Gale's View from Westminster

March 2022

 

March. War crimes in Crimea . A theatre sheltering hundreds of women and children is destroyed in the eastern port city of Mariupol while extraordinarily the harbour facilities remain intact. The Ukrainian Ambassador receives a standing ovation when he visits the gallery of the Commons chamber and President Zelensky receives a second when he speaks  the House by video link. He then addresses the United States Congress and the Assemblee Nationale in France. The ground war is vicious and, without air cover, Ukraine is severely disadvantaged but there is no doubt who has the courage, the moral high-ground and is winning the media war. President “The Poisoner” Putin leaves his bunker for a heavily-staged “Nuremberg” rally but otherwise is leading his bedraggled, ill-supplied and poorly trained armies from behind. So much for the myth of the “brave” former KGB Colonel.  And Russia`s Oligarchs and Kleptocrats are starting to feel the pain as international sanctions, with some significant countries shamefully declining to support, begin to bite.  Planes and boats and mansions are all up for grabs as is Chelsea Football club . True grit is  shown by those, the international press corps and their producers and cameramen, who are daily relaying the truth of the atrocities of Putin`s war from the very front line to the world at the risk of their lives. Some have been killed in action and others may yet follow. We owe them huge respect and gratitude.

A tide of humanity continues to leave war-torn Ukraine for the relative safety of Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and even Georgia. International response is generous to varying degrees with the UK wrapped in a morass of unnecessary Home Office generated red tape.

At home the Chancellor`s Spring Statement receives a lukewarm response. Billions are being spent to support those who will be hit hardest by fuel price rises and the cost of living increase but those billions are not, it seems , sufficient to assuage the demand for more help still.  Her Majesty misses the Commonwealth Day Service in Westmister Abbey where she is represented by Prince Charles but with most of the rest of the Royal Family attends Prince Philip`s memorial service. Mr Harry Windsor and his wife are noticed only by their absence.

From his pleasant residence in the Cotswolds the Chief Executive of that once-proud shipping line P&O Ferries, acting on behalf of DP World which is a wholly-owned plaything of the Rulers of Dubai, summarily sacks by video message eight hundred seafarers at a moment`s notice. This precipitates a torrent of rage from across a united, on this issue, House of Commons and is likely to have repercussions far beyond the crass way in which this HR disaster was handled.

Camelot, the  National Lottery operator, loses its franchchise to a company with reported links to the neo-Soviet Gazprom. The “Partygate” chickens appear to be beginning to come home to roost. At the past-their-sell-by-date  Celebrity `woke-fest`,the  Oscar Awards ceremonies, an American film star livens up the proceeding by slapping a `comedian` hosting the charade for being rude to his wife . And after six years of imprisonment in an Iranian gaol as a hostage to that Country`s brutal regime Nazarin Zahari-Ratcliffe, wife of Richard and mother of Gabriella, lands back at Brize Norton airfield.  Mummy`s home.

 

If there is such a thing as “a good war” then it is possible to say that, to date at least, the Prime Minister has had one. The United Kingdom has certainly led the pack in, before the event, providing training for Ukrainian forces and supplying and then re-supplying defensive weapons and lethal aid to the war effort. We have also, albeit mainly through NGOs, contributed significantly to the humanitarian support both within Ukraine and by offering assistance  to  refugees arriving in the neighbouring states.

 

We also helped, with the United States, to build the coalition of sanctions against Russia that clearly caught the Kremlin on the wrong foot and has assisted in the degradation  of Putin`s war machine.  So far, so good.

 

In the imposition of sanctions on Putin`s crooked cronies – the Oligarchs and the Kleptocrats who have invested funds stolen from the Russian people in properties and businesses and football clubs as well as private aircraft and yachts -  we have been behind the curve and are having to play catch-up with mainland Europe. There has been a clear and some would say shameful reluctance on the part of the City of London , the `Londongrad Laundromat` and a Conservative government that has had, perhaps, a more than passing interest In `dirty money`, to move swiftly enough to sequester the `assets` of Russian criminals. It is probable that, as a result, some of those ill-gotten gains will have been squirreled  away in some South American, African and Asian States less squeamish about the murder of women and children in a `far-away place`.

We also seem to be far too reluctant to seize  the stolen funds, liquidate the assets from sales  and to send the proceeds  to Ukraine. For my money those who have enjoyed the good life on the back of  The Poisoner`s patronage can kiss goodbye to every brass farthing that  they have in any form in any place outside of Moscow. And if British law firms choose to act for these people then they should  both be struck off and have their own accounts placed under severe retrospective scrutiny..  Harsh? Take a look at the war photographs and remind the world of the difference between right and wrong.

 

The weakest link in this chain, however, is a Home Office that was clearly not prepared for the task of processing thousands of displaced people and is not fit for the purpose. The responsibility for that lack of preparation has to lie squarely on the shoulders of the Home Secretary, Ms Patel and it is a matter of considerable speculation as to why she is still in the job.

 

While States across Europe have been playing their part and opening up homes to receive some of the estimated four million-plus refugees that have so far fled from Putin`s assault on their country the United Kingdom has bound itself in bureaucracy and under the pretext of seeking to ensure that `Russian spies do not enter Britain disguised as refugees` has been little short of constructively obstructive.  (The spies who sought to poison the Skripals in Salisbury entered the country on visitors` visas!)  Yes, some twenty-five thousand people with family Members already here have been given permission to join them – although how many have actually arrived is a moot point – but those seeking entry under the Prime Minister`s much-vaunted “we will take as many as want to come” family sponsorship scheme are finding roadblocks at every turn.

 

Initially when it was claimed that refugees, very often with little or no money,  were being sent from Calais to our embassies in Paris or Brussels to try to get visas and have biometric records taken, it became apparent that the numbers being processed daily were pitiful and the firm to whom the work has been contracted out in Paris was described as rude, unhelpful and uncaring. Ms Patel`s response to this, when I challenged her on the floor of the House on 7th March, was to say that:

“I have already made it clear in terms of the visa application centre that has now been set up en route to Calais, that we have staff in Calais and importantly people have been coming to the UK from Calais. I am afraid there has been a lot of misinformation about this and I have clarified the position today.”

 

There has certainly been “a lot of misinformation about this” – some of it peddled by the Home Secretary .  I took the trouble to go to Calais and on to Lille to try to see for myself what was actually happening.  In the new offices of the Port of Calais Authority there was a team of about eight Border Force staff tasked with the job of part-documenting  refugees before then sending them to Paris or Brussels via Lille, where the “Visa application centre en route to Calais” was supposed to have been established, to complete the process and to have their biometric details taken. Only then might they be granted a visa.

 

The small  team in Calais was kind and sympathetic, dispensing sweets bought out of their own funds to children and trying their best to help those traumatised by war who passed their way. They were, without doubt, doing their absolute best under impossible circumstances.

 

In the company of half the World`s press I then scoured Lille for the “visa application centre” and failed to find it. I have to conclude, therefore, that the Home Secretary was mis-informed by her officials and that this centre did not exist – which is why, after being  bussed to Lille, people were then having to try to make their own way to Paris to obtain clearance.  What I did find was a hotel , commandeered by the Croix Rouge and the Care for Calais charity , set up  to act as a clearing house for some of  those trying to  reach England from Ukraine. We are, though, talking about handfuls and not the tens of thousands that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have sought to give the impression that we are trying to assist. In days gone by Ministers who mislead the House from the Despatch Box would have automatically resigned, as did  former Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Not, it seems, any more!

 

In the days and weeks that have followed very modest progress has been made. Responsibility for resolving  “the refugee problem” seems to have been transferred largely to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove. The Gover has, though, been curiously absent from this field of play not least, perhaps, because he knows a hot potato when he sees one.  It has therefore been left to a newly-appointed Minister, Richard Harrington, to try to sort out the mess manufactured  in the Home Office.

 

Richard Harrington was a diligent Conservative  Member of Parliament. He stood down to resume his business career and to repair his fortunes and was then, last month, beguiled by Mayor Boris to take a seat in the House of Lords and become “The Minister for Refugees”. He is a good and thoroughly decent man who wants to fulfil the task that he has been set and  I doubt that he has had a decent night`s sleep since his appointment.  The “simplified” visa system that Lord Harrington has inherited includes an on-line application process containing many pages written not in Ukrainian but in English.  Assuming that the poor devils that have found their exhausted way across the borders have remembered to pick up their passports (if they had them) before they left home and that they have also remembered to take a laptop or at the very least an I-phone with them they then have to find a quiet corner to respond to vast quantities of information dreamed up by someone with nothing better to do while working from the comfort of his own home for The Home Office.

 

While this is going on there is the other end of the sponsorship equation to be resolved.  Almost within minutes of the Ukrainian Families Scheme being announced some 150,000 almost invariably well-intentioned souls offered to open their British homes to those in need. That, in itself, has of course not been without its difficulties.  Each and every one of those offers does have to be recorded and properly processed. Richard Harrington and his tiny team have sought to expedite the system but at the very least, bearing in mind that we are talking about refugees who are mainly women and children, basic criminal records checks do have to be made.  I can say from past personal experience that taking a stranger who does not speak your language and does not share your customs into your own home is not as straightforward as it might seem. Some of these relationships, however well-meaning, will break down and some will end in tears or worse and you can bet your sweet life that when that happens it will be the Minister for Refugees that gets the blame.

 

There  is, finally, the small challenge of matching host families to those in need and here I believe that the Government is right to leave it largely to charitable organisations working on the ground to effect the introductions.

Short of going ad seeking out a refugee family, as some of course have ,the logistics of pairing people up are fearsome and it has to be better to allow those with at least some experience of what they are doing to take on the herculean task and try to make it work.  Again, there will be failings along the path but the alternative is to do nothing and that cannot be an option.

 

So by the end of March we have a Minister battling valiantly against a culture designed to prevent, no promote, mass immigration. We have people displaced by war who are struggling to swim through the treacle of Alice in Wonderland bureaucracy in order to obtain the precious visas so vital to their needs and we have a British public that is becoming increasingly frustrated by the inability of `the system` to just `get on with it` and deliver on the grand gestures that have been made by politicians.  We are, at present, failing miserably in spite of the best efforts of some good people and it has to change. Now.

 

Save for matters of war or grief I have seldom seen the House of Commons so united as it has been in its reaction to the summary sacking, by P&O Ferries, of eight hundred members of their crew working on the cross-Channel and Irish routes .In common with other Kent MPs I received a phone call from the Chief Executive of P&O, one Peter Hebblethwaite, some hours after my constituents were informed by a pre-recorded video message that they were losing their jobs,  to tell me that it was “either 800 jobs or 3000 jobs` as without these sackings the ferry company would go bust.

P&O Ferries has, I am sure, had a  hard time during the pandemic as have many other companies in the travel business. British Airways, for example, had to lay off many staff but although it was painful for all concerned it was done properly, after due consultation and within the law.  P&) Ferries (not to be confused with the Cruise line) is  a wholly owned subsidiary of DP World which is backed by the Dubai Sovereign Wealth Fund – effectively the Royal Family of Dubai which makes Croesus look like a pauper.  I do not doubt that P&O ferries, which has gone through a number of CEOs in recent years, has been losing money and even a Sheikh cannot expect to go on forking out to prop up a loss-making business for ever but the crass arrogance and brutality with which this sorry event has been handled beggars belief.  Mr Hebblethwaite, appearing before the Commons Transport Select Committee, told the House that he knowingly and wittingly broke employment law.  His ships are flagged out to Cyprus and it appears that the Company is registered in Jersey so it is alleged that UK law does not apply. The idea, however, that you can dispense with the services of loyal staff, who are not exactly paid a Sheikh`s ransom and who have literally kept the show afloat and delivered freight traffic throughout all of the lockdowns, is bad enough. That P&O Ferries should then seek to replace these seafarers with ill-qualified crew paid not the minimum UK wage but under £3 per hour is abhorrent.  Incredibly at the time of writing Mr. Hebblethwaite is still in his job but the relationship between Government, the Commons and DP World upon whose authority Hebblethwaite was presumably acting has been soured for good.  Law changes will follow in short order to ensure that vessels plying the routes between the British Isles and mainland Europe are staffed by properly trained crew paid at least the UK minimum wage. P&O`s ships are currently the subject of scrutiny and two date two have been found wanting . It remains to be seen whether they ever cross the Channel again but if they do then, as I said in the House, the Pride of Kent should be re-named The Shame of Dubai.

 

Ballswatch

 

Five Muscovite primary school children aged between seven and eleven were arrested by Putin`s police for displaying `no war banners outside the Ukrainian embassy having seen on-line reports of the bombing of Kharkiv. Suffer little children…..

 

Hats off to the fifty staff members of Kyiv zoo who have moved in to comfort the animals terrified by the sound of gunfire and bombs falling..

 

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng has blocked the British Chamber of Commerce and the CBI from replacing `Chairman` with the `gender-neutral` `Chair` in records at Companies House.

 

Asked by an interviewer the pretty straightforward question “What is a woman” Labours spokesman Anneliese Dodds replied “There are different definitions legally…it`s meaning depends upon the context”!  JK Rowling, the author , comments : “Would someone please send the Shadow Equalities Minister a dictionary, And a backbone. ”?  This exchange was prompted, by Mayor Boris`s assertion from the Despatch Box that “There are basic facts of biology” involved in the definition .

 

Describing the Chancellor`s Spring Statement Labour`s Shadow Angela Rayner quipped “Alice in Sunakland”. And wading into the gender-recognition row in her Doc Partins she supports hospitals who ask men, on admission, if they are pregnant. Because it depends upon the `circumstances`.  No Angela. I don’t` always agree with Boris but this is one of those “basic facts of biology”.

 

Amelia Jenkinson, , the CEO of the School of Sexuality Education, is reported as saying that banning girls from wearing short skirts in schools is `victim blaming` and that the measure designed to prevent male pupils and staff from `being distracted` is unacceptable because it presents girls as the problem. Quite so!

 

Which Airline is proposing to allow male cabin staff to wear `man buns` and painted nails and make-up while on flight duty and to drop the `gender-specific ` Ladies and Gentlemen from its in-flight announcements?  Fly the Flag!

 

Jesus College Cambridge has been told by the Diocese of Ely  that the memorial plaque for the collegege`s benefactor Tobias Rustat (1608-1694) shall remain in place notwithstanding the seventeenth century businessman`s alleged links with the slave trade. Commenting on the defeat of the `woke` campainers a spokesman said “None of us is without sin”.

 

And Bath Spa University, in its desire to promote a  `safe and inclusive environment` has decreed that the romantic poets Keats and Wordworth were “sexists” who peddled `violence, sexism, misogyny and death`.  I know, you can just see him kicking the tops off all of those daffodils can you not?

 

On World Hearing Day the World Health Organisation has declared that nightclubs and bars should provide their customers with earplugs to precent hearing loss. It is claimed that a billion 12-35 year olds risk losing their hearing through exposure to noise. The WHO wants clubs to create `safe listening` and `quiet rooms` but has yet to work out how the young patrons of these establishments are supposed to communicate with each other or with staff.

 

Will President Macron rescind the Legion D`Honneur granted to Putin by President Chirac in 2006? We should be told. Before the French Presidential elections. And did M. Macron really sport designer stubble, jeans and a hoodie  carrying a French CPA 10 (Special Forces) logo for his meeting with President Zelensky?Surely the French electorate can recognise the real thing when they see it?

 

While London was experiencing its largest strike of Underground staff for some time `Kubla`   Khan was, instead of responding to the drivers` demand for a £4,700 pay rise, enjoying the New Musical Express awards ceremony having been ferried there from his Stately Pleasure Dome,  presumably, in the Mayoral Limmo.

 

From April 4th Rowland Hill`s `Penny Post` will experience a 12% rise taking the cost of a billet doux to 95pence  and no doubt contributing to Royal Mail`s “less for more” policy generating its mega-million profit margin.

 

More problems for broadcasters. The next series of the highly successful “Strictly Come Dancing” scheduled to ne broadcast on BBC1 in November from 7.10 pm clashes with the World Cup in Qatar. Strictly`s final this year, won by  the splendid Rose Ayling-Ellis, attracted 12.1 million viewers. Six nights of football, although played in a country with a less than attractive human rights record (but this is soccer – so who cares?) is expected to pull in audiences of 29 million.  I shall be watching “Strictly”.

 

The Loch Ness Monster, “Nessie” to her friends and admirers, has been denounced as ”symbolising the dominance of the English over the Scots” and “reinforcing stereotypes”. The existence of the beast -mythical or real, take your pick – dates back to the sixtyh century AD but she really came into her own with the `sightings` of the 1930s.  Jusy before they throw the goldfish out with the bathwater the killjoy critics might care to reflect upon how much Nessie is worth to the Tourist economy of Scotland.

 

Gabriella Ratcliffe (8) to her mother: “You won`t be famous for ever. Max a week”!  Out of the mouths of babes…..

 

Valete

 

Tony Chapman (97) joined the crew of the Royal Navy Gunboat MGB 607 in 1943 just after his 19th Birthday and sailed to defend British shipping against attacks from German S-class  torpedo boats off the East Coast.

MGB 607 engaged, rammed and sank S-63 off Great Yarmouth in a battle that left many of  Chapman`s crew  killed or wounded.  Trained as a telegraphist, Chapman volunteered as a submariner but because he was under 21 required parental consent which was withheld on the grounds that submarines were “too dangerous”!  Instead he joined Coastal Forces and after service in the North Sea joined the motor launch ML 838 in the Aegean. He was awarded the Greek Liberation medal for this service in addition to his British campaign decorations. His book “War of the Motor Gunboats” was published on his 89th birthday.

 

Sir Christopher Foster (91) was the professional economist and Government consultant who after fifty years in Government service,  will be remembered for describing Tony `The Legacy` Blair as “The worst Prime Minister since Lord North” and a man wo regarded politics as “a permanent campaign”. Working with both Labour and Conservative administrations he was he was associated with the ill-fated Community Charge (the “Poll Tax”) and the re-privatisation of British Rail under the then Secretary of State for Transport, John MacGregor. He Chaired the `Better Government` initiative from 2006 to 2013 and received his knighthood in 1986.

 

Veronica Carlson (77) was one of the Hammer House of Horror “Scream Goddesses” of the 1960s and 1970s. and has been described as “Count Dracula`s most beautiful victim”.  She appeared with Christopher Lee in “Dracula Has Risen From The Grave” (1968) , with Peter Cushing in “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” (1969). and with Ralph Bates as the baron  in “The Horror of Frankenstein” (1970), On television she appeared in “Department S”, “The Saint” and “Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) “ After marriage to Sydney Love and semi-retirement in The States where she worked as a professional  artist she returned to the big screen to star in “House of the Gorgon (2019).

 

Shirley Hughes (94) was the author and illustrator who created the children`s book characters “Dogger” (1977) and “Alfie” (1981) . “Alfie Gets in First was the first of a series and her worldwide sales exceeded twelve million books. She was awarded her OBE in 1999 and made a CBE in 2017. In 2017 she won the Book Trust`s Lifetime Achievement award.

 

Sheila Hill (93) was the cricketer and umpire who presided over the final match of the first Women`s World Cup series at Edgbaston in 1973 when England beat Australia by ninety-two runs.. She officiated in 100 first class matches, three tests and eight one-day internationals  and was one of the first women to be made an honorary member of the MCC. She was also the first woman to be elected , in 1975,  to the General Council of the Association of Umpires and Scorers and 14 years later she became the first woman to chair an international cricketing body. She was awarded her MBE in 2011.

 

Shane Warne (52) has been described as the greatest leg-break bowler in the history of cricket and was selected  by the Cricketer`s Bible, `Wisden` , as one of the five outstanding players of the 20th century. In his first ball bowled in England , in 1993, he took the wicket of a bewildered Mike Gatting, a batsman renowned for his ability to play spin bowling.  In 145 test matches between 1992 and 2007 he took 708 wickets which, at the time of his retirement was the highest total ever achieved. The man who `smoked, drank and played a bit of cricket` drew stumps  after helping to regain the Ashes for Australia in 2006/07 to become a commentator and to raise funds, through the Shane Warne Foundation, for ill and underprivileged children.

 

And Rod Marsh (74) was regarded as one of the greatest Australian wicketkeepers in the history of the game of cricket. “Iron Gloves” as he was known  took ninety-five catches off Australia`s fast bowler Dennis Lillee and ended his career in 1984 with 355 wickets from ninety-six test matches only tweve of which were stumpings,

 

Sir Charles Gray (79) was the libel lawyer  who as a High Court Judge presided over the David Irving holocaust-denial trial in 2000. Having taken silk in 1984 his last case as a barrister was in the defence of Jonathan Aitken against The Guardian Newspaper . He was appointed to the Queen`s Bench Division as a  Judge in 1998.

 

Henriette `Monique` Hanotte (101) was the Belgian resistance fighter who wasresponsible for escorting more than one hundred allied airmen through the Comet escape route that led over the Pyranees and into Spain  between 1940 and 1944 when she was extricated for her own safety by MI 9. She was made an MBE and awarded the US Medal of Freedom.

 

Alan Ladd Jr (84) was the son of the Tough Guy film star Alan Ladd who starred in “Shane” and was the film producer who,  with 20th Century Fox, was hehind The Omen and Alien, As Chairman and CEO of MGM he backed “A fish called Wanda” and “ Thelma and Louise “. As a independent producer he backed Chariots of Fire and Braveheart.  He then teamed up with Geoge Lucas to make the film that nobody else waned to make - “Star Wars” (1977),

 

Diana, Lady Farnham (90) served for thirty years as a Lady of the Bedchamber to Her Majesty the Queen, She began her service in 1987 and was made a DCVO in 2010.During the Duke of Edinburgh`s absence in hospital in 2012 she accompanied Her Majesty to the Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul`s Cathedral. In addition to her Royal duties she also served, with Lady Gale as a magistrate in the East End of London,

 

Marzenna Schelbal (97) was an officer and nurse in the Wrra (Lukasinski Batallion) in the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  With the fall of the city she and her sister were captured and taken to the Oberlangen  camp which was liberated by the Polish Armoured Division in April 1945. She migrated to the UK with her Mother and Sister and became the Chairman of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen`s Association. She was the proud bearer of the Home Army Cross , The Commander`s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and other decorations.

 

William Hurt (71)  Starred in “Body Heat” “Children of a Lesser God”, and “Boadcast News” as well as “Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) for which he won an Oscar.

 

Lord (David) Chidgey (79) won the Eastleigh by-election for the Liberal Democrats in 1994 following the death of the Conservative Stephen Milligan. Following his win the Liberal Democrats also captured Winchester, Romsey and Portsmouth South all in Hampshire.  He held the seat at the 1997 General Election, retained it in 2001 and retired to take a seat ion the House of Lords in 2005.

 

Captain Raymond Savage (102) was the last survivor of the British Army`s 1940 defence of Norway. Escaping over the mountains to Sweden he was interned and then exchanged for some German pilots.

He served with the 1st Leicesters in Penang, Malaya and as Captain the the Brigade HQ in Singapore where he was captured and sent to Changi prison before being taken to work on the Burma-Siam railway.

The “Last Man Standing” in April 1940, he was awarded a diploma and a medallion by the Norwegian Chief of Defence Staff in 2017.

 

Peter Bowles (85) starred with Penelope Keith in “To the Manor Born” (BBC 1979-1981). . Commencing his theatrical career at the Britol Old Vic in 1956 he appeared on stage and r=television for more than sixty years. In addition to nearly fifty starring roles in the theatre he worked on the TV series “Only When I Laughh”, The Bounder”, “Lytton`s Diary” and “Rumpole of the Bailey”.  His most recent TV appearance was as the Duke of Wellington in the ITV series “Victoria”..(2016) His last stage appearance was opposite Penelope Keith in “The Rivals” at London`s Theatre Royal, Haymarket, in 2011

 

Bob Wellings (87) Hosted the BBC`s “Nationwide” programme in the 1970s  He began his TV careedr with ITV`s “About Anglis” in 1960 and moved to  the BBC in 1964 as a reporter and presenter on BBC South Today from Southampton.

After another spell with Anglia TV he joined the embryonic “Newsnight” in January 1970 and stayed with the programme until 1883.

 

Harvey Thomas (82) was the political wizard behind the transformation of Conservative Party campaigning and the party`s conferences during Margaret Thatcher`s premiership. An evangelist who worked on the Dr. Billy Graham crusades, he brought his flair for religious `showbiz` to the presentation of the stage of the political rally. He was present at the 1984 conference in Brighton when the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel and from sleeping on the seventh floor he found himself being excavated from the rubble two floos down, Appointed as head of Press and Communications on the death of Tony Shrimsley in 198s and was awarded a CBE in Margaret Thatcher`s resignation honours.

 

Val Robinson *0) was the English woman hockey player who earned one hundred international hockey caps, won the BBC`s “Superstars” programme twice and, as a teenager, played soccer for Accrington Ladies team.

 

Mary Lee (100) was the Scottish comedienne and singer who rose to stardom with the Roy Fox Big Band in the 1930s. During the Second World War she broadcast with Ambrose and His Orchestra and sang with the RAF Dance Band The Squadronaires. Enlisted with ENSA she performed for the armed forces in Britain and the Middle East. Having raised her family with her husband, Jack Milroy, she returned to variety with BBC Radio and featured on Radio 2`s South Bank Pops series and won a Sony Radio Awardfor her own Radio Clyde programme during the 1990s.

 

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (90)  was, as Elspeth Howe, married to Margaret Thatcher`s former Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe, As a campaigner in ther own right she championed women`s causes , a traditionally left-wing activity that did not endear her to the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. During the Labour Government in 1975 she was appointed as the Chairman of the newly-formed Equal Opportunities Commission and by the mid 1980s the Cabinet Minister John Biffen described the relationasip between Howe and Thatcher as “like wasps in a jam jar” Elspeth Howe persuaded her husband to resign from Thatcher`s cabinet in 1990 and his resignation speech, which helped to precipitate Thatcher`s downfall, is said to have been written by his wife. Under John Major`s premiership Elspeth Howe was appointed as the Chairman of The Broadcasting Standards Council and subsequently Chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Commission. She was made a CBE in 1999 and a life peer in 2001,

As a footnote Elspeth`s beloved Jack Russell Terrier,  Budget, was mated with ou rown Jack Russel bitch, Daisy, but sadly there were no offspring!

 

Billy Watson(98) was the  childfilm  star from `The First Family in Hollywood`  who began his career in silent movies . He made his fist appearance at the age of five , made his `talkie` debut in “Who`s the Boss?” in 1930  and appeared in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1939) and the  Frank Capra/James Stewart political classic “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”. , In 1999 the surviving members of the Watson Hollywood dynasty jointly accepted the award of a star on “The Walk of Fame” – the only family yo do so to date.

 

Madeleine Albright (*4) was the Czechoslovakian-born refugee who left her country in 1937 as a baby, spent the war years in Britain  and having returned to her homeland with her father as a diplomat then , in 1948 when the Czech government fell to communism, moved to the United States.  Married to Joseph Albright, the son of a newspaper dynasty, shE moved to Washington when her husband became Newsday`s Bureau Chief and became involved in democratisc politics again.  Under Jimmy Carter`s Presidency she became Zbigniew Brzezinski`s Congressional Liaison. Following the break-up of her marriage tp Albright  she took a professorial post at Georgetown University  and when Bill Clinton was elected as President in 1992 she became America`s Ambassador to the UN.  And then The United States`64th Secretary of State. When George Bush was elected in 2000 she returned to her academic career.

 

And finally…….

 

In 1915 the explorer Ernest Shackleton lost his ship, The Endurance, crushed in the pack ice of Antarctica and began his epic journey home in an open boat.  The Endurance has, however, endured and now, after 107 years in the freezing waters has been re-discovered near perfectly preserved, by the submersible Sabretooth.

She rests at the bottom of the Weddell Sea in peace.

 

Beavers are back in the wild in London after four hundred years . They are beavering away on the re-wilding project at Forty Field in Enfield.

 

And after hew victory in last year`s Grand National Rachel Blackmore has ridden Henry De Bromhead`s  A Plus Tard to become the first woman jockey to win The Cheltenham Gold Cup.