Month in Westminster – July 2016
July. The mighty fall as Tories avoid a long hot and divisive summer while on the Opposition benches the Brothers and Sisters prepare for a season of fratricide. The third runway is in a `holding pattern` and the nuclear reactors are placed on hold at Hinckley Point but Trident gets the green light from most of both sides of the House of Commons. Russia and Turkey close dangerous ranks over Syria as an attempted coup ends in mass arrests in the Land of Ataturk. Blair`s` legacy` is holed beneath the waterline when Chilcot fires a broadside at point-blank range, Juno gets up close and personal with Jupiter, The Trumpettes get up close and nauseatingly intimate with the American Colonies` Republican tendency, the FBI gets too close to Slick Willie`s Old Lady for comfort, Cam Force One flies into the sunset, Sir Philip “Greed” faces calls to turn in his `K`, and the International Olympic Committee ducks the big doping issues. Bastille Day terrorist mass-murders in Nice and the slaughter by Daesh of a Catholic priest while praying at the altar of his church on the outskirts of Rouen. Theresa, the Darling Bud of May, takes over custody of Larry the Cat as she moves into Number Ten, “Big Sam” Allardyce takes over custody of what passes for England`s national soccer squad and Sir Ben Ainslie, in a modest triumph largely ignored by a broadcast media obsessed with interminable “rain stopped play” coverage of a Test Match at Old Trafford, unseasonal and tedious interviews with someone called Marinho and relentless reporting of a procession up the Champs Elysee by the Team Sky winner of the Tour de France, quietly takes a lead in the very first of a series of the regattas that might, one day next year, finally see the return of the “Auld Mug” from America to Britain.
“If you wrote it as an episode of House of Cards everyone would say that it`s too far-fetched”. You`d better believe it. The Gover shafts The Boris and gets his come-uppance in the manner that Westminster traditionally meets out to those who commit “midnight treachery”. Would you trust him at the very long end of a bargepole? Not on your sweet life you would not. After the decommissioning of the unruly and philandering hair-apparent (sic) there were five. Dr. Fox, DWP Secretary Crabb, The Boris stand-in Ms. Leadsom, Et Tu Gove and the Darling Bud of the Home Office and bête noir of the Police Federation, Mrs. May. Foxy fell at the first fence and Crabb pulled up to avoid further injury. Gover went the way of those who apply the knife between the shoulder blades and never make the other cut. As Jake Berry, one of our younger colleagues with a tragedian`s view of life, so eloquently put it “there is a very deep pit in hell reserved for those such as he”. This left, as the survivor of “The Cuckoo`s Nest Plot”, Ms Leadsom, a junior minister in the Energy department, as the sole challenger to Mother (Mark Two) Theresa suffering from the “pro-Brexit” burden of being endorsed by one Iain Duncan-Smith, a man who has never established a reputation for unequivocal loyalty to other leaders of his party either in or outwith Government.
At 5pm on the Thursday of the penultimate round of what was billed as a summer-long heavyweight contest Theresa May was appearing on television from Westminster staking her claim to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and therefore the next occupant of number Ten Downing Street. At eight-thirty that evening the Home Secretary, as she then was, was arriving in a couple of tons of armoured Jaguar at the Broadstairs Pavilion in my neighbouring seat of South Thanet for a long pre-arranged Conservative Party function. There is a nice irony in the fact that my colleague the MP for the Southern part of this “little Green Island at the end of the World” is a former founder of UKIP, dyed in the wool Brexiteer and supporter of the militant wing of the anti-European tendency in the Leadership contest. Having attended the launch of Theresa`s leadership challenge and endorsed her campaign I had nailed my own colours to the mast from the outset but m`colleague, who were he a cleric might be well-suited to the incumbency of Bray, kept his cards, perhaps wisely under the circumstances, within a gnat`s whisker of his chest. I will concede that, in thanking “a hard working Home Secretary and the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom” for her services I was out on an albeit sturdy limb but I do not think that there was any single one of the two hundred or so staunch and mostly Brexit Tories present who predicted the manner in which events would unfold in the next thirty six hours or so.
If you cannot stand the heat you should not venture anywhere near the political culinary facilities. Ms. Leadsom faced a storm of protest following her claim that she, as a wife and mother (Mrs. May and her husband Philip have, to their personal sadness, no children) was best placed to lead the Country. I do not believe that the comment was intended to cause hurt and Ms Leadsom`s swift apology was forthcoming and fulsome but the damage was done and the media tore her to shreds. She was said to be “shattered” by the criticism that she faced and at the very least her comment demonstrated poor judgement and a lack of experience and “would you trust that unsafe pair of hands on the nuclear trigger?” Well, patently, you would not. Unlike others in the final round of this contest Ms. Leadsom had published just one year of her tax returns leading, of course, to speculation in the media that this challenger for the key to the door of the highest elected office in the land might have skeletons in the cupboard. A bruising baptism of fire for a political ingénue and from the assertion that “I can be the New Thatcher” on the Friday it was, by the following Monday, all over bar the coronation. The lady that former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke had not unhelpfully described as “a bloody difficult woman” was Prime Minister-elect endorsed as the Leader of the Conservative Party by a special executive meeting of the 1922 Committee and awaiting her seals of office.
Politics can be a cruel business. While Theresa May is addressing the Tory back-bench and inadvertently conferring a knighthood on the chairman of the `22 Committee “Sir” Graham Brady (watch this space – it should, deservedly, appear in the New Years` Honours list if not before) the men from Pickford`s are hammering on the back door of Number 10 calling “Time, Camerons, please”. Poor Man David and Mrs. Dave were no doubt looking forward to a couple of months during which to grab the buckets and spades before, in an orderly fashion, winding up their domestic affairs at the Prime Minister`s London home. Instead, with the children still at school in Town and the Witney residence too far to commute and with Notting Hill Gate let to tenants there you are, suddenly evicted and homeless. Thank God for friendly millionaires with an empty gaff in Holland Park to see you through until the tenants can, in turn, be moved on. They cannot have been best pleased either but if you rent digs from a Prime Minister you have to be prepared for the unexpected.
So that was the Monday. On Wednesday Man David, with his family watching from the gallery, did his last turn from the Despatch Box as Prime Minister and it was, as you would expect, a class act full of humour and studied Old Etonian self-deprecation. “I was the future once” he reminded us “but after a visit to the Queen my diary for the rest of the afternoon seems remarkably light”! We learned not a lot save, with relief, that Larry`s future is secure. The Downing Street Mouser-in-Chief is a Civil Servant paid for by the State and goes with the property and not with any transient occupant so Mrs. May has a furry friend to welcome her to her new home. After PMQs Dave was off to Buck House for a last chin wag with Her Maj before handing over the keys and offering the waiting press the formal departure shots with wife and kids and then leaving for the back-benches where, unusually for an ex-Prime Minister, he will now take up residence. There had been the traditional “last supper” with close friends in the dining room at Number 10 and as the “private” conversations have been widely reported we know that nice things were said all round.
Although Mrs. May followed Man David to the Palace to be asked to form a Government and then posed, with Philip, on the doorstep of Number 10 for “arrival” pictures as the seventy-sixth Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She did not, in fact, spend the first night in the flat above Number 11 which, as the larger of the two available suites of rooms, she has chosen to occupy. This, presumably, was to allow the Camerons to nip in under cover of darkness to pick up the carrier bags full of teddy bears and other bric-a-brac left behind in the hasty vacation of the rooms. Anyway, order is now restored. Mr and Mrs Cameron have re-located and will at least be able to enjoy a rather more restful summer holiday with Nancy, Elwen and Florence than might otherwise have been the case and Mr and Mrs May are installed as the custodians of the cat.
Cometh a new Boss, cometh the re-shuffle as she puts together her first administration. It was Michael (Lord) Dobbs, the author, who famously said of recent proceedings that “House of Cards is not an instruction manual” but it might well have been. Shuffling a pack full of Jokers with vastly differing allegiances was never going to be easy but Prime Minister May has pulled a few master strokes. You wanted Brexit? Brexit you shall have, but you sort it out! So first my friend the Old Knuckleduster and sometime Minister of State for Europe, David Davis, is appointed to head up a freshly created Government department as Secretary of State for Brexit. This is a poisoned chalice if ever there was one. Give away too little in return for trade with Europe and you fail. Give away too much “free movement” in return for trade and you are accused of selling the headbanging anti-Europeans short. David has previous. He has resigned under manufactured circumstances once before and my guess is that rather than fail a synthetic departure might be engineered if the going gets too rough for even a former SAS operative. However, he is clearly pleased to be back in government, has established his HQ in “Number Nine Downing Street” which until a couple of weeks ago only existed as a side-door to the Cabinet Office, and is getting stuck in. As an aside the revolting “Mine`s a double brandy” Juncker, temporarily still “President” of Europe, has anointed Michel Barnier, an arch-federalist French failed ex-Foreign Minister with a chip the size of the Arc de Triomphe on his shoulder to be Europe`s chief negotiator in the Brexit talks. As Frere Michel is hostile to the free-market capitalism to which the Old knuckleduster is wedded and as he additionally wants to create the “EU Army” that is anathema to the Outers the entente between to two men might just be less than cordiale!
Next in the Eurosceptic line-up is Dr. Liam Fox who will head up another new Department established to negotiate the post-Brexit trade deals that the UK will need if our economy is to survive and prosper once the umbilical cord with Europe has been severed. Another chalice full of toxic substances. Liam is going to have to deliver big time to compensate for markets likely to be denied to us in Europe but of course until we leave the body responsible for negotiating agreements remains the European Union and Foxy is therefore going to be working with one of not both hands tied behind his back. To suggest that he has been set up to fail is wide of the mark but his task will not be an easy one and he will need all of his bedside manner and then some if his reputation is to survive the appointment.
And then there is the third of “The Three Brexiteers”, the former Mayor of London `Silvio Borisconi` as he has been dubbed, who has been appointed to fill the boots that Chancellor George had hoped to step into as Foreign Secretary. While it is possibly the case that Boris has the personal capacity to single-handedly start World War Three most of the icing on the cake has been handed to Davis and Fox. With Brexit and Trade hived off it is a little difficult to see what is left for a neutered Foreign Secretary to do save bumbling around the world in a tricorn hat whiff-whaffing his way aimlessly from watering hole to outpost. He will also find himself sharing the 115-room Chevening house and estate, traditional home of Foreign Secretaries, with Fox and Davis to “engage with other Foreign Ministers”. A neat `reward` for naked opportunism.
When the music finally stopped we found Michael Fallon remaining as an excellent and very safe pair of hands at Defence, Mother May`s former post at the Home Office handed to the splendid and quietly formidable Amber Rudd and her neighbour and trusted friend and euro-sceptic Remainer Philip Hammond in his dream job as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Former Europe Minister David Lidington has become Leader of the House of Commons, Patrick Mcloughlin (Transport) is Chairman of the Conservative Party and Chris Grayling, a leading Brexit supporter but also Theresa May`s campaign Chairman takes Patrick`s place as Secretary of State for Transport. Elizabeth Truss is Great Britain`s first female Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary. Seventy per cent of the new cabinet are state-educated and there are more women, including Priti Patel (DFID), Justine Greening, Andrea Leadsom (Environment) and Karen Bradley (Culture) in the Cabinet than ever before. George Osborne (Chancellor), Gove (Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor) and Theresa Villiers (Norther Ireland) are out, Stephen Crabb has resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary to get is home life back on track, Clare Perry, still reeling from the shambles that is Govia`s Southern Rail, has walked and a number of junior Ministers have made way for fresh blood. “Brexit means Brexit” says the new Prime Minister, but” this is a government designed to work for all of Britain and with an agenda that will not be dominated by Europe to the exclusion of other issues” and adding that she will not be seeking to call a general election any time soon.
Which may or may not be music to the ears of `Red Jerry` Corbyn. Comrade Jerry claims that he wants an early general election but it appears likely that, in its present state, the Labour Party would face parliamentary decimation were Mrs. May to call the bluff and go to the Country. We were faced, first, with the sideshow of a `contest` between Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, of whom until recently you have probably never heard, over who should challenge for the leadership of Old Labour. Notwithstanding the best efforts of the terminally loyal Emily “Keep Calm and Carry On With Jerry” Thornberry it has been clear for weeks that someone was going to have to try to dig the Labour party out of the hole into which it has been immersed by `£3 activists` whose place might more properly be within the Socialist Workers Party or militant. The “who” question has led to dithering on a world class scale that would win gold medals if it were an Olympic sport. Mr “Who?” Smith has emerged as the standard bearer if only because those who might have stood a chance of pulling Her Majesty`s Opposition back from the brink, such as Hilary Benn or better still Alan Johnson, will not throw their cloth caps into the ring. A casual observer might think that this would be a source of joy to those of us on the Government benches but that would be to not understand that many of us have real and firm friends on the opposition benches and that those chums are in despair as they see a once-proud political party tearing itself to shreds. In a democracy Governments need a strong and organised Opposition and although there are malcontent dial-a-quote headbangers within the Conservative Party they are not of a calibre capable of offering constructive alternative opinion or policy.
It now seems likely that after weeks of bitter bloodletting entryism from the Left will dominate and the comrades will re-affirm Mr. Corbyn as the Supreme Leader of their Politburo. What happens next is anybody`s guess. Logically the majority of Labour MPs that do not support Red Jerry would then hive themselves off, elect a Leader, appoint a Shadow Cabinet and face the Speaker with the difficult decision as to whether or not to recognise them as the Official Opposition. There is, though, the small matter of re-selection for the 2020 General Election and with many local socialist associations located somewhere to the left of Karl Marx on the political spectrum it is likely that there will be heads on spikes outside Labour Party offices up and down the land. That local activists are not representative of the average Labour voter is not relevant: these are the brothers and sisters who wield the power of life or political death and there will be, sadly, a lot of turkeys facing a bleak Christmas as the dust settles on the leadership ballot boxes.
In Westminster the real Opposition is now provided by the Scottish Nationalist Party. Confounding expectations that these predators from North of the Border would be hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, unruly and disorganised the SNP have demonstrated a discipline and sense of purpose that Chief Whips of larger parties can only envy. They turn up to support each other and they have a party-line which, even if it is off-the-wall, they adhere to. The Daily Torygraph, one of a number of pro-Brexit publications that are now desperately trying to sanitise the consequences of the referendum result, avers that “Nicola Sturgeon cannot just do as she likes”. In fact, she very possibly can do just that and the Brexit newspaper proprietors, having sown the wind, now face the very real prospect of the whirlwind of the break up not of the European Union (although that may yet happen for wholly other reasons) but of the disintegration of the United Kingdom. It was with good reason that Theresa May`s second visit as Prime Minister was upon Chancellor Merkel while her first was upon `The Wee Lassie in The Tin Hat”. That Prime Minister May has declared that she will not trigger the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that starts the clock ticking upon a two-year exit process from the EU until she has the agreement of the devolved Assemblies is telling. This may not amount, as Ms. Sturgeon has sought to claim, to a Scottish veto upon Brexit in her back pocket but it is sufficiently serious to have aroused concerns within in the Out-at- any-price ranks at Westminster. The Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis, may be aiming for a “brisk but measured” approach to leaving the EU but it might not be long before the realisation dawns that politics is still “the art of the possible” and that there are one or two loose floorboards between here and the exit door that will have to be nailed down before we fix a departure date. Not least the matter of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic that the Prime Minister does not intend to see re-imposed.
We have, in Britain, been recently so obsessed with the study of our own political navels that we have perhaps taken our eye off the impending disasters that are developing elsewhere. The author of Ms. Melania Trump`s spontaneous “I wrote it with as little help as possible” speech delivered to the Republican national convention must be rueing the day that he decided to plagiarise a Michelle Obama burst of oratory but as with so much about Donald and the Trumpettes (where is Phil Spector when you need him”?) the show was a tacky fake. That The Donald is a charlatan and a phony may be true but if so then he is a potentially very dangerous phony. A purveyor of dog-whistle politics to the ill-educated, embittered and under-achieving could, in the insane demagogracy that has risen from the ashes of the United States still find his hand on the nuclear button and that is about as attractive a prospect as conferring the same power upon Kim Jong Un. A man who regards NATO as `obsolete and expensive` and that has attracted the admiration and support of Hungary`s Viktor Orban, who believes that Europe is to blame for terrorist attacks upon innocent civilians in France and Germany and elsewhere and who simultaneously calls upon the Kremlin to hack his Democrat opponent`s e-mails might just not be the best person to entrust with the security of the Western world.
Not that the Democrats are in much better shape. The FBI has found it necessary to interview their Presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, about the private e-mail accounts that may or may not have been used to transmit state secrets during her tile as Borat O`Bama`s First Secretary of State and notwithstanding the public endorsement of Mrs Clinton by their Principal, Bernie Saunders, at the Democrat Convention the `Berniacs`, as they are now known, were having none of the first serious woman candidate for the Presidency of The United States. By contrast America`s First Lady, Michelle Obama, was by common consent quite simply stunning. In a speech that might have received the benefit of some hired help but which was delivered as though every last word was up front and personal she, without once citing him, nailed the bigotry and angry racism for which the name “Trump” has become a by-word. The lady who “lived in a house built by slaves”, with children whose “dogs played on the White House lawn” and who would grow up knowing that,” because of Hillary Clinton, a woman could run for the highest office in the land” probably did more to deliver the next Commander in Chief than anyone else on that platform. The sadness is that she was not in the running herself – but one day, who knows?
Up to a point people get the Governments that they deserve but the Presidency of the United States will impact upon all of us and, rather like a couple of million ex-pat UK citizens during the referendum, we don`t have a vote.
In other news an attempted and failed coup in Turkey has sent shockwaves throughout an already desperately dangerous region as conclusions as to the causes are leapt to wildly prematurely. Was this a genuine coup mounted against an increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan who has seized control of and closed down newspapers and persecuted an already marginalised and impoverished Kurdish population? Or was it an attempt by a military-backed faction-in-exile to topple a democratically elected government that has the overwhelming backing of `the people`? Certainly the timing, with Recip Erdogan on holiday in Marmaris as tanks seized bridges in his capital cities and rebel aircraft bombed his parliament suggest the latter. Subsequent arrests by the thousands of `suspects`, the closure of more news outlets, the taking of yet more emergency powers and threats to reinstate the death penalty emanating from someone who increasingly seems to bear all of the trappings of a dictator point rather more towards an orchestrated exploitation of a pre-planned situation. That so many lists of the potentially guilty existed prior to the event seems to indicate more than a little pre-emptive planning! I have received, from reliable and well-informed internal sources, two conflicting accounts of recent events and as is so often the case I suspect that there is a`some and some` answer to most of the questions that are rightly being asked. Turkey has, though, already suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and if the death penalty is reintroduced then that will bring an end to any consideration of Turkish membership of the European Union for a couple of generations, will bar Turkey`s continuing membership of the Council of Europe and may place the future of NATO in jeopardy also. We should not under-estimate the seriousness of the situation nor of its potential impact upon countries to the west including the United Kingdom.
The tardy publication of the 2.6 million words of the Chilcot report gave a degree of belated closure to some of the families who lost sons and daughters during the Blair/Bush Iraq war and Sir John Chilcot`s personal statement was rather more robust that the conclusions, which had to be approved unanimously by the Chilcot committee, of the report itself. It has left those, and I am most certainly one of them, who believe that Blair deliberately mis-led the House of Commons, still seeking ways to get the former Prime Minister held to account. Impeachment is not a legal option and the Speaker is reluctant to facilitate a contempt motion on the grounds that you cannot fairly try a man in a forum to which he no longer has access and in which he therefore cannot defend himself. (That aspect of self-defence may have been lost upon the relatives of those thousands killed following the invasion of Iraq). There is an irony in the fact that the Chilcot report could be used to prosecute serving men and women for battlefield crimes but cannot be used to prosecute the authors of the war itself. That Blair has said that he would `take the same decision again` is obscene and suggests that he has learned nothing from his terrible mistake and the consequences that have flowed from it, and for which those of us in parliament at the time also bear responsibility, since. That Blair was able to say in a letter dated July 28th 2002, following a visit to the Bush ranch in Crawford Texas and months before the House voted on the war that “I will be with you whatever” confirms that the commitment was pre-determined. Military action to secure regime change is permissible in the United States. In Great Britain it is not. My own view is that Blair used his position as a Privy Councillor to mislead us and that therefore he should be stripped of his membership of that Privy Council. It will not bring back the dead but it might send a message to a man who is concerned about his “legacy” that it is not permissible to mislead the House of Commons with impunity.
Syrian refugees, having fled from the war zone of Homs and offered safe haven and protected humanitarian status on the Isle of Bute find the Scottish outpost too boring. They would prefer to move to Glasgow, Sauchihall Street on a Saturday night might well make them feel more at home.
Kirsty Blackman, the SNP Member of Parliament for Aberdeen North has been rebuked by committee clerks for taking her children, aged five and two, into a committee hearing. Setting aside the fact that this probably constitutes child abuse Ms. Blackman`s excuse that she faced a “childcare emergency” is paper-thin. Or has the Lady Member not heard of the crèche facilities created at inordinate expense in Number One Parliament Street.
Nottingham constabulary has decided to classify wolf-whistling as a hate-crime punishable by `misogyny training`.
Morebus has experienced disorderly behaviour from those queuing for the Bournemouth to Swanage “Purbeck Breezer” known as “The Wheezer” on account of the number of geriatric bus-pass holders that are attracted by the delights of free open-topped travel during the summer months. Some pensioners are, it seems, abandoning queuing etiquette in favour of the `push and shove` technique.
Latin abbreviations, e.g. i.e. and etc. are to be banned by the Government websites operated by the Digital Services directorate. Setting aside the fact that Latin is part of our cultural heritage and the root language for much of modern and unabbreviated vocabulary one wonders how the GDSD will handle the issue of BC and AD. Before and After Christ and “In the year of Our Lord” might, after all, disturb the politically correct sensitivities of those of other faiths.
David Baker, the Queen`s Swan Marker, has been less busy than usual this year. During the annual swan-upping carried out on behalf of Her Majesty who, as the Seigneur of the Swans shares her dining rights with the Vinters and Dyers Livery Companies and, exceptionally in the case of mute swans, with the Ilchester family of Abbotsbury in Dorset, only 72 cygnets have been “upped” this year which is 12 down on 2015 and giving cause for concern. Her Maj may have to get by with an additional haunch or two of venison from Richmond Park.
It has slipped out that MI6 has been reduced to soliciting the services of school children at jobs fairs to make number arising from the lack of interest in spooking as a vocation these days. Kids, it seems, still want to be 007 rather than a nerd with a talent for computer hacking.
And Melania Trumpette`s humiliation continues. After her less-than-original Convention speech `borrowed` in part from Michelle Obama it now emerges that that part of her website referring to her `university degree` has disappeared. Someone has unchivalrously spotted that she dropped out after just one year at College.
Caroline Aherne has, at the age of fifty-two, lost her battle against cancer. The BAFTA award winning actress and author was responsible for the Mrs Merton Show, Gogglebox and The Royle Family.
Dimitri the Clown has been entertaining children of all ages for many of his eighty years. The circus and variety performer studied mime and circus arts with Marcel Marceau, served as a UNICEF ambassador in Sarajevo in 1995 and in the same year was initiated into the International Clowning Hall of Fame.
Sylvia Peters was one of the BBC`s first in-vision link announcers or `speakerenes` during the early 1950`s days of black and white television, working alongside Mary Malcolm and McDonald Hobley. She introduced the first mass- television broadcast of the Coronation in 1953, offered quiet advice to Her Majesty prior to the Queen`s first televised Christmas Message in 1957 and participated in Come Dancing between 1954 and 1958. The voice of “Test Card C”, she was supplanted by Kenneth Kendall, Robert Dougall and Richard Baker during the Corporations less emancipated era but lived happily for ninety years before switching off for the last time.
Eight-five year old Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by Daesh supporters while saying Mass at the altar of St. Etienne de Rouvray near Rouen. At his memorial service people of all faiths and none prayed that his soul might rest in peace. He would no doubt have forgiven his killers but others may take a less Christian view of the reception in the life hereafter that awaits his assassins.
And an eighty foot high Flanders poppy has been carved into the chalk hillside in Favant near Salisbury on the A30 road to the West Country. The installation follows in a tradition first set by the London Rifle Brigade during the First World War and sends “A message for the future from the past”.
A Czech wartime fighter pilot, General Emil Boeck, has taken to the air again in a Supermarine Spitfire flown out of the wartime airbase Biggin Hill. It is said that the spin around the skies above Kent “brought back memories” for the 93-year old veteran but whether he took the controls or not remains shrouded in mystery.