Gale's Virtual Westminster View – April 2020

westminsterApril. The new June. Sunshine, flowers, birds nesting, butterflies flitting, native wild animals thriving. Pity about the Covid 19 but you cannot have everything can you? Her Maj  addresses the nation for only the fourth time in her sixty-eight years on the throne – apart from the Queen`s Christmas speeches, of course. We celebrate The Big Night In with the Heir to the Throne and a cast of other minor celebrities. The churches are closed for Easter but, hey, Archbishop Justin will offer us a homily from his homely kitchen and the Bishop in Canterbury, Rose Hudson Wilkin, will sermonize wonderfully from her own socially-distanced  mount. Old dogs have to learn new tricks.

In addition to Facetime and Facebook and Twitter we now have Microsoft Teams and Zoom and Kudo and virtual Parliament and virtual Committee meetings and a virtual Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as well, of course, as incessant conference calls all designed to stop us from helping small businesses to get grants and to interfere with the job of getting stranded ex-pats home from abroad and trying to rustle up Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) out of thin air. In the United States their Virtual President is clean round the bend, possibly having drunk a bottle of the lavatory cleaner that he seems to think will `kill ninety-nine per cent of all known germs`.  This, boys and broads, is the narcissistic megalomaniac  that the godly descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers look likely to elect as the Commander in Chief of their armed forces for the next four years. Fingers on the buttons please. Are you ready?  Then there is the mystery surrounding Young Kim Gone Un. Has he ascended to the great collective in the sky? Been murdered? Kidnapped? Or just sulking in a palace somewhere hoping to keep the world guessing while having a little down time?  What is more worrying is who will step into his sandals if he really has disappeared for good. We have cancellations galore. Wimbledon has gone down the Swannee. Soccer and Rugby are in suspended animation, horseracing is off the cards, the Open Golf is in the rough just when they had extended the platforms at Sandwich Station to welcome those visiting St. George`s,  there will be no fringe at Edinburgh  and Holy Moley, the cricket season – and this shows just how bad things really are – has been hit for six without a ball being bowled. There was a virtual Grand National which Tiger Rock, the favourite and heading for a fourth triumph, did not win. But the Prime Minister, having been nursed by the NHS through a near-death experience in London`s St. Thomas`s hospital is back in Downing Street and with a little help from his girlfriend Carrie Symonds has become a father for the – well, who`s counting? – time.

Captain, now Colonel, Thomas More has plodded round his garden a hundred times to celebrate his 100th birthday and as a by-product has personally and almost accidentally raised thirty million quid for the National Health Service. And we almost got through a month without once mentioning Brexit. Almost!

That couple that were cheerfully sailing around the world and only found out about Coronavirus when they came ashore to pick up some more baked beans and gin  must have wished to heaven that they had stayed on board.  This is the first time within living history when you could land pretty much anywhere on the planet and find yourself at risk of catching one of the nastiest diseases ever to have mutated out of a Chinese wet market or laboratory or whatever personal conspiracy theory grabs your fancy. One of our lesser-revered breakfast TV presenters even appeared to endorse the thesis that it was %G transmission systems that was to blame. Well, that sort of came from China after all. Outside of the Orient , and certainly in the United Kingdom, the blame game has already started. Her Majesty`s Opposition, now led by Sir Keir Starmer and a Shadow Cabinet of, save for Rebecca Wrong Daily, a team of Anything But Corbynites that re-introduces Ed Milipede, is trying to tread a fine line between seeming to be responsibly  supportive of the Government at a time of National Crisis while at the same time sniping from the sidelines.  Not that they need bother. The gung-ho remnants of the European Reform Group, rebels ever seeking a new cause, now want us to unlock prematurely from lockdown and to place our whole economy at the risk of a second wave of the pandemic at the very moment when it is beginning to look as though if we really want to boot the disease into touch we need to lock down still harder. Certainly, those who slammed the shutters down brutally and totally and fast appear to be emerging less scathed than those – Italy, Spain, France and ourselves – who drifted into social distancing and are now beginning to look as though we might try to drift out again.

Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wonderful thing and I do not believe that swapping death statistics at this stage is likely to prove anything other than that their have been different horses for different courses and not all of them have performed brilliantly.  The media, and I will not single out any one outlet although the Bourgeoise Women`s Tabloid has been little short of disgraceful, has inevitably tried to find the worst in any decision – and there have been many difficult ones – that have been taken.  The BWT in particular has sought to scapegoat the young Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, upon whose fortunately broad shoulders much of the responsibility for managing the wellbeing of the nation has fallen.  “Hancock is set to miss his target” of one hundred thousand tests a day by the end of the month the dreadful paper gleefully proclaimed. Well, there are some – and to be fair the BWT was not the worst - who have carped about the statistics in a desperate attempt to prove that Cassandra is always right and  have sought to downplay  the figures and the very considerable success of the testing programme.  Yes, we started too late and yes, there were some within the Cabinet who initially did not believe that testing and identifying contacts and isolating the disease was part of the solution but the experience of some other countries has proved them wrong. So from a standing start a Health Secretary who had always believed in testing got stuck in and in a relatively few short weeks has with an enormous amount of help – not least from Her Majesty`s Armed Forces – built a system that is hitting the target and that as it beds down will, I believe, make a very real difference.  At the beginning there were some nonsenses and some of my constituents in East Kent, for example, found themselves being directed to Ipswich or to Portsmouth for testing but those errors have, by and large, been overcome.  I hope and expect that within the next couple of weeks not only the frontline doctors and nurses and care assistants in nursing homes but all of those key workers and then others who may be at risk will have been tested and either cleared or isolated. Once that process is complete we may, then, be able to look seriously at beginning to open up for business again. But not before.

My main personal gripe has been and remains the lack of availability of protective clothing for those at the clinical and medical sharp end of this battle and the quality of the materiel that is being supplied.  Looking back – and it is easy to be wise after the event – insufficient attention was paid to the findings of a pandemic `war game` conducted within the lifetime of Conservative administration and, as a result, the necessary stockpiles of PPE were not immediately available in adequate quantities when needed. We have, therefore, been running to stand still and progress has been inhibited  by red tape and a “not thought of here” mentality displayed by Health Service management and apparatchiks who are still on a peacetime rather than on a war footing. As a result good local initiatives have been stifled and surgical gowns, for example, that could have been in production weeks ago have only just received the  go-ahead from “the system”.

I am also concerned about the efficacy of the masks that are being made available to those working on the “Blue” (Covid 19) wards in our hospitals. The kit used by the ITU ( Intensive Care) teams is first rate.  One rung down, though, the masks issued to those working with CV patients not in intensive care have, on the instructions of Public Health England, been confined  to those normally used for surgical procedures. These are fine for the operating theatre but not, so my medic friends  tell me, suited to the highly toxic and dangerous environment of the “Blue” Covid wards. I am not, of course, remotely qualified to exercise a judgement and therefore have to rely upon the advice  of those actually doing the job at the sharp end. What is needed, they say, are what are known as FFP3 or, at the very least, FFP2, masks that offer a higher level of protection.  “The system” apparently purchases these at £6 per mask but they can in fact be acquired – and I frankly don`t care whose lorry they fell from the back of – for around  £1.

I have to declare an interest; I am on the Grim Reaper`s shopping list and I might just find myself needing the help of the boys and girls who put their own lives on the line, daily, to look after those who are hospitalised with Covid 19.  If the protection that they demand is of a higher rather than a just about adequate quality than is needed then so be it. What matters, surely, is that they feel literally comfortable and confident in the equipment that they are using so that they can get about their sometimes grim business without worrying about their own health.  Too many medics have died and too many others are ill for us to go on playing Russian roulette with our healthcare workers. The question that the luminaries of PHE need to ask themselves is “If it was my son or my daughter or my wife or my husband wearing this kit would I seriously believe that they are adequately protected”. Unless the answer is an emphatic and certain “yes” they should have the courage to revise their instructions. End of this rant.

Start of the next rant.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer has `gone the extra mile` and mortgaged UK limited for generations to come (Coronavirus is apparently costing about £2.4 billion a day)  to try to see large and small businesses and their employees and the self-employed through this wholly unanticipated crisis. The provision that he has made, started from a very-broad-brush and relatively unsophisticated approach, has been fine-tuned over the weeks to try to meet most if not all needs. One size does not fit all. Rishi Sunak has listened to our representations and has adjusted his policies to fit the bill. The fly in the ointment has been the big Banks. The people that the taxpayer bailed out when they were in deep trouble a few years ago seem to have forgotten the debt that they owe to others, They have been slow to adapt their customs and practices to meet the need and appear to think that they have a God-given right to treat funds provided to them by the Bank of England at 0.25% as if it was their own money to do with  and charge for as they wish . As a result thousands of small businesses who have furloughed employees and paid their wages upfront, finding themselves in need of an overdraft or loan to see them through until Government payday have found themselves faced with the “we don`t lend below £25.000” mantra or being made to jump through hoops to get the help that they not only need but ought, as part of Government policy , to be entitled to. UK Finance, in watchdog capacity and surveying this scene has sought to intercede and painfully slowly the banks are at last beginning to respond. There will, though, come a day of reckoning and a price to pay for their intransigence, arrogance and greed.

I have not ever been a fully paid-up member of the Mayor Boris fan club but I have to unreservedly admire the courage and the fortitude that he has shown, clearly at the risk of his own health and indeed of his life, while seeking to pilot the country through our present difficulties. It was not only Mutti Merkel, M. Macron, The Archbishop of Canterbury  the Chief Rabbi, The Muslim Council, The Tramp, Vlad Putin and Joan Collins who were rooting or praying for him while he was in intensive care. Save for one repulsive trades union leader who said that he would “throw a party” if the Prime Minister died most of us were on our knees willing him through. And through he came, thanks to the professional care of those in St. Tom`s who monitored his every breathing minute for three days.  Good that someone (possibly Carrie) had the sense to prevail upon him to take himself of to Chequers, his official Country home, to recuperate. I fear that he may yet have bounced back to Number Ten prematurely but I suppose that was only to be expected.  When, last week, there were doubts about whether he would make Prime Minister`s Question Time, everyone feared the worst. Just for once Boris got the better of the Press and a baby boy, now known as Wilfred,  that everyone had thought was due a little later arrived quietly and on time with Boris at the bedside.

Congratulations are due to the couple on being the third in modern times , after Tony Blair, Cherie and Euan and David Cameron, Samantha and Florence, to take a sprog into the flat above Number 11 Downing Street. (The Camerons apologised for not leaving the cot behind).

Virtual Parliament is an interesting experiment that has proved to be largely successful. At the instigation of Mr. Speaker Hoyle, and with the expertise of the massed IT technicians of the Houses of Parliament and the accumulated wisdom of the Clerks` Department we first piloted a hybrid sitting of the `Chamber` and then went live. The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, took the chair in person, there were Ministers and Shadow Ministers at the despatch boxes and there was a handful of members on either side of the House suitably  socially distanced on the green benches. The remaining participants, from our homes or constituency offices on-line, are now displayed on a battery of screens suspended on either side of the Chamber in front of the of course empty visitors` galleries .It is the first time that I have ever received a message from the Government Whips` Office asking me to stay away from the House of Commons!  The opportunities to intervene are limited, the speakers list for questions and contribution to debates are strictly adhered to and the inevitable delay between The Speaker calling a remote Member and the response from outside the House mean that the proceedings are less spontaneous and free flowing than usual. But the job gets done and it works and the Government is, quite properly, being held to account for its decisions and its actions.

Legislation has also been virtually debated and passed through the second reading stages of new bills. To date these measures have not been contentious and have therefore not required votes to secure approval.  There have been a couple of trial divisions of the whole House, which have worked tolerably well but some Members have failed to have their votes recorded and that, of course, will have to be rectified before there are any divisions on the floor of the House.  As we move forward bills that have had their Second Reading debates will then have to go `upstairs` for their Committee stages where amendments will be table and where divisions will certainly have to be called.  We have already held `virtual` Select Committee hearings with reasonable success and at the end of the month I was privileged, as a member of the Speaker`s Panel of Chairmen, to take the first ever virtual trial Committee of the Environment Bill through an experimental hearing.  This, I must stress, was a pilot and not the real thing but by and large it worked well, thanks again to a phenomenal amount of hard work by those, Clerks of the House and technicians, behind the scenes. I see every possibility of Legislative Committees sitting and voting in the fairly immediate future. Some of our forbears will be spinning in their graves at the thought of Parliament `sitting` in this way but I believe that we are proving once again, as we did when the Commons chamber was bombed and destroyed during the Second World War, that the House is flexible and can and will adapt and rise to any occasion.  As an aside Mr. Speaker Hoyle has determined that normal dress codes will be respected during all virtual sittings of the House and its Committees. Pyjamas and T-shirts are out and shirts , jackets and ties are the order of the day. As we speak seated and via laptops, however, God only knows what the boys – and girls – are wearing below the waist!

In other news The Tramp, fresh from his endeavours to cull the population of the United States by encouraging people to inject themselves with disinfectant as an antidote to CV  and an `irony` that was clearly lost on his increasingly glum scientific advisers, has also slashed the US contribution of £390 million a year  to the World Health Organisation. This, apparently, is based upon the theory that the WHO is hand-in-glove with those responsible for what he has dubbed `The Chinese Virus` . The Downing Street comment upon the `inject disinfectant` advice was a  characteristically sardonic “That is not something that is being looked at here”! and the UK is maintaining our own £260 million a year contribution to the WHO. That organisation is not without its faults but cutting the rug from under it in the middle of a pandemic is perhaps not the cleverest thing that this Commander in Chief has done.  It has to be said that, on the  per capita basis that is a rather more sensible figure to use that a cold `how many people have died` approach the United States has fared, to date, remarkably well in spite of the gung-ho attitude of their President. Try telling that, though, to the good citizens of New York and, with the highest death-rate in the country and now tens of millions of Americans out of work,  you are likely to get a chilly response.  Having failed to establish that he has the legal right to impose his will upon the Governors of individual States and to prescribe an immediate end to the lockdown the Tramp appears to have offered overt support to the `freedom fighters` campaigning for a premature lifting of restrictions  in states like Arizona, Montana, washington, Colorado and even Virginia. The beaches of Florida are, of course, open again and only time will tell whether or not this approach, which flies in the face of medical advice, will lead to a second spike in the spread of Covid 19 in the United States. With Bernie Sanders now out of the race to be the Democratic candidate the Presidential election, which is what the policy is of course all about, looks like a straight fight between the Tramp and Jo Biden. Unless, of course, New York`s Mayor Cuomo enters the fray but at the moment he has his mind on other rather more important and immediate matters.

With every European state battling to prevent the spread of disease and `freedom of movement` only a dying ember in the Eurocrats` eyes, Brexit has scarcely . warranted a mention this month.  We are told that `talks are continuing` but between whom and to what effect is less than clear. Those, and there are many, calling for an extension to the time available to negotiate a trade and relationship agreement with the remaining twenty-seven countries of the European Union need to remember that the final departure date, at present December 31st 2020, is enshrined in the law of the United Kingdom. To change that and to allow `injury time` for the Covid 19 pandemic would require an Act of Parliament and there is no sign that there is a majority in the current House to pass such a measure. M. Barnier, if you remember him, has accused the United Kingdom of wasting time over the negotiations, also apparently blissfully unaware that important though Brexit is there are one or two other matters occupying the best brains in Britain at present. He has also reiterated that fishing rights may prove to be the sticking point that brings the discussions to a grinding and unresolved point. The Gover`s terse response to yesterday`s M. Barnier was to suggest that it is time that the EU woke up to the fact that we are no longer members of that organisation and that it is time that we were treated as an independent and sovereign state. Which is, of course, what we now are.

What the future holds for aviation in the United Kingdom is the source of an increasingly bitter dispute.  Sir Richard Branson, the multi-millionaire man behind the once great and entrepreneurial Virgin Group, seeks a bailout to prevent the airline arm of his empire from going bust. His aircrews are already furloughed and, if the tabloid press is to be believed, is busy stacking shelves in supermarkets.  It is hard to justify a taxpayer contribution to this enterprise but Sir Richard has offered his private Caribbean Island as collateral for a Government loan and his outfit does offer the only viable competition to an otherwise monopolistic British Airways on the transatlantic routes.  British Airways itself is trying to appeal to our patriotism as `The National Flag Carrier` in seeking  vast sums of boodle to keep that flag flying. Those with long memories will recall that it was John King who infuriated Margaret Thatcher when he dumped the Union Flag from the tailfin of BA`s aircraft and replaced it with what looked remarkably like graffiti. In fact BA is scarcely British any more. It is part of the multi-billion pound International Aviation Group and with its CEO, Alex Cruz, in fierce disputer with the Inions of the manner in which it is trying to treat its staff BA`s executives might end up not getting much if any of what they are asking for. A hard bargain will need to be struck over the future of British aircraft and British crews and staff before the Treasury cavalry comes to the rescue.

But let`s end on two more positive  notes.

When he left St. Thomas`s Hospital in London Boris Johnson thanked, publicly, those who had worked so hard to save him. He singled out two nurses  in particular,  Jenny Mc Gee, thirty-five years old and  from New Zealand and Luis Pitama who is twenty-nine and  from Portugal, who together had nursed him through the darkest hours and night  of his life. Speaking after that worldwide exposure to unexpected publicity Jenney Mc Gee said, simply: “It was just another day at the office”

And an ageing warrior, one Captain Thomas Moore, has captured the nation`s hearts and become almost overnight a `national treasure`.  The Captain, a veteran of World War Two and the 145th Regiment, The Royal Armoured Corps,  decided that to celebrate his 100th birthday he would do one hundred laps of his quite sizeable garden, with the help of his walking device, to raise funds for the NHS charity. His target was a modest £1000.

A hundred laps and several TV appearances later Captain Tom had, by the time that the great day dawned on April 30th, raised  in excess of thirty million pounds which, by almost anyone`s yardstick, is a staggering sum of money . The retired civil engineer has now been appointed, at the request of Her Majesty the Queen and by order of the Chief of General Staff, as Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College. He has also had a flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane from the heritage collection, an early award of the World War 2 Defence medal and, in addition to the requisite card from Her Maj, over a hundred and fifty thousand other cards from well-wishers around the globe. Now that really is a national flag carrier.

More Cummings and goings.  In the absence of his Boss the Prime Minister`s `Special Adviser¬, the man in the beany hat, has attended as an observer at least one meeting of SAGE, the Scientific Group of Experts that is advising government policy on how to handle the pandemic. Rumours emerging from the meeting suggest that Beany Man`s presence was not altogether welcome at this august gathering – if =only because his sartorial choices leave a certain amount to be desired.

Is it true that the Just Giving organisation that provides the vehicle for the collection of charitable donations is set to make a killing out of Colonel Tom`s magnificent fundraiser for the NHS charity? If so, it would be good to know that they will waive any commission to ensure that every last penny donated in the old boy`s name goes to the cause for which it was intended.

Churches closed down, the cricket season out for a duck, car factories making ventilators and a French company turning bras into face masks. As Sir Michael Palin observed Monty Python has been upstaged by real life.

Anneka Rice, the presenter who started out as Annie when she went off to Hong Kong as a sound broadcaster before returning to the UK to become a TV star has two sons. Son Number Two, Annie reveals, caught coronavirus – while himself filming a documentary on how not to catch CV. Happily the lad is on the mend.

The Scouting Movement`s response to the CV lockdown is to encourage the discovery of The Great Indoors. Amongst 150 activities to do at home are craft projects, quizzes and scientific experiments. Now I seem to remember that there was something interesting that you could make using sugar and old-fashioned weed killer………..

For the duration of the pandemic Ocado, purveyor of fine foods to the gentry,  has terminated the delivery of bottled water, we are told. This is enabling the company to deliver to six thousand more household per week but households all over Islington and Chiswick are having to learn how to turn on a cold tap.

Shock! Horror!  Food historian Glyn Hughes has revealed that pasties did not originate in Cornwall.  The meat cased in pastry, he claims, dates back to the thirteenth century and the crimped edges were put there so that Welsh miners would have a handle to hold to stop the food being tainted by dirty hands. (Was that published on All Fools` Day?)

Thirty four million years ago monkeys that originated from Egypt crossed the Atlantic, then only 900 miles wide, on rafts made of leaves and settled in what became the Amazon rainforests. As Sir Michael Caine night have said “Not many people know that”.

Nor did many people know that in Iron Age Britain chickens and hares were protected by divine law.

During the floods the Golden Lion, a live-music hostelry and community space in Todmorden in Yorkshire, provided free food and drink to local residents who had been displaced. Now mine host has been threatened with a twenty thousand pound fine or gaol for repainting the orange and pink listed building white and (golden) yellow without consent. Mr Jobsworth from Calderdale Council is said, following some adverse publicity, to be trying to  find a “mutually agreeable solution”.

Public spirited golf courses, in lockdown, have opened their fairways so that people can take exercise by going for a stroll. There is no truth in the rumour that ladies have to walk two meters behind the men.

In 1620 one hundred and two Puritans left Plymouth on the Mayflower to sail the Atlantic and to start a new life in America free from religious persecution and to promote free speech and democracy. Now – you probably guessed what`s coming – The National Education Union wants lessons celebrating the “Mayflower 400” quad-centenary withdrawn because the voyage represents a `colonial land-grab`!

The 7th Marquess of Bath, Alexander Thynn (87) has succumbed to Coronavirus. The founder of the Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire had, during the course of an eccentric lifetime, 75 `wifelets`.

Honor Blackman CBE  (94) was the `Danger Woman` of the 1960`s who played opposite Sean Connery`s James Bond as Pussy Galore in the film “Goldfinger”. A motorcycle despatch rider during the war, she trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama , appeared at the Globe Theatre in 1946 and in the Rank Films productions `Square Peg with Norman Wisdom and `A Night to Remember` with Kenneth More. She starred, alongside Patrick McNee, as the leather-clad Cathy Gale in the TV series `The Avengers` and also featured in `Four Just Men`, `Jason and the Argonauts`, The Saint, Columbo, Dr. Who, and Midsomer Murders.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (94) was the `mandarin` who served Harold Wilson and Sir Edward Heath as Prime Ministers before becoming Margaret Thatcher`s Cabinet Secretary. The man described as `a Nineteenth Century Public Servant` was responsible for negotiations during Heath`s campaign to take Britain into the European Community, and during the 80`s, known as “The Oracle” became Margaret Thatcher`s trouble-shooter. He waned her against giving Jimmy Savile a knighthood, an honour that was only bestowed after he had retired from the Civil Service.

Leonard “Nipper” Reed (95) led the 1960s investigations into gangland crime in London. Ronnie Kray, of the Kray twins, described him as “a cunning little bastard”. He, in turn, described the twins as “wicked, unscrupulous, murdering villains”. He joined the murder squad as a Detective Superintendent in 1967 to investigate the killings of George Cornell and Jack `The Hat` Mc Vitier and in January 1969 saw fourteen defendants in the dock at the Old Bailey including the Kray brothers who both received life sentences. He became President of the British Boxing Board of Control and was awarded the Queen`s Police Medal in 1976.

Sir Peter Diggers (82) was the Member of Parliament for Gosport for 36 years. He served as Parliamentary Under Secretary in Northern Ireland between 1986 and 1989, was a member of the Northern Atlantic Assembly for twenty-three years and a Vice-president of the RNLI.

`Red Ted` Knight (86) was the Trotskyist expelled from the Labour party in 1956. He re-joined in 1970 and from 1978 – 1985 was the Leader of Lambeth Council  during which time he blamed the police for the 1981 Brixton riots .

Tim Brooke-Taylor ( 79) was the stalwart of the radio programme “I`m Sorry I Haven`t a Clue” with Bill Rushton, Barry Cryer and Humphrey Littleton. With Bill Oddie and Graham Garden he starred as one of the 1970`s `BBC Anarchists` in “The Goodies”.

Sir Stirling Moss (90) was the racing driver who was runner-up for the world championship  on four occasions but never managed to seize the title that he sportingly surrendered to Mike Hawthorne in 1958. Stirling Moss participated in 530 races, winning 212 of them. He took part in Hill climbs, rallies, speed records and speed trials and in every motor race except the Indianapolis, He beat the Ferrari works team in the Argentine Grand Prix in 1958 and then again in Monaco. He began his career  racing his own Maserati as a private entrant and teamed up with Juan Fangio for Mercedes in 1955, when he won the Mille Miglia with an unbroken lap record. His car, the `lucky` Number 7, crashed seven times and he ended his career while trying to overtake Graham Hill at Goodwood when he was still only b32. He was knighted in 2000.

Norman Hunter (76)  turned football professional in 1961 and played for Don Revie`s Leeds United seven hundred times frequently as a mid-field defender with Jack Charlton.. He participated in two league titles, the FA Cup, The League Cup the Inter Fairs Cup (twice) and the 1966 England World Cup Squad. In 1974 he became the Professional Footballers` Association`s first Player of the Year and he finally received his England World  Cup medal forty three years after the winning game.

Joe Brown (89) is known as Britain`s greatest rock climber. He climbed Kanchenjuga in 1955 and the `suicide wall` on Cwm Idwal, the highest peak in Britain. Much of his climbing was on the Derbyshire and Yorkshire crags but he also scaled the French Alps and reached four feet from the summit of K”. (On the orders of the King of Nepal no climber was allowed to reach the top of the Holy Mountain). His MBE was upgraded to a CBE in 2011.

Flt. Lt. Ken Sumner (96) was a bomb aimer with Bomber Command. His final sortie was against Hitler`s retreat in Berchtesgaden and he left the RAF with the DFM.

Dick Tracey (77) was the Member of Parliament for Surbiton for fourteen years. Margaret Thatcher`s Minister for Sport,  he was sacked in 1987 at the request of  Cabinet Member Nicholas Ridley, a chain-smoker, for his opposition to the He was replaced by the former Olympic cox Colin (Later Lord) Moynihan. tobacco companies` sponsorship of sport. As Minister he blocked the development of Fulham`s historic football ground, Craven Cottage, for housing and had the original building listed. Having lost his parliamentary seat in 1997 he became Deputy Group Leader of the Greater London Assembly and in 2008 Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London, made him Ambassador for the River. As a broadcaster Dick Tracey worked on the BBC World at One, PM and Today programmes.

George Goring (81) was the third generation of hoteliers to run the `Boring Goring` hotel opposite Buckingham Palace in Belgravia. The Edwardian hotel opened in 1910 as the first in London to boast central heating throughout and an en-suite bathroom in every room. Rooms at that time were priced at seven shillings and six pence.  During the Coronations of 1937 and 1953 it was used as an annexe for Buckingham Palace  to accommodate Royal guests. Boasting an AA Five Red Star award the Goring Hotel was patronised by Churchill and the Queen Mother. George Goring received his OBE in 1991.

Gill Gascoigne (83) is best known for ITV`s The Gentle Touch in which, as DI Maggie Fisher, she became the first female lead in a UK Police drama. She also appeared in The Onedin Line between 1980 and 1984 before moving to Los Angeles in the 1990s and establishing herself as a novelist.

Lynn Fauld Woods (72) was the TV journalist who in 1985 launched the BBC`s Watchdog programme with co-presenter Nick Ross, succeeded by her husband John Stapleton. The Consumers Rights programme targeted crooks, con-men and rogue businesses. She also worked for ITV`s World in Action  and for GMTV as their Consumer Champion. She was also a campaigner for Bowel Cancer charities.

And Sir Hugh Rossie (92) served as the Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green between 1966 and 1992.  He became a Government Whip under Ted Heath in 1970 and in 1974 lasted just fifty one days as the Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Environment before Heath`s Government fell. During Margaret Thatcher`s first term in office he was Minister of State for Northern Ireland and then the Minister for Social Security. Hugh Rossi had the distinction of being knighted by The Queen and, as a staunch Catholic, by two Popes.

And finally...As Princess Elizabeth Her Majesty the Queen first addressed the nation from Winsor Castle during the war in 1940. Since then, apart from her annual Christmas broadcasts, she has spoken to the country on the occasions of the Gulf War in 1991, the Death of Princess Diana in 1997 and in tribute to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002 and now, on April 5th,  to urge “self-discipline and resolve” in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. Twenty four million people, a third of the population of the United Kingdom and millions more throughout the Commonwealth, the largest global audience since the opening of the 2012 Olympics listened to her message:

                                                                                   “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again”.


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