Gales View - Westminster February 2015
February. Three-parent babies and gender-based abortion. Two Eds are no better than one. Europe and Russia on the brink and Greece on the edge of a euro precipice. U-kippers filleted, the priests are turbulent and Mad Hattie's Barbie Bus hits the road. A Green "brain- fade", Bill Somebody makes a guest appearance, a last Straw for Rifkind, Clogg lost in the London mist, Madonna falls, a new Star rises, and Chilcot is put on ice. Again.
There is, now, what the Election Commission calls for accounting purposes a 'long campaign' and there is a 'short campaign' in the run up to a General Election and the 'long campaign' feels as if it has been going on since about 2010 which in one sense is probably true. It is a racing certainty that by the time we reach the 'short campaign' which will commence after the dissolution of this parliament the voting public will already be bored to eternity by the whole ghastly exercise. Which is a pity because it really is the case that this time the whole future of not just the economy but very possibly the entity that is the United Kingdom, is in the balance. On May the eighth we will have a fair if not a definitive idea of whether it will be Man David or The Milipede in Number Ten.
We shall also know whether or not Farridge or Scotland's Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will be calling the shots in an attempt to form a coalition or whether those on the geographical and lunatic fringes of British politics have been put back into their respective boxes or marginalised. Additionally, we shall have discovered whether the Liberal Democrats have survived the approaching electoral Tsunami or whether the tattered remnants of a Party that for one heady moment tasted real power has once again joined the Welsh nationalists, the Greens and the Northern Irish on the Opposition benches below the gangway. We may, finally, know whether we are in for another five- year run or whether we will be looking down the barrel of another electoral shotgun in a few months' time.
Between now and May 7th, though, there is all the fun of the electoral circus to be enjoyed or avoided like the plague, according to taste. The Milipede, it seems, is short of Corporate friends. Stefano Pessina, the Italian boss of the pharmaceutical chain, puts the first Boot in , prophesying that a Labour win would be " a catastrophe' for Great Britain Limited. He is joined in this uncharitable assault by Stuart Rose of "Your M&S" and Simon Walker of the Institute of Directors who predict that “Labour could damage business”. Asked on the Newsnight Programme to name some of Labour's business endorsements to counter this attack Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls can only say that " well, there's Bill.....er..Bill somebody". As we shall learn later in this short month Calamity Ed is not the only politician to suffer from a February brainstorm but his unfortunate offering is regurgitated at Prime Minister's Question Time when Man David asserts unkindly that “Bill Somebody is not a Labour supporter it's a labour policy!"
'Bill somebody' turns out to be Bill Thomas, of the illustrious and highly regarded Co-Op bank which, if you recall, was the institution that had a little local difficulty with its own leadership some months ago.
Was there a 'bonfire night plot' to dump The Milipede? We may never know but it is said that The Lord Foy of That Persuasion, the former Peter Mandelson, together with the Prince of Spin, Alastair Campbell, approached ex-Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Johnson to ask if he would take the job and there is some certainty that a meeting of around forty-eight Labour MPs from the North of England flew the same kite. Scots Labour MPs regard The Milipede as more of a liability than an asset and do not want him campaigning for them because, they say, that North of the Border `Red Ed` is less popular than David Cameron.
Never mind. The cavalry has arrived in the form of John, now Lord, Prescott and Mad Hattie Harman. The 77-year-old Lord `Two Jags` has been drafted in to act as the Labour Campaign`s Special adviser on Climate Change and that ardent feminist Harriett Harman is taking to the road in a pink vehicle already dubbed “The Barbie Bus” in order to solicit the views of women in the cosy confines of this gender neutral (“Well, all the other colours belong to other political parties”) passion wagon.. That combination of brawn and beauty should clinch the deal. One way or the other.
It has not been a comfortable month for those engaged in the dark arts of tax avoidance. While those of us who pay our way in full through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system give blood to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs before we ever see the residue of our salaries there are some who are so ingenious and so determined not to contribute a penny more to the nation's coffers than absolutely necessary that they employ the services of five-star accountants and overseas tax havens to squirrel away their nuts for them. None of these people, I am sure, ever use the health, education and the other services that us ordinary mortals are mug enough to pay for and tax avoidance, as distinct from tax evasion, is a lawful enterprise that is regarded in some circles as an honourable pastime. When it is revealed, first, that Price Waterhouse Coopers has been helping companies that earn a great deal of money in the United Kingdom to avoid tax on "an industrial scale" hell hath no more fury than the Socialist benches and righteous indication is the order of the day. Until, that is, it is revealed that through the secondment of highly expert staff to the offices of Shadow Ministers PWC is contributing handsomely to the Labour Party. This is described by Margaret Hodge, the (Labour) Chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, as "inappropriate" which is Commons speak for "out of order".
It gets worse as what the Bourgeoise Women's Tabloid describes as "A Tax Storm" breaks over the Hong Kong bank known in Britain as HSBC. The bank is revealed to have aided some seven thousand companies and individuals, through its Swiss branch, in the avoidance of a great deal of tax. “UK cheated out of millions" scream the headlines and it certainly appears that for once that hyperbole is justified. This ought to have been an open goal for Her Majesty's loyal Opposition as one Stephen, now Lord, Green who for a time was one of Man David's Trade Ministers, was on the bridge of the bank at the time. Unfortunately for the comrades for much of the period under scrutiny Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was the City Minister which rather diminished the attack. And in a distasteful episode The Milipede blames his Mother for the fact that through the arcane process known as a ' Deed of Variation' the Brothers Milipede were able to avoid paying a considerable amount of tax on the estate of their late Father. All perfectly legal, of course, and it was twenty years ago, but the waft of hypocrisy floats cross he Opposition benches in an unhelpful cloud. Even the resignation of Lord Green as head of the UK Banking Advisory Council is overshadowed by the revelation that the wind farm tycoon, Dale Vincent, who has given a quarter of a million quid to Labour Party coffers through his Ecotricity company, has been up to a little light tax avoidance as well.
Have you ever paid cash-in-hand to a tradesman knowing that he or she will not be revealing the full extent of that income to the tax collector and that, in return, you will pay a reduced price for the services rendered? No. Of course you have done no such wicked thing. Perish the thought. It looks as though some people, however, have been engaged in this low- level tax avoidance scheme and that prompts the freshly canonised St. Edward Balls to opine that while there is nothing wrong in paying cash in hand those commissioning work should demand a receipt for the wad that they hand over. Unfortunately Saint Ed's window cleaner - presumably now the Balls' household's ex-window cleaner - tells us that in seventeen years of polishing glass at the top of a ladder for hard cash he has never once been asked to provide a receipt for his precariously perched earnings.
I don't want to appear sanctimonious about this but when I became a Member of Parliament thirty two years ago most of us were paid a very great deal less than we had previously been earning. Nobody made us do it and we have no grounds for complaint but it was certainly painful and my own family`s finances took a hit from which they can never recover. Parliamentary salaries have risen considerably since the early 1980s but I know of a number of Members of Parliament on both sides of the House who have young families and who find the demands of maintaining the necessary two homes (constituency and London),while shuttling between backwards and forwards, draining on their resources to the point of actual embarrassment. Mostly, they manage and carry on. Some, after only one term in the House, are throwing in the towel at the end of this Parliament. While the lawyers, for some historic reason, those with family businesses and the occasional doctor and dentist are allowed to carry on supplementing their incomes the demand, now, is for "full time Members of Parliament". I personally think that the House was a better- informed place when Members were paid less and had outside and continuing interests. Elected bureaucrats with no experience of “a proper job" are wide open to the accusation that “you are out of touch" but the demands of the pastoral work that we now undertake are so great that it is, particularly in the less affluent constituencies, impossible to provide a parliamentary service and still have the time to do much else properly.
Which leads me in a roundabout way to the Daily Telegraph/ Chanel 4 Dispatches 'sting' for which the former Home and Foreign and Defence Secretaries, "Poor Jack" Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind fell. I have known Jack since I first interviewed him for the BBC when he was a newly- elected MP and former President of the National Union of Students and I have worked under Malcolm at the Ministry of Defence when he was the Secretary of State and I was a parliamentary dogsbody. All party- political differences aside I have always liked Jack and found him to be amusing and highly intelligent. Malcolm is one of the most politically generous politicians that I have ever met and, although not particularly “clubbable" has been generally well-liked. What has possessed two very senior and highly respected Members of the House of Commons and Privy Counsellors to offer for sale their services to a fictitious (or indeed any other) company is beyond me. You would have thought, would you not, that an unsolicited approach from a Chinese gentleman offering shed loads of money might just have set the alarm bells ringing, particularly in the mind of the highly experienced Chairman of the Security and Intelligence Select Committee? Apparently not so, What I do know is that once again the many are tainted by the very few and that in this case two long and distinguished parliamentary careers that might ordinarily have been expected to move seamlessly to seats in the Upper House have ended ignominiously. It is, of course, an ill wind that blows nobody any good: with Malcolm Rifkind now standing down there is a vacancy for an ambitious Tory in the prime and generally `safe` seat of Kensington and Chelsea.
Problems seldom come in isolation and the word on the street is that Poor Jack Straw may find himself facing further difficulties if and when the report of the Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the second Iraq war is ever published. The contents of the report are rumoured to be “devastating” in the implications for `The Legacy` Blair, former Foreign Secretary Straw, Spinmeister Alastair Campbell, Sir john Scarlett as head of the Joint Intelligence Agency at the time and curator of the “Dodgy Dossier”, The former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith., The Number 10 Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell and the then Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon. I have come to believe that Blair deliberately mis-led the House of Commons into voting to support the Americans in the invasion of Iraq. Those of us who were taken in by that deception, if that is what it was, have a cross to bear as the price for our gullibility and events in the Middle East that have flowed from that decision. The pin is out of a grenade that will explode within the next twelve months.
The minor parties have not enjoyed a trouble-free month either. With Caroline Lucas sitting in splendid isolation on the Green green benches in the House it is left to that faction`s Leader, the Australian feminist Natalie Bennett, to expound the virtues of her policies. Appearing on London Broadcasting`s Nick Ferrarri programme the fragrant Natalie suffered from what some might call a “blonde moment” which has since been described as “brain fade” while trying to answer Mr. Ferrarri`s questions. The inquisitor did not employ thumbscrews. He had no need to. This piece of radio was excruciatingly painful to listen to. On the one hand there was a mild-mannered interviewer gently trying to probe a party`s political policies and philosophies and on the other side of the microphone was a women coughing and spluttering and umming and erring and not answering questions in what will go down in the annals of broadcasting history as one of the great car-crash interviews of all time. Students of the arts of wireless will be subjected to it for generations to come.
And then there is the “not-the-racist” United Kingdom Independence Party that held its “Spring conference” at the month`s end in what the press tell those (most of us) who were not allowed inside was a less than packed Margate Winter Gardens. Margate is the seaside town adjacent to the South Thanet parliamentary constituency in which the UKIP leader, Mr. Farridge, is offering himself as a parliamentary candidate.
The absentee MEP for South East England flew in for this event from the United States where he had been addressing a presumably more financially interesting gathering and was welcomed at the front entrance by a rather tasteless display of young dancing ladies in Nazi uniform and a tank which was apparently promoting a performance of theatrical entertainment entitled “The Producers”. An earlier piece of television, “The First 100 Days”, screened by Channel Four and purporting, as a drama/documentary , to depict the first one hundred days of a national UKIP government, was castigated as `a hatchet job` and `viciously unfair` by those that it portrayed . As always, truth is more bizarre than fiction. If the leadership of the “Not the Racist” party felt aggrieved by the actions of their enemies they must have been still more aggravated by the words and actions of their friends. “Meet the Ukippers” screened by BBC 2 was the result of weeks of fly-o-the-wall filming of the Party in South Thanet at grass roots. In this programme Thanet Councillor Mrs Rozanne Duncan, hastily expelled from the party by Farridge having fought and won a by-election in South Thanet under the UKIP banner, explained painfully the problem that she has with` negroes` and how she would not care to sit next to one at a dinner party while the South Thanet UKIP Chairman, one Martyn Heale, bumbled away his former membership of The National Front. By the end of all this the Chief Ukipper must have been suffering from brain-fade himself and there are those who are beginning to wonder if, given his rewarding Membership of the European Parliament, he will actually run for Westminster at all. To stand and lose would most certainly wound his ego and his standing – possibly terminally. Party spokesmen have said that its philosophy is “a general not a detailed approach” and that it is “a state of mind”. I leave others to ponder just what that “state of mind” might actually mean in practice.
As a footnote, an advertising agency has produced an analysis that says that UKIP is the most hated brand in Britain (which might explain why the egocentric Mr. Farridge believes that he needs a police guard to protect him from the violent citizens of Herne Bay) but before anyone cheers the Conservative Party runs second with Marmite third, Ryanair fourth, Labour fifth and the Liberal democrats sixth.
Every so often the House enjoys the luxury of a “free vote” on an issue of morality. You can, of course, argue that every vote should be free and the unwhipped subject of individual judgement and, up to a point, they are. Some issues, though, are supposed to transcend the influence of grubby party politics and doctrine in their entirety and are left to the personal conscience of Members to determine. Two such have been the votes on what the press has dubbed “three-parent families” and the highly sensitive matter of abortion on the grounds of gender. The former, which involves the manipulation of mitochondrial DNA to prevent the transmission of certain genetic defects is, potentially, the top of a slippery slope. The untried and in humans untested first step towards full-scale genetic engineering that hitherto has not been permitted anywhere in the world. It is impossible for any parent of a healthy child not to feel sympathy for those who, because of the danger of genetically-transmitted disabilities, are unable to themselves experience the joys and the griefs of parenthood. At the same time we really do not know, and cannot know, until some twenty years have passed and a second generation of “three parent” genetically modified children has been born, what the long-term effects of this process may turn out to be. In the event the vote in the House of Commons was carried by three hundred and eighty two votes with just one hundred and twenty of us opposing a measure which then went on to be approved by the House of Lords. Britain will, therefore, become the first country in the world to embark upon this experiment. There was little comfort, either, for those of us who have supported an amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill tabled by the Tory MP Fiona Bruce and designed to make abortion on the grounds of the gender of the foetus unlawful. Clearly a lot of MPs were unable or unwilling to reach a decision but that vote was lost by two hundred and ninety one votes to two hundred and one. I still find it hard to accept that so many of my colleagues who pontificate loudly on occasions about discrimination are prepared to see life terminated on the basis of the sex of the embryonic child. The House of Commons is at its best and at its worst on such occasions.
In the real world outside the Westminster bubble matters of life and death are evolving on rather a different plane. I warned some months ago that Russia`s aim is to establish by proxy a land-bridge via Mariupol to Crimea and it now seems crystal clear that that is the exact intention behind the advance of neo-Soviet forces as more tanks and missile systems cross the border in a westerly direction towards Mariupol. A round of almost Kissinger-style shuttle diplomacy involving Frau Merkel and Mr Holland in visits to Minsk and Washington as well as, of course, Kiev, has led to a ceasefire agreement that, on the scale of “I have here a piece of paper” reliability is about as much use as yesterday`s chip-wrappings. Borat O`Bama huffs and puffs about arming Ukrainian troops but the man in the Kremlin is clearly assured that, save for possibly the United Kingdom, the European countries would balk at any such initiative. With sanctions biting painfully but not lethally “Ras” Putin knows that he has the backing of a Russian people who will put up with hardship because they mistakenly believe that he is reinforcing their Country`s interests against a “Western aggressor that wants to wipe Russia off the map”. In the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond may compare Putin to Stalin and Defence Secretary Fallon may warn darkly of Putin posing a serious threat to the Baltic States but on the ground some 5,300 Ukrainian people have already died and as `peace` talks falter more are being killed daily. The cold war is hotting up and sending a handful of UK service personnel to train Ukrainian soldiers, while not to be derided, is scratching at the surface of the threat now facing the whole of Europe. The person who described the Merkel/ Hollande “peace agreement” as “a delusional piece of paper” was exactly right.
Russia is clearly poised, also, to intervene in support of a left-wing Greek government that is having difficulty in both re-negotiating a financial package with Brussels ( for which read Frau Merkel) and in beginning to fulfil the first vestige of an election promise at home. It is all very well for Chancellor Merkel to talk tough and to say that “Greece must pay its debts” but with shares in Greek banks having fallen by getting on for thirty per cent she needs to be aware that there is a bear behind her back that, on the right terms, might be more than happy to bail out the Syriza regime. From afar the former Head of the US Central Bank, Alan Greenspan, may say casually that “Greece will have to leave the Eurozone” and a late and short-term bailout deal reached between the EU and Greece may have been described as “a victory” (for whom?) but with Putin`s warships poised to establish a base at Limassol or Larnaca in Cyprus and Russian planes ready to fly from Paphos it`s time that Brussels woke up to where the real threat is coming from. Europe has a soft under-belly and if I was a Balkan I would be very worried indeed. Michael Fallon was right to be more than a little concerned.
In other news the Church of England has caused a ruckus. Following on from Archbishop Justin`s apology, on the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, for the UK air assault on that part of Nazi Germany, his Bishops have produced a left-wing election manifesto leading to accusations that the established church is failing to differentiate between `rights` and `duties` and that clerics are playing politics while their pews are emptying. While the Church of England fails to mention families in its diatribe the Catholic Church under Cardinal Vincent Nichols speaks out in support of Christian marriage.
The House of Peers has blocked legislation to decriminalize BBC licence fee dodgers but the Beeb itself is coming under renewed fire and scrutiny. Harking back to the bombing of Dresden the Corporation`s coverage concentrated on the plight of German civilians but made no mention of the pilots and aircrews of the nine Lancaster bombers that were lost during the wartime raid nor of the nineteen Victoria Crosses that were awarded to Bomber Command personnel for their bravery on active service in the cause of liberating Europe from the Nazis. The former Chief Constable of the British Transport police, Andy Trotter, was charged with the duty of investigating the deal struck between the BBC and South Yorkshire Police that led to the `live` coverage of a police raid on, in the owner`s absence abroad, the home of the pop singer Sir Cliff Richard. Mr. Trotter determined that this coverage and the agreement constituted a serious breach of privacy. The Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee has concluded that the BBC is profligate and that the BBC Trust should be scrapped and replaced with a governing body that is fit for purpose and Lord (Michael) Dobbs, the creator of the legendary “House of Cards” trilogy has told the Royal Television Society that the BBC suffers from organisational and institutional arrogance as illustrated in “a hundred headlines, a thousand taxi rides and millions of pounds wasted”. The BBC in response has said that it “disagreed with some of the comments” made by Dobbsie during the Huw Wheldon Memorial Lecture. It would be interesting to know which of the comments the BBC does agree with.
In justification for the thesis put forward by the much maligned and distinguished surgeon Professor J. Meirion Thomas it is now generally accepted that the UK can and should no longer foot the bill for “health tourism” and that we should recoup the millions spent by the NHS treating visitors that ought to pay their way for holiday healthcare but do not do so. This has led to an outbreak of severe confusion amongst “overworked” GPs who say on the one hand that “it is not our job to police the benefits system” when commenting upon sickness payments and whose Trade Union, the British Medical Association says that “Doctors should not be debt collectors”, while apparently three quarters of those same GPs believe that the £2 billion spent by the NHS on foreigners should be recovered. Who better, pray, than those providing the service to collect the money that we, the taxpayers who pay their salaries, are owed.
A winning streak for Eddie Redmayne, the actor who has picked up first the BAFTA award and then the Best Actor`s `Oscar` for his portrayal of Stephen Hawkinge in the biopic “The History of Everything”. Young Eddie now moves seamlessly from the twilight into the super starlight. A performance success Made in Britain.
And let`s end this section on some good news about the British economy. Our country is experiencing the fastest economic growth since 2006 and home loan rates are now at a record low. We are experiencing the first deflation for fifty years, wages are set to beat inflation again and we enjoy the third lowest level of unemployment in the European Union. The OECD has praised George Osborne for his “textbook recovery plan” and as a result of that plan Chancellor George is able to issue five billion pounds worth of pensioner savings bonds. Shadow Chancellor Balls, in the meantime, confides that in bed he is “a slow burner”. Too much information from a man who helped to leave the economy in ashes. Remember, the choice is yours.
Six year old Harry Westlake made the front pages for the manner in which he belted out the National Anthem before the England/Wales match at Twickenham this year. Great for Harry but how sad that this should be seen as the exception rather than the rule.
The retiring and long-serving Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby, Austin Mitchell has said that Labour would win the seat if his party ran “a raving alcoholic sex maniac and paedophile” as its candidate .If it`s all the same to Austin we might just not put that to the test.
The Milipede proposes to ban MPs from taking on consultancy work and directorships. Good job that former Prime Minister, The Clunking Fist Gordon Brown, who has earned £1 million from `second jobs`, is retiring then.
That less than transparent organisation FIFA has decreed that the Qatar world cup will be held not in summer but, because of the heat, in December instead. This will, of course, throw both domestic fixtures and supporters into turmoil. The question has to be asked again, why was the cup tournament awarded to Qatar in the first place? Surely money cannot have changed hands?
Fur has been ruffled at the prestigious Kenne3l Club`s Crufts` Dog Show. Because of the availability of Pet Passports this very British event is now attracting some 2995 entrants from overseas, representing fourteen per cent of the 18,432 dogs and bitches on parade.
The price of a first class stamp is to rise yet again by another penny to reach 63p. The Royal Mail describes this as “good value”.
The creativity of estate agents knows no bounds. At a half a million pounds each flats are being marketed as enjoying the attractions of London “on your doorstep”. Thirty-five miles away in Luton, Bedfordshire.
Only in America. Christins Bond, no 007 she, has managed to shoot herself dead while fiddling with a gun concealed in her brassiere. The organisation Well Armed Women says that “Bra holsters are becoming increasingly popular”.
Two thirds of homes in the United Kingdom now display at least four rubbish bins and in Newcastle under Lyme there are nine receptacles per household for assorted waste.
Lorely Burt, the Liberal Ambassador for Women and Enterprise, has declared that the Union Flag is “not woman-friendly”. Tell that to the Marines.
Prompted by the success of Fifty Shades of Grey ITV is now screening lessons in “Bondage for Beginners”. On their This Morning programme at 10.30 am. Are you sitting uncomfortably?
Newcastle`s famous Brown Ale, brewed in the City since 1927 and in Gateshead since 2005, is under threat. The current owners, Heineken, are replacing the caramel, which is said to be carcinogenic, with roasted malt to give the ale its distinctive colour for the United States market.
Back to Mad Hattie`s Lady Bus. This vehicle is advertising “Woman to Woman” conversations about “something new, something different”. The “something different” will embrace “conversations around the kitchen table” and reflect “different patterns in their working lives”. The Labour Uncut blog has described this as “the pinkification of women” and is predicting Mad Hattie “touring Bradford in a rickshaw next”.
The actress Geraldine McEwen has solved her last case as Miss Marple, departing at the sprightly age of 82. Those of us who saw her performance a. in Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford in 1961 know that she was a fine Shakespearean Actress but `Gerry` , who made her first professional appearance at the age of 14, will also be remembered for the 1978 “Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” for which she picked up the BAFTA Best Actress Award.
Forever, but not forever, Demis Roussos is no longer with us. The Greek singer sold more than sixty million albums worldwide before his death at the age of 67.
Lotte Hasse, the widow of underwater photographer Hans Hasse and herself a photographer and model has snapped her last shark and Manta Ray.
The man who is reputed to have refused admission to Mick Jagger at his Blitz Club, Steve Strange has taken his last bow as the `New Romantic` face of Visage.
Daniel Topolski (69) was the BBC Sports Commentator and Oxford Rowing Coach,
The splendid Liberal Peer Lord Mackie of Benshie has passed through the Lords` voting lobby for the last time. George Mackie was decorated for his service in Bomber Command.
Louis Jourdan, who starred with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier in `Gigi` in the 1958 movie has caused the last heart to throb. He was 93.
And Leonard Nemoy, Star Trek`s 83-year old Vulcan, Doctor Spock, has boldly gone.
The heart-warming story of the month. Sixty seven year old Alan Barnes is afflicted with poor sight and has experienced growth problems from birth. When he was mugged and left with a broken collar bone by a callous thief a young beautician from Newcastle, Katie Cutler, set out to raise £500 to help him. Two hundred and seventy thousand donated pounds later, and as a result of Katie`s efforts, Mr. Barnes now has a new and secure home and funds to help him through the rest of his life. Give the Brits an occasion and they will invariably rise to it.