Westminster View- December 2020
December. Brexit deal on the cliff edge. Mayor Boris makes a dash to Brussels for a dinner with Ursula von Der Leyen. It`s supposed to be a charm offensive not offensive and charmless. A car-crash and lukewarm menu with too much fish on the agenda. “Australia-type” is the new euphemism for a No-Deal that even the Aussies themselves do not appear to relish. The unemployment toll rises as Mister Philip Green`s Arcadia `empire` crashes. Do we seriously need to add No Deal to the economic meltdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic? Sky Television`s Kay “My Viewers” Burley holds an unwise Big Birthday bash and is taken off air for six months in reprisal. Also present was Sky`s Political Correspondent Beth Rigby who is given the red card and is now `on the bench`. Sky`s A-team moves in to seamlessly fill the gaps and some bright new stars begin to shine. We said it would end in tiers but the tears are only just starting to fall. With the Bougeoise Women`s Tabloid and the Faragiste right within the Tory Party railing against the effects of lockdown the administration is yet again browbeaten into doing too little and far too late. A super-infectious new mutant strain of the Covid 19 virus is identified by our World-beating genomic teams as having originated, probably, in Kent. Trumpeted abroad, almost literally, this leads most of Europe to close its doors to just about all visitors from Britain apart from the Brexit negotiating teams. Never one to miss an opportunity to `grandstand` in the self-interests of his own political capital M. Macron slams the door on the cross-channel ferries and the Channel Tunnel, helpfully stranding about eight thousand European truck drivers all hoping to get home for Christmas. Mr. William Shakespeare (81), recipient of an early anti-Covid jab, reduces Health Secretary Matt Hancock to loud sobs of joy on Breakfast Television. Some are unkind enough to suggest that this was excessively over histrionic: others merely opine that such overt displays of emotion are not suited to the British breakfast table and ought to be confined to after the watershed. Not content with politics, pestilence and death the Gods, in a spirit of playful pre-Christmas festivity, add Storm Bella generating floods, in some cases resulting Yuletide homelessness, into the mix as well. On the other side of the Atlantic The Donald “I`m Her Yesterday`s Man” Tramp loses a final throw of the electoral `it was rigged` dice in the Texas Supreme Court and, while still claiming that the Presidential Election was stolen from him, is told for good measure by its owners that as a resident he is persona non grata in his favoured Florida playground ground Mar-a-Lago. On the brighter side we end one of the worst months of one of the worst years in most people`s living memory with an EU deal that is better than No Deal, and approval for the use of an Oxford-created British Vaccine. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Wills and Kate) embark, in the Royal Train, upon a `cheer up Britain` tour of the land which, apart from some characteristically churlish reactions from over the Borders `went down rather well really, didn`t it`. And Her Maj and Prince Philip, having got a suitably restrained Christmas message in the can with the help of a carefully socially-distanced team of television technicians, spent a quiet Christmas in their `Windsor bubble` instead of, as usual, with the extended family at Sandringham. Which must have been bliss.
While nobody would wish upon any Prime Minister the pandemic through which the United Kingdom and the rest of the liberal democracies are still struggling I think that it is likely that when the findings of the inevitable Public Inquiry are finally published in ten or fifteen years’ time the management of the crisis by Mayor Boris may be found to have been wanting. It is, of course, easy to be wise after the event but it is also not unreasonable to expect that an administration should learn from its mistakes and not replicate them. From a standing start back in March we were in reaction-mode and we have failed consistently to take pre-emptive action ever since. The warning signals from Italy and then Spain were flashing some six weeks before the first lockdown but we were still largely ill-prepared when the tsunami landed on our shores. We have, ever since, been running to catch up while at the same time engaging in a “brakes on-brakes off – brakes on” process that would have repeatedly failed the learner driver. December has been a repetition of many of the same stop-start errors, this time with the nation divided into Tiers, that have bedeviled the war against the pandemic from the very beginning with Too Little, Too Late, Too Soft being the order of the day.
We have been “guided by the science” just until the anti-lockdown Covid hawks on the dry economic wing of the Conservative Party in the Commons have had their say. The result has been, as a result, still more costly in blood and treasure than might otherwise have been the case had robust action been taken in timely fashion. We know that the post-Cummings Barnard Castle visit relaxation of controls and the exodus from the cities to our seasides during a relatively long hot summer laid the kindling for the fire that ignited when thousands of university students returned to College at the start of the Autumn term. The relatively clear “Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS” messaging of the Spring lockdown was replaced, with the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, with a seemingly incomprehensible catalogue of tiered restrictions based upon geographical location in relation to the incidence of Covid 19 cases. When voted on in the Commons the, at that time, 3-tiered programme of lockdowns received a healthy vote “aye” of 291 with some seventy-eight “noes” that included die-hard (in this case possibly literally) Tories, together with ` Scottish Nationalists` as Mr. Speaker Hoyle tells us we must not call them. (They are, officially, the Scottish National Party). Her Majesty`s loyal opposition courageously abstained – so no hint of strong future government from Mr. Kier Hardie Starmer then! While it is fair to say that Starmer`s Labour Party are starting to make even the Liberal Democrats look like amateurs when it comes to fence-sitting it is also true that although the `lockdown principle` was reasonable as a policy there was a distinct lack of regional clarity in the methodology used to determine who might still mix with who, which struggling businesses would remain open and which would be forced to close again and which pubs could continue to serve beer without a `substantial meal` of Scotch Eggs and which hostelries would have to shut – some of them probably for good.
Simultaneously Downing Street was urging us to look forward to Santa Boris`s five-day lifting of restrictions over Christmas as the marzipan and icing on the sour dough of lockdown if we all behaved and did not end up on the naughty list. Accordingly, across the land family reunions were planned, travel and even some sunshine holidays booked and overweight turkeys ordered for multi-household feasts. In my own defence I, having consulted Old Windy`s Almanack, shifted into full-blown Eeyore gear and declared very publicly that allowing the entire population of the British Isles to roam free-range across the country was certifiable madness and a recipe for a New Year’s blossoming of a third wave of Covid 19 at, from the point of view of the National Health Service, the worst possible time of the year. And not only that but we would be sending children back to school and students back to university again. Will we never learn from our mistakes? Apparently not.
And then came the mutant and still more virulent strain of the disease born, it is said, in our own beautiful County of Kent although there are signs that the virus was mutating in other parts of the country and other parts of the World as well.
It is not strictly true to say that here was no warning of this event. A Health document submitted to Number 10 in mid-summer contained recommendations for response to a number of likely scenarios including the probability of the emergence of a mutant strain. That document is now probably propping up a wobbly table in the office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster but it is, perhaps, a pity that it did not warrant more attention at the time as we might possibly have been rather better prepared for this next crisis to land on the Prime Ministers desk.
Unlike our `world-beating` test-and-trace service and one or two other over-promoted and under-performing gimmicks the UK`s genome science is genuinely second to none. We may well have been the victims of our own success because it is almost certain that variant strains of Covid 19 have appeared in France, Germany, Italy, Spain. The United States and many other countries as well. By announcing our discovery of the mutant strain in Kent to the four corners of the earth the four corners of the EU and other countries promptly slammed the door in the face of travellers from Britain and summarily terminated many Christmas sunshine holiday plans. Le Macrobe went further. With the EU/UK Brexit deal negotiations in the final throes and with the issue of fishing rights, of which more later, still very much on the slab, the French President seized the opportunity to play to the domestic gallery and to close the cross-channel and other borders between Britain and France. With French Presidential elections just over the horizon it was clearly too good an opportunity to miss to appear macho. It was also a spectacular own-goal and the European Transport Commissioner complained bitterly that Le Macrobe had inadvertently and single-handedly prevented thousands of nice European truck drivers from making it home in time for the all-important European Christmas Eve.
Within minutes of the announcement that the borders were closing all roads leading to Dover and to the Channel Tunnel began to congeal. It could, though, have been a whole heap worse. For weeks Rachel MacLean, an excellent junior Minister working within one of the best-led and most functional departments of Government, Transport, had been working on plans to ensure that come a No Deal end to the Transition period on December 31st goods would somehow still flow across the Channel and that in the event of a bureaucratic logjam vehicle holding points, including Manston Airport in my constituency, would be prepared to store trucks off the road so that some traffic in Kent could keep moving. Nobody anticipated, of course, that an impromptu and full-scale dress rehearsal for possible New Year`s chaos would be sprung upon the country just four days before Christmas. In the event the main arterial roads leading to the ports and Dover itself were lined with several thousand lorries. More were parked in lay-bys and country lanes and at the peak over four thousand very angry lorry drivers were parked up with their vehicles on the main runway at Manston. Some tough and swift diplomacy led to an agreement that traffic across and under La Manche would resume as soon as drivers and passengers could be tested and certificated as negative for infection. Rachel MacLean and East Kent`s MPs, together with Kent County Council`s Resilience Forum, then spent the run up to Christmas and part of the holiday itself trying to ensure that the hordes of captive truckers were fed, watered, washed, abluted, tested and sent on their less than cheery way. In fact, by Christmas day itself almost all of the logjam had been cleared but many drivers were separated from their families for much of the festive season and because long-distance haulage drivers tend to self-isolate in their cabs out of thousands tested a relative handful were found to be Covid positive. Merci, Monsieur Macron!
In tandem with this mayhem the new and virulent strain of Covid 19 was sweeping through the country and sending those responsible for managing it into headless chicken mode. Into the equation came a new Tier 4 of lockdown resembling in all but name the restrictions of the first wave and out of the window went most people`s plans for family feasts and gatherings. The promised ` five-day break` was slashed to just one day, bars and restaurants that had been stocked for a brief but festive window of commercial opportunity found themselves effectively out of business and millions of large turkeys have been sacrificed on the altar of futility.
The light in all of this darkness has been, of course, the proving for use of a new vaccine created by the scientific excellence of Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstroZenica. Unlike the `Pfizer Vaccine`, a million doses of which have already been administered to frontline workers in the health and care services, the `Oxford` vaccine can be stored in an ordinary fridge, is cheap and cheerful to administer and ought to be a game-changer not just for Britain but globally as well. As with everything else connected with the handling of the pandemic there have been teething problems with the roll-out of the vaccine and it will still be many grim months before we can be certain that the light at the end of the tunnel is not just another train heading towards us but on the Covid front the month has ended on a far more positive note than it began.
The same cannot be said, unfortunately, of the Department for Education`s handling of the return to school in the New Year. Plans were laid for an orderly return of Primary Schools on January 4th 2021 with secondary schools, Staff and pupils having been tested, a week later and University students making a staggered return later still. That was, of course, all dreamed up before the spread of Mutant Covid and the Tier 4 restrictions upon vast swathes of the country. An alarming escalation in infection, hospitalization and death precipitated more knee-jerk reactions. ” When the facts change we change the policy” is a perfectly acceptable and intelligent position to take. Unfortunately, however, while it was determined upon the basis of some obscure formula that Primary schools in some Tier Four areas would delay their start date others, also in Tier 4 areas such as East Kent but on the basis of the doctrinaire mantra that `children must not miss out one education ` (even if it places the lives of teachers and vulnerable family adults at risk) were told that they had to open come what may. This has led to an avalanche of representations from concerned parents and teachers, to yet another U-turn in parts of London and to a degree of Ministerial intransigence culminating in an undertaking to review the policy on January 5th – a day after the planned Primary school return! Another nice dispute upon which to start 2021.
And then there was Brexit!
Those with long memories will recall that as Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated a Trade and relationship with the EU that foundered in the Commons for a number of reasons not the least of which was the proposal for a “Northern Ireland Backstop”. It was said at the time that no British Prime Minister would accept the alternative of an agreement that contained a provision for a border down the Irish Sea, a position endorsed by one Mr. Boris Johnson. Scroll forward to the next Prime Minister and that same Mr. Boris Johnson signed, in December 2019, a Withdrawal Agreement that contains the provision for ……. a border down the Irish Sea. That of itself may sow the seeds of the plebiscite necessary to reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic in the South. In the Commons debate on the finally agreed Trade Deal just after Christmas Mrs. May reminded the Leader of the Labour Party, from whom she was minded to take “no lessons”, that he had the opportunity to vote for a better deal – her own – during her premiership but that he had declined to do so! Viewers may have noticed the current Prime Minister squirming on the front bench during that exchange.
Each of the many months leading up to December has seen shuttle diplomacy or, to be more precise, acrimonious brinkmanship, between Brussels and London as deadlines have come and gone and the witching hour of 11.pm on 31st December 2020 has drawn nearer. Time and again people have called for an extension to the deadline and time and again I have had to explain that the date and time are fixed in an Act of Parliament, that to change it would require a further piece of legislation and that there is no parliamentary majority to carry that through both Houses. Even though the European Union has a habit of taking matters to the wire it really did look as though we were going to end the transition period on “Australian Terms” which was Mayor Boris`s euphemism for “crashing over the cliff edge”. His late night dash to Brussels for a dam-busting dinner with Ursula Von der Luyen was reportedly about as successful as his attempt, while Foreign Secretary, to secure the release of Nazarin Zaghari Ratcliffe from the Iranian prison in which she still languishes. Diplomacy is not, it seems, the present Prime Minister`s forte but perhaps there is just no German word for “bluster”.
It did seem highly likely that an agreement of which about 99% had been approved was going to founder for the sake of five fishes and a few small loans. I was not thanked by Conservative colleagues for saying very publicly that if he failed to secure a deal then the Prime Minister, having broken yet another pre-electoral promise, would have no honourable option other than to resign. Given the pressure from the hard men of the European Reform Group, many of whom wanted the UK to leave on “WTO terms” that I believe would, upon top of the economic effects of the pandemic, have been catastrophic, it seemed to me that there was an alternative message that had to be sent to Number 10. In the end something approximating common sense did prevail at the eleventh hour, our negotiator Lord Frost and the EU`s negotiator Michel Barnier shook hands or bumped elbows or whatever now constitutes the sealing of a bond, Mr Johnson gave Frau Von der Leyen a thumbs-up, European Ambassadors were summoned to indicate their national assents, parliament was recalled for a day and the deal was signed.
I myself voted for the agreement reached with the European Union. I did so not because it is perfect - far from it - but because it is the least worst of the options available. To have ended the transition period with no deal at all would, I believe, have been quite simply economically and diplomatically unsustainable.
It appears to me, however, that we have spent the last four years and huge amounts of time, money and political capital reinventing the wheel. The suggestion that we have “achieved a trade deal worth six hundred and fifty billion pounds “with the European Union has all the hallmarks of a “side- of- the-campaign- bus” slogan about it that is, to say the least, disingenuous. What we are now presented with is a treaty that delivers most but not all of the trade arrangements that we previously enjoyed with the remaining twenty-seven countries of the European Union with strings attached and no further say in policy or regulation. We shall no longer be members of the Customs Union so although our trade with the EU will continue to be tariff-free and unlimited by quota or quantity our exporters and importers will face a level of bureaucracy and paperwork that can only add to the cost of the goods that we purchase and to a further loss of productive jobs. Kent will face the additional requirement to process the “Kent Access Pass” that will still be required to establish that freight vehicles are carrying the correct documentation before they are allowed to enter the County.
The agreement reached is a trade deal. It does not cover the financial and other services that make up much of the European economic benefit to the United Kingdom and it has yet to be seen to what extent those sectors will, over time, be diminished as a result of our departure from the EU. We also shall no longer be part of the Erasmus student exchange programme that has benefitted generations of British students through exposure to the talents of pan-European institutions. Erasmus will be replaced with a UK taxpayer funded multi-million pound global “Turing” scholarship scheme to facilitate worldwide educational travel. The full details have yet to be released but as the best educational institutions outside the United Kingdom and the “Ivy League” US universities are in Europe we have to hope that British students will still be able to access those centres of academic excellence.
As it stands the agreement contains inadequate provision for the hitherto accepted mutual recognition of professional qualifications. That will inevitably have the potential to inhibit the free exchange of medical and veterinary professionals, of which the UK already suffers from a desperate shortage, engineers, architects, lawyers, scientists and many others from whose services we have all benefitted over many years.
We also have to hope that relationships between our own and European security and counter-terrorism forces will somehow be maintained but the formal Europol and other liaisons will clearly be weakened to the disadvantage of both the UK and the EU and to the advantage of those powers and movements that wish us ill.
Freedom of movement has, with to date no reduction in net immigration, been replaced with restrictions upon our own freedom to travel and remain within the countries of Europe as well as with restrictions upon those from European countries upon whose labour our health and care services, agriculture and many other industries and businesses have depended. Our health cover within the European Union is said to have been preserved following the expiry of the E111 health insurance card but the details are unclear and as of today Government advice remains that those travelling abroad should, if they can get it, take out health insurance. As of 31st December all those driving abroad will now also be required to carry and produce on demand require a green motor insurance certificate.
We have, until now, “punched above our weight” in the global ring. “Brexit” has, however, come at a significant cost in diplomatic and international standing as we have recently demonstrated a willingness to break our word and formal undertakings. Do not underestimate the long-term effects of the crass handling of the “Internal Markets Bill” Even our staunchest of allies in the United States and the `Old Commonwealth` have watched in disbelief as we have shredded political and economic capital and tossed it to the four winds. We are still a member of NATO, certainly, and at present we maintain our place at the High Table in the United nations. We also remain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and to our membership of the Council of Europe. But for how long will this United Kingdom now remain united? The Scots will, if afforded the opportunity, hold and are likely to win an independence referendum, leave the EU and re-join the European Union and if that happens it is highly likely that Northern Ireland would then wish to hold the necessary plebiscite and unite with the Irish Republic and also the EU.
Will the “Brexit Emperor” be revealed to have no clothes? And will Mr. Johnson go down in history as the Prime Minister who precipitated the break-up of our United Kingdom? I am not always right and I hope that I am wrong this time. I am passionately British and a patriot and I fervently hope that the Union and our standing in the World will be maintained for another thousand years. But I have grave doubts.
On the brighter side, we have a deal. Our businesses and industries now have a degree of certainty upon which to plan the brave new world. We also have a supply of vaccines coming on stream that may see the end of the Covid 19 pandemic and without dangerously over-promising 2021 will perhaps be the year in which we can all begin to return to normality and to re-build not just our economy but our health, our happiness and our family and community lives. Very best wishes for the coming twelve months.
Strikes planned for London Heathrow Airport over four days in the run-up to Christmas. LHR has suffered a £1.5 billion loss due to the pandemic and the aviation industry is on its knees. Don`t those representing baggage handlers, engineers, fireman and security staff understand that this is not about `pay cuts` but about survival?
From January 1st 2021 the price of a first class stamp will have risen by 12% to 85p. Now for those who are old enough to remember the penny black………
One of Mayor Khan`s Greater London Assembly aides is reported to be paid £120 k per year. While working eight hours behind London in California. Nice work if you can get it.
This year`s grotto had to be visited by Zoom to Lapland. Those not on the Naughty List were offered good chatting value for their parents` money but sadly the elves were still on furlough. Meanwhile an academic hired by Fiat to promote the company`s zero-carbon Ducato electric delivery van has calculated that Santa`s team of eight reindeer plus Rudolph will generate twenty-two tons of CO2 through flatulence while traversing Britain.
Not sure that I would recognise the Northfield parliamentary seat that I nearly won in a by-election in 1982. `The Austin` (car factory) is long gone of course but Birmingham Council has now given a new estate names straight out of Ricky Gervais` pre-woke 2013 Comic Relief sketch. `Respect Way`, `Destiny Road`, `Inspire Avenue`, `Humanity Close`, `Diversity Close` and, of course, `Equality Street`!
And Haringey residents are up in arms over attempts to re-christen as `La Rose Lane` the thoroughfare named 300 years ago for the locality`s chimney sweeps - Black Boy Lane.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Barnett, fresh from his spat with the Home Secretary Priti `Flamingo` Patel, has hit out at those who have criticised the judiciary for not handing out stiffer sentences to the three teenage burglars who in a horrific manner killed PC Andrew Harper while the latter was trying to apprehend them. The Law Lord believes that such criticism “undermines the rule of law”. Just sometimes, M`Lud, us common folk who live in the real world cannot help feeling that the law is an ass.
Readers may be surprised to know that I have this year`s Number 10 Christmas card on my mantelpiece. Of course I do! It sports a splendid photo of Carrie Symonds` dog Dilyn on the cover.
Her Maj`s Christmas message was this year recorded `bubble-wrapped` in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor. Eagle eyed observers have noted that instead of the Sandringham array of family photos there was this year just one picture on the table beside her – of her husband, Prince Philip, who will celebrate his 100th birthday during the coming year.
And the new cry from this year`s Christmas pantomime (if you can find one) is, of course……” He`s two metres behind you………”!
Janine de Greet (95) was the Belgian heroine of the escape line that assisted more than three hundred allied service personnel over the Pyrenees to safety during the Second World War. Le Resau Comite, founded in 1941 with the help pf MI19, was a family business involving her Father, Mother and Brother as well as Mme. De Greet herself. For her service she was awarded the King`s Medal for Courage, the US Freedom medal, and Belgian and French awards for gallantry.
Valery Giscard d`Estaing (94) was the centre-right third President of the French 5th Republic between 1974 and 1981. Serving first under Charles de Gaulle following wartime work with the resistance as a teenager he defeated his United Left presidential opponent, Francois Mitterand, by two hundred thousand votes. He was the holder of the Croix de Guerre.
Peter Alliss (89) contributed, as a professional golfer, to the winning of eight Ryder Cups, ten Canada Cups and was a three-times PGA Champion. He was the voice of Television golf commentary in the UK for the best part of forty years.
Doug Scott (79) was, with Dougal Haston, one of the first two English mountaineers to, in 1975, conquer Mount Everest. In the course of his climbing career he participated in forty-five expeditions to the High Mountains of Asia.
The wartime fighter ace Chuck Yeager (97) first broke the sound barrier in a manned aircraft on October 14th 1947. He was inducted into the NationaL Aviation Hall of Fane in 1973 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Married to Glennis for fifty-five years, all of his aircraft, including the one in which he broke the sound barrier were named Glamourous Glennis after her.
Maria Fyfe (82) was, when elected as the Member of Parliament for Maryhill, Scotland`s only female MP. An active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, she was a prominent player in the Aldermaston demonstrations of 1961.
Dame Barbara Windsor (83) was the saucy star of many” Carry On” films and subsequently Peggy Marshall, the landlady of the Queen Vic public house in Eastenders in which she first appeared in November 1994 at the start of a sixteen year run. A sometime companion of the Kray twins and Ronnie Knight the 4`10” actress appeared for Joan Littlewood`s Stratford East in `Fings Ain`t What They Used to Be` in 1960 and also played at the Chichester Festival Theatre and in the film of Sparrows Can`t Sing. She was awarded the MBE in 200 and made a Dame of the British Empire in 2016 for her services to charity and entertainment.
Kenneth Alwyn (95) conducted the BBC “Friday Night is Music Night” Concert Orchestra for thirty years. He presided over Decca records first stereo recording of the 1812 Overture with the London Symphony Orchestra and the band of the Grenadier Guards and in London`s West End worked with Tyrone Guthrie on productions of HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Other shows included “Oliver!”, “Carousel” and “Guys and Dolls”.
John Le Carre (89) created a cast of fictional spies that were far removed from what he considered to be “Consumer Goods Heroes”. The Cold War anti-hero George Smiley of the 1963 Berlin-wall era novel “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” was not a glamourous Bond-style `Double-O` licensed killer but an isolated figure. Le Carre was born in my own hometown, Poole, in Dorset. He joined the Intelligence Corps in 1949 and following National Service he joined the Special Intelligence Service (MI6) working in Bonn and Hamburg. His sequence of novels includes “Call for the dead” (1961), “A Murder of Quality” (1962), “The Looking Glass War” (1965), “A Small Town in Germany” (1968) “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (1974), “Smiley`s People” (1979) Filmed starring Sir Alec Guinness and “A legacy of Spies” (2001)
Gerard Houlier (73) was the Manager of Liverpool Football Team between 1998 and 2004 winning, in the 2001/2002 season, five trophies including The Football League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. He was with Paris St. Germain in 1985, Lyon in 2005 and Aston Villa in 2010. He was made a Chevalier de Legion D`Honneur in 2002 and was awarded an honorary OBE in 2003.
Rosalind Knight (87) featured as Nurse Nightingale I “Carry on Nurse” in 1959. With the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1961 she appeared in Much Ado About Nothing and As you Like It. In the West End she played at the Garrick Theatre in 1969/70 in “She Stoops to Conquer” and at The Old Vic (1994/95) in” The Importance of Being Earnest” She filmed with Albert Finney in “Tom Jones” and on the small screen in “Only Fools and Horses” and “Coronation Street”.
George Blake (98) was a Cold War double-agent and traitor guilty of betraying fellow-agents and sending them to their deaths. Sentenced in 1961 to 42 years in prison he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966 and travelled vis Berlin to Moscow where he remained until his death.
John Edrich (83) the left-handed Norfolk and Surrey cricketer played in seventy-seven test matches between 1963 and 1976 with an average of 43.54 runs per match. Against Australia he scored a total of 2644 runs (Average 48.96). At Headingly against New Zealand he knocked up 310 Not Out and his total score in all First Class cricket was 39,790 which included 103 centuries. De was awarded his MBE in 1977.
And Pierre Cardin (98) trained as a master tailor with Dior and founded his own fashion House and business empire in 1950. The man who dressed The Beatles and Marlene Dietrich amongst many others shocked the fashion world by launching Pret a Porter in Au Printemps in Paris in 1958. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion D`Honneur in 1983 and was a member of the Académie Francaise.
Fundraiser exraordinaire and national icon Colonel Sir Thomas Moore now has his own brand of gin named after him. Another lift of the spirits and what a tonic the old warrior is!