Gale's View from Westminster
His `casual relationship with the truth` has finally caught up with Mr Johnson. The Prime Minister will leave Downing Street in September but the Partymaker`s planned wedding bash at Chequers will no longer be allowed to swing. (Other venues are available). The Conservative Parliamentary Party offers the membership a choice of two of Johnson`s Cabinet Members as their next leader. If the Prime Minister had wanted to leave the country he might have found it difficult to do so as the border farce brings the Port of Dover, The Channel Tunnel and airports to a gridlocked halt at the start of the summer `getaway`.
No flights, either, for migrants bound for Rwanda. Patel`s strategy hits the buffers in the Court of Human Rights. The Home Secretary declines to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee. With twice as many illegal cross channel migrants arriving as in 2021 - fifteen thousand to date – and hotel bills for twenty-six thousand migrants running at three million pounds a day she might have felt just a little vulnerable.
Britain` feels the heat` as climate changed temparatures break all records but the cost of heating and living are poised to bite further come the winter.. A deal is struck to allow grain from Ukraine to reach a starving developing world and Putin celebrates the signing of that deal by shelling the Black Sea `grain port` of Odessa. To the north Finland`s defences are strengthened against a possible attack from the neo-Soviet Union. The `Northern Ireland Protocol Bill` blunders its way through the Commons in defiance of an international treaty signed in good faith. The EU/UK Trade deal remains unsurprisingly deadlocked as a result. Mo Farah `comes out` as an imposter, wildfires rage through Havering in East London, a 26 billion pound nuclear reactor, Sizewell C in Suffolk, is given the go ahead. The Tramp watched the storming of Congress on TV while declining to call for calm, food prices are rising at the fastest rate since 2005 but there are still strawbeerioes and cream at the Wimbledon Croquet and Lawn Tennis club; rail strikes disropt travel-to-work, TV cameras are allowed into the Old Bailey; the Commomwealth Games open in Birmingham; on the last day of the month Britain`s Lionesses win the European Football cup and the James Webb Space telescope peers into the origins of the universe to remind us all how pathetically insignificant we really are.
“Are you pleased” I am asked “to have got rid of Prime Minister Johnson”? No, of course I am not. I take neither pleasure nor satisfaction in seeing a parliamentary colleague on either side of the House brought low for any reason whatsoever. What tarnishes one of us tarnishes all of us and we all have our failings. The fact of the matter is, however, that Mr. Johnson had to go. Contrary to the view expressed by the Secretary of State for Culture, ‘Mad Nad` Dorries (along with Mr. Mogg a fully paid-up member of the Bojo fan club), there was no conspiracy or `coup` that precipitated Mr. Johnson`s political demise. It is a matter of record that my own letter to Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee calling for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister was submitted immediately after the `Barnard Castle affair’, getting on for two years ago. That incident confirmed my own belief that the Prime Minister`s judgement was deeply flawed and that he was not a safe choice to be allowed to remain in charge at Number Ten. Others, politically more generous perhaps and cognisant that in 2019 Johnson helped to deliver a massive parliamentary majority for the Conservative Party, were inclined to give him more rope upon which to hang himself. A myriad of half-truths, lies and indiscretions later, almost a third of the parliamentary Tory Party expressed the view in a secret ballot that they had no confidence in this Prime Minister.
A sensible man would have seen the writing on the wall and would have volunteered a dignified exit in the knowledge that it would only be a matter of time before another falsehood or another gaffe would shove him through the exit door. But Mr Johnson is not a Margaret Thatcher or a Theresa May and he does not do that kind of sense nor dignity. It was therefore left to the drunken indiscretions of Mr Christopher Pincher, at the time the Government’s Deputy Chief Whip, after an evening of carousing in that Tory watering hole The Carlton Club, to act as the nemesis in this sorry affair. Mr. Pincher, a soul for whom one can only in all charity feel pity, should never have been re-appointed to Government office. Johnson tried to deny but was clearly aware that the man had previously been in `difficulties’ arising from alcohol-fuelled sexuality. Two years earlier he had departed his Ministerial post in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under something of a monsoon-sized cloud. It took the publication of a brutally frank letter from the former most senior civil servant Lord (Simon) Macdonald to trigger the end of the charade. In addition to nearly 150 back-bench MPs who had already given Johnson the `Black Spot,’ MacDonald’s letter, giving the lie to Johnson’s plea of ignorance, commenced a trickle of Ministerial resignations that, from Cabinet level downwards, swiftly turned into a torrent. By nightfall there were more ex-Ministers than there were those clinging on to office. Sajid Javid was replaced as Health Secretary by the Number 10 loyalist and Chief of Staff Steve Barclay, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was replaced by Nadhim Zahawi who only 24 hours later was telling the Prime Minister that he had to go. Michael Gove was levelled down and sacked, leaving him momentarily homeless, before could resign from Levelling up. Backbenchers were made Ministers overnight to try to fill the gaps in this failing administration. This, Ms. Dorries, was not a `coup’. It was a recognition that Johnson’s eccentric relationship with the truth had run out of road. It could have been so very different but like a number of the beds that Mr. Johnson has slept in this one was entirely of his own making.
In the first of two self- justifying valedictory speeches, the Prime Minister said “when the herd moves, it moves and in politics no-one is remotely indispensable”. The `herd’ in this case was, I believe, the British people who finally persuaded their elected representatives that `up with this we will not put’. While there are even now those who would like to see Johnson’s name on the Leadership ballot paper and who appear to be prepared to tolerate any degree of indiscretion in public life on the grounds that `he’s a character’, I believe that Johnson’s “Hasta La Vista Baby” swansong from the despatch box was stretching bravado too far. . Arnold Schwarznegger`s final line was “I’ll be back”. Mr Trump has more chance of a political resurrection than Mr Johnson. This is not `au revoir’ Mayor Boris.. It is goodbye.
In the beginning the hats in the ring belonged to Penny Mordaunt (Trade) , Elizabeth Truss (Foreign Secretary) Rishi Sunak (Treasury), Kemi Badenoch (Levelling Up), Nadhim Zahawi (Education) , Tom Tugendhat (Foreign Affairs Committee), Jeremy Hunt (Health Committee), Grant Shapps (Transport), Suiella Braverman (Law) and the lesser-known North Kent MP Rehman Chishti. Following the rules specifying a number of sponsors to stand Shapps and Chishti withdrew, Zahawi and Hunt and Braverman followed and that left my colleagues with the choices of Mordaunt (Brexiteer) Truss (`Born-Again Brexiteer’), Sunak, Badenoch and Tugendhat. Or looking at it another way - two members of Johnson`s Cabinet and three `Fresh Start’ candidates. Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch fell by the wayside, leaving the one-time favourite Penny Mordaunt, the former Chancellor and `Johnson Assassin’ (if you believe the tabloid press) Rishi Sunak leading the field with the Margaret Thatcher wannabee Liz Truss in the final parliamentary run-off. If five more of my colleagues had voted for Penny Mordaunt as I did myself it would have been her name and not that of Mrs. Truss on the ballot paper now being mailed out to party members but it was not to be. The Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid (aka `The Daily Mail`) ran a vicious and in my view deeply dishonest pro-Truss campaign against Ms Mordaunt; one has the feeling that a number of men who had unsuccessfully tried to grope Ms Mordaunt and whose unwelcome advances had been rebuffed took the opportunity to settle slights but such is the joy of political life.
We ( for all members now have one vote) are now left with a choice between what I have myself perhaps sourly described as a `Poundland Margaret Thatcher’ and a `Poundland Geoffrey Howe’. Some of us are old enough to have had the privilege of serving under the real McCoy and I think that those seeking office would be better off selling themselves as themselves, rather than trying to impersonate somebody else. I also think I speak for many Conservatives in saying that it would have been good to have had at least one `fresh start’ candidate to choose from and I would have been pleased to have seen either Badenoch or Mordaunt or Tugendhat standing alongside one of the re-treads . But people grow into jobs and once they have stopped promising the earth to the electorate and jobs to half of those on the Conservative benches in the House, either Mr Sunak or Ms Truss will have the daunting task of sorting out the cost of living crisis, the fuel price crisis, a looming series of national strikes and the war in Ukraine as well as trying to implement the 2019 Conservative manifesto, upon which we are continually reminded that we were all elected. I am sure that she did not welcome my comment at the time of her defeat but I did say to Penny Mordaunt that this is not a job that any kind person would wish upon a friend!
I have not declared for either candidate myself , which given the post-Johnson toxicity of my own `brand’ may be an advantage to one of them, but I wish them both well and the good luck that they are going to need by the shedload if they are to succeed.
All that said I shall, I fear, be once again crossing swords with my own side after September 5th . But, thank God, this time it will be over policy rather than personality or probity (I hope).
Both Sunak and Truss are wedded to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which, as it is in clear conflict with international law, I cannot and will not support. It was whipped through the House of Commons but a measure that is opposed by such a distinguished Brexiteer lawyer as Lord (Michael) Howard is likely and rightly going to be shredded in the Upper House. It simply cannot be right to unilaterally tear up even as dreadful a Withdrawal Treaty as that negotiated by Johnson and the self-important Lord Frost. To do so would be in breach of the Vienna Convention that we have also signed, and it is sad that an incoming Prime Minister is not taking the opportunity to reach out to the EU and to sort out the mess that threatens the Belfast Agreement, which they have been bequeathed.
I see no real sign that either Sunak or Truss will, while claiming to want to promote `self-sufficiency and British farming’, actually call a halt to the development for housing of the high-grade agricultural land that we are going to need upon which to grow the crops to make us more self-sufficient. I also fear that , although Truss has publicly pledged not to re-visit the Hunting Act, the ERG wing of the Tory Party may try to emasculate the Kept Animals Bill and to de-rail the Animals Abroad Bill.
Happily for the Tory Party while all of this blood-letting has been going on the Labour Parliamentary Party has been engaged in self-immolation and such pretence as Keir Starmer had in relation to Leadership lies in smouldering ruins, courtesy of the Transport Union’s Mick Lynch and Labour Shadow Ministers and backbenchers who, looking over their shoulders at de-selection have rushed to join their comrades on the picket lines in defiance of instructions from the man who will, surely, never survive to lead his Party into Number Ten. We have our differences, certainly, but by and large we are spared the internal loathing that our opposite numbers seem to reserve for Brothers, Sisters and Comrades on the Left, The Far Left and the Muscovite Militant tendencies of the outfit that was once led to victory by Mr. Blair.
We are not allowed to say that Brexit had anything to do with the chaos at the Channel Ports at the start of the summer holidays. It was, you see, all the fault of Les Grenouilles. The Police aux Frontieres got caught in a traffic jam having used Le Shuttle to Folkestone and finding themselves gridlocked like Les Anglais. So only four of ten customs control points installed by the Port of Dover Authority were actually manned. As a result M. Thomas Gale and his Femme et Famille (as seen on ITN) were stuck at Dover for four hours and missed their booked ferry.
In fact Tom and his wife Basma and our grandchildren were the lucky ones. Living only fifteen miles from the port they got to Dover before the fatal crash on the M20 shut the motorway and screwed up the whole County of Kent. Truck drivers were waiting for days and I am told that some families chose to spend their entire holiday lying in the scorching sun and picnicking on the motorway verges and did not bother to cross the channel at all. The point has been fairly made that an illegal migrant with no passport can get from France to England in a matter of hours while a British passport-carrying family with all their paperwork in order can take far longer to get from the White Cliffs of Dover to Calais!
Quite why the French frontier police chose to take the shuttle to Folkestone rather than taking the car ferry to Dover where they were actually needed is unclear as is the question why, when they were needed from 06.00 hrs, did they not travel in readiness the night before? A good restaurant in Nord Pas de Calais or a mistress in Sangatte perhaps? Who knows.
But none of this has anything at all to do with Brexit. Save for the fact, of course, that if we were still members if the European Union none of these border checks would be required at all. But we are not allowed to mention that. I cannot wait for the introduction of biometric checks on each individual car and lorry passenger and the chaos that that will cause. Can you?
Let`s end on an upbeat note. I made the time to watch every single match that the Lionesses played in during the Women’s European Football Cup series and I was not disappointed once. They played brilliantly, they had been wonderfully coached and they were a team. Not a bunch of prima donnas trying to outshine each other but an equipe in the real meaning of the word. As a result they deservedly brought home the silverware, deservedly partied hard afterwards and have given us memories that will last even the youngest of female and male aspirant players for England a lifetime. “The Girls done well”.
Good to know that the Culture Secretary `Mad Nad’ Dorries has a grasp of her brief. She appears, however to be unaware of the difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union as she revealed during a recent visit to St. Helens in Lancashire. It was the Rugby Union World Cup that Jonny Wilkinson clinched with his sensational drop goal, Nadine.
The DCMS might want to give some attention to the future of the British hostelry. As a result of changing drinking habits, Covid closures and rising costs there are now fewer pubs in which to sing rugby songs than at any time in recent history.
Following attempts by `woke` Liberal Democrat and Labour councils to change historic street names in the interests of `political correctness’, residents are to be given the right to vote on the desirability or otherwise of any proposed alterations.
Ms Angela Rayner, the Labour Member of Parliament, is reported to have requested that Hansard, the official journal of the House of Commons, does not correct the grammar in her observations on the floor of the House. This, apparently, is to protect her working class roots - and avoid translation into `politician speak`!
Dior, the fashion house, has come up with the perfect present for the man or woman who is `on the go’. A calfskin leather gardening set complete with Dior signature and comprising a rake `for raking’ and a spade `for digging’ and a seat for, presumably, `sitting’. A snip at a mere £7,100.
Gloucestershire constabulary boasts the second largest fleet of electric police vehicles in the country. However, the County’s Police and Crime Commissioner has observed that the design of the £37,000 cars “is not quite as advanced as I would like to see”. Because the batteries keep going flat.
The Permanent Secretary at the Home Office who has presided over the highest number of cross-channel migrant numbers and the Afghan refugee crisis, is due to trouser a fifteen thousand pound bonus on top of his £180k annual salary by way of an `unused holiday payment’. That should buy a couple of weeks in Ibiza next year. Or a fortnight in a queue at Dover.
As part of an `improvement plan to make it safer to get to school and to work, Kidsgrove Council in Staffordshire has installed a cycle lane. Twenty feet of it. The record, at just six feet, is still held by a village near Bristol.
The Church of England has no current definition of `a woman’. Remind me. What was it God created?
What would Jack Wetherill, former Speaker of the House of Commons and by profession a tailor, have made of current trends in London’s once-elegant Savile Row? Cloth Surgeon, one of the new kids on that block, is now purveying a range of `Street Wear’ - and for an appropriately exorbitant fee no doubt will cut you a perfect white T-shirt or a tracksuit.
It looks as though the premature departure of Johnson Minor from Downing Street may be responsible for the equally premature demise of the latest run of the `Spitting Image’ TV series. No show without Punch.
The race to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been described as `Love Island for ugly people’. The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror has described the exercise as `Out of the lying pan, into the dire’.
The European Bison, extinct in the wild for six thousand years, is back in Britain. The Wildwood Trust based in my constituency, together with the Kent Wildlife Trust, is leading the project at Blean Woods near Canterbury. They have acquired a bull and two females from Germany, a female from Scotland and two boisterous youngsters from Ireland. That adds up to about six tons of potential rampage.
Britain`s elite parachute regiment has been grounded. The Red Berets have been forced to suspend training jumps due to a cock-up in Whitehall that has delayed the delivery of new `chutes’.
A Department for Levelling Up training video warns that white civil servants should `be aware of their privileges’. ”White officials” we are told “should never contradict people from ethnic minorities”. And the Department for Health is asking new recruits to express their pronoun preference on application forms. The options are He/Him, She/Her and They/Them. And we thought that only the Queen used the Royal plural.
Cleo Watson was for a time Mayor Boris’s long-suffering Deputy Chief of Staff in Number Ten. It seems that the experience was like `handling an errant puppy’, complete with a `puppy gate’ to keep the Prime Minister within bounds. Mr Mogg is not the only Old Etonian to have required the services of a nanny.
A fourteen year old boy from Heckmondwyke Grammar School in Yorkshire has been reprimanded for wearing shorts to school during the recent heatwave. Blazers and ties may be removed but `all of the classrooms in use are air conditioned’. What, one wonders, does that do for the fuel bill and CO2 emissions. Perhaps a skirt would be more in order?
Peter Brook (97) was the theatre and film genius who directed Laurence Olivier in `Titus Andronicus’ in 1955 and established his reputation at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the 1960’s. He will be particularly remembered for his King Lear with Paul Schofield in 1962 and his `hippie’ interpretation of Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1970, as well as a riveting production of Marat Sade in 1964. Brook began his post-university career with the Birmingham Repertory Company in 1945 and at the age of 24 directed `Love’s Labours Lost` at Stratford upon Avon. In addition to `King Lear’, he worked with Schofield in ‘Ring Around The Moon’ at the National Theatre. On film he directed Olivier in `The Beggar`s Opera’ in 1956 and followed that with `Lord of the Flies’ in 1963. Brook also directed at the Covent Garden Opera House between 1949 and 1950. He moved to Paris to found the International Center for Theatre Research in 1970. Peter Brook was awarded his CBE in 1963 and was knighted in 1998. He was made a member of the Legion d`Honneur in 1995 and a Commandant of the Legion in 2013.
James Caan (82) was the actor who received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film `The Godfather’. He starred in `The Gambler’ in 1972 and with Barbara Streisand in `Funny Lady’ in 1975. Known as `difficult’ and temperamental, Caan dropped out of acting but made a comeback in Braser with Arnold Schwarznegger in 1997 and appeared in the US TV series ‘Las Vegas’ between 2003-2007.
Shinzo Abe (67) was murdered while campaigning in Japanese elections. He had been the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, commencing for 12 months in 2006 and subsequently returning to power as Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party and Prime Minister between 2012 and 2020. He was the first post-war to (in 2017), address the US Congress and was one of the architects of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.
Ivana Trump (73)was the Czech-born wife of Donald Trump who helped to build and manager the past-President’s business empire. She first engaged in a marriage of convenience to her ski instructor to obtain an Austrian passport. She worked in Canada as a model and ski instructor, and met Trump during a modelling assignment in New York in 1976. They married in 1977 and she became the Trump Organisation’s Vice-President for Interior design. Following a series of Trump’s affairs she finalised her divorce in 1992 after a series of acrimonious court cases. She subsequently returned to modelling and launched her own range of beauty products. At the time of her death she had been married and divorced four times.
Sir Peter Harrison (84) was the internet entrepreneur and highly competitive yachtsman who sought but failed to bring the Americas Cup back to the UK. He was a generous philanthropist who on one occasion made his `Formula 1’ racing yacht, Cernikeef available to a team of MPs to raise money for the UK`s Paralympic sportsmen . In the round-the-island race in spite being over-crewed by a crowd of six unskilled MPs plus Sir Peter himself who jumped aboard at the last minute, his professional crew steered the yacht to a highly creditable second place, about forty seconds behind the sister ship Bear of Britain. One of the crew (me) afterwards described the race as the “most physically exhausting event I have ever participated in”. Sir Peter received his CBE in 2010 and his Caribbean knighthood in 2015.
FW de Klerk ( 85) was the Afrikaaner nationalist President of South Africa who, with Nelson Mandela, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in finally bringing the era of apartheid to an end. De Klerk courageously positioned himself as the leader of the `verligte` (enlightened) wing of Afrikaaner pokitics in opposition to his `verkrampte` colleagues, and following his election as President in 1989 made negotiations with Mandela a priority for his administration. He became Deputy President in Mandela`s first black government.
Luisa Mattiola (85) was the Italian film star who was married to Sir Roger Moore during his `James Bond` years. The couple married in 1969 and she finally agreed to grant Moore a divorce in the late 1980s.
Paddy Hopkirk (89) was the racing driver who immortalised the Mini Cooper in which he won the monte Carlo Rally in 1964. The race started in Minsk in the then Soviet Union and ended in in Reims via a variety of routes and stages before driving on through the Alps to Monte Carlo. Hopkirk was asleep in his hotel room when he was woken to be told that he and his partner Henry Liddon had won the event, and were presented with their trophy by Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco. The team and the car were subsequently invited by show host Bruce Forsyth to `star` in the hit TV show “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” which cemented the Mini`s reputation as the iconic car of the “Swinging Sixties”. Hopkirk was belatedly made an MBE in 2016.
Lord (David) Trimble (77) was the Ulster Unionist politician who, with the SDLP leader John Hulme, concluded the 1998 Belfast (“Good Friday”) Agreement that brought to an end three decades of `The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and, jointly with Hulme, received the Nobel Peace Prize for the deal for which Mr Blair claimed the credit . David Trimble then led the administration into power-sharing at the cost of his own political career and the rise of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party which, under the current leadership of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, is resisting further power-sharing pending the resolution of the difficulties cause by Johnson`s `Northern Ireland Protocol’. David Trimble remained in parliament as the member for Upper Bann until 2007 but in 2006 he also accepted a Life Peerage in the House of Lords. Rest in the peace that you fought so hard for, my old friend.
Bernard Cribbens (93) was the actor who became the voice of the children`s TV programme, “Jackanory” and of “The Wombles”; appeared in “Carry on Spying” with Barbara Windsor( 1964), in “Daleks: Invasion of the Earth” (1966) and was celebrated for his performance as the station porter in “The Railway Children”.(1970) with Jenny Agutter. He received a BAFTA award for his work in children’s television in 2009 and was awarded an OBE in 2011.
Sir Christopher Meyer (78) was John Major’s Downing Street Press Secretary and spokesman and subsequently Blair’s British Ambassador to Washington prior to the invasion of Iraq. His career in the United States embraced the Northern Ireland peace process that culminated in the Belfast Agreement, the attempted impeachment of President Clinton, the war in Kosovo, George W Bush’s election, the 9/11 `Twin Tower` attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan. He was appointed CMG in 1988 and KCMG in 1998.
Mr Lindsay Hoyle, the present Speaker of the House of Commons and a man who appreciates tradition in a manner in which his predecessor clearly did not, has retrieved the Honiton lace jabots and cuffs worn by the holders of his office from the museum to which now plain Mr. Bercow had consigned them. The artefacts come with a warning however: there are no more to be had from where these originated. They are the last of the line.