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Gale's View from Westminster - September 2016

September. The start of the Conference season. “Kippers” go skinny dipping in Bournemouth and elect yet another new Fuhrer. Liberals want Labour to join them in an outbreak of Timmyness and in Liverpool Red Jerry is re-coronated as the Labour Leader by a mudslide. Elephants may be an endangered species but the one in the room is Brexit. Grammar schools are back high on the agenda and the Tories` failed leadership contender goes hunting for the rural vote. Hinckley point gets the glow-ahead. The Legacy`s business empire is poised for shutdown as the world`s press looks for the inevitable ulterior motive. At the BBC the Bake is Off but the Ballsroom dancing takes to the floor, Junior Doctors agonise over pay (or should that read “patient safety”?), a blazering row as one of Kent`s headteachers insists on uniformity, Britain`s Paralympians bring home the bullion, Mother Theresa is canonised, in The Colonies The Donlad and Hillarious are demonised on US television , in a leap forward for democracy the House of Peers elects its first male Lord Speaker and will Britannia once again rule the waves?

One wonders whether, when eleven Eton schoolboys were invited to meet Comrade Vladimir on a visit to The Kremlin at the start of the month, the word “Syria” was mentioned. Probably not. It does not appear to have featured prominently when the G20 met in Japan either. At the European Council meeting in Bratislava EU `President` Donald Tusk referred to “the unintended consequences of free movement”. That was about as close as the world got, for some time, to acknowledging the genocide and resulting tide of humanity fleeing from the Middle East war zone and Mr Tusk was, of course, referring to migration within the EU and not to the plight of several millions of refugees that have nowhere, no country, to call home. The bombing, avowedly by the neo-Soviet Union, of a UN aid convoy on the outskirts of Aleppo concentrated diplomatic minds. The chances of Comrade Vlad facing trial for war crimes is about as likely as the prospect of `Legacy` Blair being held to account for his disingenuous part in the invasion of Iraq but at least momentarily the United Nations stirred. From the UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon actually referred to `war crimes` and at the UN Security Council in New York Britain, France and the United States condemned the actions of an `international pariah` . The UK`s Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, deployed some of the strongest language that many of us have ever heard a diplomat use and he walked out when President Assad`s spokesman-on-earth, representing the official Russian/Syrian line, rose to speak. That, though, will have resonated barely at all within the walls of The Kremlin and does little to assist the victims of the war-by-proxy currently being waged in the skies above Aleppo and in the hospitals that are being carpet-bombed by the Syrians and the Russians.

In the United States there is the distraction of a Presidential election and France and Germany are also heading for the polling stations and probable changes in government. At home we have the party conferences, the Labour Party`s leadership election and ensuing and ongoing internal divisions and, for Prime Minister May and her government, the fallout from the Referendum vote and Brexit preparations to keep us busy. Eyes and ears and attention are not therefore, notwithstanding the courageous efforts of some very brave foreign correspondents, really focussed on the fate of the Syrian people in particular and the whole of the Middle East in general in the way that it ought to be. Whether or not the views of Donald Trump Junior, who is reported to have described Syrian refugees as like “a bowl of poisoned Skittles” (sweets, for the uninitiated) are shared by his father is not clear but, given the latter`s desire to build the new `Berlin Wall` wall between the United States and Mexico, highly likely. Closer to home the European Union and the United Kingdom are not exactly covering ourselves with altruistic glory either. Frau Merkel`s initial welcome for refugees has rebounded horribly and on her own home front the Alternatif fur Deutchsland (AfD) is making ground as the result of public resistance to her policy. Elsewhere the hard right is on the rise throughout mainland Europe and Britain has yet – for some reasons of practicality to be fair – to honour our promise to take our quota of at-risk children from “The Jungle” refugee camp in Calais.

“The Jungle” itself is another bone of contention. Mr. Holland, for the moment the President of France, plans to close the camp “before Christmas”. His Interior Minister, Bernard Cazenove, finds himself dealing with road blocks on the A16 motorway as truck-drivers and refugees alike take their conflicts onto the main roads. M. Cazenove announces the creation of twelve thousand places for refugees in “welcome and orientation centres”, which sound alarmingly like `concentration camps` , dispersed around France and the `Governor` of Nord pas de Calais, Xavier Bertrand, told Kent MPs during a visit to the House of Commons, that this was “a British problem”, a sentiment also expressed by Mr. Holland. The French President tells us that we “have a duty” to take migrants from Calais and announces that his Country`s border with the UK is `totally watertight`. Something might have gone astray in translation but I`m not sure that two hundred illegal immigrants crossing the Channel every week adds up to much water-tightness and perhaps explains why my colleague Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, wants the Dover Patrol re-introduced in La Manche. The internal problem for Europe is, of course, not Britain but Schengen. The signatories to the Schengen agreement are in denial and refuse to accept the fact that it is not the Northern border but the internal and southern borders over which no control is exercised that has led to an unbridled wave of immigration that must inevitably harbour terrorists as well as those genuinely seeking safe-haven.

The perceptive will have noticed a degree of inconsistency in my approach to all this. Rightly so. On the one hand my natural inclination is to want to help. As a nation we have a long, proud and honourable tradition of offering safe haven to those fleeing in fear for their lives from oppressive regimes and arguably we have, over the years, been the net beneficiaries of so doing. We need to `do our bit` and I believe that David Cameron was, as Prime Minister, correct to agree to take the modest number of children (not young men posing as children) from The Jungle and at the same time, under recommendation from the UNHCR, a more significant number of Syrian refugees from camps in Turkey. This latter policy was designed both to inject a degree of security from terrorism into the process and to deter the human trafficking that has led to the problems currently faced in Greece and Italy. On the other hand we are, as is repeatedly said, a small island and our capacity and physical, if not financial, resources are finite. Refugees need accommodation and employment and education and healthcare and the strain on the system imposed just by migrants from within the European Union, and reflected dramatically in the Referendum result, means that we cannot just take all-comers from any land all of the time. There is a limit to the “huddled masses yearning to be free” that even a country as large as the United States can accommodate, as America is now also making clear.

There is an additional practicality. I am one of the few, if not the only, Members of Parliament that has (some years ago) accommodated a young refugee in his own home. It is not a task that just anyone can take on and it is not a process that, having been through the experience as a `happy amateur`, I would lightly recommend to even the most Christian of my friends. The idea that “there are at least a dozen parishioners with my own congregation that would happily give a home to a Syrian refugee” as one cleric suggested recently is to demonstrate a worthy naivety . There is also, when dealing with children, the small matter of child-protection. Without beating about the bush the prospect of vulnerable Syrian children is a potential paedophile`s playground and just before we rush to sweep up even those in the most desperate need we have to make sure that they are properly provided for and that frying pans and fires do not enter the equation. If I appear schizophrenic about the issue of refugees then that is why.

That said, I do not think that the European Union or the Council of Europe or even the United Nations has any right to rush to a holier-than-thou judgement about democracy, or the lack of it, in Turkey at present. I am not a Turkophile and have spent many years in parliament campaigning against the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, of one of whose municipalities I am proud to be an honorary citizen. While a response to the attempted and failed coup d’état in Turkey should not be seen as a reason for the suspension of all human rights, though, and the incarceration of thousands of soldiers, academics, journalists and others at the whim of a President who is looking at times increasingly dictatorial we also have to recognise that Turkey is playing host to literally millions of refugees from Syria, faces terrorism from the PKK from within and has a right – some would say a duty – to take the action necessary to protect a democratically elected government. As critical friends our task surely has to be encourage a swift and orderly return to democracy rather than to push another isolated State into the arms of Russia or of extremism.

Back at home the air of surreality has continued to pervade the political landscape. The resignation, for is it the second or third time, of Mr. Farridge as the fuhrer of the United Kingdom Independence Party created the sort of vacuum and subsequent leadership contest that is the joy of Fleet Street. It is reported that Mr. Farridge and the man who has bankrolled UKIP, Arron Banks, having “had a few drinks” to celebrate the election of Ms. Diane James MEP as the new Leader (presumably until Mr. Farridge, currently sniping from the side-lines on his LBC radio show, decides that he wants to take the helm again) of their party decided to go “skinny dipping” off Bournemouth pier. Not, one imagines, a very pretty sight. Back at the conference hotel, meanwhile, the newly-endorsed Ms. James, in a bid to spread unity and harmony amongst her flock, was busy purging one Mr. Neil Hamilton, the former Conservative member for Tatton and now a UKIP Member of the Welsh Assembly, from the conference programme and giving the party`s only sitting MP, the renegade Tory Douglas Carswell, a very few minutes on the platform to address his faithful. The UKIP fox having been shot in the referendum it is difficult to see what the party now stands for but as the Liberal Party no longer offers what the late Cecil Parkinson once described as `a home for disgruntled votes` they will no doubt yet provide solace for those who think that Brexit is not fast enough or deep enough or total enough in their desire for isolationism.

“For the Liberal Democrats “Timmish” Fallon is doing his best to rally a diminishing band of troops and bravely proffering the obvious olive bough to those many moderate members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who now find themselves sitting on a branch that is rapidly being sawn off. “Leave Labour and join the Liberal Democrats” is the battle cry. With good reason. Facing boundary changes (Diane Abbot and Jeremy Corbyn could both find themselves looking for new seats if the Electoral Commission`s recommendation are accepted) , reselection and, at the hands of the hard-left, deselection many of our Brothers and Sisters are contemplating an uncertain future. Could the time for the `Laboural Democrats` be ripe? Timmy clearly wishes it to be so.

With the Red flag Flying High Comrade Corbyn is “seeking a truce” over his Shadow Cabinet. Again with good reason. Following the resignation of almost all of the brightest and best brains from the Labour front benches Red Jerry has had a hard task filling his shadow ministerial posts at all and without wishing to be uncharitable it is fair to say that in footballing terms they would not be regarded as players in anything other than a very obscure league. Unkindly, perhaps, Shadow Minister Emily Thornberry was asked by an inquisitorial Dermot Murnaghan on television if she could name the French Foreign Minister. Ms. Thornberry declared that she was not on telly to “take part in a pub quiz” and to be fair Jean-Marc Ayrault does not have the highest profile in Mr. Holland`s administration, but she could not name the South Korean President either and as this is part of her brief it might be a tad worrying were she to be within a million miles of government office.

At this point in his period of Opposition `The Legacy` Blair was twenty six points on the credit side in the popularity polls. Mr. Corbyn is `enjoying` a deficit of minus eleven points. The elder Milipede, Ed`s brother David, tells us helpfully from the United States that Labour is “unelectable” and “has never been further from power since the 1930`s”. Mr. Corbyn announces that if he becomes Prime Minister he will appoint a `Minister for Peace`. He could do with one right now – to work within his own party. It was never going to be the case that Labour`s Leadership challenger would succeed. In Owen Smith the party chose to run a man whose policies vary very little by the radical left views espoused by Corbyn and who is signally lacking in the kind of fire and charisma needed to mount a serious contest in the face of rampant left-wing recruitment to the party`s electorate. In saying that he would not serve in a Corbyn Shadow Cabinet Smith effectively conceded defeat well before the result was officially announced and in the event was thrashed by two to one. Following the Labour conference we are told that Red Jerry faces `further warfare` from his own MPs but how that resistance will materialise only time will tell.

Given the disarray on the opposition benches it not surprising that there are siren voices calling for an early General Election. The Darling Bud Prime Minister has made it clear, though, that “The Lady`s not for cutting and running”. Setting aside the practical difficulties of circumventing the Fixed Term Parliament Act by obtaining a two-thirds majority on a vote in the House of Commons, which given Corby`s support for an election might not be insurmountable, Theresa May has made it plain that the Conservative Party was elected as a majority government on a clear manifesto that she intends to see through, that she has a job of work to do and that she will do it.

The Conservative Conference falls within October but in the run up to the gathering of the Party faithful in Birmingham a sense of the new direction of the government is already clear. The Prime Minister has signalled the return of Grammar Schools through selection, a Conservative policy determinedly abandoned by David Cameron . As a former Grammar School boy myself and one of those who, like Theresa May, “would not be where we are today” had it not been for the opportunities that we were offered at those excellent schools I applaud that decision. Mrs. May has made it clear that she wants to end the process of “selection by house price and post code” under which those with the financial resources have been able to buy homes close to the best schools and that she wants 21st Century Grammar Schools to favour those from poorer backgrounds and to once again create the social mobility that still exists in a few Counties such as my own where Grammar Schools have survived the Blair cull of 1998. This “21st Century Education system” will, says the Prime Minister, be “less susceptible to coaching” and while it is hard to see how or even why parents should be denied the opportunity to do the very best for their children, often at considerable personal sacrifice, it clearly is not desirable to perpetuate a system of state education in which the rich can buy privilege. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Man David`s Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, replaced by the new Prime Minister, is not pleased at this change of course and regards selective education as “a distraction”. David Cameron himself, having already resigned as Prime Minister over Brexit, has now taken the “Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds” and left parliament completely so as not to provide an alternative focus of attention – as did Sir Edward Heath during the Thatcher years – to Mrs. May. He was right not to seek to be a `back seat driver` but there are others on the backbenches who support the Morgan position and getting the necessary legislation to `Bring Back the Grammars` through both Houses of Parliament may prove an uphill struggle. This is just one example and there are others that suggest that while the Prime Minister may wish and intend to see this parliament through to its natural conclusion in 2020 and then to fight on her own new manifesto she may find it necessary to try to go to the Country sooner. A majority of only a dozen, with more than that number of disaffected or disappointed colleagues on her own benches may, as Sir John Major found out with a theoretical majority of twenty, prove to be an unmanageable situation.

Brexit, membership of the Single Market, control of our borders and immigration and the whole future of Europe and whatever role the UK may continue to play outside of the European Union inevitably dominates the domestic political agenda and notwithstanding the best efforts of the Government to point out that life goes on and that the business continues the issue casts a shadow over every aspect of Whitehall from finance through healthcare and education to the more directly affected aspects of agriculture, fisheries, trade and foreign policy .”Brexit means Britain will control Migration”. Brexit also means a rise in racist abuse and in Essex at the start of the month the racially-motivated murder of a Polish citizen. Martin Schultz, The President of the European Parliament, blames Vote Leave for creating a divided society and the murder of the young UK Labour MP, Jo Cox. It is, says the Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis, “Very improbable that Britain will remain within the Single Market”. He did not, he says, ever personally pledge £350 million a week of European contribution money to the National Health Service. Never mind my lips. Read the side of the Battle Bus. The Old Knuckleduster finds the process “complicated and frustrating” and states the need for “clear negotiating guidelines. One or two people might have thought of that before they campaigned for Vote Leave. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (“TTIP”) is “dead in the water”. The former Leader of Luxembourg County Council, JC Juncker, in his “State of the Union” address calls belatedly for “security at our European borders” and resurrects speculation about the creation of an “EU army” with the re-branding of a “European Fund for strategic investment”. The EU, he says, faces a battle for survival in the light of East-West divisions. The Pro-Brexit Home Office Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, is “considering” calls for a return to the blue UK passport. The Prime Minister is not interested in “symbolism” but in results. There is talk of a £10-per-head visa fee for Britons visiting mainland Europe. At the meeting in Bratislava of the twenty-seven Countries of the EU without Britain Herr Juncker returns to the fray railing against “Forty years of lies about the EU” as the driving force behind Britain`s vote to leave. How about more than twenty years of EU accounts not signed off as a minor defect, Mr. Juncker? We are reminded darkly that the European Parliament will have to ratify any deal struck under Article 50. What if they decline to do so? Has anyone contemplated that very real possibility? And will the `Visigrad Four` – Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic- combine to use their veto against a UK agreement? In Germany Frau Merkel is defeated by the AfD in her own backyard . At the G20 President Borat O`Bama reiterated that Britain is `at the back of the queue` for trade deals but Australia`s Malcolm Turnbull makes helpful Commonwealth noises. In spite of our best efforts no reassurances are offered in respect of ex-pat UK citizens living within the EU. The “Votes for Life” bill is, we are told in letters to me from the Cabinet Office and from Downing Street to Harry Shindler, planned to be on the statute book in time for the 2020 election but the junior Health minister Lord (David) Prior offers no guarantee of healthcare for ex-pats post-Brexit and the DWP is silent on the subject of post-Brexit pension and disability benefit rights. These will all be part of the negotiating package and there is “no deal until there is a whole deal”. Not surprisingly in Spain “Brexpats” have taken to cramming for Spanish citizenship exams. And with all of that on her plate and the future of British agriculture as her Departmental responsibility the Secretary of State for the Environment and failed Leadership contender Andrea Leadsome chooses this moment to announce her wish to realise a manifesto pledge and to give parliament a free vote on whether or not to repeal the Hunting Act.

As more than just the effects of second-hand hurricanes flow from the American colonies there has to be some passing interest in how and why the Most Powerful Nation Upon Earth finds it difficult to generate a Presidential candidate that a majority of that country`s people might find electable. Mexico will not pay for a President Trump`s border wall. Their own President Enrique Pena Nieto says so. Mr Trump says they will pay a crossing tax but there is a suggestion that if he becomes President that tax may be paid by citizens seeking to leave the United States. At the start of the month The Donald has a 3.9% poll lead over Hillarious but he works hard to ensure that that advantage is swiftly squandered. Hillarious defines Trump`s followers as `A basket case of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic deplorables` which others suggest might have cost her the votes of about a third of the population of the United States. This is a nasty campaign. Trump seeks to exploit a bout of pneumonia that takes Mrs. Clinton off the campaign trail for a couple of days until her physician pronounces her `fit to run the White House`. Trump declares himself physically fit. Whether he is mentally suited to the task is a question that American voters will have to ask themselves. Under pressure Trump has, after eight years of carping, finally admitted that O`Bama was born in the United States and then seeks to claim `credit` for having verified this fact. At the end of the month Trump and Clinton engage in their first of a series of TV debates. Trump blames a faulty microphone for a performance described as “poor and erratic”. He is a bad loser and he lost badly. Hillarious is four points ahead in the polls at the end of round one. It may get better but it will almost certainly get worse and messier first.

In other news the Junior Hospital Doctors called off their next planned strike following a sharp warning from the GMC about the likely effects of their proposed “serious escalation” of industrial action and the statement from the CEO of the NHS, Simon Stevens, who said that the strike would “cause serious harm to high-risk patients. In her first personal intervention in the issue the Prime Minister said that the Union was “playing politics with patients` lives”. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges had already condemned the proposed strikes as `disproportionate` while the BMA`s Dr Mark Porter refused to release voting figures, believed to be sixteen for and fourteen against, when the committee voted on the action. Initially Dr.Helen McCourt, the Junior Doctors` Chairman, had claimed that the strike was planned in the interests of “patient safety” and “the safety of junior doctors” but it emerged that the effects of the first strike were four times worse than at first thought with five hundred thousand procedures and four million appointments cancelled. With rising concern within the BMA itself about the damage to the service and loss of public support Dr McCourt saw off a challenge to her leadership from Ben White and Nadia Mason of the left-wing `Justice for Health` Campaign Group and the plug was pulled on the series of planned 5-day strikes.

The controversial Hinckley point nuclear power station has been given the go-ahead after the Prime Minister put the £18 billion project on hold and called for a review. Board members of EDF, the French power company driving the project with the Chinese, were seeking to mount a legal challenge to their own majority decision. There remain concerns that Hinckley will be out of date by the time that it is commissioned as a new generation of smaller, cheaper, safer and more efficient molten salt power stations come on stream. With technological improvements it is also likely that energy generated by offshore wind turbines will produce power at well below the Hinckley `strike price`. It has emerged that henceforth the security services – MI5 and MI6 – will vet foreign firms engaged in critical infrastructure projects.

The ludicrous Iraq Historical Allegations Team (Ihat) established by Gordon Brown to examine accusations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by British soldiers has been exposed as a gravy-train for questionable legal firms “ambulance-chasing” at the expense of the legal aid budget in the interests of mischievous or spurious claims by foreign nationals. Some 1500 `allegations` have been under consideration with officers and men found to be facing double and triple jeopardy and referral to the Services Prosecuting Authority. In this context the word “betrayal” of our armed forces has been used and my colleague Jonny Mercer who has seen armed service in Afghanistan and heads up a Commons committee looking into the matter has accused the authorities of “re-writing history”. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has referred to troops as “the victims of a witch hunt” and even former Prime Minister Blair has called for Ihat to be wound up. Reg Keys, the father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys who, at the age of 20, was murdered with five other military police officers has called for the creation of a Department for Veterans Affairs to protect and speak for our service men and women. The names of the seven Iraqi murderers who carried out the killing of Mr Keys` son and his comrades are known but withheld under the Data protection Act. As he so rightly says “Freedom is not free”. It comes at a terrible price and it is beyond time that we stood up for our armed forces rather than the enemy that they engage with on our behalf and at our instruction.

On a happier note and following the success of our athletes at the Rio Olympic Games our Paralympians – including, of course, a number of those former members of our armed forces injured in Iraq and Afghanistan - returned home in triumph with a record clutch of gold, silver and bronze medals. Wrong really, in such a tremendous team effort, to single out one individual but surely Dame Sarah Story must take the ultimate accolade. Dame Sarah won her first two gold medals in the 1992 Paralympics in the swimming pool before turning to cycling. With 12 Gold Medals to her name she has now passed Tanni Grey-Thompson`s record to become the most decorate Paralympic athlete of all time.


Or should that be Ballsroom Watch? My friend Ed Balls, who loaned his name unwittingly to this item, has been tripping – I use the word advisedly – around the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom floor. The forty-nine year old former Shadow Chancellor has been described as looking like a `camp rugby player` and is a 66/1 outsider in the contest. Contrary to expectations he did not, however, fall at the first fence which is some credit to his “jockey”, the highly professional dancer Katya Jones. The judges, though, are reportedly still waiting for him to `emerge from his chrysalis` I fear they may have a long wait.

It is some years since the creation of the “Lords` Speaker`, a controversially and some would say wholly unnecessary high and pompous office. For the first time a male, Lord Fowler, formerly Margaret Thatcher`s Cabinet Minister Norman Fowler, has been elected to take the Chair in the Upper House. Norman has already ruffled a few feathers in saying that there are far too many peers and that the number ought, at the next election, to be culled to some 600 which is the same proposed total for members of the House of Commons.

Film Director Paolo Sorrentino wants to make “Berlusconi the Movie”. Bring on the casting couch!

Mr. Farridge, having surrendered the leadership of UKIP and abandoned, at least until next week, his parliamentary ambitions will, one the European Elections are behind us with UK participation, be out of a job. “Step forward “Russia Today”. The Kremlin-backed television programme which has offered our superhero a job as a presenter.

That Grade One listed building that houses parliament, the Palace of Westminster, is in need of a total refit. It is proposed that the House of Commons will move to Richmond House in Whitehall, currently the home of the Department of Health, between 2022 and 2028 while the House of Lords will take up temporary accommodation in the QE 11 Conference Centre off Parliament Square. Why not just chop down the eucalyptus trees that adorn, at vast expense, the Atrium of Portcullis House and construct a temporary Commons chamber and voting lobbies in the centre of the building that already hosts most MP`s offices?

There are four thousand prisoners over the age of sixty now in custody and over one hundred over the age of eighty. This poses the need for “Pensioner Prisons” as many of these inmates are not only elderly but inform. The fastest-growing age group detained at Her Majesty`s pleasure has tripled in fifteen years and with eight out of ten suffering from serious illness or disability there is a demand for “custodial residential care”.

The EU may have banned halogen spotlights but it is believed that British stores have accumulated at least five years` worth of bulbs. At two million a year that`s a lot of light.

There is, says the Integration Tsar Dame Louise Casey, a politically-correct threat to Christmas for fear of `causing offence`. “We must uphold” she says ”core British laws, traditions and cultures”. Quite so.

“Immigration is killing off the Queen`s English”. So says the University of York. Estuary English, that Essex mixture of cockney and Neighbours-based `Strine`, which was appalling enough in its own right, is now succumbing to `Multicultural London English` spoken by incomers who cannot, it seems master the Dental Nonsibilant Fricative or, in plain British, the manoeuvre that generates the sound “th”.
“Th” is therefore now being replaced with “f” and “d” and “v” so “mother” becomes “muvver” and you can work the rest out for yourselves. Time for a “Save the Interdental consonants” campaign perhaps.

Thieves in waders and flippers have been apprehended stealing at least seven hundred golf balls from a lake at the privately-owned Manor Golf Club in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. The owner of the club has rights to retrieve the balls from the `water hazard` and re-cycles them at 60 pence a time. The constabulary are now on golf ballswatch.


The Right Reverend David Jenkins, the Bishop of Durham between 1984 and 1994, has surrendered his turbulent priesthood at 91 years of age. There are those that claim that the lightning strike upon York Minster was a sign of heavenly displeasure at certain aspects of his ministry.

Richard Neville, founding editor of the underground satirical magazine Oz that thrived during the late 1960s and early 70s has signed off at 74.

The Tiger in your Tank has roared his last. Tango, rescued from a German circus and the famous star of the Esso television commercials was, at 22, the oldest big cat resident of the Woodside Wildlife Park in Lincolnshire,

Sir Trevor Jones was, as “Jones the Vote” the mastermind behind the Liberal Party`s annus mirabilis that in 1972/73 challenged militant tendency`s `reign of terror` on Liverpool Council. Sir Trevor, who marshalled local issues and sent them into electoral battle, is arguably responsible for the brand of `pavement politics` that has transformed Members of Parliament rom legislators into Social Workers.
He has left his mark.

Seventy-seven year old Ken Purchase, the much-loved Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton North East between 1992 and 2010 , was Parliamentary Private Secretary to `another redhead`, Robin Cook. When Cook resigned as Foreign Secretary in 2002 over the Iraq War Ken fell on his sword as well. Parliament needs more people like the now late Ken Purchase.

And on our side of The House John watts, who has died at sixty-nine, was the Member of Parliament for Slough for fourteen years, serving three of them as John Major`s Transport Minister who presided over the rail privatisation legislation. He lost his seat in the Labour landslide of 1997 and suffered a brain haemorrhage from which he never fully recovered.

At 93 Shimon Perez, who with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Israeli-Palestine Oslo Accord in 1993 and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for that endeavour in 1994, has passed over. Perez held virtually every high office that the State of Israel has to offer. Incredibly his seven decades in politics commenced even before the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Others will now have to pursue his dream of a two-state solution to the conflict.

And finally…………

Alongside the newly-issued `plastic` five-pound note comes a £5 “Jack Cornwall” coin struck to commemorate the naval Battle of Jutland. Six thousand One Hundred and Ninety-Four British sailors died in that one night`s naval engagement and Jack Cornwall was, the youngest victim at the age of just sixteen. Having entered the navy as a boy recruit Cornwall was a gunnery sight-setter on HMS Chester which seventeen direct hits. Cornwall stayed at his post while all around him lay dead. The Chester made landing in the Humber estuary after the battle but three days later Jack Cornwall died of the injuries that he had sustained. His body lies in Manor Park Cemetery in East London.

“It is not wealth or ancestry but honourable conduct and a noble disposition that maketh men great”.

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