Gale`s View from Westminster – August 2015
August. Calais under siege, Greece under the Kos and Schengen under question. Kids are not Company, Chilcot is not delivering, “Corbynomics” has put the cat amongst the dovecotes of champagne socialism; when China sneezes the international economy catches pneumonia but the disease must not be treated with antibiotics. While the race for the Labour leadership is nearing the finishing line the contestants are weighing in for the main event, the Tory title fight. On the other side of the pond the growing question is whether Donald can trump Hillary in the bid to replace Borat O’Bama in the White House. And the breathless hush in the close is replaced with a Broad smile (eight wickets for fifteen runs) as England’s first eleven stuff the Aussies. Sorry, “regain the ashes”. It may be the “silly season” but restful it has not been.
The “global migration crisis” generates demands for “more European funding” for migrant communities while, in the UK and particularly in Kent, Foster services face crisis point as illegal immigrants dump children for social services to look after. A pack of “sniffer dogs” and some wire fencing is regarded, in Calais, as mere sticking plaster over an entrance to a Tunnel sous La Manche that is besieged, nightly, by what the Prime Minister correctly but perhaps inelegantly described as “swarms” of would-be travellers. One of the latter, facing incredible danger, even made it right through the tunnel on foot to emerge into the floodlights and arrest in the United Kingdom. We are told that in fact seven out of ten, or some 900 illegal immigrants a month, of those seeking an economic future in Britain are currently eventually making it to Kent which, if you are a people-trafficker dealing in human misery, is a pretty helpful statistic to use in your promotional literature. Private footage shot in the Medway Towns reveals smuggled ‘visitors’ emerging from brand new cars aboard a car transporter. Does this make the vehicles second-hand? “Low mileage, one discreet owner”?
Unwise, perhaps, of Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to suggest at the start of the month that we have “got a grip” of the issue.
The fragrant Natascha Bouchart, Mayor of Calais, certainly still thinks that there’s a lot more gripping to be done and, while ineffectually trying to deal with striking travaillistes clogging up the port of Calais with burning car tyres, would like the Royaume Unis to be gripping it. It is, you see, the prospect of “free education”, along with healthcare and benefits, that attract the moths to the British candle.
Others say that it is “British Anarchists” who are stirring up trouble in the Nord Pas de Calais. The Calais gendarmerie send out a call for reinforcements in the form of the British Army. They receive the BBC and “Songs of Praise” as an advance guard. Theresa “Britannia” May visits Calais and, with the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazenueve, signs a deal. UK Police, including some of Kent’s Finest, will establish a “Command and Control” centre in Calais to ‘find and disrupt’ the people traffickers while our County constabulary will also conduct a security audit on French soil. Call me sceptical if you will but I just have a hunch that commanding and controlling international criminals who are making shedloads of boodle out of white slave-trading in misery might just take a little more than a “‘ello,’ello, ‘ello, what ‘ave we ‘ere then?” from even the sterling constables presided over by that Perfect Model of a Modern Police and Crime Commissioner, Ms Anne “TV” Barnes. Neither am I certain that telling working illegal migrants that they will face six months in gaol when apprehended is likely to prove much of a deterrent. Very sadly, six months free board and lodging in a place of considerable security and safety might prove hugely attractive to those whose homes in their lands of origin lie in ruins beneath which are buried many of their relatives.
For the Bourgeoise Women’s Tabloid and other publications all of this is, of course, great grist to the paper mills. A seamless tide of hyperbolic reporting during what otherwise might be a thin news month. Remember, though, that while a tsunami of xenophobia is whipped up in northern Europe providing fertile ground for the recruiting sergeants of right-wing extremists on both sides of the Channel there is a tragedy developing in the underbelly of what passes for a “union” of European states. Faced with Syriza and all that flows from that one might think that Greece had more than its euro-quota of misfortunes but what is happening on the islands, and particularly in Kos, has rightly been described as “a human timebomb”. Already facing “a prolonged and severe depression” Greece is now having to cope with literally thousands of refugees fleeing from oppression in Syria and many places further to the east. These are not ‘economic migrants’. They are human beings, men, women and some very young children, many of them Christians, making the short but hazardous crossing from Turkey in rubber boats or whatever other form of transport is available and heading westwards towards Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom in search of sanctuary. In old money they are asylum seekers. And therein lies the rub. Nations that have hitherto honourably offered a safe haven for those in need now find themselves confronted with a toxic mix of desperation on the one hand and a reactionary resistance to all-comers on the other. The Compassion brand has taken a severe pasting and, of course, we can guess with reasonable certainty that within the tide of genuine asylum seekers there are not only economic migrants but those who seek entry into the European Union to do us harm.
Like the freelance gunman who sought to make mayhem on a Thalys train running between Belgium and France.
While Mme. Bouchart threatens to open the borders between France and England if the British continue to “mock” the honest burghers of Calais the Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, demands a review of “passport free travel” and the reintroduction of ID and luggage checks at the currently open borders of Schengen-land. There is, at present, no security for those travelling inter-Europe on High Speed Trains. Mr. Holland, whose stock has risen from the low teens to an almost respectable early twenties may have lost no time in bestowing upon a Briton, Chris Norman, and three American citizens the Legion d’Honneur in respect of their considerable bravery in tackling the Thalys gunman but it could prove to be the threat of terrorism rather than mass-migration that gives the kiss of death to Schengen. With the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, saying that “the Schengen zone cannot exist” it may be that unbridled “freedom of movement” is no longer a red line. But. To mix the metaphore, a sacred cow whose slaughter time has arrived. Whisper it softly but as Man David tours the capitals of Europe in pursuit of re-negotiation of Britain’s relationship with the mainland Eurozone he may find himself pushing at a door that is rather more open than might have been the case six months ago.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn believes that it is not only the TGV but domestic trains that can present hazards, particularly for women travelling alone. The man who may yet emerge as the new Leader of the Old Labour party in Britain has attracted much ridicule for suggesting that “Women only” (JC does not do ‘ladies’) railway carriages might offer some sanctuary from marauding males. Mock ye not. It may not be the most innovative or eye-wateringly devastating of Mr. Corbyn’s many thoughts but my own research suggests that ladies, not only or even of ‘a certain age’ find the prospect of man-free travel quite appealing. The practicalities of JC’s proposal, even for the re-nationalised railways that Comrade Corbyn will, as Prime Minister, bankrupt the nation seeking to deliver, might be a little daunting. How, for instance, do you avoid the enforced bodily contact, bordering sometimes upon intimacy, that is experienced during the rush-hour on the London Underground and some suburban commuter trains? We may be confident, though, that the People’s Party will overcome these and other minor difficulties as easily as it will balance the economy and re-distribute the people’s wealth. Corbynomics is the Brave New Order.
The Fox really is in the chicken-coop. Having secured last-minute endorsements from enough dewey-eyed and romantic Labour MPs to allow his name onto the Leadership ballot paper “Jerry the Red”. The Welsh Windbag, Neil (Lord) Kinnock avers that JC is being backed by “welsh Trotskyists” which is very possibly true and the frontrunner also has the support of Dave ‘Spart’ Nellist, the leftist former MP who now heads up the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition as its ‘Chair’. ‘Corbynomics’ “could cost the UK £5 billion a year”. Corbyn’s election would be “madness” says a widely respected Cooper-backing former postman, Alan Johnson. “Labour donor’s will pull cash from Corbyn” scream the headlines “rather than back a dead horse”. That would be the same “dead horse”, presumably, that has taken the final fence and is now storming down the home straight towards the finishing line.
“Will Corbyn do a deal with the SNP to seize power”? (Almost certainly “yes” if that’s what it takes and politically they are not poles apart). “Would a Republican Corbyn become the first Leader of the Opposition to refuse to become one of Her Maj’s Privy Counsellors?” Possibly, but I doubt that the Great Lady is losing much sleep about the thought. The Legacy, Blair, currently vying for position as one of the most loathed politicians in recent history, ‘helpfully’ intervenes, along with ‘Poor Jack’ Straw to opine that “Labour is walking off a cliff with its eyes shut.” The Clunking Fist, who some still remember as a Labour Prime Minister, warns of Labour being led into the wilderness – possibly for longer than the statutory forty days and forty nights. Lord Foy of That Persuasion plots to stop The Rotter by persuading Burnham, Kendall and Cooper to pull out of the contest. Would this halt the process? No. it would hand the Bearded Wonder victory on a plate.
Tory Central Office predicts that a Labour government led by Corbyn (with Andy BurntOut as his Chancellor?) would cost every household in the land an additional £2400 a year. Not sure where they pluck these figures from but I reckon that you could stick another nought on that and still be speaking conservatively. Mrs. Ed. Balls, aka Yvette Cooper, gets personal. “Why” she asks “should Labour be led by two white men”? BurntOut should drop out of the race, she claims, because he has “failed to offer an effective alternative to Jeremy Corbyn”. The Leading contender of the two white men has relied upon “crowd funding” for his campaign. Not for him the tarnished loot of the big battalions. Well, not unless you are unkind enough to include donations from the Unite, RMT, TSSA and ASLEF trades unions that is. Milipede Major, the Man Who Never Was (yet) is backing Liz Kendall. “This” he says “is about the Country not about The Party”. Takes a loser to tell a loser I guess. “Corbyn had links to the IRA and Hamas” says the might BBC’s World at One. Now there’s a scoop! John Woodcock MP warns of deselections that will follow a Corbyn win if local party activists toe the thick red line. But let the last of this month’s Jerrymeanderings go to ‘The wee lassie in the tin hat”. Corbyn, says Nicola Sturgeon, is “getting people talking”. He sure is!
Was there any other news in August? Well, yes. There was. The Kids’ Company led by the ‘flamboyant’ Camilla Batmanghelidjh, has collapsed. This after Her Majesty’s Government , apparently threatened by leading Salford Broadcasting Luvvie Alan Yentob with ‘riots on the streets’, shovelled thirty-seven millions of your hard earned money down an enterprise that has turned out to be a wide-open drain. We know who is Batman but who has been Robbin’?
Yentob’s involvement in The Kids’ Company seems like another nail in a BBC coffin that now accommodates more tacks than wood. The veneer, you might say, is wearing thin. True, Alex Salmond tried to come to the rescue by accusing the Beeb’s political Editor, Nick Robinson, of bias during coverage of the referendum campaign that, you will recall, Salmond lost but even that intervention has failed to obscured the fact that Auntie’s slips are showing. Faced with charter renewal and a possible cut in license fee and what does the Corporation’s illustrious DG, Tony (lord) Hall do? Does he agree to cut management or transport or hospitality or profligate property costs? Does he hellaslike! He opines that the BBC might have to waste BBC 2 and close local radio stations. And just for good measure the outfit over which he presides, having promoted the cause of “dumbed down” weather forecasts presumably in the belief that personalities and smart graphics are more important than cold fronts and isobars, has sacked the Met Office as its provider of forecast information. Don’t worry. The Shipping Forecast is commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency so the BBC will still carry news of conditions around Cromarty, Tyne, Dogger and Dover but the bit at the end of the news that has been brought to us by the Met Office for 94 years will now be franchised out Meteocrap from the Netherlands or Metra of New Zealand who will in turn probably buy their information from the original providers if they have got any sense. The Weather Service rated as the best in the world (alright, you may ask what the others are like) will still have to be maintained in the national interest and at taxpayers’ expense for the purposes of Defence, Agriculture, resilience so this appears to be another spectacular own-goal. All, apparently, in the interests of providing a better phone-app for those who have to receive their news of fresh downpours via the public service Broadcaster on an I-phone. Or something. Sir Roy Strong, who has turned his hand to an artistic trick or two, believes that the BBC has “abandoned its founding values” and he is right. Instead of throwing his toys out of the pram Mr. Hall, as he was born, might care to look at the plethora of junk carried on a multitude of superfluous channels and ‘platforms’ and to cull some of that and the Managers that preside over it before threatening to damage one of the jewels in the crown, local radio.
Sir John Chilcot, he of the interminable Iraq War Inquiry, is likely to find himself taken to court by families who, fed up with a process of “endless Maxwellisation” that appears to allow the flawed men and women to cover their backsides for a little longer and desperate for a conclusion to the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones, are determined to get a fixed publication date for Chilcot’s findings. Ten million pounds have been spent by the Chilcot commission since it was appointed by Prime Minister Brown in 2009 and even Man David is now demanding a date upon which the great man’s deliberations may see the light of day. Eight hours a week in his Westminster office does not, after all, convey a great sense of urgency and the man who is supposed to be the Master of this three-ringed circus is in danger of finding himself going down in history as one of its clowns. Even Baroness Butler-Sloss, not known for intemperate comments, has referred to the “inordinate delay”, while others in parliament are calling for a change in the law to force Chilcot to publish his results. Chilcot’s response has been to blame government for a delay in furnishing him with ‘critical documents’ but neither time nor public sympathy are on his side.
Fourteen thousand heterosexual couples a year benefit from IVF to deliver desperately wanted children. In the postcode lottery there are also a growing number of single professional women who are not in a relationship and this year there are also 268 lesbian couples. If you are a childless woman married to a man who has children by a former partner, however, you do not qualify for the treatment even though the previous offspring do not live with you.
Sports medic Eva Carniero has fallen foul of Chelsea soccer coach Jose Marinho for daring to go onto the field of play to treat a fallen player at the invitation of the referee but against the ‘chosen one’s’ wishes.
The House of Lords Appointments Commission has turned down a number of dissolution (disillusion?) honours. The former Liberal Treasury Minister David Laws is known to have been blackballed but that has not prevented the Leaders of all three major parties from enobling some eyebrow-raising candidates.
West Yorkshire constabulary are blazing a trail and, along with other forces, buying millions of pounds worth of foreign cars. Some three thousand Fords, BMWs and Peugeots will soon be carrying “blue and twos” because of “EU procurement rules”. Can you imagine the gendarmerie commissioning British cars? The Police Minister, Mike Penning, who is clearly not best pleased by this, might care to look at the exemptions contained within EU commissioning rules and play the “local employment” card.
The new Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, is determined that every primary school child shall be enrolled in a local library. This presupposes, of course, that (a) the libraries have not been closed by local authorities and (b) that those remaining still issue childrens’ books as well as the CDs, DVDs and computer games that seem to be the bane of a good librarian’s life.
Her Maj will, on September 9th, become Britain’s longest-serving monarch when she passes Queen Victoria’s standing record. She is know not to want a fuss and will be celebrating quietly at Balmoral. It has become known that she will, however, have the pleasure of opening a new Scottish railway line to mark the occasion. I cannot think of anything nicer, can you?
TV’s free-ranging gardener, Charlie Dimmock, has lost the plot so her critics say. Charlie has suggested that authorities should cut back on allotment sizes to give more aspirant green fingered citizens the chance to grow their own. In spite of the fact that there are some eighty thousand people on the waiting list for plots the National Allotments Society has given Ms. Dimmock a spadeful of ordure. “Smaller is not big enough” says the Society. “You need 250 square metres to feed a family of four for 12 months”. It would be interesting to know what proportion of allotment holders represent families of four.
Lord Foy who, as Peter Mandelson, masterminded New Labour’s Spin Machine has offered his services to Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Commission to help present a communications ‘vision’ of Britain in Europe in the run-up to the Referendum.
Bong! Horror! Big Ben is six seconds out of time. The old prizefighter is getting “temperamental” in his old age and even the skills of that wonderful clocksmith Ian Wentworth, who weekly winds the George VI wall clock that I am fortunate enough to have in the Commons office that I inherited from The Reverend Doctor, are put to the test to get the ageing mechanism back in step.
Gags like this will come back to haunt us but “What do you call an Australian who is good with a bat?”
Newly appointed Minister Rory Stewart, a former diplomat regarded for his intellect, has declined an offer from tobacco companies to help to clean streets. Such a partnership, says the cerebral Stewart “fundamentally undermines our duty to protect public health”. Fag ends are clearly good for hygiene.
Southwold, now known as “Notting Hill on Sea” has banned picnics from its pier. They “lower the tone” you see. Have the good Councillors of Southwold ever travelled as far from home as Glyndbourne?
The star of the latest Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch, was advised by his tutor not to try to act for a living. My tutor at Guildhall gave me the same advice, possibly with greater perception. Meanwhile the celebrated theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn has been forced to defend his production of an all-white cast in Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses series on the grounds of ‘historical verisimilitude’ after criticism from Equity and The Arts Council.
Working girls in the northern Italian town of Spiro d’Adda, whose customary attire consists mainly of high heels and mini-skirts, are to be required to wear high-viz vests in the interests of ‘elf ‘n safety. This will make those soliciting ‘more visible’ and place them on an even footing with other ‘road workers’. Which young lady will be the first to wear the high-viz vest and nothing else?
Fundraisers for the Dorian House Childrens’ Hospice in Chorley, Lancashire, who have engaged in the annual “Dames on the Run” race wearing ‘drag’ have found themselves facing criticism from the Chrysalis Transsexual Support Group for committing a ‘hate crime’. They are apparently treating cross-dressers as ‘objects of ridicule’
BBC Radio Five Live’s sports programmes are attracting too many male callers to phone-in programmes. Producers have been given six months to attract more females in the interests of diversity.
Charlotte Watts, who is the granddaughter of Stones’ drummer Charlie, invited some friends home and woke in the morning to find that they had nicked her stuffed Arctic fox, frostbite. After simply masses of newspaper publicity Frostbite has been returned to its rightful owner. “It’s alright now”.
Kate Price, the ‘glamour model’ is lending her name to a further treatise in which she promises to ‘name and shame’ some more boyfriends ‘previously unknown’. Reminds me of the old Bill Clinton joke: when asked if they would sleep with Slick Willie fifty per cent of the American matrons questioned said “never again”.
And talking of bedtime stories Butlins research has revealed that the best averages out at 8.6 minutes, involves a castle and a fairy, a bit of peril and a happy ending. Night night.
The family of Liverpool docker’s daughter, Priscilla White, better known as Cilla Black who has died in Majorca at the age of 72, have discovered that “Anyone who had a heart” loved her. The loss of “show biz royalty” may have taken up an excessive amount of column inches in some tabloids but the Merseybeat singer who turned television personality struck many chords with many people.
Another “showbiz monarch”, George Cole, has taken his final bow at a sprightly ninety. Flash Harry in the St. Trinians films and Arthur Daley in the ITV series ‘Minder’ he was one of TV’s most popular sharp operators. The world of the small screen was, as he might have said, “my lobster”.
Jack Gold, who started his television career on the old “Tonight” with Alan Whicker and Fyfe “You May Wonder What I’m Doing Standing Here” Robertson has called “cut” in his eighty-sixth year. “The Naked Civil Servant”, “Aces High” (an airborne version of Journey’s End) and much else besides flowed from his talent.
Teresa Gorman, the MP for Billericay in Essex from 1887 to 2001 has entered The Great division Lobby at the age of eighty three although the parliamentary champion of eternal youth through Hormone Replacement Therapy would probably not have admitted to being a day over thirty.
And Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, founder of the Motor Museum containing one of the world’s greatest collections of historic vehicles has parked for good. The controversial peer, imprisoned for unlawful homosexual acts before the Wolfenden Report led to changes in the legislation and a self-confessed bi-sexual, re-habilitated himself to amass a stunning display of old cars that included, amongst others, Donald Campbell’s land-racing record challenging machine, Bluebird. His exploits left Top Gear on the starting grid.
The ‘Forgotten Army’ has had its day in the limelight. The ending of the war in the Far East in 1945 was commemorated at the Cenotaph and throughout the land. Survivors of the privations of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps are not surprisingly thin on the ground but they proudly and rightly honoured, on VJ day, the three hundred thousand prisoners and the one hundred thousand who died before the fall of Japan. We will remember them.