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Westminster View - May 2019

May. Just when we thought that it could not get any worse, it did. The `Men in suits` have their way and Theresa May will resign as Leader of the Conservative Party . This announcement precipitates a Leadership race that is likely to attract more starters than the Epsom Derby but a flat race it will not be. Mayor Boris is the Party`s Darling but antipathy in the Commons suggests that he might not make the cut. Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove are strong contenders running alongside others that you may never have heard of.

The local election results were grim for the Tories and equally grim for a Labour Party that ought to be riding high on Tory disarray. Liberals, `Independents`, the Greens, just about anyone who is not `mainstream`, are the beneficiaries of electorate disdain for the major parties.  The Farridge`s embryonic `Brexit Party`, a one-trick pony that is more of a cult and a pressure group than a serious political contender for government.Mr.Speaker Bercow appears to prepare to leave the High Chair in the House of Commons, changes his mind and decides to see Brexit through and bars the Tramp from addressing Parliament during the Commander-in-Chief`s D-Day Commemorative State visit to the United Kingdom. The cross-Channel people-trafficking season has arrived with Spring and the inevitable recriminations recommence as boatloads of migrants are rescued from La Manche. Not much chance of intervention from The Mekron: the French President has troubles in his own poubelle and is too busy demanding `clarity` over Brexit and posing as President of the United States of Europe. It is, though, the sans culottes in gilets jaunes that are En Marche in France. Wikiperson Assange still languishes in Belmarsh prison while the Americans prepare a raft of charges that warrant extradition and the Swedes decide to re-open investigations into rape charges against the Ecuadorian reject. A tug of love? I think not.  More parochially Tesco’s, the chain that pioneered out-of-town supermarkets., is campaigning to `Save the High Streets` which, given their role in the demise of this retail offer is rather like asking the wolf to put Red Riding Hood to bed.  Boy George’s fiscal chickens are coming home to roost as his limits on pension funds are causing scores of General Practitioners to take early retirement thus depriving patients of an adequate supply of Doctors to call upon. The Jeremy Kyle Show is, following the suicide of a tormented participant, taken off air by Independent Television , British Steel is on the verge of collapse again at a cost of thousands of jobs, unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974 and following the acrimonious departure of Gavin `Private Pike` Williamson from the Cabinet Penny `Splash` Mordaunt becomes the first British woman Secretary of State for Defence. Ms Mordaunt represents a naval base and is herself a Royal Naval Reserve Officer. All the nice boys love a sailor.

 

On the steps of Downing Street the Prime Minister announced that she would resign as Leader of the Conservative Party on Friday 7th June, thus triggering a leadership contest in which the winner will become Prime Minister before the summer recess. She said, with characteristic Christian fortitude, that she bore no ill-will towards those who have conspired to bring her tenure of office to an end and with tears in her eyes she thanked the Country for the opportunity to “serve the Country that I love”.  As she once said at the despatch box “Remind you of anybody”?. Two great ladies, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, both, courageous, determined and single-minded and  both brought low by political pygmies.

 

I am not as politically generous as the Prime Minister and I hope and expect that history will treat her rather more kindly that it will treat those who have so consistently sought to undermine her negotiating position not out of national but rather of naked self-interest. If one of them is chosen by the Conservative Party in the Country as Leader then that person may, I fear, find it difficult to muster sufficient support within the parliamentary Party to form and sustain an administration. That, of course, would lead to a General Election and the very real possibility of a Corbyn-led Marxist government. I hope that those party members voting will bear that in mind before they succumb to the skin-deep pseudo charms of populism.

 

Back at the beginning of May, which now seems like a very long time ago indeed, the Prime Minister was still negotiating with Red Jerry to see if, in the national interest, a deal could be struck to get the EU  withdrawal agreement over the line.  Mr Corbyn does not do `national interest` and although the PM came perilously close to what some saw as ‘caving in to the Labour Party` the talks hit the buffers. The PM then sought to introduce the Withdrawal Bill itself, with a view to getting the necessary legislation through its Second Reading and at least into Committee where it could be amended but the Chief Whip had to tell her that there was no majority even for that measure.   We could have voted for the Withdrawal Agreement and, as Theresa May had hoped and had a right to expect, have honoured the referendum result and have left the European Union by the end of March.  Instead we are, as a result of the demands of both Remainers and the die-hard Right who want only a No Deal Brexit, left with the worst of all possible worlds – almost.

 

It is still not certain that `Jeremy Corbyn will be in Number Ten by Christmas` but, saving the results of the European election results (of which more later) it is increasingly probable.  The fine irony of that scenario is that those who have allowed what they regard as `the best` to be the enemy of the good may find that far from delivering a hard Brexit an incoming Labour minority administration, possibly with the support of the Liberals, the Greens and the Scottish Nationalists, might deliver no Brexit at all. The prospect of those chickens coming home not to roost but to be strangled, plucked and stuffed does have a certain grim attraction about it!  Bitter? No, but bloody angry. I gave up a career in television to enter the House of Commons to fight the extremes of Communism and Fascism not to see the bullies of the hard left and the hard right regain control.

 

What is more certain than Mr. Corbyn`s future is that the Leadership of the Conservative Party and the Prime Ministership of the United Kingdom are severally and collectively a poisoned chalice.  Whoever is chosen to take on the task is going to face exactly the same problems that have defeated Mrs. May and is going to have to face up to the reality that there is no Commons majority for any one solution.  The idea that a “Boris for PM” result will lead to Europe radically revising a Withdrawal Agreement has about as much of a ring of truth about it as Mr. Johnson`s “Side of a Bus” slogans and the “No DeaL” dream of some others, with a crash out of the European Union on Hallowe`en night stands a snowball in hell`s chance of getting through a Commons that has Mr. Speaker Bercow, an implacable opponent of Brexit, in the Chair. And  Speaker Bercow, once expected to retire this summer, has made it plain that he intends to see the process through to the end. It would, technically, be possible to prorogue Parliament until after the fail-safe date in order to carve the House out of the legislative process but that would mean  involving  Her Maj in politics and could well generate a constitutional crisis not to mention civil insurrection.

 

Early in the month the loss of some 1300 seats, albeit from a high previous score,   by the Conservative party in the local government elections  was the worst result for twenty-five years while Labour`s predicted gain of four hundred seats turned into an actual loss of around eighty. That UKIP was effectively wiped out at local government level was small comfort and did not bode well for the EU polls that lay ahead.

 

Into this mix was injected the Brexit Party, founded by the lovable Mr. Farridge. The man who has so signally failed to get himself elected to Parliament despite having carpet-bagged his way around Britain and who has walked away from his UKIP party on not one but several occasions has set up a new stall in the political marketplace to fight European Elections in which, of course, Great Britain ought not to have been participating at all. It is highly likely that the BNP element of UKIP that Farridge claims that he wanted to distance himself from has in fact merged itself with the Brexit Party but is an undeniable fact that in six weeks the Farridge machine has gone from if not zero to hero certainly to an attractive home for disgruntled right and far-right of centre votes.

 

There is a case for saying that the failure to deliver on Brexit is, in fact, a sign that mature  democracy working. That there is no majority of any one solution within the body of democratically elected members that is parliament could be read as a sign that the checks and balances of our political system are doing their job.  That is not, though, how those who wish to overturn the referendum result or those who feel that they have been cheated because “we voted to leave” view the matter. Those sentiments manifested themselves very clearly in the results of the European Parliamentary election in Britain.  Whether this is `the end of two-party politics` in the UK only time will tell but it was an appalling night for both Labour and the Conservative parties.  Michael (Lord) Ashcroft`s poling suggests that almost 53% of traditional Tory supporters voted for the Brexit Party while a Labour Party that ought to be capitalising on Conservative disarray was crushed by  Farridge candidates scraped together at the last minute everywhere except in pro-Remain London and in Scotland and by resurgent pro-remain Liberal and Green parties.  Mr Daniel Hannan, Leader-writer for the Daily Torygraph and the sole surviving  Conservative MEP in South East England, a man who might be regarded as an `Old Ukipper`  said after the results came in that “There can be no General Election before we deliver Brexit – but there can be no Brexit without a General Election!” That is precisely the dilemma that the next Prime Minister, whoever he or she may be, will face.

 

 

In other news the United States `Royal Family` of Donald and Melania, Donald Junior and Tiffany, Eric and Lara and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are preparing to descend upon Britain for  The Tramp`s State Visit to this sceptered isle. As a curtain-raiser for planned discussions in Number Ten the Commander-in-Chief has issued an executive order banning US businesses  from dealing with Overseas telecoms companies which is seen as and intended to be a shot across the UK Government`s decision to allow the Chinese firm Huawei to participate in our 5G development.  Mr Speaker Bercow has reaffirmed that The Tramp will not be invited to address parliament which, given that we are dealing with the Head of State of a major ally, whatever you may think of the man himself, is seen as churlish and the war of words between the Mayor of London and the President continues with `Kubla` Khan saying that The Tramp `is not in the same class` as previous US Presidents.

 

The real Royal Family has, at last and after what seemed like an interminable pregnancy, celebrated the birth of a boy, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Archie has yet to be given a title.

 

A former darling of Conservative conferences  and very pro-European peer, Michael (Lord) Heseltine has revealed that he voted Liberal in the European Elections and has had the Conservative whip removed as a result. On the other side of the political  divide `Legacy` Blair`s former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, also voted Liberal Democrat and is initially booted out of the Labour Party before what passes for common sense in that august body prevails and he is reinstated.

 

And Labour`s Fiona Onasanya, the MP for Peterborough convicted and sentenced to three months in gaol for perjury arising from a driving offence, becomes the first Member of Parliament to be removed from office under a `recall motion`. Twenty-five percent of her electorate, 19,261 voters, signed the petition  necessary to trigger a by-election.

 

Ballswatch

 

After twenty-seven years of loyal consumption by fans Marks and Spencer`s Percy Pig, who is reported to have two hundred and fifty-thousand followers on Facebook  is being produced in vegetarian form. Percy still contains beeswax and is therefore not acceptable to vegans.

 

M&S have also faced criticism following the introduction of a £3 `LGBT` sandwich. The `Gay` offering, a variation on the traditional BLT  contains Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato, and in spite of a promised £10,000 donation to the Albert Kennedy Trust is considered patronising .

 

Jessica Anderson, who in three hours, eight minutes and thirty-eight seconds,  ran the fastest marathon dressed as a nurse was initially denied entry in the Guinness Book of Records because she was wearing `scrubs` rather than the `traditional pinafore and green cap`. Happily, Guinness Superlatives have relented and Ms. Anderson will take her rightful place in the annals of sport.

 

Surprisingly, to critics of John Humphreys  the broadcaster Emily Maitlis tops the list of interrupters amongst sound and TV interviewers. Ms Maitlis clocks up an intervention every 28 seconds compared with Misha Hussein`s every 46 seconds and Humphreys` every 28 seconds.

 

`Leave means leave`. At least so far as Mr. Farridge is concerned. When his chauffeur-driven Range Rover was involved in a car crash he reportedly `collected his bag and walked off`. `Had anyone been hurt`, says the ever-compassionate Nige, `I would have stayed.  You cannot blame him for letting the car take the strain, though. Train journeys are apparently on average thirteen times more expensive than driving.

 

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education is opposed to job advertisements seeking `confident` `ambitious` or `decisive` applicants because, says the Institute, `masculine language  puts women off`.

 

The Chief Inspector of Schools has advised teachers not to ask if pupils are `okay` during SATS exams. The well-intentioned query may, you see, cause `stress`.

 

Sir Laurence Byrne`s annotated copy of` Lady Chatterley’s Lover` has been banned from leaving the UK. The copy of the D.H.Lawrence novel that represented a legal watershed in the trial over which Judge Byrne presided  and which was recently sold for £56,250, is regarded as of `cultural significance`.

 

Bikini-wearing visitors to Venice beware! The city requires tourists to observe `decorum and respect`. Models posing for publicity purposes could, presumably, face the threatened £440 fine.

 

`Elf `n Safety strike again. Leicester City`s watchdogs have decided that the WI may not supply cakes for the Loros Hospice because `only baked goods from registered and approved establishments` may be consumed in the hospice which has the highest possible environmental rating.

 

And Church Farm at Coombes, near Lancing in Sussex which has been in the same family since 1901 and has thrown open its doors  during farm open days for forty years now faces having to acquire an annual Activity License from Defra. “Educational and Entertainment purposes” require that the public are `protected in a way that they weren`t before`.  It would be a pity, would it not, if Open Farm Sunday on 9th June were to be the last and the gates were closed.

 

Valete

 

Peter Mayhew (74) played Chewbacca in the Star Wars trilogy.  The 7`2” co-star from Barnes in London was discovered by George Lucas in 1977 and became the nation`s favourite Wookie

 

Freddie Starr (76) has died at his home on the Costa del Sol. The comedian was discovered on Opportunity Knocks in the 1970`s and appeared in the Royal Variety Show before  presenting “The Freddie Starr Show” throughout the 80s and 90s and taking part in “I`m a Celebrity……” in 2011.

 

The former Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood  between 1964 and 1977 ,Brian Walden (86) metamorphosed into an incisive and `wise and witty` television interviewer.

 

Doris Day (97) starred in Pillow Talk, Move Over Darling and Calamity Jane in the 1950`s and 60`s. The founder of the Doris Day Animal Welfare foundation will also be remembered for `Que Sera Sera`, the song that became her signature tune.

 

And finally………………….

 

Trooper Nina Croker, a former Sainsbury`s checkout girl, has become the first woman to join the Lifeguards in the three hundred and fifty nine year history of the Household Cavalry and this month sees the 100th anniversary of the recruitment of the first woman police officer in the United Kingdom.

 

And those of a superstitious turn of mind will be relieved to learn that for the first time in thirty years raven chicks have been born at the Tower of London. Brexit or No Brexit the future of the Kingdom is secure.

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