Gale's View from Westminster

 

October 2022    

 

Another month, another Prime Minister. Or two. The chickens hatched in the `mini-budget` come home to roost. Chancellor  Kwasi: “I’m not going anywhere” Kwarteng goes out through the door marked `Exit` after just 38 days in office in Number Eleven Downing Street,  and former Health and Foreign Secretary walks right in.  Prime Minister Liz: “I’m a fighter not a quitter” Truss falls victim to `the men in grey suits’ and when the music stops there`s a whole new team or, to be more exact, a whole recycled team in government.  Larry the Downing Street mouser may have nine lives but the other Mogg has exhausted his political capital and is on the back-benches again . Mayor Boris`s facility to be economical with the truth is once again revealed as  as he flies home from a holiday in the Dominican Republic to find that his shares have fallen and that `the time is not right’ for another shot at becoming Prime Minister.  Penny Mordaunt fails by a whisker to make the cut in an expedited Leadership election and Rishi Sunak is handed the keys to Number Ten at the second time of asking, while Mrs Truss completes one of the shortest premierships in history, clocking up forty-four days in Number Ten.

 The fallout from Kwarteng’s ‘not the-budget’ manifests itself in market chaos, a falling pound, rising inflation and  increased mortgage interest rates.  The prospect of high winter fuel bills and power outages looms large and the cost of living crisis causes alarm if not despair in too many households.  Labour’s opinion poll lead rockets from single figures to the mid-thirties and the Tory party faces electoral wipeout in a general election that will not be called any time soon. Turkeys we may be but we will not vote for Christmas.

`Top Twit’ Elon Musk completes a £44 billion takeover of the Twitter social media business. A re-cycled and embattled Home Secretary, `Cruella’  Braverman precipitates a wholly unnecessary crisis at an asylum processing centre in Kent.  Fracking for shale gas is on and then off again.  The television series “The Crown” is in the running for the Worst Taste Programme of the Year for its portrayal of the death, in a car crash in Paris, of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 In Ukraine Putin’s ‘pride and joy’, the Kerch bridge that links Russia with annexed Crimea,  is partially destroyed and the war criminal reacts predictably with drone attacks on civilians living in Kyiv and Lviv. The Nordstream gas pipeline is sabotaged by the Russians. Or by the Western Alliance if you choose to believe the war criminal’s propaganda machine.

Those with long political memories will recall that back in the mists of time, two Prime Ministers and getting on for six weeks ago , Mrs Elizabeth Truss travelled to Balmoral in Scotland to be asked by the Monarch to form a Government of the United Kingdom.  Two days later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second died after seventy years on the throne.  It is fair to say that Mrs Truss handled that seismic and historic event with dignity and grace.  She will never be one of the World’s great orators, but her tribute to Her Majesty was plain-speaking and heart-felt.  In reading the lesson at Her Majesty’s funeral she was clear and intelligible to the largest  international television audience that the world has ever known and in so doing she introduced herself to many people around the globe who had never heard of her.

Immediately following the funeral The Prime Minister, in what was a courageous and, given the sentiments of the UKIP wing of the Conservative Parliamentary Party a high-risk decision, chose to attend the European Political Community Summit called by the President of France M. Macron and held in Prague. At that meeting, effectively a re-invention of the Council Of Europe wheel, she began to mend some fences with the French and made the acquaintance of many other leaders of the wider Europe as well.

She had also re-affirmed her commitment to supporting President Zelensky, through the continued supply of vital armaments, in Ukraine’s resistance to Putin’s illegal and criminal war against that country; and in a move that was well received she had announced costly measures to cushion the people of the United Kingdom against the worst effects of the fuel price rises caused by Putin’s war and the consequent hike in the cost of living.  She had also pledged to maintain that support over not one but two winters. So far, so good; if she had paused for breath and thought there, she would very possibly still be Prime Minister.

Then came her decision to announce, through her Chancellor a Kwasi Kwarteng, a disastrous `mini-budget’ that introduced a raft of unfunded tax cuts, seen to favour the most affluent in society , that led to the fall in the value of the pound and soaring mortgage and business-loan rates, leading to the intervention of the Bank of England.  A move which almost brought the economy to its knees in a manner that the taxpayer will be paying for for generations to come.

“Greater love has no man but that he lay down his life for his friend”. In the case of Kwasi Kwarteng, however, he was given no option. He was summarily `hauled back’ from Washington where he had been endeavouring to explain why his `fiscal statement` had caused bond market chaos.  After just thirty-eight days in office he was sacked and his embryonic Cabinet life was terminated. More of a case of a woman fighting to the last drop of somebody else’s blood to save her own political skin than laying down life for a friend that she had known since her university days.

The surprise appointment of Jeremy Hunt, former Health and Foreign Secretaries and at the time much-respected Chairman of the Health Select Committee, to the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer was inspired.  The erstwhile Conservative Leadership contender – he fought Boris Johnson for the job when Theresa May `resigned` - had a short-term but instantaneous beneficial effect  upon the markets and the pound started to rise again as predictions of roaring inflation were adjusted downwards. 

 Mr Hunt had clearly agreed to take the job on his own terms and the `mini-budget` was systematically torn up and its provisions, proudly announced by The Daily Truss as “At Last A Conservative Budget” , were cast to the four winds as the right wing of the parliamentary party wrung its collective hands and sobbed in disbelief.  

Members of Parliament are not known for their willingness to eat Humble Pie.  With the party tanking in the opinion polls to the point where Labour had a thirty-eight point lead and where, if the general election that the Opposition was screaming for were to have been called, the governing party would effectively have been wiped out, the endgame for the premiership of Mrs Truss began. The  turncoat Daily Truss joined the rest of Fleet Street in calling for her head on a plate. The `Red Wall` MPs - those who had won seats in the North of England from Labour for the first time  with very narrow majorities -  saw their embryonic political careers disappearing before their eyes and went into blind panic mode.  The tipping point came, strangely, with the resignation of the Home Secretary Suella `Leaky Su’ Braverman following a `breach of the Ministerial Code’ and a barbed land critical letter of resignation.  The `men in grey suits` took control. The Chairman of the back-bench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, visited Number Ten Downing Street and the Prime Minister stood at the podium constructed for her when she acceded to the post to announce that, after just forty-four days, she was resigning. The end was, like the beginning, dignified; thus one of the shortest premierships in history came to an end.

Following a bruising leadership election only weeks before in the summer, the Conservative Party embarked upon the process all over again. This time, however, it was different. Instead of weeks of campaigning and hustings between the top two candidates chosen by the parliamentary party, followed by a vote of the entire party membership and in which the candidate, Mrs Truss  (with far fewer parliamentary votes than her rival, Mr Sunak) won.  The entire process was confined to just one week of parliamentary votes followed by, if necessary, an electronic vote of the membership designed to deliver a new leader and Prime Minister within seven days.

 The former and disgraced Prime Minister Mr Boris `Mayor` Johnson, if you remember him, was at this time sunning himself on a beach with his family in the Dominican Republic. Quite what he was doing there and how the good burghers of Uxbridge, his seat, were supposed to be represented while the House was sitting you may well ask;  but ex-Prime Ministers appear to be a law unto themselves and this one in particular has never been a keen observer of the niceties of  rules clearly made for other people.    Anyway, with the hats of Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and `Leaky Su` Braverman already tossed into the contest ring, the jungle drums started beating.  `Lady` Mad Nad. Dorries, as she will no doubt become, and others of the Johnson fan-club, together will sundry members of the Press Gallery, called our Holidaying Hero and persuaded him that after only seven weeks he would be forgiven for his transgressions and that the time for a Lazarus-style resurrection from the political undead had arrived. Family J were then bundled onto a transatlantic plane and while his acolytes back at base were trying to get a bandwagon rolling Mayor Boris headed home to join the fray.

 Away from the glare of the tropical sun and back in the weaker autumn light of the United Kingdom, reality hit home and a penny began to drop.  Mayor Boris found that far from being acclaimed as a knight in shining armour, support for his cause was lukewarm and he struggled to garner the one hundred votes necessary to make the cut onto the parliamentary ballot paper.  Candidate Sunak roared ahead on the game.  Candidate Mordaunt found the going heavy and Candidate Braverman, realising that her support was thin on the ground and confined mainly to the right-wing European Reform Group, pulled out of the race.

 What happened next is disputed and denied. It looks as though Candidate Sunak, fearful that if Mayor Boris made it onto the ballot paper  - then a membership that still believes that he can walk on water would re-anoint him as leader - appears to have struck a deal with `Leaky Su` to the effect that if he became Prime Minister she could have her recently-resigned-from job as Home Secretary back.  This was to have considerable implications downstream.

In the event, Mayor Boris finally grasped the fact that he still faced an investigation by the Privileges Committee into whether or not he misled the Commons from the despatch box while Prime Minister.  If found guilty he could once more be forced out of office  in a matter of weeks. He is supremely arrogant but not stupid and therefore announced that he was withdrawing his name because `now is not the time’ for him to become Prime Minister again. Having said, and meant, that if the man went back into Number Ten I would, after nearly forty years on the Conservative benches, resign the party whip and sit as an independent, this was something of a relief to me personally!

Penny Mordaunt, who I was personally once more supporting, tried valiantly to make the ballot paper and had she done so might well have been chosen over Mr Sunak by the party membership, but in the event it was not to be. She fell ten votes short of the one hundred required to continue her challenge for the poisoned chalice, leaving Rishi Sunak to be crowned without a vote of the membership as leader and Prime Minister-elect.  Mrs Truss went to see King Charles to hand in her seals of office and then Mr. Sunak went to the Palace to be confirmed in the job and to pick up the Keys to Number Ten Downing Street as Britain’s first Asian Prime Minister.

There is the apocryphal story  of the `Tory Grandee` who, invited for interview by the British Broadcasting Corporation as it was before it move to Salford, was told apologetically that `there was a modest fee’ for his appearance. “”Oh that’s alright” said Sir Tufton Bufton,  “ will you take a cheque”?

The days when radio and then television companies paid an appearance fee sadly  disappeared into the mist many moons ago when Members of Parliament began to receive a `living wage` but I had hoped that having had to maintain a high media profile during the removal of Mr Johnson from Downing Street I might be allowed to slip back into modest obscurity again. Sadly that was not to be.

The former RAF base at Manston in East Kent lies within the boundary of my parliamentary constituency. We are working hard to see the airfield, now privately owned by the RiverOak Strategic Partnership (RSP) and, having attracted well in excess of £300 million of potential investment, re-opened as a freight hub and subsequently as a passenger airport again.  A Development Consent Order (DCO) has been granted by the Department of Transport and, subject to the inevitable judicial review demanded by people who having moved down from London and bought houses under the flightpath now complain that there might be aeroplanes at a location that has been an airfield for over 100 years, work should start in about twelve months` time.

 Manston Barracks however, not to be confused with the airfield itself (although many reporters of course do just that) has been transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the ownership of the Home Office and turned into a Migrant Processing Centre. While I resisted this proposal I have in fairness to say that from the time the centre opened last January until about mid-September it operated very smoothly and without complaint or even the notice of local residents.

 It is intended to relieve the Port of Dover of the pressure of the tens of thousands of illegal cross-channel migrants who pay people-traffickers in excess of three thousand euros a head in order to make the perilous journey in wholly unsuitable and overcrowded inflatable dinghies, powered by outboard motors that not infrequently fail mid-channel.  The travellers are not infrequently rescued by the ships of Border Force or the Royal Navy and landed in Dover because, under international law, and now that Britain has left the European Union (which means that the Dublin Convention nor longer applies) it is now not lawful to return them to France.  With the Western Docks at Dover overwhelmed, the Migrant Processing Centre at the former Manston barracks was created to receive illegal migrants/asylum seekers under secure transport from Dover, where they have already been issued with warm, dry clothing, take biometric and fingerprint and other details carrying  out terrorist and criminal record checks before then moving them on in twenty-four to forty-eight hours to other locations.

The centre has a capacity of around fifteen hundred people at any one time. They are temporarily housed in substantially constructed wedding marquee-style buildings with heating and solid walls which have access to shower and lavatory facilities. Good, adequate hot food and water is provided and there is an excellent medical facility staffed by paramedics, doctors and a visiting paediatrician . Families are segregated from single males and although it is correct that people sleep on camping-style and disposable  roll mats on the floors of the units they are, for a relatively short period of time, wholly adequate and not uncomfortable.

 For a relatively short period of time.

 In his Ministerial re-shuffle Prime Minister Sunak installed `Leaky Su` Braverman again as Home Secretary, some say as a result of an agreement to deliver her vote and those of her supporters, to him during a leadership challenge in which he was fearful of the threat posed by Mayor Boris.  From the time of her first appointment to the Home Office under Mrs Truss , when she replaced Mrs Patel as Home Secretary, until her resignation, there was, insiders say, a policy change to veto the approval of more hotel spaces to house asylum seekers.  With hostility from local authorities and Members of Parliament and with cost already running at £4 million pounds a day and rising, it is easy to see why the populist line was to say “no more”.  That, of course, caused a backlog at the Manston Processing Centre and numbers held there began to rise.  With the appointment, briefly, of Grant Shapps as Home Secretary after Mrs Braverman`s resignation, the problem was swiftly identified and additional alternative provision commissioned.  With the re-appointment of Mrs Braverman under the deal that it is alleged was struck with Mr Sunak the policy was reversed and the figures began to rise alarmingly - at the rate of up to one thousand people a day.  When I visited the Centre about a fortnight ago on a Thursday there were two thousand five hundred people there and by the time that the Minister of State, Robert Jenrick, visited on the following Sunday there were over four thousand people being held in conditions that I have described, I believe rightly, as inhumane.

 Inevitably this generated parliamentary and media activity and as   I have also said that I believe that the `send them to Rwanda` policy instigated by Mrs Patel and espoused by Mrs Braverman and, apparently, by Mr Sunak, is illegal, unworkable, costly and patently to date ineffective as a deterrent.  And the Home Office asylum policy is broken and needs a complete overhaul. As the constituency Member of Parliament for Manson I have found myself in the eye of the storm receiving hate-mail and praise in just about equal proportion. I have made it clear that while we are required to deal with criminal people trafficking and paid for illegal migration and while plainly many of those travelling across the Channel are economic migrants with no just claim to asylum, we are also dealing with human beings who have a right to be treated as such.

In the short term we need, and instead of spending millions daily on hotels should have provided, purpose-built or adapted ex-military accommodation to hold people securely while their claims are swiftly and efficiently determined – something that is lamentably not happening at present.

 In the longer term and to address a very real international issue, we need not the dog-whistle populist approach taken to date, but a mature bi-lateral agreement with the French and a pan-European approach designed to respond to what is a global and not just a French or British problem . That, of course, will not be the `quick fix` that the Home Office is looking for. It will take time and hard work and diplomacy and it will inevitably not be perfect, but Prime Minister Sunak has made the first effort to secure a rapprochement with M. Macron and that has to be a grown-up step in the right direction.

Looking ahead to November, we are on the eve of the Football World Cup in Qatar. The Federation of Incompetent Football Associations (aka FOFA), having made the mistake of awarding the last competition to the Russian Federation to host, decided to give the next tryst to the equally shining example of democracy in the Middle East that is renowned for its record on human rights. Taking a “When in Rome……” approach: our illustrious Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, normally a sensible and decent chap, has advised visiting football fans to observe and respect local customs and practices even if that means, presumably, subscribing to what passes for justice and democracy in Qatar.  Watch this space.

 And the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles the Third will take place on the third Saturday in May next year,  Whether there will be an extra bank holiday to allow people to travel to London on the Friday or whether it will replace the traditional Spring bank holiday has yet to be determined.

 

Ballswatch

The Local Government Association’s `woke` inclusive  language guide instructs readers to avoid the use of `Mum and Dad` and `the homeless`, `Ladies and Gentlemen`, `Ex-pats` and `deprived neighbourhoods`. `Positive` in-words are `second generation`, `lifestyle choice`, `birthing parents` `same-sex relationship`, `family partners` `non-UK nationals` and `people experiencing disadvantage`. Comments on the 18-page  document include `hogwash that beggars belief` and `patronising codswallop`.

Transphobia rules, okay. “The Lion, the Witch, the audacity of the bitch to question my authority” on bodily anatomy (Globe Theatre) has also led to an apology for a portrayal of the `non-binary French heroine Joan of Arc`.

 The Great British Bake Off is under fire for its Mexican Week show in which the hosts wore `stereotypical` sombreros and played maracas. “Cooking, not baking” was the verdict.

The European Political Community Summit  held in Prague this month was attended by the heads of forty-four European nations  including Liz Truss and M. Macron and includes  Azerbaijan. The gathering was the brainchild of the French President who clearly has not heard of the Council of Europe which embraces forty-six Member States. “Re-inventing the wheel” springs to mind.

 The actor John Cleese is to present a programme on the embryonic TV station GB `Fawlty` News.  Looking at the ratings he might save time, money and energy if he just telephoned the audience.

 The National Audit Office is set to investigate the expenditure of £120 million on a `Festival of Brexit` which also attracted a paltry audience. As value for taxpayer’s money this was not a runaway success.

 And talking of taxpayer’s money:  Downing Street has commissioned four different lecterns for the coming and going of four different Tory Prime Ministers in the last twelve years. There was originally a portable one used by `The Legacy` Blair and  Gordon Brown but apparently the wheels came off.

 Art imitating Life or Life imitating Art?  Daniel `James Bond` Craig, star of `No Time to Die` and `Skyfall` and of course, together with Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, of the 2012 London Olympics has  received the Order of St Michael and St George ( the CMG) from the Princess Royal who is reported to have said “We’ve been expecting you Mr Bond”. The fictional James Bond had also received the CMG and was a Commander,(RN) , an honorary rank that Daniel Craig has  has received from the Royal Navy.

 His Majesty`s Passport Office is addressing a considerable backlog that has led to missed flights and aborted overseas holidays as we know but they have now excelled themselves. A month after the death of Her Majesty the Queen,  the office appears to still be issuing passports that read “Her Britannic Majesty`s Secretary of State For Foreign Affairs requires in the name of Her Majesty……..”  Time to end Working From Home perhaps?

Valete

Loretta Lynn (90) was  the Country Music singer brought up in Kentucky and in the 1960s was one of the first female country music vocalists. As a songwriter she penned “You Ain’t Woman  enough” (1966), “Don’t Come Home A` Drinkin” (1967 ) and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970.) In 1975 she released an  album which included “The Pill”, the first major song about oral contraceptives, which delayed the release of the record by three years while courageous record label executives worried about its potential impact.  In duet with Conway Twitty Loretta Young had five consecutive Number One hits between 1971 and 1975 and she had more than fifty Top Ten Country and Western hit records. She wrote her first song, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”,  which she recorded in Vancouver,  in just twenty minutes. The song reached number ten in the US country hit parade.She starred in America’s most popular country music radio show, ”The Grand Ole` Opry” and signed a lifetime recording contract with Decca records. In 1972 she became the first woman to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association , and she was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2010 and an American Lifetime Achievement award in 2014 and in 2013 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 Carl Walker (88)was the Blackpool policemen whose intervention in an armed robbery and subsequent injuries in a one-sided gunfight in which another police officer was fatally wounded led to the arrest of a number of notorious armed robbers and the award of the George Cross, the highest civilian award for gallantry . He received his medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second on December 5th 1972. He retired with the rank of inspector in 1982.

 Ian Hamilton (97) led the group of students who on Christmas day 1950 stole the Stone of Destiny (The Stone of Scone )from beneath the Coronation chair in  Westminster Abbey and `repatriated` it to  Scotland. The four hundredweight piece of sandstone was claimed to have been the pillow upon which Jacob slept and was first transported to Scotland in 500 AD.  In 843 the stone was moved to Scone for the coronation of the `King of Scots`, one Kenneth McAlpin. The Kings of Scotland were crowned on the stone until 1296 when King Edward 1st removed the artefact to London. Hamilton and his accomplices first hid the stone, which had broken into two pieces, in Kent and Birmingham before taking them to Scotland.  On April 11th 1951 they left the repaired stone in Arbroath Abbey. The stone was returned to Scotland again in 1996 and housed in the Crown Room Edinburgh Castle. It will be taken to London again for the coronation of King Charles the Third.

 Captain Vyvyan Howard (102) was one of the last Fleet Air Arm pilots to fly a Fairey Swordfish and the last British survivor of what became known as `The Great Escape` from the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft 111,  having been shot down and captured in 1941. In January 1945 he was compelled to join `The Long March` away from the advancing Russian army and was liberated by the British Army in April . After the war he was stationed at the Royal Naval Air base at Culdrose in Cornwall where , having first flown Tiger Moth biplanes, he moved into the jet age to pilot Sea Vampires and Gloster Meteors. He then flew Westland Wyverns from the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle during the Suez crisis Operation Musketeer, an engagement for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “gallant and distinguished service in the Near East”.

 Brother Andrew (94) was the Dutch missionary known as “God’s smuggler”  who crossed frontiers to convey Christian literature into communist states. During the Cold War he conveyed bibles to countries  behind the Iron Curtain . His first trip was to Warsaw in 1955 and he followed this up with a visit to Moscow in 1956 in a Volswagen Beetle, stuffed full of religious tracts.  His work led to the foundation of the Open Doors charity which today operates in a number of countries.  During the Second World War he worked with the Dutch resistance and post-war was selected for commando training in the Dutch East Indies. In 1993 he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

 Raymond Allen (82) was the television scriptwriter who in the 1970s created  the BBC “Some Mothers Do `Ave `Em”  series starring Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer  and Michelle Dotrice as his wife Betty,   which at its peak attracted twenty-six million television viewers, The show ran for twenty-two episodes from 1973 until Christmas Day 1978.

 Lady Mary Russell (88)was one , at the age of 19, of the youngest and smallest of the maids-of-honour who carried the late Queen Elizabeth’s 21 foot train from the Gold State coach  into Westminster Abbey and up the aisle on June 2nd  1953. Maids of honour were required to be unmarried, aged between 17 and 23 and the daughters of Earls, Marquesses and Dukes and, said one of the Maids  in a late-in-life interview “treated just like the Spice Girls” by the press.

 Air Vice Marshall John Brownlow (93) was the RAF pilot who flew in Lincoln  bombers and was the lead navigator in  the King’s birthday fly-past over Buckingham Palace in 1950. Re-trained as a pilot he joined 103 (Canberra) squadron.  In 1958  he then joined the Empire Test Pilot’s School  and became one of the armed forces leading test pilots. He was awarded the AFC in 1962 , became the Assistant Commandant at the Cranwell RAF College in 1973, joined the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down and returned to Cranwell as Commandant in 1980.He was appointed CB in 1982and was awarded the Guild of Air Pilots Sword of Honour in 2000.

 Dame Carmen Callil (84) was the founder, in 1972, of the Virago press  house created to publish books which `celebrated women and women’s lives`. In 1996 she chaired the Booker Prize jury and in 2011 resigned from the Man Booker judging panel over its decision to award the prize to Philip Roth. She was made a DBE for services to literature in 2017.

 Maria Wittner (85) was one of the last remaining participating survivors of the 1956 Hungarian revolution against the Soviet-controlled regime.. The Free Hungarian leader Imre Nagy was spirited away to Moscow never to be seen alive again.  Maria Wittner joined the Vajdahunyad Street Insurgents as a resistance fighter. During the insurrection itself , on October 23rd 1956, many protesters were shot and killed outside the Hungarian Radio building and Maria sought to give medical aid to the wounded and dying.  On 4th November 1956  Soviet forces entered Budapest in tanks and Maria was wounded by shrapnel from a landmine. She left Hungary for Austria via the Andau bridge but returned and on July 16th 1957 , was arrested, tried and sentenced to death, She was subjected to brutal and degrading treatment on death row but on February 24th 1959 her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She was finally released in 1970, She joined Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party as a Member of Parliament and served between 2006 and 2014 but fell out with Orban over his `cosy` relationship with Putin.

 Lieutenant Commander Frank Nowosielski (69) was the longest-serving  Commanding Officer of Nelson`s flagship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.  HMS Victory, now permanently house in dry dock in Portsmouth Royal Naval Dockyard. Following a spell as First Lieutenant on the Victory from 1989 to 1992 he became her commanding officer in 1998.   Entering the Royal Navy through the HMS Raleigh training centre at Torpoint in Cornwall he served as a rating and then as a Petty Officer on the carrier HMS Hermes before joining the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and emerging as an officer.   Nowosielski is credited with rescuing the Victory’s Trafalgar topsail from a gymnasium, oversaw the sail’s conservation and arranged for its permanent exhibition.. In recognition of this work he was awarded an MBE.

 Kathleen Booth (100) was the co-designer of one of the world’s first operational computers and wrote two of the first books on computer design and programming.

 Baroness Blood (84) was the first Ulsterwoman to be granted a life peerage.  The former trades union organiser from West Belfast founded the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition which was instrumental in the achievement of the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. She was awarded an MBE in 199f for services to equal opportunities  and in 1996 took the Labour whip as a member of the House of Lords.

 Brian Robinson (91) was the first British cyclist to take part in the Tour de France in 1955 and then to win a stage of the race in 1958, He represented Great Britain at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 and participated in the 1953 Tour of Britain.in 2017 he was awarded a BEM for services to charity and cycling.

Jerry Lee Lewis ((87) was, with Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, one of the cornerstones of the 1950s Rock `n Roll era. A wild keyboard-player, he was known as much for his chaotic private life as for his music. `A Whole Lotta Shakin` Goin` On` (1957) launched his career and `Great Balls of Fire` which was released five months later  is a rock classic. He married his seventh wife at the age of 76 in 2012 and  was eventually inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year.

Robbie Coltrane(72) was the actor  wo played Dr Eddie `Fitz` Fitzgerald in the 1990s BAFTA award-winning television series `Cracker` and was the much-loved gentle giant Hagrid in the Harry Potter films

And Christopher Yvon (52) joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989. He served in Prague, Bankok, Riyadh and Mauritius, was the UK Ambassador in Macedonia from 2010 to 2014, Charge d`Affaires in Slovenia in 2014 and Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the Council of Europe from 2016-2020. During my time as the Leader of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg he was a source of constant wisdom and support in our many tussles with the Russian Federation and other countries over human rights issues .I and his many friends will miss his humour and the benefit of thoughts generated by a first-class brain. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time for them all.

  And finally……….

 The City of Liverpool, home of The Beatles and Merseybeat, has been chosen to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the 2022 winners – the first time that the event will be held in the United Kingdom for 25 years. Due to `local difficulty` Ukraine is not in a position to host the contest.