Gale`s Westminster View – May 2016
May flies by and there are now barely three more excruciating weeks before E-Day. Given the State Opening of Parliament and a Queen`s Speech, an on/off Junior Doctors` strike and the threat of further industrial action by GP`s, David Attenborough`s 90th Birthday , Leicester topping the Premier League, Manchester United winning the FA Cup and dumping their manager simultaneously, the prospect of a Trump vs. Clinton bloodbath in the United States , a was-it-or-wasn`t-it life-claiming terror attack on an Egyptair plane, Government `re-considerations` of Academy Schools and Child Migrants (a polite way of saying Tory-inflicted U-turns), France grinding to a halt in the run-up to Euro 2016 , the publication of the long-awaited BBC Charter and the still longer awaited leaking of the yet-to-be-published Chilcot Inquiry into Blair`s Iraq War and you might think that the EU Referendum would take second place, at least occasionally, in thirty-one days of news. You would be wrong. There has not (I checked) been a day when the In-Out Saga of “Project Fear” (or “Project Reality” depending upon your point of view) has not dominated the news agenda on Radio, Television and in the printed word. Coverage has ranged from the Tabloid Hysterical through the Broadsheet Pompously Mis-informative and the Salford Broadcasting Corporation`s Paranoid Impartial to Death-by-Boredom as “experts” interview other ” experts” in an endeavour to provide the glimmering of fact that has been so lamentably missing from at least one side of the campaigns and, others would argue, both.
So, far be it from Old Windy to deviate from the accepted editorial priorities. The Tory Party has, give-or-take the thinly-veiled animosity between the `liars` and the `lied-to` and the less-thinly-veiled promises of what will, if realised, prove to be a Party- disastrous post-referendum Leadership challenge, change of Prime Minister, premature General Election and a Corbyn Government, studiously avoided what are euphemistically known as “blue-on-blue” attacks. Alright, at the start of the month there was the “challenge” to the Prime Minister to take part In a head-to-head debate with the ex-Party-Leader, Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary and Irritable Disappointment Syndrome, and the latter`s subsequent attack on the last Tory Prime Minister before Cameron to win a General Election (Sir John Major for those born during The Legacy`s miserable tenure of office); we have had ex-Mayor Johnson, fresh from his German-made `Blunder-bus` tour of Britain, comparing the European Union with Hitler`s Superstate ambitions and the ex-Mayor and Defence Secretary Fallon have agreed to a bare-knuckle TV punch-up which might prove entertaining. (the Ex-Mayor is not entirely the buffoon that he pretends to be and Fallon is not a fool at all and does not have a reputation for taking prisoners ); Ms. Priti Patel has used the weight of her Ministerial Office within the Department of Work and Pensions to opine that the “pro-Europeans are far too rich to care about immigration” which might unkindly be construed as a hint that she thinks that public school politicians (exempting the ex-Mayor of London presumably) do not understand the readership of the Daily Mail from the vantage point of their “luxury lifestyles”; Mike The Gover and the current Leader of the House, Chris Grayling. Have kept a weather eye on future Leadership elections and have sought to use only moderate language to scream “foul” at every blow landed by or on behalf of “Project Fear” and, apart from those diversions there is really no reason to suppose that when the dust has settled on whatever the electorate determines on June 23rd all will not be sweet harmony and light within the Conservative Party.
Save, of course, for the fact that “Senior Back Benchers”, a nomenclature given by the press to anyone who is in his or her second or more term of office and of whom you are unlikely ever to have heard, are reported to be preparing to mount a challenge to Man David`s Prime Ministerial position and Leadership of the Tory Party within minutes of the referendum result being declared. Indeed, one chairman of a committee of which I have never heard, a female author not known for her love of Cameron and a third Incredibly Grand-ee are rumoured to have already lodged letters of challenge (fifty are required to put the matter to a vote of the Parliamentary Party) with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady. Once again we may be poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But back to the Main Event. My notes tell me that Mr Duncan Smith has declared that “leaving the EU will make Britain great again” and that “ordinary people are suffering”. Ex-Chancellor Darling believes that “quitting the EU will cost us £250 billion” from family incomes and the current Chief Secretary to the Treasure adds to that loss “one hundred thousand jobs”. Former heads of MI5 and MI6 declare that a `Brexit` will pose a security risk to the UK and five former NATO Chiefs who have served between 1984 and 2014 combine to indicate that “leaving the EU would help the West`s enemies” while the Prime Minister says that “ISIL would like Brexit”. Ex-Mayor Johnson offers the retort that “there will be no war on the European Continent”. (Go, sing that song in Ukraine or Georgia or Moldova, Boris). Another salvo from IDS as in “The EU denies young people their own home” because of the impact of immigration. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Mark Carney, predicts that a Brexit will lead to a recession, falling house prices and a falling pound. Mr Governor, appointed by Chancellor George of course and therefore deeply suspect, faces the headline “Bank Boss Joins Project Fear” from the Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid. Inconveniently he is also a Canadian and therefore one of those Commonwealth Citizens whose example the Vote Leave team wish us to emulate. The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, says that pending the outcome of the referendum companies have stopped investing in the EU. “Three hundred business Leaders from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises back Brexit” and Eurosceptics announce that they will call for a second referendum if Remain wins “narrowly” by which they mean, say. 52%-48%. Not surprisingly Mr. Farridge, whose career prospects depend upon a “neverendum”, believes that such a result would be “unfinished business”. The ex-Mayor of London, whose stance on Europe has been considered by some cynics as Leadership-based opportunism, is said to have “never been a leaver” and there is, it seems, a considerable volume of his public scribbling to support this cynical view. Chancellor George says that “House prices will fall by one fifth” if we Brexit. Good news if you are one of the thousands of immigrants waiting to buy a house, no doubt. Former bosses of Tesco, Sainsbury`s, M&S and B&Q, Sir Terry Leahy, Justin King, Mark Bolland and Sir Ian Cheshire, announce `Better Off In` with inflation, job losses and a falling pound if we leave. The Ex-Mayor of London and The Gover describe this as `Nonsense`. We are advised that “Turkey (Population £76 million) is joining the EU”. Junior Armed Forces Minister Penny “Splash” Mordaunt denies, wrongly (on Andrew Marr) that Britain (and a number of other countries opposed to Turkish membership of the EU) has a veto. The Treasury, the IMF and the OECD all forecast a loss of £1,800 per person per annum in the event of a Vote Leave win. With Farridge writing the script for Brexit that copy says that we are “paying £350 million a week to Brussels”. This is non-existent money that the Leave campaign has already spent many times over on “schools and hospitals and houses” but, like immigration, it is a dog-whistle issue that strikes a chord. Two former chiefs of the NHS say that Brexit will damage the Health Service, an organisation that currently employs some one hundred and thirty-five thousand EU nationals including ten thousand doctors and twenty thousand nurses. With the ex-Mayor of London comparing an EU takeover of sovereignty and the creation of a “Superstate” with Adolf Hitler`s ambitions “by other means”, a proposition rubbished by Lord (Michael) Heseltine, Duncan Smith hits a new low in his description of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as “like Pinocchio”.
The Transport Secretary expresses concerns that investment by Nissan, Toyota and others taking advantage of the Free Trade Area could place two hundred thousand jobs at risk but, with characteristic candour adds that “we just don`t know”. Back at B&Q it`s “DIY recession” following a Brexit as the PM and the Chancellor share power-drills to announce a 15% drop in sterling, rising inflation, a Country that is “permanently poorer” 3.6% off GDP and hundreds of thousands put out of work as against “continued growth” if we remain within the EU. Mr. Duncan Smith is reported to be “furious” and as saying that “it should not be believed by anyone”. The IMF, the OECD, the London School of Economics, eight former US Treasury Secretaries, the President of the United States, business leaders, our allies and trading partners, and the Governor of the Bank of England are all wrong? As Victor Blank summarised the position “This is collective wisdom versus fantasy”.
More “fear” that the cost of holidays would soar if we vote to leave but that seems to be a given if the pound falls as a result of a Brexit vote. Migration from the EU has risen, say the figures, with a quarter of the additional numbers coming from Bulgaria and Romania and asylum claims up by a thirds. The next “scare” comes not from Remain but from Vote Leave in the form of allegations of secret plans to form “A European Army”. “Euro Army in Secret Exercises on Salisbury Plain” screams the Daily Xenophobe. “Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland” have formed “EU Battlegroups” involving “Three hundred troops in 18-day war games against Russia”. First, it is rather reassuring to note that at least some forces within Mainland Europe are taking the neo-Soviet threat as seriously as does Great Britain and as does NATO. I am not certain that a couple of years as a PPS inside the Ministry of Defence and post-graduate membership of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme qualifies me to be a military strategist but you don`t need a degree in missile science to see a problem when it is staring at you down the barrel of a gun! There are those within the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the 28 States of the EU) who are scared stiff of Putin, terrified of potential further aggression and would like to drop the sanctions that the UK, leading within the EU, sought and secured following the annexation of Crimea, and would follow a path of appeasement. There are others who understand that if an inch is given a mile will be taken and who know a bully when they see one. Troops from many nations train with us as allies on a regular basis on land and at sea and it is as well that they do. A Rapid Reaction Corps does not, though, constitute a standing “European Army” and Defence Secretary Fallon has told me that neither he nor, he believes, any of his European counterparts would countenance such a proposal.
External intervention in private grief is seldom welcome. Germany`s Interior Minister has asserted, with others, that a Brexit would pose considerable security risks at a time of great instability and danger but he will probably not be thanked for voicing that opinion. The IMF`s Christine Lagarde is, of course, French and her views should therefore automatically be discounted. The President of the European Commission, the insufferably pompous and arrogant Herr Juncker, has suggested that the British “should behave like full-time Europeans” and recognise “historic projects such as the euro”. Thirty years in Brussels has clearly not taught him how to win friends and influence people. Describing supporters of Brexit as “dissenters” was not helpful and it was left to an elected European leader, Donald Tusk, to say in terms that the “time has come to abandon the completely unrealistic Utopian illusion of a European Superstate”. Back in France Sarko, still nursing Presidential ambitions, sees “a chance to re-make Europe”. Given the onward march of the far-right – Norbert Hofer missed becoming the President of Austria by a whisker, Gert Wilders has talked of Britain liberating Europe” and of a “Patriotic Spring” – and of anti-Islamist nationalist movements gaining ground not just in Holland and Austria but in France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and even Sweden, if Europe, with or without Great Britain, does not “re-make itself” then fascism will.
The June “view” will be written when the results, if not the effect, of the referendum are known so for the moment let us leave the topic with three observations. Andrew Tyrie`s Treasury Select Committee has accused both Remain and leave campaigns of “impoverishing the political debate” and says that both camps are wrong. The £350 million ” given to Brussels every week” is “highly misleading” and the “Three million jobs dependent upon the EU” gives the mistaken impression that all of those jobs will be lost after a Brexit. Second, my friend The Old Knuckleduster, David Davis, an ardent Brexiteer, says that those of us who wish to Remain “fear democratic success” and adds with his usual broad-brush aplomb that “Once we vote to leave we will negotiate a new relationship with the EU”. Which rather underscores what Andy Coulson, sometime Cameron advisor, said following remarks made by another former Downing Street aide, Steve Hilton. ”He is taking lessons from la-la land. They want a revolution but they have no clue as to what will happen one day, one year or one decade later”. Vote Leave now. Pay later.
If Vote Leave and Leave.eu have their way The Referendum is likely to become a plebiscite on immigration rather than a serious determination of the UK`s long-term security interests and economic prospects and certainly The bourgeois Women`s Daily, (aka “The Xenophobe”) would prefer to focus on the populist cause rather than the more serious issues. Strange, then, that The Xenophobe, which screams from daily headlines about the horde of foreigners invading our shores by every means known to man and is currently stealing our homes, our health services, our schools, our jobs and probably our livestock as well (if only to engage in the halal slaughter of the latter) should simultaneously campaign to allow “child refugees” across the Channel from `The Jungle` in Calais where some of them are currently resident.
Lord (Alf) Dubs, who in a former incarnation was the Member of Parliament for Battersea, is a thoroughly decent, honest and caring man. He is also himself a refugee, brought in childhood from the clutches of the Nazis by Kinder transport to Britain. Understandably he has strong views about “child refugees” and he has campaigned vigorously for a change in immigration law to compel the UK to take those children from mainland Europe into what he regards as our ample bosom. His motives are estimable and his arguments are, in my view, deeply flawed. First, there is little comparison between those fleeing from the advance of the Nazi armies and those who have made their way from Afghanistan, from Albania, from Syria and from North Africa right across Schengen border-free Europe to the shores of La Manche. The Jewish community in pre-war Britain took full and lifetime responsibility for those arriving by Kinder transport. (Alf`s own Father was already here and waiting to greet him on arrival). They accommodated them, fed and watered and educated them and paid for them through to adulthood. There was, in short, a reception network ready, willing and above all able, to do what had to be done. Most of those who travelled to our safe haven were pre-adolescent.
Suzy and I are, I think, the only parliamentary couple that have taken an asylum seeker, an adolescent Romanian, into our own home in the past. I can say from personal experience that to try to accommodate a traumatised non-English-speaking teenager who claimed to be seventeen but was in reality probably nearer twenty is not easy and in our case, even with huge assistance from friends, the exercise ultimately ended in failure as the young man absconded from the care into which he had by the immigration authorities been entrusted, back to a girlfriend that it transpired that he had acquired while resident in Germany! Put simply, there is not an army of potential foster parents who are physically, emotionally and financially equipped and waiting to receive these young people. And let us be clear about this: the “children” that we are now about to be required to take in are not the dewy-eyed five-year olds that are pictured in the tabloid press. About 4% of them are under fourteen and the remainder are adolescent young men some of whom are inevitably already radicalised and potentially dangerous. My parliamentary colleague who airily announced that “I know of a dozen members of my church who would give a home to these kids” does not, frankly, have a clue about the enormity of the problem that she is so charitably seeking to address.
The United Kingdom has hitherto had a firm but fair policy. We have agreed to take in, from camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, up to twenty-thousand refugees that have been selected and screened by the UNHCR. The object behind that process is both to seek to protect our own security while helping to alleviate at least a fraction of the number of genuine refugees seeking succour from the terrors of war-torn Syria and also to send a clear message that those arriving from across Europe having been people-trafficked by criminals will not succeed in their objective. As a result of populist pressure from some of our own back-benchers we have now, because of simple parliamentary arithmetic, to watch a coach and horses being driven through a sound and sensible approach. It is very likely that as a result the people-traffic from Turkey to Greece and Italy will this summer be encouraged, that more boats will sink and that more young lives will be lost. This may sound harsh but those responsible for altering the thought-through and carefully orchestrated and resourced Government line will have to take personal responsibility for some of that inevitable loss of life.
Much sound and fury, signifying nothing, has been made of the renewal of the BBC Charter. That the Salford Broadcasting Corporation was, if you believed the leaks at the start of the month, to be subjected to `quality checks` with a `clampdown on competitive scheduling` and a ban on emulating its commercial rivals, was swiftly translated into “Strictly Come Dancing to be banned from BBC” and yet another hysterical 38-Dungarees round-robin e-mailing campaign calling for a “halt to privatisation” and a “Save Our Luvvies” movement. The “Strictly” myth was exactly that, of course, but that did not stop the aforementioned Luvvies from using and abusing the British Association of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) ceremony broadcast by, of course, the BBC to launch into a string of anti-Government tirades. It`s good to know that thee Workers` Revolutionary Party and its heirs and successors is still alive and kicking within British Actors` Equity. The director of the Best Drama Series Award-winning Wolf Hall, Peter Kosminsky received a standing ovation from the tuxedo-clad multitudes for opining that “we should stand up and fight” and more in similar vein followed. It`s good to know that the Workers` Revolutionary Party and its heirs, successors and fellow-travellers are still alive and well within British Actors` Equity but the fox was shot when the actual Charter Review proposals were revealed. The Shadow Media Secretary, Angela Eagle, was so determinedly excited by the prospect of a flaming row in defence of Auntie that she tabled an “Urgent Question” which The Speaker rather perversely granted a day before the Statement on the BBC White Paper was due to be made anyway. “Small Earthquake, Not Many Luvvies Crushed” was the ensuing story. Yes, the ineffective Board of Trustees will be abolished and a new unified Board of Management will be appointed but the Chairman of Trustees Rona Fairhead will, notwithstanding the misgivings of many who understand broadcasting, hang onto her salary and title until the completion of her term of office. The highest salaries of some, not only management but contract `stars` , presenters and newsreaders that the license fee pays for will be made public and the Corporation will be required to cut its coat more closely to its cloth. To the Reithian formula of Educate, Inform and Entertain will be added the requirements for originality and impartiality and I doubt that even a well booted-and-suited BAFTA audience could quarrel with that. The idea that the former Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee now metamorphosed into the Secretary of State for the same was going to eviscerate the World`s Least Worst Broadcasting Company was never seriously on the cards. The BBC has a very good deal and if some savings have to be made and if the National Audit Office is going to be the Corporation`s Chief Auditor and if the organisation is going to be accountable, as are all other British Broadcasters, to OFCOM then that is a very good thing indeed. Sadly, the White Paper has not prevented the BBC`s “Head of Religion and Ethics” from announcing that the Corporation is too Christian and “must diversify”.
Offered by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges the opportunity to resume talks the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, wisely offered a five-day stay of implementation of an imposed Junior Doctors` contract if the Doctors` union, the BMA, was prepared to discuss weekend pay rates. They were, and the BMA negotiating team struck a deal with the Department of Health that now has to be sold to its` union members. The trouble is that having engaged in industrial action that has led to the cancellation of thousands of appointments and placed patients` lives at risk some of our Junior Medics now feel that their representatives have signed up a worse deal that the one that was on the table and ready for signing before the walkouts. “What was it for” is a very fair question but one that ought to be put to Dr. Johann Malawana and his fellow shop stewards and not to the Secretary of State. That public sympathy for the Doctors` position was waning is beyond doubt. . That loss of trust, which will be hard to regain, will have been exacerbated by the publication of internal union communications confirming that, as many of us had been saying all along, the Union`s position was not as claimed the result of concerns about “patient safety” and manpower but about pay. Against that background General Practitioners are now considering strike action.
Local Elections, the election of the new Scottish Parliament, the Mayor of London and of Police and Crime Commissioners were billed as “The biggest test of public opinion since the General Election” which of course, as the first elections since 2015, they were. You can spin these events how you wish, of course, but by comment consent in local government elections Comrade Corbyn`s party suffered its worst results in thirty years. That they “hung on” as Red Jerry said when, at a time when the Labour Party ought to have been making big gains against the background of a divided Government and from a low base is scarcely a ringing endorsement of his personal credibility as a Party Leader. Sadiq Khan, the MP for Tooting, convincingly defeated Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond, to become “London`s First Muslim Mayor” as the press have inevitably and imaginatively billed him but he did so in part by keeping Mr. Corbyn very much at arms` length. North of the Border and still reeling from their General Election losses the Labour Party was pushed into third place by a re-vitalised Tory party led by a justly exuberant Ruth Davidson . The “wee Lassie in the tin hat”, Nicola Sturgeon, remains as Scotland`s First Minister but was a tad too swift to claim outright victory: dawn and final results that she was no longer in command of an overall majority. Knives are also said to be out for Corbyn over his failure to mobilise against the Brexit cause. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party are committed to Remain and they`d like some Leadership, please.
In other news the State Opening of Parliament has been and gone with Her Majesty delivering what can at best be described as a cautious programme of parliamentary work for the coming year. The Gover wants convicts to spend weekends in gaol so that they can work to keep themselves on weekdays. There will be a reform of our prisons and an Extremism Bill. There will also be a Bill of British Rights and a curb on the power of the (unelected) House of Lords to frustrate Government legislation. It is likely that the Lifetime Votes Bill will see the light of day but not in time to allow ex-pats to vote in the Referendum – a cause that, notwithstanding the bravest of Harry Shindler`s efforts, hit the buffers in the Law Courts. There will also be legislation to facilitate driverless cars and to create a Space Port and `other measures will be laid before you`. Provided that there is not an early General Election of course.
As an aside, Her Maj probably enjoyed her 90th “Birthday Ride” show at Windsor rather more than the State Opening. Presented by the omni-present and mandatory Ant and Dec, who must by now be in line for peerages, it was nevertheless quite specatacular. The bravely televised live extravaganza featured 900 equines from as far afield as Oman, Chile, Canada and Azerbaijan and 1500 performers and as a “This Is Your Throne” exercise in jollity was worth watching. The Star nonagenarian looked a bit grumpy at the beginning but cheered up visibly once the horses took over from the humans. Catch it on I-player along with the David Attenborough “Other 90th Birthday” programme if you missed them.
The report of the Chilcot Inquiry into the causes of Blair`s Iraq war will be finally published in July but the inevitable leaks are already making headlines. `The Legacy` himself and Poor Jack Straw, foreign Secretary at the time of the war, are said to be in the frame for severe criticism as are some Generals and the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove who, it is suggested, “put a gloss” on intelligence supplied to the Labour Government. Sir Christopher Meyer, our Ambassador in Washington, may not have been “plugged in”, Blair probably told President Bush twelve months before the war that the UK “will support” the USA (now there`s a surprise!) and the post-invasion management of Basra and South Iraq by `poor quality` F&CO staff` led to the “embarrassing” withdrawal in 2007. And now Lord Turnbull, then Head of the Civil Service, allowed un-minuted meetings to take place. All that is just surmise, of course, and we shall only know the truth – or that part of it that is not still redacted – in about six weeks` time. We are told that The Legacy will not face a Chilcot probe into the legality of his actions and decisions as the report is only designed to establish fact. Will Blair accept the findings of the report at all or is he in denial? Time will tell.
Can the United States elect a hairstyle as President? After Ted Cruz` last stand in Indiana the answer is apparently yes. The question now is will it be Hillary`s or will it be The Donald`s? Having swept all Republican voters before him on a wave of blue-collar anger Mr. Trump is now poised to march into the White House unless Mrs. Clinton can pull a very big rabbit out of her hat. Trouble is, that rabbit might have mixamatosis in the form of a private e-mail account used while she was Borat O`Bama`s Secretary of State. Prime Minister Cameron is offering no apology for describing as “stupid and wrong” Mr. Trump`s vow to “ban Muslims from visiting the United States” which might, of course, pose a problem at some stage for the new Mayor of London. Mr. Trump has said of Cameron that “I can tell that we`re not going to get along”. Highly perceptive and just the sort of intellect that is needed to run the most powerful nation upon Earth! Is there a White Knight waiting in the wings? Will Mitt Romney yet step forward as a third-party candidate and rescue the Land of The Free from self-inflicted purgatory? It seems unlikely at this stage but again only time will tell.
At the time of writing the search is closing in on the `black box` that may reveal whether the Egyptair plane that crashed into the Mediterranean with the loss of all on board was brought down by mechanical failure or by a terrorist incendiary device. With Egypt`s vital tourist industry already on its knees this was the last thing that the country needed. The world and, more importantly, the bereaved, need answers in order to set speculation to rest if possible.
The CEO of the Royal College of Midwives, one Professor Cathy Warwick, has called for “no time-limit abortions” to be made available to women on demand. The organisation that represents the country`s thirty thousand midwives is up in arms with members saying that their job is to” support the woman not argue the rights and wrongs of abortion”. An unrelenting feminist Ms. Warwick asserts that “Midwives should see abortion as part of their job” and have to “take the rough with the smooth”. Professor Warwick might just be in for a bit of “rough” herself. A Commons motion has called for her resignation.
And Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian helicopter pilot kidnapped by rebels and handed over to the Russians for “trial” for alleged war-crimes has been released from prison in Moscow and is now back in Kiev. One swallow does not make a summer and there are twenty or so more Ukrainians still languishing in neo-Soviet gaols but with any luck Ms. Savchenko will now be able to take her seat in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to which she has been appointed as a Member.
There are some thirty-five thousand young men and women waiting to join The Scouts. That means that six thousand five hundred volunteers are needed but they are not coming forward. They did not, of course, have to wait for ages and jump through hoops to obtain a DBS check in Baden-Powell`s day.
Headline from The Daily Mail: “The Primary School where all 200 children were born overseas”. That will be the same Bourgeois Women`s Tabloid that is clamouring for the UK to take young refugees from Calais.
The Land of the Free is barring entry to Britons (and not just `Muslims`) using `old` passports. No biometric, no entry to the United States of America.
It has been confirmed that the UK`s new polar research vessel will be named the RRS Sir David Attenborough. But in deference to public opinion the Yellow Submarine on board will be called the Boaty McBoatface.
Beware of microphones. David Cameron was overheard telling the Queen that “We have some fantastically corrupt Nigerians and Afghans” attending the international conference on financial fraud. And Her Maj was caught at a Buck House Garden Party referring to some “very rude Chinese” participating in the recent State visit. The sound, it seems, bounced off a transparent plastic umbrella that was shielding her from the English Spring. Plastic? Good grief!
Muirfield golf Course has been barred from hosting the Open tournament following the continuation of the club`s ban on women members. The reason for this prolonged misogyny is given as “slow play and the effect on our lunch arrangements”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has advised Christians “not to talk about faith” unless asked. In the divide between evangelism and proselytism the watchword is “respect”.
A Higher education Policy Institute (HEPI) survey has branded students as “illiberal”. Universities, once the bastion of free speech, have revealed a desire (25%) to ban UKIP, and (38%) to ban tabloid newspapers while Germaine Greer, Peter Tatchell and the “sexist” historian David Starkey have all been the subject of “No Platform” policies. That`s 800 years of freedom and tolerance down the drain.
The Salford Broadcasting Corporation`s new version of “Swallows and Amazons” has replaced Titty with Tatty. Titty`s real-life and surviving niece, Barbara Altonyan, is said to be furious and has described the Corporation as “disgustingly pompous”. Lord Hall was not available for comment.
Tony `Legacy` Blair says that he `misread` the risks of the Iraq war. This would be the same ex-Prime Minister who wants to put `boots on the ground` in Syria to fight Daesh.
Don`t Walk on the Grass. A `Leading Gardener` has criticised the National Trust for encouraging families to make use of historic grounds for walking dogs, playing football and the like. David Stone (for it is he) the former Head Gardener at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, would like the Royal Horticultural Society`s `Strict Code of Behaviour` applied to Trust properties. (Try telling that to King Henry V111 in the rose garden). The Trust, wishing to attract more 20-40 year olds is introducing Children`s playgrounds and Wildlife Trails.
Psychotic sheep have been on the rampage in Rhydypandy, Swansea. The beasts, which are believed to have gorged on dumped cannabis plants, have been vandalising gardens.
Not sure if my late and dear friend Peter Dennis (the Butler in Hadleigh alongside Gerald Harper for those with encyclopaedic television memories) would approve or not. Peter ended his days entrancing audiences on the West Coast of America with readings from the Tales of Pooh Bear. It is now revealed that Winnie to Pooh has taken leave of The Hundred Acre Wood and embarked upon a Royal Birthday engagement at Buck House and for which he has composed a special “hum”. Prince George, who received a balloon from Piglet to mark the occasion, was, according to inside information, “almost as bouncy as Tigger”.
`Doris Dancing` is on the rise. More than fifty per cent of those taking up Morris Dancing in the last two years have been women. The Women`s Morris Federation boasts sides with names such as West Yorkshire`s Buttercross. Move over, Squire, and make way for The Loose Women.
Punch and Judy have been banned from Barry Island`s “Beats, Eats and Treats” festival on the grounds that the show “contradicts our policy on domestic violence” because it contains “inappropriate hitting”. Where does that leave Tom and Jerry? Or Shakespeare!
Tony Crozier, the Barbadian cricket commentator, has been stumped for 75. So another wicket falls at Test Match Special where he has been broadcasting for the 50 years since 1966 following his outing with the West Indies against Australia in 1965.
Mr. Michael Caborn-Waterfield, the `Gentleman Conman` of the 1950`s has metaphorically picked his last pocket at 86. As well as a little gun-running and an involvement in the Ann Summers chain of sex shops the “gentleman” found time for a liaison with an eighteen-year old Diana Dors and an attempt to found a “Topless Miss World” competition .St. Peter will no doubt have been asking some searching questions.
Burt Kwouk, the actor who made his name as Cato Fong in The Return of the Pink Panther, has handed in his Equity card at 85. Burt, who also featured in “55 Days in Peking” and was said to be happily orientally type-cast, received the OBE for his services to film and television in 2011.
Ken Cameron, The Fire Brigade Union`s firebrand General Secretary, has seen the flame go out at just 74. The left-wing Scot ran the union between 1986 and 2000. Backed Arthur Scargill`s miners` strike and made Nelson Mandela an Honorary Member of the FBU.
And Jane Fawcett, who as Jane Hughes was the first `debutante` to be recruited to work at the Bletchley Park code-breaking establishment has taken her secrets with her to the grave at the age of 95.
Leicestershire`s Foxes, against all of the odds, won the Premiership title. The trophy was presented by her grandson, the aptly named Steve Worthy, on behalf of 97-year old Gladys Kennedy who was also present and, until she `retired` at 95, the club`s oldest season ticket holder having been a fan for 67 years. Following Leicester`s three-one win over Everton in their final game and in tribute to the team`s Coach the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli who had flown in to support his chum Claudio Ranieri, sang Nessun Dorma.
The Duchess of Cornwall is said to be going to race as `guest crew` for Ben Ainslie`s Land Rover BAR team in a heat of the Louis Vuitton World Series leading up to the Americas` Cup challenge. The Duchess is the Royal Patron of the 1851 Trust.
And The Eurovision Song Contest was won, or “stolen” if you take the Russian view, by Ukraine`s Jamala with a score of 534 points and a flashback to Joe Stalin`s 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars. That well-known` European` Dami Im from Australia came second with 511 and predictably the United Kingdom came third from last with 62 . Tally-ho!