Gale's Westminster Viewed from isolation - September 2020
September. Six months into the Covid 19 pandemic, policy plagued by contradiction and confusion, a hokey-cokey of advice, in-out -in of lockdowns as the second wave hits, a less than `world-beating` test-and-trace system that cannot keep pace with demand; the shifting sands of quarantine restrictions placed upon overseas tourist hotspots as the resurgence of the virus spreads and holidaymakers again try to flood home to beat self-isolation restrictions; the starting and stopping of primary and secondary education as schools go back to try to work in socially-distanced groups ; university `Freshers` weeks spent in on-campus bubbles leaving students with the collegiate experience of having to find food without access to shopping facilities. “Go Back To Work” metamorphoses into “Sorry, Stay At Home If You Can” again. There is a whiff of the police State about a ten o`clock curfew on pubs and clubs and restaurants, numbers attending weddings and funerals reduced, the Chancellor introducing a “Not-the-Budget” package of financial measures and again providing help for some while others still slip through the net; the end of the furlough scheme in sight and a consequent loss of jobs looming as more small and even some larger business hit the buffers.
Support for the Johnson administration wanes as opposition to the Internal Markets Bill and the renewal of the Coronavirus Act mounts within the Conservative Party. The Agriculture bill receives a mauling in the House of Lords as Peers seek to defend our domestic farming industry from cheap and nasty foreign imported produce and some of their legally qualified Lordships also condemn as a breach of international trust provisions contained within an Internal Markets Bill designed to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol. That, of course, sours the tone of Trade and Relationship negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union and leaves us heading for stinking fishing and a no-deal ending of the transition period on December 31st.
The shine has come off the Planning White Paper, launched in mid-August, as analysis reveals a loss of local control over planning decisions and a ludicrous `mutant algorithm` designed to smother still further the Home Counties and the Garden of England with new homes while failing to address the much-publicised needs and imbalances that prevail in the North of England. Not much `levelling-up` there then.
The South Coast, blessed with fine weather, faces the largest influx of human-trafficked illegal immigrants crossing the Channel in inflatable craft since records began and that, of course, generates a dog-whistle populist reaction from Mr. Farridge and his fellow-travellers looking for a new post-Brexit cause.
Still, it could be worse. We could be condemned to living in a United States where wildfires have ripped through the West Coast driving hundreds of homeless people onto city Streets to live in tents, where the pandemic has claimed thousands more victims and tens of thousands more jobs and where the `Presidential` (I use the word loosely) election has already degenerated into an unseemly brawl between two men neither of whom has demonstrated the ability to rise to an occasion. “Cometh the hour, Where is the man”? With the Commander-in Chief trailing `Grandad` Joe Biden in the polls it`s perhaps time to call upon the assistance of Vlad `The Poisoner` Putin once again.
Or, of course, we could be living in the Neo-Soviet client State of Byelorussia
Perhaps not surprisingly though, Britain, a nation that once sang along to Noel Coward`s “There are bad times just around the corner”, yet again demonstrates the capacity to conjure up a `Blitz spirit` . Yes, there are `spivs` making a killing out of Rishi Sunak`s Coronavirus largesse; yes there are the irresponsible and the selfish who believe that the rules that apply to ordinary mortals do not apply to them and place the lives of others at risk as a result; yes, those of us of all political parties in Parliament have not entirely covered ourselves with glory and have most certainly failed the 20/20 hindsight test and yes, a lack of preparedness for the unexpected has meant expenditure that our children and our grand children will be repaying for years. But there have been and remain huge acts of common decency and kindness and self-sacrifice and friendship that will still see us through what the Chancellor has described as the “choppy waters” that are yet to come.
I voted, almost alone on the Tory benches, against the Second Reading of the Internal Markets Bill. As a result I have been branded as a “traitor” by English Nationalists and by those who believe that Mayor Boris can do no wrong. Over thirty-seven years in the House of Commons I can scarcely be described as a “serial rebel” . I resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in order to vote against Conservative legislation that gave succour to those who wish to hunt sentient wild animals with dogs. And on a handful of other measures, notably the legislation to permit Sunday Trading, I have kicked over the traces. But by and large I have been loyal to the Leadership of my Party. I believe though that provisions contained within the Internal Markets Bill, of itself an otherwise necessary piece of legislation, that would `permit` the Government to breach the terms of an international agreement with the EU represent an indication of the paranoia that currently appears to pervade Downing Street and the Special Adviser ensconced within Number 10 and our apparent willingness as a nation to act dishonourably.
I presided, from the Chair as Acting Chairman of Ways and Means (Acting senior Deputy Speaker), over the vote that carried the Withdrawal Act through the House of Commons. I therefore had a grandstand view of the euphoria with which this historic parliamentary moment was greeted on the Government benches. Because of the convention that those in the Chair do not vote I could argue that I did not support the Bill but to do so would be disingenuous. Had I not been in the Chair I would have gone through the Aye lobby with my colleagues in the knowledge that while the bill was flawed it was the only show in Town and that we therefore had to get behind it. This, some will recall, was the deal secured with the EU by the Prime Minister that was at the time hailed by him as a triumph and a significant improvement upon the agreement, which included the `Irish backstop`, brokered by Prime Minister Theresa May. That it included provision for a fall-back border down the Irish Sea, a possibility that The Darling Bud had ruled out from the start as being unacceptable, was brushed aside. Those of us, including the Democratic Unionists as a Party, who pointed out this `minor defect` were assured that (as with Mrs. May`s `backstop`) it would never be used. The necessary legislation was rushed through Parliament after the December election and before Christmas 2019.
Either the Prime Minister was aware at the time that the Agreement contained a provision that could come back to bite him and planned all along to renege on the deal that he had signed up to or, more probably, he had not grasped the significance of the possibility that might arise from a `No Deal` ending of the transition agreement and was panicked into legislating to re-write the agreement unilaterally and retrospectively to over-ride the Northern Ireland Protocol.. Either way I believe that the Government`s actions were reprehensible and wholly out of accord with the United Kingdom`s reputation for integrity and straight-dealing. I am not alone in my view While I am dismissed as ` a Remainer who is trying to undermine Brexit` Lord (Michael) Howard, a former Home Secretary, former Leader of the Conservative Party, ardent Brexiteer and eminent QC said that the Government`s actions were `impossible to defend` and Geoffrey Cox, former Attorney General and also one of the most respected lawyers in the land, condemned the Government`s actions reminding Downing Street that “Our honour depends upon our keeping our word”. Lord Lamont, who as Norman Lamont was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher noted that we “live in troubled times” and the Head of the Government`s legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, resigned having been placed in an `intolerable position` following a clash with the current Attorney General, Suella Braverman as did Scotland`s senior Law Officer. Sir Robert Neil, a former Minister and another of the House`s leading lawyers, tabled an amendment to the bill which gave to the House the right to debate and vote upon any proposal to use the powers that the bill gave to the Government to breach the Withdrawal Agreement and this measure, backed by many Conservative backbenchers, and which I endorsed myself, was accepted in principle by the Government. This was the least worst of the options available but the reality is that all it does is to kick the can down the road to when the Government will move and win, with its huge majority, another motion allowing it to act dishonourably..
There is no doubt that an international agreement is in danger of being torn up by Downing Street. From the Despatch Box Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, acknowledged in response to a direct question from Bob Neill, that we would indeed be breaking international law but only `a bit` and `in a very specific and limited way`! At a technologically incompetent meeting of Back Bench Tories organised by Number 10 and from which many backbenchers were excluded and during which no questions were permitted, the Prime Minister sought to claim that the Brexit divorce deal was “contradictory” and was “being re-written to protect the Union” because of issues that were “unforeseen” and “legally ambiguous”. It was also suggested darkly that M. Barnier was plotting to disrupt trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland and to `carve up and divide the Union` in the event of a No-Deal departure, a claim that has been denied by the EU and for which no evidence has been produced.
Throughout all of this the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, who is a decent man has been noticeably lukewarm in his support of the Government line offering just enough support to avoid the necessity to fall upon his sword. The politically ambition Ms. Braverman, who from the Despatch Box sought to dismiss as “emotional “ criticism of the Internal Markets bill, was herself criticised at the Annual General Meeting of the Bar Council for breaching the Ministerial Code and for `wrecking the reputation` of the legal profession. The President of the European Council has said that the provisions within the bill “break international law and undermines trust” and the Leader of the US House of Representatives, which will have to approve any trade deal with the UK, has said that this measure “puts any deal with the United States in jeopardy.” In the event the Internal Markets Bill passed through the commons by 307 votes to 212. Theresa May did not support the measure and clearly many others abstained. It will now be left to the House of Lords to seek to amend the legislation in an endeavour to restore the believe that `An Englishman`s Word is his Bond`, a quaint old-fashioned view to which some in Downing Street clearly do not subscribe.
If I was the Government Chief Whip I would be not a little concerned. Mark Spencer is a generous and unflappable man, a farmer by profession and not, I suspect, ordinarily given to sleepless nights. Even Mark, though, cannot have failed to notice that hot upon the concerns about the IM Bill came considerable opposition to the renewal of the Coronavirus Act. The Act was passed in great haste and without full scrutiny back in March and was designed to give the Government emergency powers to take all of the decisions necessary to handle the Coronavirus pandemic while parliament was in lockdown. It is easy to be wise after the event. Some of the decisions taken were, as we now know, to late and some were flawed. Many have questioned the Government`s handling of the crisis with good reason and there will, inevitably, be a political post-mortem once times return to some sense of a `new normal`. Six months down the line there are a large number of Conservatives in the House – and again I am one of them – who believe that the Cummings/Johnson administration has been, in the words of the Chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, “governing by decree”. Nobody wishes to deny the Government the right to take swift and appropriate action when necessary but there is a growing view that measures taken have been sometimes too draconian, inconsistent and ineffective. There has to be a balance struck between the physical health and the economic and mental health of the nation and even those who, like myself, are clinically vulnerable believe that the rules and regulations have become confused to the point where even the Prime Minister, speaking publicly very recently, has demonstrated that he does not understand them. If it is possible, as it is, to recall Parliament and to debate and take a vote within forty-eight hours even during a recess then it is also possible for the Government to debate and approve measures to assist in the control of Coronavirus before implementing them . That is why “The Brady Amendment” to the Coronavirus legislation was tabled and received the support, we are told, of the best part of a hundred Conservative Members of Parliament which is, of course, more than even this Government`s majority. The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, ruled all of the amendments to the legislation out of order, correctly and on a technicality, but he made it pain in no uncertain terms that he expected the Government to treat the House with far more courtesy and respect in future and not to continue to try to govern my press statement, televised conference and decree. A dear was struck through the `usual channels` between Sir Graham and Downing Street and so it came tp pass that Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, made a Commons statement before the debate on the Coronavirus Bill, undertakling to bring any necessary national restrictions before the House before seeking to introduce them. There is, to be sure, a bit of wriggle-room in the Government`s position but we have to hope and expect that the concession has been made in good faith and will be adhered to. If not then this administration`s days will, I think, be numbered.
The pandemic itself has of course also given cause for increasing concern. With the onset of the cold and flu season and with schools and universities seeking to return to the classrooms and lecture theatres it was inevitable and predicted that there would be a rise in infection. The scale of the increase though, while not greater than in France and Spain from which countries we think we lag about six weeks behind, is truly alarming. `Local Lockdowns` have had some marginal effect upon controlling the spread of the disease but by the month`s end vast swathes of the Midlands and the North were in various degrees of quarantine as the number of confirmed cases has doubled weekly to reach a four-month high. Unlike the first outbreak of the disease the second wave appears to have been generated by much younger people before then spreading back through older generations and, once again, some Care homes. Matt Hancock`s “Save Granny” exhortation either came too late or fell upon deaf ears. The concerns about the rise in the number of cases expressed by the Government`s Senior Medical Adviser, Jonathan Van Tam, in the first week of September were swiftly justified by the reality but in Cabinet there were divisions over the imposition of the “Rule of Six” requiring that only a maximum of six people from one household should be allowed to gather under one roof. While the rule was not to apply to Schools, Weddings, Funerals and places pf worship it is known that Priti Patel, Grant Shapps and Alok Sharma resisted a measure that was complicated still further by the fact that in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon chose to exempt from the total all children under twelve making a vast difference to the potential for grandparents, parents and children to get together. A proposal for a “circuit breaking” short, sharp total lockdown, regarded as little more than a gimmick, disappeared and as vaccine trials started again after a brief technical hiatus the debate over whether or not vaccination, when available, should be compulsory also resumed . By the third week of the month Professor Chris Whitty was describing the situation as “critical” and Mayor Khan was warning of a likely total lockdown again in London. With the City`s coffee shops and bards struggling to survive a ghost-town lock in trade it looked as though the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, designed to curb “late night intimacy” coupled with the prospect of a “long hard winter” of police enforced curbs backed up by troops where necessary might sound the death-knell for businesses just beginning to rebuild a modest trade after a disastrous summer. The police themselves are reported to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of callers seeking to report errant neighbours in a very un-British manner. Outbreaks of Covid 19 in universities have in some cases led to literally thousands of students becoming infected and facing the prospect of self-isolation or even Christmas on canvass to avoid the further spread of the pandemic across the Country.
In tandem with this second wave has been the break down of the “test and trace” service presided over by (Baroness) Dido Harding. We are told continually that the UK is testing (more people than anywhere else in Europe” and that out “world beating” system already has the capacity to test hundreds of thousands of people every day. The Prime Minister goes further promising that a £1 billion investment in “Operation Moonshot” will deliver the ability to test one million daily and allow medics to track and eradicate the spread of the virus swiftly. Some have had the temerity to point out that what is needed is not “Operation Moonshine” but an effort to get the immediately available system working properly. The testing capacity may be there and indeed in my local testing stations there are dedicated people sitting twiddling their thumbs due to lack of custom. The difficulty is not in testing people but in the processing of the results once the swabs have been taken. Lack of laboratory capacity – notwithstanding the fact that there is plenty more available but not commissioned nationally – has led to the ludicrous situation where samples are being sent to Germany and even Italy to be processed! Mr Mogg may be fed up with people carping about testing and the Covid deniers are still saying that Test and Trace has very little to do with solving the problem but when Matt Hancock says with disarming candour that the chaos will “take weeks” to resolve and that in the meantime tests will be rationed on a priority basis to hospitals, schools and keyworkers I think we may say, in “Moonshot” terms, “Houston, we have a problem”.
Somebody once famously said “Brexit means Brexit”. Well we`ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and left the EU. It now looks as though, barring the eleventh-hour deal for which the EU is renowned, we shall be leaving the transition period on December 31st with no trade agreement, no relationship agreement and no solutions to very many problems. Behind the scenes in Kent there has been frantic activity to try to place on red alert accommodation for an estimated seven thousand lorries predicted by the Border and Protocol Delivery Group to be likely to be stranded for two days at a time, as the customs systems in Dover and Calais come to a grinding halt. Kent`s members of parliament and experienced freight-forwarders who really do know what they are talking about have been saying for over a year that the systems are not “oven ready” but nobody has been listening. The Road Haulage Association says that there will be a `Borders meltdown` on January 1st if there is no deal and claims that Ministers are `in denial`. In the House the Secretary of State for Getting Out Of Europe, (Otherwise and more correctly known as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) Michael Gove, has said that the Kent Access Pass, the documentation required by truckers before entering the county, is on track and that the Smart Freight system is being tested and ready to roll. That is incorrect. The Kent Access Pass is not yet ready and there is the real prospect that we may have an internal border not between England and Northern Ireland but between Kent and the rest of the country and my most recent information suggests that the authorities are trying to scrape together some trucks from Kent`s road hauliers to try out the `Smart Freight` process. In the meantime truck drivers face hundreds of pounds worth of time wasting paperwork and bureaucracy. Hard enough for a British driver to get to grips with but try that on a Lithuanian who does not speak English and there`s a very real prospect that far from having a lorry jam we might not have any trucks at all. And that will do wonders for a British car industry that relies upon `just-in-time` deliveries of car parts from Europe or a National Health Service very heavily dependent upon European-manufactured drugs.
In other news the new Director General of the BBC, Tim Davie, scored quick brownie points by overturning the ban on a choral rendering of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Gory which were subsequently sung with gusto by a socially-distanced choir at The Last Night of the Proms. DG Davie has also said that the Salford Broadcasting Corporation must “reform or die” while heralding a cut in bureaucracy. That sounds like the end of a number of non-jobs with Gilbert and Sullivan titles and might even save enough money to reinstate some of the threatened and potentially disastrous cuts in excellent regional and local services, notably in the South East. There may be a battle looming over Auntie`s impartiality rules which at present only apply to BBC staff News and Current Affairs presenters and not to the freelance presenters of programmes like Match of the Day and Springwatch but if the Beeb loses a few big names it can always, as it has done in the past, recruit and grow some fresh young talent.
“Exstinking Rebellion”, the pseudo environmental activists who specialise in criminal damage managed, following the arrest of ninety of their number who were clogging up Parliament Square, to blockade printworks in Broxbourne and Knowsley to prevent the delivery of The Times and Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard. The constabulary felt bound to `protect the rights of the protestors who were supported by the Labour MP Dawn Butler. . If they tried that in Red Square in Moscow they might discover the real meaning of `protestor`s rights` and `freedom of speech`. Which reminds me that German doctors have determined conclusively that Putin`s opponent Alexei Navalny was poisoned by Novichok while in the neo-Soviet Union.
Good news for Meghan Sussex. She and her husband Harry have landed a one hundred million dollar deal with the Netflix production company. Hopefully that should keep them gainfully employed on the West Coast of the United States for some time to come.
Members of Parliament are being offered lessons in `woke` language and history The courses, designed by consultants at a cost of seven thousand pounds and with a sizeable rollout fee in brainwashing – sorry, `training` - costs will help to eradicate `unconscious bias from Members` thoughts. Thoughts such as “why are we wasting £800 thousand of hard-earned taxpayers` money` as one dinosaur was
heard to think aloud.
The singer Adele has fallen foul of the Woke police for appearing at the (virtual) Notting Hill Carnival in a Jamaican flag bikini and sporting a `Bantu knots` hairdo. Her crime, found guilty as charged without a trial of course, is “Cultural misappropriation”
Jenny Roberts, owner of the last horse-drawn narrowboat, has retired after thirty-three years on the River Wey in Surrey. The Iona was built in 1935 and could have been towed on into the sunset but Jenny was tired of being told that this time-honoured passage was `cruel ` to her much-loved and well cared for horses
You will be pleased to know, if you pay UK taxes, that we are apparently currently spending £450,000 per week on language experts to provide translation services in 143 dialects for foreign criminals facing trial .
Schools are being advised to warn children not to engage in `malicious coughing` or `inappropriate Covid 19 jokes` which has to be a sure-as-hell way to encourage budding classroom comedians to perform.
Superdrug, the chain of High Street chemists, is rebranding sanitary products as `for a person who menstruates` rather than `for women` on the grounds that `we want to be as inclusive as possible`. J.K. Rowling beware of engaging in another transgender row.
Ronnie Harwood, the late playwright, screenwriter and director has placed a ban on women playing men`s roles in all of his works including `The Dresser’. The veto will be lifted when the copyright expires in seventy-five years` time.
The BBC warns contributors that the expressions “Sold down the River”,” cakewalk”, “nitty gritty” and “uppity” are all racist. As Michael Caine might have said “ Not many people know that”.
Jeanne, a student, was barred from the Musee d`Orsay because her dress was too low cut, That would be the same musee, presumably, that is full of sculptures and paintings of naked women. Not like the French to be so un-gallant.
The London Underground is considering learning a lesson from the Dubai Metro and allow sponsored tube stations. So get ready for the Harrods` Knightsbridge and the Nike Oxford Circus. Any takers for Neasden and Mornington Crescent?
The Garrick Club was founded in 1831 as a watering-hole for low-life politicians, actors, journalists and lawyers . In 2015 the all-male establishment voted in favour of admitting women but fell short of the two thirds majority required to let the ladies up the front stairs as full members. Now a female underwear tycoon wants to challenge the decision again on the grounds that she is being denied `networking opportunities`. As one who used to be in favour of the proposed rule change that seems to me to be a very good reason for maintaining the status quo!
The splendid Jilly Cooper, whose late husband Leo was a member of the Garrick is also opposed to women members. Quite right Jilly. Why pay for your own drinks when there is a queue of men waiting to buy them for you? (Sadly I no longer have a vote: I surrendered my membership when, on becoming an MP, I took a massive cut in income and felt that food on my children`s table was more important than the membership fees.)
And talking of the Garrick, which we were, reminds me of the story of the elderly and destitute actor who was allowed , on a nod and forty winks basis, to sleep in the club on the chaise longue in the ladies powder room while he had no fixed abode or employment as a thespian. At an appropriate hour the staff would courteously request any lingering ladies to vacate the facilities “So that our distinguished guest may retire for the night”. Such style.
Lord (Martin) O`Neill (75) of Clackmannan represented the Labour seat of Stirlingshire East and Clackmannanshire and then the new seat of Ochil for twenty six years. As shadow Defence Secretary between 1988 and 1992 he helped Neil Kinnock to discard Labour`s policy of Nuclear disarmament. After fifteen years in opposition – eight of them in defence – he was dropped by Blair and then became Chairman of the Trade and Industry Select Committee.
Mary Miller (90) made over a hundred stage and screen appearances in a career spanning fifty years. With Robert Stephens, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Michael Redgrave she was a founder member of The National Theatre Company at the Old Vic and played Bianca to Olivier`s Othello. Although a stage actress she also appeared in Dixon of Dock Green, The Benny Hill Show, Jackanory and Dr. Finlay`s Casebook.
Lady Judge (73) was the American born lawyer who as Barbara Singer Thomas became a Commissioner with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in New York. Moving to London in 1993 she became the first woman director of NewsCorp. Married to Sir Paul Judge she founded a scholarship for black African women and was made a CBE in 2010.
Joe Ruby (87) was the creator of Scooby Doo and the US animator who saw the talking Great Dane through five decades from 1969 with CBS television and was Hanna Barbera`s leading storyman.
Sir Ronald Harwood (83) (See above) trained at RADA and was with the Wolfit Touring Company from 1953-1958. The Playwright, Screenwriter and author wrote Private Potter, starring Tom Courtenay, in 1962, High Wind in Jamaica (1965) The stage play The Dresser in 1980, and Beloved Country in 1995. He was Chairman of Royal Society for Literature from 2001-2004, received the CBE in 1999 and was knighted in 2010.
Helen Taylor Thompson (96) was engaged in sabotage with the SOE in France . She was awarded the MBE in 1990 and the OBE in 2005.
Bill Elliott (85) generated water effects for theatres and on one occasion flooded the Albert Hall to create a Japanese water garden for a production of Madam Butterfly. The expert in “theatrical plumbing” teamed up with the Glaswegian Jimmy Currie to create waterfalls and fountains for Broadway, The X-Factor, The Chichester Festival the Lido in Paris and Pyjama Tops at The Whitehall Theatre.
Dame Diana Rigg (82) played Emma Peel in The Avengers opposite Patrick McNee as John Steed during the 1960s. She appeared as James Bond`s (only) wife in Her Majesty`s Secret Service in 1969 and in Game of Thrones. Diana Rigg spent five years with the Royal Shakespeare Company playing Regan to Olivier`s Lear. She won a BAFTA Award for Mother Love (BBC) in 1990 and a Tony Award as best actress in Medea, She was appearing in the current re-make of All Creatures Great and Small when she died.
Squadron Leader Allan Scott (99) served with 124 Squadron from Biggin Hill in 1942. He celebrated the centenary of the RAF in 2018 and was scheduled to fly again in a Spitfire for his 100th birthday.
Sir Terence Conran (88) was with the Festival of Britain Design Team from the Central School in 1951.He founded The Soup Kitchen off The Strand serving baguettes and expressos in 1953, Habitat in Chelsea in 1964 and the Neal Street Restaurant in 1971.He founded The Design Museum in a warehouse in Butler`s Wharf in 1989 and Quaglino`s Restaurant in 1993. In 1994 he opened his first shop in Japan and in 2016 opened the new Design Museum in the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.
Barbara Jefford (90) acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End. She worked with Peter Hall at Stratford on Avon when she was nineteen and played many of Shakespeare`s leading ladies
There. On the screen she worked with Fellini and Polanski and appeared in Sir Peter Hall`s film of Midsummer Night`s Dream in 1968.She was, in 1965, the youngest recipient of the OBE.
Michael Lonsdale (89) appeared as Lebel in The Day of the Jackal in 1973 and as Hugo Drax in Moonraker in 1979. He worked in experimental theatre in France and played the Russian diplomat Grigoriev in the 1982 BBC production of Smiley`s People
Bill Gates Senior (94) was the father of the Microsoft Billionaire and a corporate lawyer. He became the President of the Washington State branch of the American Bar Association.
Sir Harold Evans (92) was the editor of The Times and The Sunday Times which he took over in 1967 at the age of 38. He succeeded William Rees Mogg at The Times in 1981 and as a working class campaigning journalist he exposed Kim Philby as a spy and the Thalidomide scandal and published The Crossman Diaries. In a 2002 Press Gazette Poll he was dubbed The Greatest Newspaper Editor of All Time and he was knighted in 2004.
And Juliette Greco (93) was the singer and actress who inspired Jean-Paul Sartre, Camus and Picasso who described her as a `moonbather` because of her incredibly pale skin. During the war she was imprisoned for slapping a Gestapo officer while her sister and mother were working with the French resistance. In 1984 she was awarded the Legion D`Honneur as `The Ambassador of Song`.
Plans are afoot to hold a 2022 “Festival of Brexit”. It might just not have quite the appeal of the 1951 Festival of Britain.
The Rolling Stones have achieved the accolade of having a Number One hit in each of six different decades with the release of the re-mix of Goats Head Soup which my resident deejay tells me first emerged in 1973.
And Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson has been clandestinely baptised.