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Gale's Westminster View - May 2022

westminster2May.  Basic Instincts from Angela Rayner on the Labour Front Bench and a baser instinct from Neil Parrish who resigns as the Member og Parliament for Honiton and Tiverton. Food and fuel prices are reaching `apocalyptic` levels according to the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey.

Chancellor Sunak introduces a “not the mini budget” to ease the pain and pays for it through a “not the windfall tax” described as an “excess profits levy” on oil and gas companies. In the West End of London Cinderella`s run of visits to the ball is summarily terminated by Lord Lloyd-Webber .`Sir Beer Khorma`, as he has now been christened by Toytown`s  Mayor Boris, promises to throw in the towel if he is fined over `Beergate` by Mr. Plod of Durham constabulary  and for good measure promises to take `legs` Rayner down with him if he goes. A Tory Party once divided by Brexit is now divided by a Prime Minister who triesd to `Get Brexit Done` .Following the long-awaited publication of the `Fifty Shades of Sue Gray` report into what is now known as `Partygate`  a modest but steady flow of letters calling for a vote of no confidence in the current Leader of the Conservative Party  is landing on the doormat of Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee

Parliament`s Stately Opening is performed by The Prince Of Wales standing in for a ninety-six year old Monarch  who is wisely saving her strength for the forthcoming Platinum Jubilee. Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cornwall and the younger Royals also deputise for Her Majesty at some rather soggy Buckingham Palace garden parties. Her Majesty did, though, manage to make a well-earned appearance at  the Royal Windsor Horse Show staged in her own back yard and was seen to be enjoying herself hugely.

The Eurovision Song Contest is pleasingly won by Ukraine while in the east of that Country the heroic resistance in Mariupol finally ends as “The Poisoner” Putin`s list of war crimes lengthens. Finland and Sweden apply to join NATO but are frustrated by objections from that Member-state and paragon of democracy “Turkiye`, as the country now likes to be called. More embarrassing questions also about how  Russian-born `Lord` Lebedev acquired his  peerage.

In the Malice in Blunderland world of the Westminster Bubble  The Home Secretary`s plans to ship thousands of illegal cross-channel migrants off to the African state of Rwanda  are hailed as having a successful deterrent effect by the same tabloid newspaper that a few days later is reporting  record figures for illegal crossing as the `visitors` continue to arrive by rubber dinghy. Millions of other would be British travellers realise too late , after two years of Covid travel restrictions, that their passports are out of date and applications for renewals or new passports for children bring a system already creaking at the seams to its knees. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth as the deadlines for paid-for holidays come and pass. Meanwhile back in Whitehall civil Servants are fighting a rearguard action to continue Working From Home (WFH) or even `WF` The Costa Del Sol.  Mayor Khan of London clocks up a few air miles and several passenger-tons of CO2 flying to Los Angeles to visit a cannabis factory.

As if Covid was not enough plague for one generation we now face the prospect of outbreaks of the unpleasant but much less lethal Monkey Pox. Harriet Harman, the Mother of the House, is appointed to chair the Privileges Committee that will seek to determine whether or not Prime Minister Johnson has misled the House of Commons and in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, yet another young gunman goes on a shooting spree in a primary school while a couple of hundred miles away the National Rifle Association, addressed by one Donald Trump, extols the virtues of gun-ownership. As the song says, “When will they ever learn”?

Anyone hoping or expecting that the report produced by the senior civil servant Sue Gray, following her in-depth investigation into the shenanigans that led to Number Ten Downing Street becoming the most Covid -fined building in the land, would deal a knock-out blow to the Premiership of Mr. Johnson will have been disappointed. Much of the document was an expansion and explanation of the findings of her official report. It makes grim reading for anyone in high office with a vestige of residual integrity   and in that bygone age when Ministers honourably resigned there would have been a mass clear out of those in Number Ten. In this `modern era`  however, when the Ministerial Code is being re-written to suit the protection of the jobs those found  wanting, there was never any prospect of that happening. Having waited for Godot Gray the House therefore now has to await the findings of the Privileges Committee to decide whether or not the Prime Minister has deliberately mis-led the House of Commons from the Despatch Box – a resignation offence. The Prime Minister of course contends that he was blissfully unaware of the wrongdoing that was taking place under his own roof and that therefore the statements that he made to the House were given in good faith. A definitive answer to that claim may be hard for the Committee to agree upon and I suspect that anything less than a unanimous verdict will leave enough wriggle-room for someone determined to hang onto his seals of office  so to do

My own position is very straightforward: following the `Barnard Castle Affair` involving Mr Cummings I concluded that the Prime Minister`s judgement was deeply flawed and submitted my `letter` to Sir Graham Brady calling for a vote of no confidence. So far as I am aware that was the first letter that Sir Graham had received and had nothing to do with `Partygate` which was, at that time, not even a gleam in a tabloid editor`s eye. All the events that have followed have merely confirmed my initial misgivings.  My colleagues, upon whom great pressure will I am sure be brought to bear, will have to make up their own minds in the light of the information that they have gleaned during the Jubilee recess. Either we vote to elect a new leader to take us forward through the very considerable challenges that lie ahead or we stick with a flawed and damaged Prime Minister and head into the next election, whenever that may be, as a divided Party. And divided Parties do not, as Mr. Johnson reminded the 1922 committee recently, win elections.

In the meantime the Withdrawal Agreement, with its Northern Ireland Protocol, threatens the future of the United Kingdom.  For new readers this is the document that David (now Lord) Frost and Mr Johnson signed voluntarily and brough back from Brussels in triumph, and upon which Mr. Johnson campaigned in the 2019 General Election.  While there are many in Northern Ireland, not least the major business organisations, who regard the protocol in business terms as “having our cake and eating it” it is anathema to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and is therefore a threat to the power-sharing upon which the Belfast (`Good Friday`) agreement and peace in the Province is based.is based.

The cost of living crisis referred to by `Mr. Governor` as `apocalyptic` has been diluted, certainly, by a mini-budget in which Rishi Sunak has sought to take the string out of rising food and fuel charges. That train, though, is still coming down the tracks and come Autumn and then Winter yet another budget and yet more expenditure may be needed to head off the harshest effects upon those least able to provide for themselves. There is a limit to the amount that even this Chancellor can borrow without storing up grief for years to come. I am not an economist but my guess is that we are pretty near that limit – and that does not take into account public sector pay demands and threats of strike action by the Transport Unions and others.

Putin`s illegal and criminal invasion of Ukraine has morphed into a war of attrition. The effects upon the economies of the developed world and the disruption of food supplies from Ukraine to some of the planet`s poorest nations are likely to prove devastating and holding the alliance against Russia that has to date proved so effective will not be an easy task. We must, though, in the interests of long-term peace and democracy continue to give all support possible,in military equipment and humanitarian aid, to the people of a Country that is fighting not only for its own life but for our way of life as well.

That is te situation that faces the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – whoever he or she may emerge to be.


With holidays in mind those planning to visit Majorca or Ibiza need to be aware of a change in “all-in” provisions. As a result of `anti-social behaviour` guests in some resorts  are to be restricted to six alcoholic drinks per day – three at lunchtime and three in the evening. Setting aside the fact that the boundary between `lunchtime` and `evening` tends to be a little blurred – especially after a few drinks – it is comforting to know that you can still get as sozzled and anti-social as you like: you will just have to pay more for it!

After one hundred and thirty years of providing Nannies to the gentry Norland College is introducing `gender-neutral`  trousers to its uniform wardrobe . Norland began training male nannies in addition to ladies  in 2018 offering a wider choice to those able to offer a salary of up to £100,000 per year.

The College of Policing is to `de-colonialise` its training and will now also offer `gender-neutral ` facilities, whatever that means.

The Parliamentary `Class of 97` has attended a cocktail  party at Number Ten Downing Street as the guests of Mayor Boris. Amongst those present  were the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, and the former Prime Minister, Theresa May. No need for ice in the drinks then.

The Netflix feminist cartoon series featuring as its heroine a twelve year old girl called Pearl and promoted by the Duchess of Sussex (aka Ms Markle) has been canned. A casualty of the post-Covid fall-off in viewers or just not what the Doctor ordered?

Red faces at the Coldstream Guards Windsor HQ. The elite Household Division founded in 1650 played host to priest who drank and talked with the guardsman and regaled them with tales of his prowess as a former test pilot working on ejector seats before retiring for the night. It was only in the morning that someone thought to ask the `Holy Father` for his ID card and discovered that the`padre`  was an imposter.

Mlle. Corale Decost, a thirty nine year old Depute representing Montpelier in the South of France for Emmanuel Macron`s La Republique En Marche (LREM) Party, has managed to spend a sizeable slice of her 7089 Euros monthly expenses allowance on clothing and lingerie. Eight thousand euros of it in round figures.  LREM  HQ has indicated that Mlle. Decost is “not a candidate for re-election”. Makes the Assemblee Nationale sound almost as parsimonious as our own home-grown Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.  Surely a lady has to represent her electorate in style? How ungallant!

The Duchess of Cornwall has revealed to “You” magazine that she does not like her food “too messed about”.  Beanz on toast and Fish and Chips – wrapped in newspaper – go down rather well it seems.

Charles, Duke of Richmond has clearly enjoyed hosting “Goodwoof” at his stately West Sussex pile. “The Kennels” luxury doghouse plays host to some ten thousand canines during an event that is  larger if not more prestigious than Crufts.

A Kafkaesque court appearance in Lewes in Sussex.   One Nicholas Till was up before the Beak on a speeding charge. Mr Till does not either own a car or drive, leading the Judge to  observe that “the wrong man is in the dock”.. Shrewd guys, those judges.

Ofqual, the examination quango, has determined that GCSE questions must not be allowed to refer to `middle class` pastimes such as skiing or theatre-going. Presumably darts and bar-billiards and whippet-racing are still okay?

There has been a Star Inn in Vogue, near Redruth  in Cornwall, for over two hundred years. Mine Host, Mark Graham, was therefore not best pleased to receive a `cease and desist` letter from an apparatchik  acting on behalf of Conde Nast, apparently the publishers of a magazine, edited by a Ms Anna Wintour,  with the same name as the West Country hamlet. Sabine Vandenbreuke ,the author of the epistle, opined that  referring to the hostelry as “The Star Inn in Vogue” `could lead to readers being confused and unable to differentiate between the magazine and the pub`.   Conde Nast conceded that `there was no need for such a letter on this occasion` Time, surely for the settlement to publish a “Vogue” Parish Magazine and even to hold a “Vogue Fashion Week” . It could just catch on.

Jubilee Street Party planners have found themselves confronted with up to twenty-three pages of official forms requiring details of `plans to counter a terrorist attack`and other such vital information.  Gloria Odell, the events planner for a fifteen-home cul-de-sac in Lewenstock Green, Hemel Hempsted in Hertfordshirefelt that this was slightly excessive. Following a couple of letters from the splendid Mike Penning, Ms. Odell`s MP, Dacorum Borough Council conceded that thehere was no requirement for the further nine supplementary documents, a licence or a risk assessment. Her majesty would, no doubt, concur.

There is no proof that Shakespeare`s Romeo and Juliet ever existed and the Bard never visited Verona but the tiny courtyard in the city that is the avowed site of `Romeo and Juliet`s Balcony` attracts a million visitors a year. To control the crowds Italy`s Culture Minister in Rome has had to approve a (free) online booking system to regulat admission. “Wherefore art thou”?  “I`m in the queue”.

The Ukrainian compere  for the Eurovision Song Contest, Timur Miroshnychenko, has done the honours in each and every year since 2007. This year he had to broadcast from a bomb shelter because “there is no schedule of Russian air attacks”. Not surprisingly his pleasure at hearing his Country`s entry win the  coveted award was unconfined. We have to hope that a free Ukraine will be able to host the contest next year without the interference from Putin`s war criminals that the country is currently `welcoming`.

Mattel, the toy manufacturers, are now producing a transgender Barbie doll modelled on the actor Lauren Cox. A snip at $42 or £32 in real money.

Three years ago the All England Lawn Tennis club which runs Wimbledon Championships dumped the umpires` use of the male and female honorifics when addressing players. Now the Hnours Bpoard is to receive the same treatment. Miss and Mrs will nbe no more and the board will just carry the intials and surnames of future champions.  And in a revision of history the 1981 champion Chris Evert will be re-written as C. Evert Llloyd in place of the former Mrs. J.M. Lloyd. Girls` and Ladies` singles will however – at least for the time being – reman as such. Maud Watson, who vanquished her sister Lillian to become the first name on the Honours Board in 1884 is still described as `Miss M. Watson`.

And the Mayor of Bristol,  Marvin Rees, has made his contribution to global warming by taking a flying nine thousand mile round trip to Vancouver to spend fourteen minutes addressing a climate change conference. At an estimated production of two tons of CO2 per air passenger that`s a lot of hot air per minute of speaking time. Zoom has not, presumably, yet reached Bristol City.


General Sir Geoffrey Howlett (92) served with the Paras in Malaya, Suez and Northern Ireland before becoming the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces in Northern Europe. He was awarded his KBE in 1983.

Gavin Millar (84) was the film critic and documentary film maker who also fronted the BBC`s Arena and talking Pictures programmes. . He directed Dennis Potter`s “Dreamchild” (1983),”Scoop” (ITV 1987)and ”Belle Epoque” (1995). He also worked on “That Was The Week That Was” and “Tonight” with Cliff Michelmore.

Tony Brooks (90) was the last surviving 1950s Grand Prix winner. In 1957 he teamed up with Stirling Moss to become the first all-British car and driver Grand Prix winner for 34 years. He went on to take the Belgian, German and Italian Grand Prix titles driving for Vanwall.  He joined Ferrari at the end of 1958 and in 1959 won the French and German Grand Prix.

Sir James Anderton (89) was the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester. Appointed in 1976 he waged war on vice from the position of a strong Christian faith He was awarded the Queen`s Police Medal in n1977, a CBE in 1982 and received his knighthood in 1993.

John Purvis (83) represented Mid-Scotland and Fyfe in the first elected European Parliament from 1979 until he lost his seat in 1984.  He  was re-elected as an MEP in  1999  and served two terms before retiring as an MEP in 2009. His work on the Internal Market sub-committee provided the basis for the 1985  Single European Act which was the first major revision of European Agreements since the 1957 Treaty of Rome. A fierce opponent of Brexit,  he was the Chairman of Fife4Europe. He received his CBE in 1990.

The Second Baron Cobbold (84) was the owner of the family`s ancestral home, Knebworth House in Hertfordshire , which played host to medieval jousting tournaments and rock concerts featuring bands such as The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. . He was a liberal Democrat but in the House of Lords as one of 92 peers elected to remain following Blair`s partial abolition of hereditary peerages he  sat as a cross-bencher.

Pierre Matheron (94) was the French mining engineer who delivered the first terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport and then  led the team of more than four thousand workers boring the Channel tunnel from the French side of La Manche. Finding that the site of the French terminal at Coquelles included an ancient farmhouse he  had it converted into a fine-dining restaurant for his engineers. The tunnel breakthrough was achieved in December 1990 and Matheron managed the French end of the project for a total of seven years before retiring in 2003. He was awarded the Medaille du Travail and was a Chevalier of the Ordre Nationale du Merite and of the Legion d`Honneur.

Leonid Kravchuk(88) was the first President of a newly independent Ukraine , elected following the end of the Soviet era in December 1991. A former communist, Kravchuk presided over a chaotic economy and a corrupt administration. By 1992 inflation was running at 2,500 per cent . He resigned in July 1994.

Vangelis (79) was the Greek  musician who generated the Oscar-winning score for Hugh Hudson`s 1981 film “Chariots of Fire”. He also created the Palm D`Or winning score for “Missing” (1982)  and Ridley Scott`s thriller “Blade Runner”  (1982). Vangelis described the Chariots of Fire theme as “just another piece of music” and declined to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. Vangelis wrote the anthem for the 2002 World Cup and in 2018 a piece for Stephen Hawking`s funeral which was broadcast by the European Space Agency. He was awarded the French Legion D`Honneur, NASA`s public service medal and  the Greek Order of the Phoenix.

Baroness ( Pamela) Sharples (99) was the widow of the former Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam  and Colonial Governor Sir Richard Sharples who was assassinated in Bermuda in 1973.  She was a significant and amusing presence in the House of Lords from which she did not retire until 2017. Pamela Sharples returned to England following the murder of her husband and was created a life peer by Edward Heath in July of the same year. .

Ron Pember (87) was the actor/director and scriptwriter who worked with London`s Mermaid Theatre in Little Puddle Dock from 1959 until his retirement thirty-three years later. On the small screen he was a regular character actor who made more than 150 appearances embracing “Only Fools and Horses”and all three series of “Secret Army” (1977-1979).. He first appeared in “Treasure Island” at the Mermaid as an actor in 1979 and subsequently directed the same show on several occasions including, memorably, one starring Bill Rushton as Squire Trelawney, Barry Humphries as Long John Silver, Spike Milligan as Ben Gunn and less memorably a young Roger Gale as the seaman Abe Gray!  Having directed Shakespeare`s Henry IV  starring Bernard Miles as Falstaff and initially Hywel Bennett as Prince Hal he then, with his friend and fellow actor Denis de Marne,  wrote the musical “Jack the Ripper” which moved into the West End in 1974.  He was a delightful man and a good friend.

Bob Blizzard (71) was the Labour Member of Parliament for Waveney in Suffolk , a seat which he won from the Conservatives, from the Blair landslide in 1997 until  2010 when he was defeated by the Conservative Peter Aldous.   Prior to his election to parliament he  had  led the local (Lowestoft) Council. A keen fan of jazz  music, a taste that he shared with John Prescott and Ken Clarke, he founded the Lowestoft Jazz Weekend and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards and he was the Vice President of the National Youth Jazz Collective.  He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Pensions Minister Nick Brown under Blair`s administration but resigned in protest at the Iraq War.

Ray Liotta (67) was the Hollywood actor who portrayed  the real-life gangster Henry Hill  in Martin Scorsese`s “Goodfellas”. Liotta moved from his home in New York to play Sacha in the television series based on the film classic “Casablanca”. He appeared in “Lonely Lady” and “Something Wild”  which earned him a Golden Globe nomination . On television he played Frank Sinatra in “The Rat Pack” (1998) which resulted in an Actors` Guild Award nomination. He  starred alongside Jennifer Lopez in” “Shades of Blue” between 2016 and 2018 and he played in The Sopranos prequel “Saints of Newark” in 2021. He was shooting a new film when he died in his sleep.

Lester Piggott (86)  was the jockey who won the  Epsom Derby nine times , The St Leger eight times, The Oaks six times, the Two Thousand Guineas five times and the One Thousand Guineas twice .He won the jockey`s championship eleven times and was gaoled for tax evasion in 1997 and was stripped of his OBE.  In the course of his career he won 4,493 winners the first of which was at Haydock in 1948 when he was twelve years old. Within days of his release from prison in 1990 he took to the saddle again and at the age of 54 won the Breeder`s Cup Mile in America.He retired for the second and final time in 1995.

And John Burton (78) was the co-founder of the World Land Trust, the charity that through purchasing land paid for by donations has preserved more than a million acres of wildlife habitat worldwide.  Burton`s “Buy an Acre” projext in Belize   has 110,000 acres of forest and the scheme has now expanded across the globe.

And finally…

Notwithstanding the problems in the passport offices ninety-seven year old war veteran Peter Smithy made it to a Dutch liberation commemorative event in the Netherlands. The old warriors were facilitated by the London Cab Drivers Veterans Charity.  Not surprisingly the elderly soldier had concluded that his travelling days were over and had allowed his passport to lapse.  One Black Cabbie made the round trip to the processing unit in Peterborough, the service pulled out all the stops, slashed through the red tape and handed over the required document in time for Peter, who lives in East Kent, to join his comrades on the nostalgic trip. On the earlier occasion when they crossed the Channel nobody was checking passports as they arrived.

And the capital of the Falkland Islands, the small town of Port Stanley, has been awarded City status by Her Majesty the Queen. How very pleasing.

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