Gale's Westminster View - July 2017
July. Project Corbyn tightens its grip on `dissidents` but the Student Loan lie starts to unravel. Uncivil war in the upper echelons of the Tory Party as Yesterday`s Men seek to stake a claim to the future. The Tramp and His Holiness The Pope hitch their twittering stars to the Charlie Gard bandwagon as his parents fight for the eleven-month old infant`s life through the courts. The “Sun King” Macron is Dauphinesque in Versailles, Melania towers over Brigitte while her husband fails to discern gauche from right and there are more un-minuted meetings between the Commander-in-Chief and Tsar Vladimir at the G20 summit. With the focus on a fragmenting Europe the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge accompanied by George and Charlotte mount a charm offensive in Poland and The Fatherland. Less charming and with little cordiale in the entente is the first skirmish between Citizen Barnier of the EU and Brexit Secretary Davis in the Brexit corner. It looks like curtains for the infernal combustion engine with only Frau Merkel batting for the diesel-driven fake-science world of Volkswagen. There`s a crisis in the staffing of UK healthcare as the Leavers clamour to bring down the shutters on EU and overseas medical immigration. The Liberal democrats skip a generation and pick the oldest party leader since Sir Winston Churchill. Her Maj welcomes King Felipe of Spain but the monarchs find themselves between a Rock and a hard place. The prospect of low-grade disinfected table- fowl ruffles Cabinet feathers, The Boring Balding Corporation frustrates Wimbledon, The Blue Peter flag is no longer flying high, The Wimmin of the Salford Broadcasting Corporation are revolting, The Equalities Secretary steps outside her brief and seeks to create an unholy dispute, it`s Gay Britannia as the chattering classes campaign for still greater positive discrimination and gender inequality and hell-fires burn on the French Riviera. Sodom and Gomorrah could be on the horizon unless, of course, Kim Jong Un unleashes Armageddon first.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Emboldened by his failure to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons, a majority of the popular vote and to become Prime Minister Comrade Corbyn and Project Momentum are turning the screws on moderate Opposition within his own ranks. There are real concerns over the manner in which parliamentary candidates of all political persuasions have suffered social media, personal and even physical abuse and violence during the course of the 2017 General election campaign. Even the nation`s second most famous diabetic, Red Jerry`s ex-paramour Diane Abbot, claims to have been subjected to vilification. This, though, is as nothing compared with the hard-left Corbynite assault on any Labour Member of Parliament still bold enough to challenge the new Socialist Worker`s orthodoxy. One fifth of the Parliamentary Labour Party defied the politburo to vote for a freelance amendment to the Queen`s Speech at the start of the new parliament. That led to the sacking of front=bench spokesmen Andy Slaughter, Ruth Cadbury and Catherine West and their replacement with even more obscure Corbynistas. `Che` Corbyn is `on the verge` of becoming Prime Minister, he tells us. With the keys of Downing Street within his self-delusional grasp and urged on by John `Marx` McDonnell our own Dear Leader is in no mood to brook dissent. The indefatigable Stella Creasy is on the hard-left hit-list, Mrs. Ed Balls, aka Yvette Cooper and one time favourite Labour Leadership contender herself talks openly of “Corbyn`s bullies` and the cult of `control, isolate, manipulate` adhered to by those who clearly believe the mantra that `we are in charge forever`.
It is clear already that, downstream, the wheels are coming off the Project Corbyn skateboard. As scores of decent, honourable and moderate Labour Members of Parliament face the realisation that they are about to be subjected to entryism, militant takeover and de-selection the fightback has begun. These democratically elected MPs, with nothing to lose but their seats, are up against The Milipede`s “three pound membership” that has hijacked the Labour movement and reinvented it in the guise of the Socialist Workers Party but they will not go quietly and it is not beyond the bounds of likelihood that a new political force will emerge from the wreckage of the New Labour project created by Legacy Blair, Alastair Campbell and Lord Foy of That Persuasion.
In the meantime, tens of thousands of students are waking up to the reality that they were played for suckers by Corbyn`s false election pledge to `abolish student loans and debt`. That might encourage others, including some `champagne socialists` who were fool enough to vote Labour in June, to take a harder look at the foundations of sand upon which the edifice of Corbynomics is built. Labour`s education Spokesthing, Angela Rayner, is quoted as saying lamely that the promise to eliminate tuition fees and debt was “not in our manifesto.” The patently unaffordable £100 billion cost of this `non-pledge` was based upon the same fantasy economics as other `non-pledges` to remove the public sector pay cap, increase the wages of nurses and doctors and teachers and policemen and firefighters and the armed forces and pensioners and every other special interest group that might be conned into believing that “they” would do better under a Corbyn government than under The Demon May. The problem with electorates, of course, is that most people vote out of self-interest and look at their own circumstances rather than the bigger picture. Never mind the fact that we have just spent seven austere years trying to rescue UK limited from the basket-case economy bequeathed to the incoming government in 2010 by Secretary Liam Byrne in his now infamous “There`s no money left” note. Never mind the fact that a quick addition of John McDonnell`s spending plans adds up to so many extra billions that it would take not a money-tree but a whole gilded arboretum to begin to fund these spendthrift excesses. Never mind the fact that we would not only be placing our children and our grandchildren in Carey Street but that it would have been not “the rich” but all of those nurses and teachers and policemen and so on who had just received pay increases that would find themselves paying the taxes to just meet not the debt but part of the interest on the debt that Marx McDonnell wants to incur. Never mind any of that because Comrade Corbyn managed fleetingly to create the illusion that, as the troops heading back from the trenches might have said, “Je suis toutes droit, Jacques”! Not so. Those students who voted in Canterbury, and possibly several other places simultaneously, to send a Labour MP to Westminster (a Labour MP incidentally who is anti-Grammar School and, guess what, sends her own children to Grammar Schools) are now experiencing the sort of hangover that usually only comes after a hard night in the Student Union Bar. Desperate for wriggle-room when confronted by TV inquisitors – even the BBC could not avoid taking a pot at this open goal – Red Jerry protests that he simply said that he would `deal with` the Student loan issue and that the matter “was not a promise”. He then tells the modestly-paid (more of that later) Andrew “kid gloves” Marr, no less, that he “did not know the size of the student loan debt” when he made his non-promise. No Comrade, and you did not know the cost of any of your other spending plans either!
Faced with the prospect of an imploding Opposition you might think that, after the most disastrous election campaign within living memory, a Conservative government might re-group, rally and make a fair fist of offering an administration capable of delivering not only Brexit but a programme of policies designed to fulfil the promise of a fairer Britain. Instead there has been, within the Cabinet, a self-interested faction of yesterday`s men (and they are all men) who have found the time and the energy to jockey for a position that is not vacant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, is seen by the arch-Brexiteers as the embodiment of all that is `Remain` within the Government. `Spreadsheet Phil`, as he is unkindly known, is cautious, certainly. He wants to see the business of the City of London remain in London. He does not want that vital source of income leached away to France or Germany. He also wants, not unreasonably, to protect British jobs and, unlike the Cabinet `wets`, he sees the need to see austerity through to a sound economy. Ex-Mayor Johnson sees this as `fantasy economics` and is clearly looking for allies on the soggier side of the long oval table in the cabinet room. Phil, we are informed `will not be bullied`. Hard, really, to bully one of the biggest, toughest beasts in what at present passes for the political jungle so the `loyal` members of Her majesty`s Government resort to leaks. Phil, they whisper, said at Cabinet that `public-sector workers are overpaid`. This, in the toxic climate of discussions surrounding the remuneration of nurses and teachers is dynamite. It is also treachery. What is said in Cabinet stays in Cabinet. Or used to. The old joke was that if you wanted to keep a secret then you made a speech in the Chamber but if you wanted to hit the headlines then you spoke at the `confidential` 1922 Committee. The private conversations of Cabinet members was, though, necessarily expected to be regarded as sacrosanct. How else can the men and women running the Country speak freely and fearlessly with their colleagues? In fact, as he was forced to clarify, Chancellor Phil did not say that `public sector workers were overpaid`. What he did say, entirely reasonably and responsibly in support of the austerity argument, was that public sector workers were significantly better paid than those in the private sector. That, of course, was not the `story` that the plotters wanted the media to hear and print and broadcast, a story designed to damage the Chancellor and, by proxy, a Prime Minister `incapable of maintaining Cabinet confidentiality`.
Into this squalid fray entered the acolytes of those said to be eyeing up the top job. These, the “May must quit now” brigade, are the hyenas, the has-beens who have once held high office and, cut down to size, see the coup d’état as the only way that, if they back the right horse, they might again hold some kind of second-rate job but the Darling Bud is still the Prime Minister and is likely to remain so until at least the Brexit talks are concluded and very possibly – this is of course tempting fate – until a General Election in 2022. Red Jerry may bluster that he will `be in Downing Street by the Autumn` but unless the government does really commit hara-kiri that is as much a pipe-dream as his economics. The Conservative Back-bench is divided over Brexit, yes, but singularly united over what it wants from the Leadership of the Party. Traditionally the 1922 committee is, over such issues, supine. The `22`s shop steward, the splendid Member for Altrincham, Graham Brady, usually has to ride several horses at once in this three-ringed circus in the knowledge that within his ranks there are many and varied opinions. Not so this time. There is no party stomach for an enforced leadership election that would precipitate yet another General Election and, very possibly, a Corbyn-led government that would once again wreck the Country`s finances. Mid-Brexit is not, either, the time to enter into a contest that would be fierce and bitter and that would almost certainly end in tears.
The 1922 Committee has, therefore, sent out a very clear message. We expect the Government, under Prime Minister May, to get on with the job of governing and negotiating the terms upon which we shall leave the European Union. We are not interested in the vain aspirations of individual and transient members of the Cabinet and it is unlikely bordering on certain that when the time comes for Theresa May to voluntarily stand aside and for us to choose a new leader not one of the “usual suspects” will be in the frame. There are many good men and women from the 2010 parliamentary intake onwards from which we may choose and we shall almost certainly do so. If, therefore, those currently holding the seals of office wish to salvage anything from their reputations they will shut up and get on with the job in hand. I have already, personally, told the Chief Whip that he is authorised to indicate to any would-be assassin that if Mrs. May is removed involuntarily then I, for one, will not go through the voting lobbies with her successor. I know of, but have no permission to name, another dozen or so that feel likewise and that, given the fact that we have no overall majority, ought to get through to even the thickest scheming skull that a usurper would have no chance of winning a vote of confidence on the floor of the House. Back May or get Corbyn. Got it?
The internal machinations of the Westminster Village may fascinate the chattering classes and the salons of Islington and Notting Hill but the dominant feature of politics remains the Brexit issue which casts its long shadow right across Europe. M. Michel Barnier, the European Union`s Chief Negotiator, is frustrated, exasperated even. He wants `clarification` of the British approach to leaving the EU. We know that because he told us so. Eight times during the Press conference that followed his first meeting with the Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis. This great and important man has even threatened to halt the talks because `Britain is not ready to participate`. Which means that `Britain is not ready to roll over and accept the European agenda`.
David Davis is not known as “The Old Knuckleduster” for nothing. He is SAS-trained and he does not take prisoners. Neither does he believe in playing his cards face-up on the table. He likes to keep them close to his chest until he swoops to take the trick. He has a reputation for being “lazy” and not bothering with detail but I worked with him when he was Chairman of the Conservative Party and I was his Vice-Chairman and I know his modus operandi. If I were M. Barnier I would beware.
Le Barnier and others, including some journalists, have expressed surprise that while the EU negotiator and his team arrived burdened with sheaves of the inevitable Euro-briefing papers Mr. Davis` side of the table had not a single sheet of paper between them. Ms Emily “White Van” Thornberry, a Labour Shadow Foreign Minister no less, who shows no sign that she would bat for Britain were she by some mischance to be involved in the negotiations, has criticised Mr. Davis for having no paperwork to support his position. Lady Nugee, as she is known when booking tables in restaurants, is another who does not understand that The Old Knuckleduster keeps his files in his head. Ms. Thornberry believes that a year has gone by with no work being done. She could not be more wrong.
The first Davis-Barnier meeting lasted for just one hour, another target of ill-directed media criticism. Britain has assembled, under the Brexit department umbrella, not a vast army of bureaucrats but a commando of the finest Civil Service brains that Britain has to offer and those are very fine brains indeed. While ultimate political decisions will be taken, as you would expect, by elected politicians these civil servants are the men and women who will hammer out the hard and fine detail of a divorce settlement. That is likely to have proved, when complete, to have been the toughest negotiation that any of us can remember. When those deals have been struck the political heavyweights will re-enter the fray and either sign or reject them and that is an entirely proper division of labour.
Some of these decisions ought to be straightforward. Britain, for example, has made it plain that as an honourable nation we will meet all outstanding financial obligations to the EU properly defined by treaties and agreements. While that angers those head-bangers that say that we should `walk away and not pay a penny more` such a proposition would be neither acceptable nor practicable. What we will not do, though, is meet the aspirations of a spendthrift bureaucracy that can see ex-Mayor Johnson`s mythical £350 million a week” going down the plughole and leaving the coffers of the Berlaymont bare. These sums ought and must be the subject of proper, not European, accountancy and I for one would not unquestioningly accept any figures produced by an organisation generated by an organisation that has not had its books signed off for getting on for a quarter of a century.
What Britain needs and has a right to expect is a proper and itemised bill that indicates very clearly what the UK owes to Europe and what rebates the EU owes to Britain. There will then be a transparent and fair financial settlement that, in any ordinary business outside of the European Commission, ought not to be too hard to agree.
Similarly, Mr. Barnier and `President` Druncker believe that the European Court of Justice 9not to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights which is not an EU institution at all) should have the power to determine the `rights` of EU citizens resident in Britain. Why? Those living in the UK are, and must remain, subject to the law of our land and not of a non-existent country known as “Europe”. The sway of the ECJ is a red line that must and will end with Brexit. There will, of course, be concessions from both sides. Again, it will not please some but “Spreadsheet Phil” is right to seek to protect the British economy that pays for our schools and hospitals and police and social services and armed forces and the Chancellor is right also to seek to protect British jobs and the family household incomes that flow from them. That will almost certainly mean not only the period of transition that he has suggested but a recognition that our domestic economy requires and will require for the foreseeable future the services, both skilled and otherwise, of very many workers who will come from what, post-Brexit, will be `overseas`. A rigid adherence to the red-necked idea that “there are too many bloody foreigners here already” would lead, in short order, to the collapse of many businesses and public services and is not realistic.
We can emerge from this process as a stronger, more independent and once again self-sufficient nation in control of our own destiny. It will not be easy and those on both sides of the House and in high places would do well to heed the Prime Minister`s observation that we need to pull together to pull it off. In a spirit of co-operation she offered to work with the Leader of the Opposition to deliver both the Repeal Bill, which the Liberals and other minority parties are pledged to oppose, and the end result. Corbyn`s “read our manifesto” rejection of this offer was petty and churlish but probably inevitable from a man who is, at heart, not `one of the many` but a churl. If we do pull together, we shall succeed. If we do not then we shall fail and our grandchildren will be paying a terrible price for many years to come.
A passing intelligence from, say, the planet Zog might reasonably assume that in the international arena the lunatics have taken over the asylum. My understanding of the principle of deterrence, instilled in me during my days as a minion within the MoD, is that of mutually assured destruction. This presupposes, of course, that the person contemplating pushing the red button actually cares for his own survival and that of his nation. Step forward the Dear Leader in the earthly guise of Kim Jong Un-predictable. it is just possible that the man busily testing sparklers off the coast of North Korea is either mad enough or so self-assured of his own godlike immortality that he is prepared to precipitate Armageddon and that is a rather scary thought. What makes it worse is that this man, who regards human life as a bauble, is seemingly now in possession of a delivery system powerful enough to send an unpleasant messages whistling though a window in the White House. If the day dawns, as it surely must, when his expendable armies of nuclear scientists produce a miniaturised warhead capable of sitting on top of the aforesaid rocket and what follows could be largely academic.
Meanwhile we have, in The Tramp, a Commander-in-Chief whose only military experience is possibly the Action Man doll that he probably used to pull the legs off when there was a dearth of spiders while simultaneously squeaking “You`re fired”. With poll-ratings at an all-time low for this point in a term of office it is not inconceivable that a little bit of pre-emptive striking, taking out Kim`s missile plants, nuclear test-bunkers and almost certainly South Korea and chunks of Japan as well, might seem attractive as a diversion. Why upset North Korea when you can upset China? Why upset China when you can upset the Neo-soviet Union? Why select just one diplomatic target when, with just a little more effort, you can manage to put yourself on the wrong side of all of your most powerful, potentially dangerous and volatile adversaries simultaneously?
In this month`s episodes of The Little shack on Pennsylvania Avenue we have seen Mini-Don hauled before a Senate Committee of Inquiry to confess that, yes, he did meet with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, during Dad`s election campaign, and yes, the Russian spy did promise to dish the dirt on Hillary but no dirt was forthcoming. Talk of treason is in the air but the Mini Don avers that his assignation was merely in the interests of “opposition research”. This, of course, conflicts with the White House version of a meeting that `had nothing to do with the election. The White House spokesthing tells the world`s press that The President was unaware of these events and had played no part in his errant son`s rebuttal of them. Subsequently the Wash Post gets its hands on evidence that proves that Don Dad did help to pen his mini-me`s riposte and the spokesthing has to return to the podium to acknowledge that “that`s what Dads do”. This Dad, though, is the President of the United States of America and he has been lying – although should anyone really be surprised by that revelation? Or by the fact that his son-in-law and confidante Jared “I did not collude with Moscow” Kushner is embroiled in the same tasteless saga.
The Tramp met Comrade Vlad at the G20 summit and engaged in a small handshake. His handshake with “Sun King Macron,” fresh from a ninety-minute harangue of his loyal subjects from the Assemblée National in the Palace of Versailles, lasts rather longer but once again the ageing lecher`s natural instincts catch up with him as he describes HRH Macron`s wife, Brigitte, as being “in pretty good shape”. Back at home and with ratings at 36%, which is the lowest for seventy years, The Tramp learns that sacked FBI Director James Comey, is to write his memoirs. If, of course, he lives long enough to tell the tale. The mini-mayor of London, `Kubla` Khan tells the world that the red carpet will not be rolled out should the C-in-C try to visit The City. Given that the UK is desperately trying to line up trade deals with the USA that might just not prove helpful but fortunately The Tramp has one or two other things on his mind and the threatened absence of a bit of red Wilton is not likely to be high on his agenda. His domestic plans are unravelling and the Senate defeat of even his watered-down proposals to replace Obamacare shines a spotlight on the fact that during his time in office he has, in terms of his manifesto programme, achieved the sum of zero apart from an ability to “Make America Squirm Again”. An attack on his `friend` and personally tiny hand-picked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, leaves Donny No-mates still further exposed. As the White House Press Chief, Sean Spicer, quits following the appointment of a foul-mouthed Wall Street trader with no known experience of politics, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, we learn that The Tramp has denied that he is in discussion with his House lawyers to discuss ways of granting himself a pardon should the need arise. “The Mooch”, described by Mr. President as having “some of the best political instincts in the world” lasts just ten days before, upon the appointment of retired US Marine General John Kelly as Chief-of-Staff and at his request Mr. Scaramucci is also told “you`re fired”. A Presidential tweet tells us that this has been “Another Great Day at the White House”. Only to be bettered, presumably, by a further defeat, this time in Congress, over extended US sanctions against Russia. Or a missile strike from North Korea.
Back on the home front the most tragically compelling and divisive story has been the plight of the eleven month old Charlie Gard whose parents have fought and lost a last-ditch battle through the courts to try to have him shipped off to America for treatment. Whether it was helpful of the President of the United States and His Holiness the Pope to become involved in this matter is a very moot point indeed. Let us be charitable and say that at least in the case of the Holy Father the motives were altruistic and driven by a desire to assist rather than a desire to seek `good` publicity. Even so there can have been small point in this heavyweight intrusion by those who have neither family interest nor medical training. Brutally, there are millions of children dying in infancy each hour of each day and if `World Leaders` want to do something about that then they might just be well equipped to intervene. That said, there cannot be a parent in the land who, given even a remote ten per cent chance of a much-loved child`s survival would not clutch at the offered straw. Charlie, for those who are not subjected to a daily barrage of pious commentary from the Bourgeois Women’s` Tabloid, was born apparently normal but was swiftly diagnosed as having a rare and untreatable condition. Unfortunately, and as is too frequently the case in such circumstances a `pioneering` treatment was offered by a consultant, one Michio Hirano, who at that time had not even seen the child and the inevitable outpouring of parental and public anguish followed. A Judge faced with such deliberations has to exercise almost literally the Judgement of Solomon. In this instance he determined, against the parents` wishes, that the child should not be allowed home, all offers of further treatment having failed, to die and directed that the little chap should end his hours in a hospice which is what actually happened.
The staff at Great Ormond Street hospital, where Charlie survived on a life-support system while the law took its course, must feel to say the least bruised. This wonderful institution which fights for and saves young lives daily came in for an unprecedented level of vilification from those who in the main, did not know what they were talking about for doing what they clearly believed to have been in the best medical interests of their tiny patient. Charlie`s parents, with false hopes raised, vented their own spleen on `the system` and the only real winners were the newspapers that sold hundreds of column inches on the back of this very personal tragedy. There is no solution, of course. It will happen again and very occasionally there will be a survival that will stoke the fires of forlorn hope in others. Charlie Gard`s real legacy will be the medical knowledge that has been gleaned from his case and the possibility that as a result and at some time in the future other young lives may be saved as a result of his experience.
It has not been the best of months for the Salford Broadcasting Corporation. The holier-than-thou `Auntie`, that doyenne of broadcasters, is revealed, first, as spending only 50% of its licence fee protected income upon “content to air” or, in plain English, programmes. The Corporation`s Chairman, Sir David Clementi, defends BBC stars as `not overpaid` and requiring this expenditure to `attract top talent`. Later it will emerge that, contrary to popular and media-propagated belief, BBC stars are in the main paid more, not less, than their commercial television peers. Before the storm over pay and the `gender gap` really breaks, though, there is a minor fracas over the BBC`s `Brexit bias` with Dr. Liam Fox, as Trade Secretary, demanding a meeting with Corporation executives to discuss the broadcaster`s imbalanced coverage of matters relating to our membership of the EU. As a former Current Affairs producer and director I have tended to subscribe to the view that if complaints are coming from both left and right in roughly equal proportions as they generally do, then the balance is about right. In the matter of Brexit, though, and even as one who voted to remain, it does seem to me that Auntie`s pro-EU knickers have been showing of late and while the Brexiteers have been too prone to scream `foul` (How dare the BBC suggest, for example, that Mayor Boris` £350 million a week of EU payments for the NHS did not exist!) they do, actually, have a point. In the Luvvie-dominated Islington mind `bad` Brexit news equals good news for those who have still not accepted the result of the referendum and probably never will.
This skirmish, though, pales into insignificance bedside the whirlwind that is the publication of top stars` and presenters` pay packets. The sanctimonious spender of licence-fee payers` money found it necessary to both offer `protection` to its performers to try to help to shield them from having to justify some of the eye-watering sums paid to what Sir Capaldi euphemistically describes as `talent`. Some of the top-bracket news presenters themselves have been faced with a conflict of interest and have had to be prevented from reporting or editorialising upon the uncomfortable facts. It is, though, the gender imbalance in pay that has caused the reddest faces in Broadcasting House. Of ninety-six performers paid more than one hundred and fifty thousand pounds per year (or to put it another way, more than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) sixty two are male and there is just one woman,” Strictly” Claudia Winkelman, in the top ranks of high-earners. Gary Linaker, a former footballer and sports commentator, takes home getting on for nine times the income of the omnipresent commentator Clare Balding and somebody will have to try to explain precisely what it is that Mr. Chris Evans does that is worth £2.2 million a year of taxpayers` money. (Yes, licence fee payers are taxpayers also). Mr. Andrew Marr trousers a mere £400k a year having seen a reduction in income of some £138k over the past two years following his stroke and not surprisingly Graham Norton, Jeremy Vine and John Humphreys are all up there with the most expensive of them.
“BBC Women are revolting” scream the tabloid headlines and who can deny that indeed they are. Jane Garvey says that “this is the sisterhood in full flow” and there are threats to sue over the pay gap. “Act now” they tell the modestly-remunerated Lord (Tony) Hall who had clearly hoped to kick any pay-rises into the long grass until 2020. Next, there is a backlash over plans to replace some men with women but nobody seems to have considered the possibility that just perhaps some of these figures might be reduced. Some professional footballers are paid in telephone-number figures, of course, but they are paid by Oligarchs and not funded by the general public. I appreciate that those who spread their particular brand of misery through the airwaves are Very Important People but are they really worth so much more than those who are actually trying to run the Country?
In other news, and talking of highly-paid women, the aforesaid Ms. Balding is heavily criticised because the producers of her Wimbledon “show” decide that her observations about the day`s re-cycled play are more interesting that the live action continuing out on the tennis courts. Tiresome to have exciting coverage of a doubles match embracing `British interest` interrupted by even an inexpensive reinvented horserace commentator. There was some thought that having reached the last eight the splendid Johanna Konta, recently adopted as British, and the champion Andy Murray might make it through to, respectively, the women`s and men`s finals but Andy`s hip defeated him and Johanna succumbed to Venus Williams who went on to win the ladies` title. Roger Federer took the men`s championship for the eighth time and Andy Murray`s kid bother Jamie, together with Martina Hingis, took the mixed doubles. The British Lions held the All-Blacks to an almost unheard of one-all draw on the Kiwis` home turf. Once again Britain`s Ladies showed the men how to play cricket, taking the World Cup at Lord`s. And Chris Froome has won his fourth Tour de France.
Vince Cable has become the oldest `new` Leader of a political Party since Winston Churchill at 74, storming to victory in an uncontested rout and declaring his Liberal Democrats to be “at the centre of political life” and “a credible and effective Party “. Await the end-of-conference speech when he will say “Go home and prepare for Government……”. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by Prince George and Princess Charlotte, embarked upon a charm offensive to engage our “important friends “in Germany and Poland. George was treated to and enjoyed a flight on a helicopter `like Daddy`s`. Charlotte, less than impressed with aviation and suffering from the `Terrible Twos` threw a right-Royal wobbler on the tarmac, stamped her feet and then resorted to the nuclear shot in the toddler`s locker; she sat down and refused to budge.
Meanwhile King Felipe of Spain has paid a State Visit to Buckingham Palace and the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords. It has, one gathers, been made plain to His Majesty that The Rock of Gibraltar is not a pawn in a European board game.
The internal combustion engine would seem to be on its` last knockings. Volvo has announced that the last of its petrol-driven cars will roll off the production line in 2019 and from then on the future is electric/hybrid but the British government has been warned not to punish those patriotic enough to heed the advice given by an earlier administration and buy the diesel cars that, while now judged to be high on NOX were then thought to be lower on carbon emissions. The unloved engine has also found a `don`t demonise diesel` champion in Frau Merkel who is, presumably, seeking to defend the dubious attributes of spuriously-tested Volkswagens and other German vehicles. There is also the small matter of alternative fuel supplies: it is calculated that power for nine million electric cars would require the output of ten thousand new wind turbines to keep them on the road.
The British Supreme Court has ruled that levying charges for Industrial Tribunal hearings is unlawful. The seven judges determined that the charges `discriminate against women and the poorly paid` This means that not only will the Treasury have to refund some £32 million in charges already levied but it will once again be open season for those employees who know their “rights” and are well aware that most employers, including many small businesses, with cough up `compensation` rather than incur legal costs that they will never be able to recoup even if they win the case.
The Minister for Equalities and Women, Justine Greening, believes that the Church should reflect on its opposition to gay `marriage` .Ms Greening is also the Education Secretary and there are many within the Church of England who believe that as their Church`s attitude is a matter of faith and not of State the Minister, who is also the author of the “choose your own” gender-recognition bill, might be rather better employed improving the finances of and teaching in schools than meddling in matters that are not directly within her brief. In a `vicars` revolt` Conservative Anglicans are expressing `great concern` over gay marriage and `abuse` by a synod with whom they feel increasingly out of step. Ms Greening is treading where angels would be well advised not to tip-toe.
The Donmar Warehouse in London has mounted “The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall`s Relationship with The Kids Company” as a piece of live theatre known otherwise simply as “The Committee”. This enthralling coup de theatre runs for seventy gripping minutes.
The Blue Peter Children`s Television programme, edited for years by the formidable Biddy Baxter, was regarded as a national institution. In its` twice-weekly afternoon heyday the live show attracted around eight million viewers at a sitting. How the mighty are fallen. The first screening on CBBC, the toddlers` ghetto channel, reaches just fifty-three thousand souls.
Herr. Druncker, the `President` of the European Commission and former Leader of Luxembourg County Council, berates the European Parliament as “ridiculous”. While many might, for other reasons, share that view the cause of this great man`s ire was that just four per cent, or in round terms thirty six of the Members of the European Parliament turned up to hear him speak. One simply cannot imagine why that should be so.
Three hundred thousand pounds worth of a statue of Margaret Thatcher to be erected in Parliament Square has come in for criticism on the grounds that `it might be attacked`. An attack is a racing certainty one would have thought but the Baroness might have offered a sort, sharp answer herself: cast the Lady in iron instead of bronze.
The Leader of Her Majesty`s Opposition, Mr. Corbyn, has met with the European Chief negotiator, M. Barnier. Mr. Corbyn presented M. Barnier with a shirt from his local football club, The Arsenal, with “Barnier” stencilled on the back. I don`t get the feeling that the well-dined M. Barnier has ever been a soccer player and I doubt that he is an Arsenal supporter either although M. Wenger may be more to his liking than M. Davis but the English do have to have their little joke. Like Brexit.
Brexit is causing a crisis in the households of Islington and Notting Hill and Chiswick. Our imminent departure from the EU is deterring au pairs and the steady flow of young ladies from mainland Europe who are willing to work for half of nothing in order to learn English and to get a cultural foothold in the United Kingdom is drying up. One of the many unintended consequences of the desire to control immigration.
The planned HS2 railway line that will one day link at high speed the South with the North and Scotland is set to cost £104 billion which works out at £403 million per mile. Or rather more than the total cost of construction and operation of Concorde.
Parking meters do not yet all take the new £1. Coin. Some seventy four of three hundred and forty councils, including several not a million miles from East Kent, are still living in the past. Do not, suppose, though, that that will deter those cash-strapped local authorities from fining motorists who arrive unprepared with suitable coinage. It will not.
Mr. Laurence Parry, aged seventy-seven, lives in Cheshire. He was given some garden gnomes by his children as a gift for Fathers` Day. These were, though, rude `mooning` gnomes and Cheshire East Council has given Mr. Parry seven days to remove them from public view on the grounds that they present a danger to passing motorists. Cheshire will, presumably, also be banning those distracting advertising billboards next.
The Players are no gentlemen. Following an alcohol-fuelled bust up in the Harris garden at Lord`s cricket ground during the England Vs South Africa match recently the MCC is clamping down. Not on the alcohol but on the `dilapidated or offensive garments` that the imbibers apparently choose to wear. Boxing gloves might, perhaps, be more appropriate.
The end-credits have rolled for Barry Norman at eighty-three. Known as “The thinking woman`s crumpet” he presented BBC1 Film for the twenty-six years between 1972 and 1998, received the CBE in 1998 and retired from Sky television in 2001.
At seventy eight Ms. Michaels is no more. It was a young Shiela Michaels that at twenty-two and single began a `timid eight-year crusade` to launch the term `Ms.` as a preferred alternative to the submissive `Mrs` or the spinsterly `Miss`. Her project reached its zenith in 1972 with the launch of the magazine `Ms`.
Sunderland Football Club`s mascot, Bradley Lowery, has finally been beaten by cancer at just six years of age. The little lad, befriended by Jermain Defoe, stunned the Stadium of Light and Wembley with his good cheer and courage.
For those who are young at heart and still live in hope the actress (no “actor” she) Gina Lollobrigida has just celebrated her 90th birthday.