Gale's View from Westminster
March 2021 The phoney `vaccine war `is a fig leaf designed to obscure the failure on the part of Commissioner Von Der Leyen and the EU to roll out an effective vax programme while the UK Government notches up a significant post-Cummings success in its approach to the pandemic. Less attractive is the Government`s offer of one-per-cent pay increase as a `reward` to NHS staff for their service on the front line. Efforts by Lord Frost to plug the gaping holes in the less-than-excellent trade agreement that he negotiated with the EU pre-Christmas 2020. The horrific abduction of Sara `She was just walking home` Everard sends shockwaves first through the Met. Police and then across the Country. Peaceful `lockdown compliant` outpourings of respect are quickly hijacked by extremists and generate clashes between a constabulary required to enforce lockdown law and demonstrators hell-bent on confrontation. It is a moot point whether “Kill the Bill” banners are directed at the “Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill” or at the police themselves. Either way the resulting media coverage is less than edifying.
It is tempting to afford `that interview` between Ms Winfrey and Mr and Mrs Harry Windsor no further publicity at all but the fall-out has claimed the scalp of the Breakfast Television host Mr Piers Morgan, of which more later. The Secretary of State for the Environment “calls in” a proposal to open a new deep coal mine in Cumbria but still declines to protect high-grade agricultural land from housing development. Attempts during the passage of the Trade Bill to persuade the Foreign Secretary or the Minister of State for Trade to describe the persecution of China`s Uighur population in Xinjang province as `genocide` fail. “These are my principles and if you do not like them I have some more in my back pocket”. An `Integrated Review` of our defence and Foreign policies and our armed forces results in a commitment to spend a few billion more while reducing the numbers of our military aircraft, the Royal Navy`s ships, our main battle tanks and the `poor bloody infantry`. The Fire Safety Bill comes back to the Commons from the Lords but still, in the view of many, fails to lay the blame and the cost of remedial work on dangerous cladding and construction where that blame ought to lie. The Salford Broadcasting Corporation is “proud to be British”. The Director General says so so it must be true. Priti `Flamingo` Patel, The Home Secretary, trails yet another Immigration Bill which is strong on rhetoric but rather short on enforceable practicality at this stage; “Send them back” has, for some, an attractive and Trumpian dog-whistle appeal but of course requires the agreement of the receiving country and at present the French, for example, show no signs of wanting to agree to any such proposal. Plans are announced to `Keep Space Tidy` as it is revealed that the junk whizzing around Planet Earth is starting to look like the astronautical equivalent of plastic bottles on a Hawaiian beach or a British motorway verge. There was also a budget this month and North of the Border Mr. Alex Salmond has formed a new party, Alba, to fight the Scottish parliamentary elections in an endeavour to `help` his friend and foe, Nicola Sturgeon, towards a majority for another independence referendum. Ho Hum!
Prince Philip is now out of hospital and back with Her Maj at Windsor Castle where he belongs which will be a huge relief to them both and to all of those millions who have been praying for the old boy`s recovery as well. And it is now a full year since the start of the first lockdown. Happy anniversary.
If Prime Minister Johnson takes the blame for the mistakes of others, as he does, and if people like me seek to hold him personally to account for those mistakes, as we do, then it seems to me entirely reasonable that he should also take the credit for the good judgement of others when things go right. Much of the success of the vaccination programme to date was due to the work of Kate Bingham, or Dame Kate as she must surely become. Given the cash and the confidence by Government the “Vaccine Czarina” went out and put your money where her judgement lay on the right winners. Shedloads of financial support went into the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine and contracts were placed with a number of potential suppliers as well for far more of the ultimate product than the United Kingdom is likely to need. In this initiative the UK was a good three months ahead of a dithering European Union which is why we now have more than thirty million people with a first jab and a huge number of elderly and vulnerable people who have received their second vaccination also. The expectation, which can be realised, is that the entire adult population will be inoculated by the end of July and very possibly well before that. The Prime Minster`s ill-directed jest, said in private and very swiftly withdrawn, that this was the result of a combination of “capitalism and greed” was unfortunate and unwarranted. There is no doubt that it was a combination of determination, first-class science and free enterprise, backed financially and heavily by the Government, that delivered the Oxford/AZ realisation of a world-beating and life-saving product but greed was not part of this equation. In fact, by supplying the vaccine at cost, Astra Zeneca stands to lose many billions of pounds in potential profit. It is a huge sadness, therefore, that in mainland Europe vainglorious political minnows have sought to undermine not only the Oxford /AZ vaccine but confidence in the very concept of vaccination as well.
It is in the global interest that vaccination is rolled out universally and as swiftly as possible. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of mankind is at stake and that it is therefore imperative that not only are the growing number of approved treatments and vaccines for Covid 19 supplied to developing and developed countries alike but also that there is maximum confidence in, and a resulting take-up of, the vaccine as possible. The greater the acceptance the greater the chance of perhaps eventually eradicating the virus.
It was therefore insane, irresponsible and destructive of politicians like The President of France, M. Macron, to peddle populist drivel about the efficacy of the Oxford/AZ vaccine and equally damaging of some of Europe`s `leaders` to suggest without foundation that the drug could lead to blood clotting and therefore to putting the treatment on hold. After a series of handbrake turns on this issue M. Macrobe, whose chances of re-election in a year`s time are clearly and rightly diminishing by the minute, now says that the EU`s rollout of the vaccine, of which there are millions of doses lying unused in fridges across Europe, was “lacking in ambition”. The former President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Druncker, put it rather more bluntly. It was, he says. “stupid”.
J-J Juncker`s successor, the kleptocratic Frau Ursula Von Der Leyen, has not covered herself with glory either. One might reasonably have expected that she would have learned from the “Irish Border gaffe” a month ago but some people are too proud or too stubborn to learn from their errors. In this case it has resulted in some EU sabre-rattling and posturing over supplies of the AZ vaccine produced in Holland and destined, under contract, for the UK. It appears that the EU`s Johnny-come-lately negotiations with AZ for supplies of the vaccine (which, you will recall, they are also busy saying does not work or has dangerous side-effects) were less than watertight in contractual terms. Never mind the fact that EU production of the drug depends upon supplies of ingredients manufactured in the UK, the Commission now seeks to regulate the supply of the finished vaccine to its own internal advantage. This has led to the barring of a shipment from Italy to Australia and the subsequent `seizure` in Rome, at the behest of one Thierry Breton, Head of the EU`s less-than-inspiring EU Vaccine Taskforce, of a consignment of 29 million doses which the La Stampa newspaper claimed was bound for Britain. In fact, 13 million of the seized doses were designated for the UN`s Covax programme in developing countries and the remaining 16 million were for the EU itself! The raid was later described as “A spot check to better understand production capacity”.
All of this Euro-bickering might almost be amusing if it was not so literally deadly and serious. We need to build, rather than further undermine, confidence in the vaccine and we need to get it into as many arms as we can in the shortest time possible and that requires a co-ordinated and multi-national effort of Herculean proportions. With France heading for a place on the UK `Red List, with cases of Covid 19 escalating into a third wave across Europe and with test-and-trace now bring imposed upon all incoming as well as outbound freight drivers between the UK and mainland Europe if ever there was a need for the utmost co-operation between all of the Countries of the wider Europe it is now.
Another case for co-operation is the proposal to introduce a “Vaccine Passport”, “Green Certificate” or call it what you will, to facilitate travel throughout Europe and possibly worldwide. With global airlines on their knees and a desperate need to give reassurance to those who wish or need to travel and those transporting or receiving them this, to me, remains a complete no-brainer. But while the talking continues a resolution to the issue remains as elusive now as it did when I covered the subject in some depth last month. We now have the added domestic dimension of opposition to the creation of a vaccine certificate for internal use as well.
I can understand that some pub landlords might not wish to require patrons to produce a document before admission to interior services (the alfresco imbibing of beer will hopefully recommence shortly) and I can see that this might lead to a division between geriatrics like me with my double-dose protection and my son and his young family but surely it ought to be a commercial decision for Mine Host to work that one out. And if the precious card means that we can once again fill theatres and concerts with at least some people then that has to be better than saying “I cannot have it so neither can you”. One man`s `civil liberty` is, under these circumstances, another man`s shackles and where is the sense in that? Bring on the vaccination passport and let at least those who can get moving again.
We all understand that there is a public sector pay freeze this year and, given the parlous state of the Nation`s post-Brexit and (hopefully) post-pandemic finances, we all understand why it has been imposed, even if the Public Sector Trades Unions do not like it very much. It is also a fact that prior to the pandemic the public sector was doing very well compared to the private sector, and that with the onset of Covid 19 and the first lockdown very many small firms and some larger ones have paid a disproportionate price in lost revenue and lost jobs. While public sector employment has remained secure, hospitality, entertainment, travel and airlines and High Street retail businesses have taken a hammering and once furlough ends it is likely that many more private sector jobs may go.
However, the Government exempted the Health and Care services from the pay freeze and gave clear undertakings that those who have given so much in toil, tears, sweat and sometimes lives over the past twelve hellish months would have their endeavours on our behalf properly recognised. The offer of a one per cent ` pay rise`, which after inflation, represents a reduction in take-home pay, was therefore not surprisingly regarded as “derisory”. Setting aside the synthetic outrage switched on by the militant wings of the medical, nursing and care professions unions this was patently not what Joe Public wanted or expected by way of a reward and with the pay review body due to make its recommendations in the fairly near future the handling of the situation was crass and inept. The answer, surely, is either to give an undertaking that the Government will, exceptionally., accept the Review Body`s recommendation and meet the award in full or as an alternative make a substantial and tax-free one-off payment to the sector over and above whatever negotiated pay settlement is finally agreed. Expensive? Yes, but the Government has to be seen to keep its word and handclaps on the doorstep are not, in this instance, a `reward`.
As the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, so pathetically and sorrowfully said of Sarah Everard “She was just walking home”. The thirty-three-year-old Marketing Manager was within yards of her Clapham, South London, home when she was abducted and subsequently murdered. Her remains were, it would appear, scattered around Kent and a Metropolitan policeman is in custody charged with Sarah`s murder. This was, by any yardstick a heinous crime and the fact that a police officer is in custody has added fuel to the fires of those who bear the police ill-will. Following the murder, a vigil was planned to be held on Clapham Common. After a Court ruling that under Covid ruled the gathering could not legally be held because social distancing would be impossible to maintain the organisers called off the vigil but, social media being what it is, the crowds began to muster in spite of the court ruling. It started peacefully enough in the afternoon and even the Duchess of Cambridge made an unannounced and largely incognito visit to view the inevitable flowers that had begun to pile up around the bandstand as is now the post-Diana custom at such sad events. Plans for a candle-lighting doorstep vigil in the evening to replace the public gathering did not, in London, really take off and by nightfall the “Reclaim Our Streets” movement and “Sisters Uncut” appeared to have taken over what was by now a demonstration. The inevitable violence, which looked awful when shown as selectively edited shots on television around the World portraying `police brutality`, was instigated, it seems, by a handful of agitators whose interests had, shall we say, little to do with the grim death of a poor young Londoner and rather more to do with Anarchy. My own sources tell me that in fact the police, heavily outnumbered, did their utmost to exercise sympathy, courtesy and restraint and only when having exhausted all other options had no choice but to enforce the law and arrest those who refused to comply with the orders of the Court. That, of course, is where the orchestrated photographs of `peaceful protesters in handcuffs being manhandled by the police’ emanated from and those are the pictures that within seconds were whizzing around the globe. The Home Secretary has ordered an inquiry into the constabulary`s handling of the event and it would behove us all – and particularly some of my `dial-a-quote` parliamentary colleagues - to reserve judgement until the results of the inquiry have been published, a statement made to Parliament (The House is at present in recess for Easter) and those arrested have appeared in Court themselves.
The backdrop to this sorry assembly was not only the murder of Sarah Everard but the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a measure which is comprehensive in its coverage of these issues and, with a fine irony, is designed to amongst other things stiffen the sentences handed down to convicted rapists and murderers. It also curtails the `rights` of demonstrators to vandalise public monuments and to disrupt access to the Houses of Parliament in the manner that Extinction Rebellion did now many months ago. The ensuing demonstrations in Bristol, the West-Country city that appears to have become the `Protest Capital of Britain` has, over a number of nights, seen the Bridewell Police Station targeted, cars set ablaze and many police officers injured. `The Mob` has `rights` you see, while the law-abiding public and those charged with the duty of enforcing the laws made by Parliament are allowed no such liberties.
As if the Home Office did not have enough on its plate at present the Home Secretary has introduced proposals to further limit illegal Immigration and access to asylum in the United Kingdom. This `Asylum overhaul` is strong on rhetoric but short on practical remedies to address an issue that has plagued successive Governments and Home Secretaries for years. The problem has been exacerbated, certainly, by the growth in the people-trafficking trade and the relentless tide of dangerously overcrowded and sometimes lethal rubber dinghies making their way, almost daily, across La Manche. Giving Border Force “Turnback powers” has a deliciously simplistic appeal to it if you happen to be a die-hard Faragiste or one of the residual members of the British Nationalist Party but it is predicated upon an agreement with President Macron and the government of France and that agreement is quite simply not forthcoming. The suggested alternative, “send them to a third Country while asylum claims are processed”, requires the agreement of a third country willing to receive and play host to planeloads of migrants awaiting the determination of their fates and there is not a queue of such countries waiting to help out. It may be hard for the xenophobes that all Members of Parliament have the dubious honour of representing to grasp but any legislation will have to comply with international law and, in the case of the Channel crossings, the law of the sea.
The proposal to take a quota of asylum seekers selected by the UNHCR from refugee camps is not new. David Cameron, as Prime Minister, introduced that policy with a view to admitting refugees from Syria direct from Turkey. The principle is admirable and workable but it will do little if anything to stem the flow of illegal migrants seeking to cross from France and while there are probably some on the hard right of the political spectrum who would cheerfully see our border patrol cutters used not to rescue people from unseaworthy craft but to sink them it will be international agreement and action and not domestic legislation that will bring about real change. That will take a very great deal of time and rather more goodwill than appears to exist between Great Britain and Europe at present.
While the complaints of serial bullying made by some members of the “Sussex Survivors` Club” are said to be being investigated discreetly within Buck House the self-indulgent whingefest recorded by the Unhappy Couple for Ms `Grand Ol` Opry` was sold to, and very possibly watched by some in, 70 countries around the world.
Of the astonishing assertion that Mr. Windsor and Ms. Markle were actually married three days before the official wedding the Archbishop of Canterbury (he who, it is said, performed the `ceremony`) appears to have no memory which does rather cast doubt on a number of the other `revelations` that were trickled out in the course of a couple of hours of `getting away from the limelight`. Buckingham Palace observed, with studied understatement, that “recollections may vary” adding that any issues arising would be “addressed by the family. Privately”. With the support of Sleepy Joe`s White House and the glitterati of the Woke West Coast Ms. Markle will no doubt not care about her image in the United Kingdom but for the record her post-broadcast poll ratings had slipped down six points to minus eight.
One person who clearly does `give a toss` is Mr. Piers Morgan, the sometime former share-dealing Daily Mirror journalist and Breakfast Television host. Mr. Morgan used his morning TV platform to state that he did not believe a word that came out of Ms. Markle`s mouth, a statement that provoked tens of thousands of complaints to Ofcom, the broadcast watchdog, from supporters of `Team Markle`. Morgan also tore off his microphone and stormed off the live television programme. Subsequently Mr Morgan, following as we are now led to believe a complaint from the fragrant Duchess herself, was either fired or resigned – take your pick – from Independent Television.
I cannot abide Piers Morgan at any price. I think that he is rude and arrogant and aggressive and when he comes on the small screen my instinctive reaction is to reach for the `off` switch. But – and here`s the rub – I think that ITV have acted with supine weakness in succumbing to pressure and in accepting Morgan`s `resignation` and that they have failed to defend Morgan`s right to express his personal opinions as he is paid to do. I may not, and almost invariably do not, like Morgan`s views but in this instance I believe that he has the moral high ground. And since the departure of Morgan ITV`s breakfast television share has plummeted.
As an afterthought to this footnote to history it is reported that following conversations with the Palace, conducted in what was supposed to be a spirit of conciliation, Mr and Mrs Sussex rushed off to another `friendly` American TV host, Gayle King, to report that the discussions were “not productive”, which `private` conversation Ms. King then saw fit to broadcast to the world.
In other news Chancellor Rishi Sunak`s `Covid Budget` was a `Live Now – Pay (heavily) later masterpiece. It was Louis X1V`s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who said that “The art of taxation consists of plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing” and in due course I suspect that, to meet the costs of the Covid Pandemic largesse we shall have been well and truly plucked! The freezing of the tax threshold is going to mean an effective tax hike for a couple of million working people and a rise in Corporation tax, the first since 1974, will lead to the highest rates since the 1960s. In the short term an extension of the business rates `holiday` through to the end of June will help a hard-pressed retail sector and the reduction of VAT on hospitality and tourism through to September will also assist other sectors that have been hit very hard indeed but at the end of the day the bill of some £407 billion for Covid Support measures is going to have to be paid and we all know who is going to end up paying it.
A fool and his money are soon parted! “Fresh Cornish Seaside Air” is on sale for a modest £75 for a 700ml bottle. The `Coast Captured Air` from the `Cornish Coast` is a fake. It is actually `captured` at Hartland Point which, as everyone knows, is near Bideford – in Devon.
And for just £3.50 a month you can now buy an online subscription to the “Relax my Dog” channel. Not heard of `Petflix`?
The `mission` statement accompanying Mr and Mrs Harry Windsor`s Archewell website is dedicated to “Service, Compassion, Action and Community`. I thought you`d like to know that.
Jeremy Paxman, the sometime “Newsnight” TV presenter and more recently the moderator of “University Challenge” shows no sign of mellowing in his dotage. “The BBC” opines the grand inquisitor “is full of boring people doing boring jobs” and in a sideswipe at newsreaders for some reason he adds “anyone can read the news – they are just vainglorious fools!”
The excellent Penny Mordaunt, Cabinet Office Minister for Europe (yes, we still have one) and former courageously high-diving star of the “Splash”! television programme, is enjoying unexpected fame as a poster girl in French hospitals promoting sexual health services. The agency apparently mixed up La Mordaunt`s photo with one of Catherine Deneuve! Penny has graciously granted retrospective permission for her image to continue to be used.
Never mind the Elgin Marbles – or the `Parthenon Marbles` as some of us prefer to refer to the `borrowed` Greek artefacts. What about the Preseli Bluestones? A Welsh landowner is campaigning to have the massive pillars that form Stonehenge in Wiltshire returned to the place in Pembrokeshire from which it is believed that they were purloined some five thousand years ago.
The statue of the late Princess Diana Spencer is due to be unveiled at Kensington Palace in July. The first Earl Spencer supported the slave trade, upon which the family`s fortunes were partly founded, in the eighteenth century. How long before the embattled Diana`s likeness becomes a target for Effigy Vandals?
Still on the subject of statuesque likenesses a life-sized twenty-four thousand pounds` worth of bronze in the form of Greta Thunberg, the now eighteen-year-old Swedish schoolgirl climate striker, has been erected in the cathedral City of Winchester. Which is curious because Winchester is over a thousand miles from the young lady`s Stockholm birthplace and so far as anyone knows she has no connections with the Hampshire town and has never visited the place.
Ms Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of the Vogue magazine and clearly in the running for the “Self-Righteous Journalist of the Year” award, describes the phrase “a niggling worry” as racist. Setting aside the number of times that a similar expression has been used in `Vague` itself are we now to assume that the publication will be printed in green, rather than the traditional black, ink?
West London`s famous Kew Gardens is to “de-colonise” its plant labelling to remove such `Imperial legacies` as `sugar cane`. This is in the light of the call for such establishments to engage in a `slavery and colonialism` audit. Woke up!
The village of Hurstbourne Tarrant in Hampshire (pop.851) is justly proud of its Village Post Box library which hitherto has offered, in the former red telephone booth, the works of J.K Rowling and the like. The box has now has found itself to be the recipient of `salacious adult literature` upon its `well-used` community shelves. Is it a villager that is spicing up the literary life of the hamlet? Or is it a visitor – from the Tropic of Ruislip perhaps? The question now, clearly, is whether to remove the books or to paint the phone box blue.
The Hartington Creamery, located in Pikehall, Derbyshire, has calculated that the additional paperwork required since Brexit to facilitate the export of each Stilton to the European Union carries a price tag of £180. Our man in Whitehall says that it may take a while to “adjust to the new arrangements”. Another of the hidden `benefits` of leaving the EU no doubt.
The Austin/Morris Mini Minor was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, manufactured at the Longbridge motor plant in Birmingham and first marketed by BMC in 1959. Re-branded as The Mini, a marque in its own right, in 1969 the Cooper version had already won the Monte Carlo Rallye in 1964. The real star of `The Italian Job` (the other was Sir Michael Caine), the Mini is set to become all-electric within the next ten years. Sic transit……….
The Elders of Bournemouth Council in Dorset (Bournemouth is not really in Dorset. It was a County Borough and if anything is in Hampshire but we`ll let that pass) have decided to drop the titles Mrs. Miss and Ms. from its useage of modern English. From now on all those born or with aspirations to be female will be known by the prefix Mx. Which may leave a lot of residents all mxed up.
Gwynneth Paltrow, scion of the #MeToo movement, has declared that it is `fine to watch ethical pornography` that can be `beneficial if made by women for women`. Thank goodness she`s cleared that up for us all.
The Tramp`s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida has been shut due to an outbreak of Covid 19 in the Loser`s favourite resort. Perhaps they should have worn masks after all.
The strong arm of Stoke Poges Parish Council has used the provisions of the 1922 Allotments Act, which prohibits `commercial activity`, to ban a (commercial) children`s nursery from taking toddlers to see the vegetables being eaten by caterpillars. The heavy hand of SPPC has clearly not been used to flip through the notes of the National Allotments Association which describes such visits as `an educational opportunity.
(Which reminds me of the Ministry Inspector who berated a farmer for referring to `manure` rather than the officially preferred `compost`. To which the Farmer`s wife said “Oh don`t tell `un that zir – it`s taken us ten year to get `un to call it manure”!)
Johnny Briggs (85) trained at the Italia Conti Stage School alongside a host of future stars including Nanette Newman, Millicent Martin and Tony Newley and enjoyed a career on stage, in films and on television before joining the cast of the Granada Television production” Coronation Street` in 1976 to play the `wide boy` Londoner Mike Baldwin, a role that he held for thirty years before finally retiring in 2006.
Mary Holt (96) was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Preston North, a seat which she won in 1970, losing it again by just 255 votes during the `miners’ strike election` in 1974. As an animal welfare campaigner she was ahead of her time in campaigning against the use of the `veal crates` that were eventually banned. Following the loss of her seat she returned to her career at the Bar and became a circuit judge.
The Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair (64) was the first woman rector of St. Margaret`s Westminster, the `Parish Church of the House of Commons` that hosts early morning communion services once a month for Members when the House is sitting. She made many parliamentary friends during a ministry that was cut short by an aggressive cancer and she will be hugely missed.
Ian St. John (82) was a member of Bill Shankly`s 1960s successful Liverpool Football team in the 1960 and was the player who scored the goal that won his team its first FA Cup. He went on to become one half of the `Saint and Greavesie` sporting double act with fellow TV presenter Jimmy Greaves.
Chris Barber (90) was the leader of the world`s longest-lived traditional jazz band. An alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied the trombone, he formed the band that bore his name in 1951 In 1954, following the departure of the trumpeter Ken Colyer, Pat Halcox joined the band in a partnership that endured for 54 years. Their first album, New Orleans Jou, sold 60,000 copies in its first year and the Band went on to record a number of hit singles. Chris Barber was awarded an OBE in 1991.
Nicola Pagett (75) was the actress who starred in the TV extravaganzas “Upstairs Downstairs” as Elizabeth Bellamy and who played “Anna Karenina” in the title role. She began her stage career with the Worthing Repertory Company and during the 1970s and 1980s appeared in Shakespeare and in plays by Harold Pinter, Terence Rattigan and Moliere. In 1974 she joined The National Theatre for “The Marriage of Figaro”. Her autobiography “Diamonds behind my eyes “describes her experience of the mental illness for which she was eventually sectioned.
Bob Satchwell (73) who has succumbed to pneumonia and Covid 19, was the founding executive director, in 1999, of The Society of Editors that fought against statutory regulation of the Press following the publication of The Leveson Report. His work led to the creation, in 2014, of the self-regulatory Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). He received the International Writers Award in the same year. Prior to his appointment to the Society of Editors he worked on the Lancashire Evening Post, and the News of the World and for fifteen years as the Editor of the Cambridge Evening News.
Carla Wallenda (85) was the circus performer who, as one of “The Flying Wallendas” was still performing on the `sway pole` at the age of 81. She used to claim that she made her first appearance on the High Wire when she was just six weeks old when her father cycled across the wire with her mother, holding Carla, on his shoulders! She left the family act to form her own troupe in 1962 rejoining, following a series of accidents in the family group, in 1965.
Trevor Peacock (89) was the actor who wrote stage musicals, TV sketches and pop songs in addition to being, in his own right, one of the stars of The Vicar of Dibley. He worked with the director Michael Elliott at the Old Vic Theatre and then at the Century Theatre and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Between 1974 and 2006 he also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in London and appeared in several BBC TV Shakespeare productions.
Lord Shaw of Northstead (100) was, as Michael Shaw, the Thatcherite Member of Parliament for Brighouse and Spenborough and subsequently Scarborough in Yorkshire, seats that he held for more than thirty years. For more than twenty of those years he was one of the leading members of the Public Accounts Committee with its Labour Chairman Robert Sheldon. He retired from the Commons in 1992 and was made a Life Peer in 1994.
Lou Ottens (94) was the man who revolutionised the way that the world listened to music and paved the way for the Sony Walkman by creating the reel-to-reel audio cassette in 1963. The invention led to easily-transportable music players that were also built into car radios and used for “answerphone” messages as well. It is estimated that from the time of his launch of the product to the time when he had lived to see it made largely obsolete by the introduction of the CD more than 100 billion cassettes were produced.
Murray Walker (97) began his broadcasting career with the 1949 Silverstone motor cycle Grand Prix and throughout the early 1950s covered motor cycle racing including, notably, the Isle of Man TT. In 1957 he began reporting on “Motocross” for BBC television, switching in the early 70s to “Rallycross”. In 1978, with BBC television covering the whole of the Formula 1 racing series, Walker took over from Raymond Baxter and only switched Channels when ITV bought the Formula 1 rights in 1997. The voice of motor racing commentary for more than fifty years, Walker was known for his trademark “Murrayisms” one of the most famous of which was “There`s nothing wrong with the car – except that it`s on fire”! He was awarded his OBE in 1996 and finally retired in 2000.
And while we`re talking four wheels Sabine Schmitz (51), who has died of cancer, was the `blonde daredevil racing driver` who livened up the re-vamped BBC “Top Gear” team after Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond left the “Petrolhead” show in 2016. Known as “The Queen of the Nurburgring” it is said that Ms Schmitz said that she could lap the German racetrack faster in a van than Clarkson could in an S-type Jaguar. Put to the test, she failed – by just nine seconds!
In 1996 Schmitz and her co-driver won the Nurburgring 24 hours endurance race – the first female driver to do so.
Nikki Van Der Zyl (85) was the “voice of the Bond girls” who dubbed for, amongst others, Ursula Andress, Shirley Eaton and Jane Seymour. Her task was to `make foreign actresses more intelligible to American audiences`! While Lois Maxwell, Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman did not require her services many other Bond ladies from “Dr No” through to “Moonraker” did. A talented actress in her own right, her voicework for others who did not want their secrets revealed, was highly sensitive. As a result she was excluded from Bond conventions and her book, “For Your Ears Only” was originally published only in Germany, the country from which her family fled in 1939. Following her film career, she re-trained as a barrister and then worked both for the former Tory Minister David Mellor and for the late Brian Shallcross who was at the time Southern Television`s political editor in the House of Commons.
Johnny Dumfries (62) was the Seventh Marquess of Bute, descended from Robert the Bruce and a racing driver who won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1988 having previously driven for the same Formula One Lotus equipe alongside Ayrton Senna. Those who knew him say that he always lived life in the fast lane but he retired from racing to successfully put his family`s estates in Scotland on a sound financial footing.
George Segal (87) was the Hollywood light comedy actor who starred in `The Owl and the Pussycat`, `A Touch of Class` and, as a serious player, alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in `Who`s Afraid of Virginia Woolf`?
Barbara Hosking (94) was Press Secretary at 10 Downing Street for both Harold Wilson and Ted Heath as Prime Ministers. As a member, subsequently, of the Independent Broadcasting Authority she oversaw the launch of Breakfast Television in the United Kingdom and the Cornish-born Ms. Hosking went on to become the Chairman of the West Country commercial television franchise, Westward Television. She was awarded an OBE in 1985 and the CBE in 1999.
The explorer Richard Garriott has been to all four extremes. In a 12-hour thirty-six thousand foot dive he has been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, he has visited both of the Poles and he has now pent ten days on the International Space Station. What next?
Rachel Blackmore has become the first woman jockey to win the Championship Hurdle at Cheltenham. The Tipperary-based rider won the Ladies Handicap Hurdle in 2011, turned professional in 2015 and in although she was beaten into second place by A Plus Tard for the Cheltenham Gold Cup she did notch up a total of six winners during the festival.
Lots of people have acquired dogs during the Lockdown so why not Her Majesty the Queen? Her Maj is now the happy owner of two `Dorgis` (Corgi/Dachshund cross-breeds) to keep her company while incarcerated in the Windsor Bubble. `Fergie` is named after Fergus Bowes-Lyon who was killed in action at Loos during the Great War in 1915 and `Muick` (pronounced `Mick`) is after Loch Muick which adorns the Balmoral Estate in Scotland. A `bubble` insider says that `there`s a lot of noise and energy at Windsor these days`.