couple of weeks, is that he was `speechless`. Having found his voice again he hopes to attend the awards ceremony. Sir Cliff Richard is seeking redress from the Salford Broadcasting Corporation for `false accusations` that have left his career `forever tainted` after twenty-two months of fruitless investigation by the South Yorkshire police force. Sir Cliff is suing both The Beeb and the Constabulary over the `media circus` that invaded his privacy. And in the New Year the disc jockey Tony Blackburn who had served the BBC loyally for fifty years and was suspended on highly spurious grounds will return to broadcasting his own show on Radio Two. A vindictive man would have gone for the Corporation Jobsworth`s jugular but the man who has lived for broadcasting is likely to be satisfied to be back on air and effectively vindicated.

Back on the European stage the Canadian/EU trade deal, CETA, foundered on the vote of Wallonia. In a move that enabled 1% of the EU`s 507 million inhabitants to hold twenty seven Member States to ransom the miniscule Department’s farmers persuaded their regional government to veto the deal fearing `a flood of cheap imports` from across the Atlantic. Chrystia Freeland, Canada`s Trade Minister, is frantically trying to get the talks, which have lasted for years, back on track but Britain needs to note the warning signs: trade deals can take a very long time indeed.

And Tracy Brabin, the actress who played Tricia Armstrong in Coronation Street has been elected unopposed by the major parties to represent the Batley and Spen constituency in the House of Commons following the murder of the sitting member, Jo Cox.


After the fanfare, the reality. The new `indestructible` plastic five-pound note shrinks in a hot tumble-dryer. Money-laundering is not a good idea.

It is revealed that Harry Corbett, creator of the glove-puppet Sooty, nearly left the BBC over an editorial dispute. Harry wanted Sooty to have a girlfriend. Hugh Carlton-Green, the then Director General determined that Soo the Panda would be permitted but only so long as the couple were never seen to touch. The Producer, Trevor Hill, had expressed concern that “sex will be creeping into the programme”.

After the intervention of Maidstone Borough Council in Kent Kingdom Security`s over-zealous wardens have been suspended and sent for re-training. This follows the issuing of an £80 `litter penalty` for feeding ducks on the River Loose. To celebrate his 80th Birthday Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, the first Stone to reach four score years, has published `Around the world in 80 years of photos` charting the band`s travels since 1960.

The Ministry of Defence has intervened to prevent the Royal Marine `Calendar Boys` from stripping off for their charity-fundraising “Go Commando” calendar. There is a concern that this could be seen as “sexualising the Royal Marines”. Norfolk police have red faces after condemning as `disgraceful acts of vandalism` 50 fallen gravestones in the village of Holt. The unstable headstones were, in fact, laid flat by the local council to prevent them from falling accidentally and causing injury.

Sixty-six year old Jeremy Paxman has said that he is “too young” to present the BBC`s Question Time. “We must look after older people” he says in a reference to the programme`s current host, seventy-eight year old David Dimbleby who has been in harness since 1994. Dog walking, says the Kennel Club, has been restricted in more than 3,300 open spaces under Public Spaces Protection Orders. In what they describe as `a war on dogs` 2,205 Parks, Playing Fields and beaches have bans in place while a further 1,100 restrict `running or walking off the lead`.

Dame Joan Bakewell, now 83 and once dubbed “The Thinking Man`s Crumpet” by television personality Frank Muir, has condemned what she describes as `out of hand political correctness` that interferes with freedom of speech and comic asides. And two campaigners from Essex are pleading with dictionary publishers to abandon the “Essex Girl” stereotype. One publication defines the Essex Girl as “unintelligent, hedonistic, devoid of taste and sexually promiscuous”. The campaigners would prefer “more Boadicea and less Essex Girl”. Forget the Ford Escort, get out the chariot. The forecourt of Buckingham Palace has played host to a vintage car rally that has represented a vehicle for each year of the Queen`s reign and included a 1944 K2 ambulance of the kind driven by a young Princess Elizabeth during the war. Sadly, Her Maj was not at home to see the display.

High Speed Two is to be re-christened The Grand Union Railway. It will, we are told, be constructed in increase capacity not speed. Confiture tomorrow. Andrea Leadsome, failed Vote Leave and pro-foxhunting Tory Leadership candidate and now the Secretary of State for The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has visited Paris intent on repairing Britain`s post-Brexit commercial fortunes by selling jam and tea and biscuits. She has `an international plan for food and drink`. And, one hopes, for animal welfare also.

Theresa May has vetoed the conducting of Brexit talks in French. At present English is Europe`s foremost common and second language but will that still be the case in three years` time? Not if the French have their way mes amis. Keith Vaz, Leicester Member of Parliament still under investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Committee following unsavoury revelations involving rent boys and possible drug provision, has been elected unopposed as a Labour representative on the Commons Justice Select Committee. The Committee`s Chairman, Tory Bob Neill, has said dryly “my duty is to work with whoever the House appoints”.


At seventy seven the actor and playwright Terence Brady, creator of the 1970`s hit series “Upstairs, Downstairs” has surrendered his Equity card.

Conductor Sir Neville Marriner, creator of The Academy of St. Martin`s in the Fields has picked up his baton for the last time. The nonagenarian musician was responsible for more than six hundred recordings of some two thousand works created by what became the World`s most-recorded orchestra.

Lord Gordon Borrie was the Director General of Fair Trading under thirteen successive Secretaries of State. He first fought the parliamentary seat of Croydon North East for Labour in 1955 and then Ilford South in 1959 and has moved on to fresh pastures at eighty-five.

Centenarian Thomas Round was with the Sadlers Wells Opera Company before becoming a mainstay of the D`Oyly Carte Opera Company as a Principal in 1958.

The only Buddhist monarch and until his death the world`s longest occupant of a throne, King Bhumibol Adulyade of Thailand, was born in 1927 and acceded to the dynasty`s throne in 1946. The longest-serving mantle now passes to Her Majesty the Queen.

Ninety year old dear departed Jean Alexander played the Rovers` Return cleaner Hilda Ogden in the Coronation Street soap opera. In her day she was voted the fourth most popular women in Britain after The Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Diana.

Sir Anthony Grant, knighted in 1983, was a Member of Parliament for thirty-two years and served as Trade Minister during Edward Heath`s administration as Prime Minister. He is credited with introducing the Officer`s Selection standard to the Tory Party`s candidate`s list and as a Government Whip swore that he would burn his whips` tie if a woman was ever appointed to that office. When Jacqui Lait became the first woman to become a Government Whip in 1996 Sir Anthony, ever chivalrous, an officer and a gentleman, presented her with the tie instead of burning it.

Dave Cash, the pirate radio disc jockey, was hired by Radio London`s Ben Toney in 1964 to work on `The Galaxy`, a converted minesweeper moored in the Thames Estuary. He teamed up with the late Kenny Everett and when the pirates came ashore transferred with Kenny to LBC.

Jimmy Perry who has died at 93, used his wartime Home Guard and early years holiday camp experience as a Butlin`s Redcoat to create the “Dad`s Army”, “It ain`t half hot Mum” and “Hi-De-Hi” television series.

Vivien Gale, nee Dickinson, was born in Sialkot in what is now Pakistan in 1921. She was one of those magnificent women who won the Second World War single-handed with the help of a few friends. She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She slipped away on the fifteenth of the month and we shall miss her fearfully. She has left her mark upon her family.

…….and after twelve years in flight the Rosetta Spacecraft has made the ultimate sacrifice and carried out a controlled crash-landing on the 67P/C-G Comet that also claimed her Philae detachable probe two years ago.

Almost finally…….

Holocaust-survivor Yisrael Kristal missed his Bat Mitzvah during the First World War when he was thirteen in 1916. Now, at 113, he has finally celebrated

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