Gale's Westminster View - March 2009.
Spring, and as I write the daffodils and crocuses and blossom and the protesters are all emerging. The former, it has to be said, are rather more attractive than the latter. G2 and gee, this is London Town. What strange alchemy binds together matrons from Tunbridge Wells, university students, Trades Unionists and anarchists, the National Front and the non-workers` revolutionaries and the geriatric left-wing tendency from British Actors` Equity and brings them all out onto the streets of the capital city to hurl abuse at policemen I am not quite sure. What I do know is that by the time it is all over it will have made commuting Londoners` lives a misery, cost the taxpayer something as challenging in its escalating costs as the 2012 Olympics and almost certainly have left behind a rather less impressive legacy. All of that, though, is a joy to be regurgitated at the end of April.
The Royal Mail is under siege. As Lord Foy of Meddlesome blunders on with his plans to privatise part of the firm to which Her Maj so graciously lends her family's imprimatur it emerges that the party in power, led (I use the word loosely) by the Clunking Fist of that Ilk, has managed to spend some forty-five million pounds on private mail companies while publicly proclaiming its commitment to the future and prosperity of the universal postal service. Call me a bear of small brain if you will but I cannot fathom why it is regarded as "competitive" to allow private companies to charge a healthy fee to cream off letters in pre-franked pre-sized envelopes, feed them into a mechanical sorting machine and then under pay the Royal Mail to do the dirty work and have its postpeople (happy with that, Harriet?) deliver the message the final mile, or twenty-five miles, to some isolated croft in Easter Ross. And, by the way, the Royal Mail is also required by law to pick up any odd-sized not- machine-readable missive on a regular basis from each and every outlying letterbox in the land. Try that for size, Mr TNT!
The Clunking Fist is, of course, now the scourge of the protectionism that he regards as having the potential to bring down "a new iron curtain". At a pre-G20 emergency summit he exhorts his fellow statesmen and "world leaders" to embrace free trade. He clearly made a huge, if not necessarily the right, impression on Monsieur Sarkozy. Sarko had the good grace, I suppose, to wait a couple of weeks before mounting a multi-billion euro rescue package for Renault and moving car production from Slovenia back to France. This deux-digit gesture to the European Commission had, of course, nothing to do with protectionism at all!
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with an eye, presumably, on some imminent free time, has been clocking up the air miles this month. He hoped to seize the headlines by becoming the first among European equals to fly to Camelot and the Court of King Obama. Unwise, perhaps, to suggest before leaving that the new President of The Most Powerful Nation on Earth has been "following my lead" on the economy. "We should have done more" the Prime Minister told the House of Representatives in a monologue that earned him nineteen standing ovations but no Congressional Medal. The trip ended with Brown and Obama being described as "the best of acquaintances" and Obama giving our own Dear Leader a parting gift of some DVDs. The titles included "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Some Like it Hot"!.
While the top dog is away the cats will play and Ms. Harriett Harperson wasted no time in telling the NuLabour Broadcasting Corporation, as soon as her boss's back was turned, that failed banking Chief Sir Fred Goodwin would not be keeping his £700 thousand per year pension. "It is" she said "Simply not going to happen". Oh yes it is! The lawyers say so and so does Downing Street. Harperson nil, Sir Fred the Shred £700k a year.
And while all of that was going on the Edinburgh Badger, Chancellor Darling, was flapping around in the shadows helpfully apologising for the Government's mistakes. "It's not my fault" said Prime Minister Brown upon his triumphant return from the United States. Crisis? What Crisis?!
The Office of National Statistics tells us that one in nine residents of the United Kingdom is born overseas. Our migrant rate is three times the world average and for one in seven people English is their second language. Fifty per cent of the jobs created since 1997 is taken by one of the one million workers that have arrived from outside the European Union. It seems that construction jobs on the Olympic Village are filled by locals. "Local" is defined as "anyone who is currently living in the area". The Secretary of State for Enterprise, Lord Foy, says that migrants take the jobs that the British will not do and that they have no impact upon wages or unemployment. This is fertile ground for a British National Party, still basking in the warm glow of a successful council election in Southern England. Their EU election poster is launched. It depicts a Spitfire aircraft defending our country against, is the implication, "invaders". The aircraft in the poster is identified as originating from 303 squadron, the unit manned by officers and men of the Polish Air Force who fought and frequently died so bravely in the defence of freedom. Not, perhaps, quite what the BNP had in mind!
Almost a generation has grown up in Northern Ireland without seeing, on television, that awful news report that used to start "Last night another soldier……….". The House of Commons therefore shares with the rest of the United Kingdom revulsion at the grim news that two serving men, due to depart for frontline duty in Iraq, have been gunned down while taking delivery of pizzas at their barrack gate. Incredibly, their comrades on guard duty have between them just one handgun to defend the estate and have to watch, helplessly, as the young men are executed. Then, forty-eight hours later, a police officer answering a distress call is also ambushed and murdered in cold blood. Gerry Adams describes the killings as "an attack on the peace process" but noticeably does not condemn the murderers, while huge numbers take to the streets in peaceful protest and a demonstration of support for the determination that these deaths must not be allowed to mark a return to violence and still more bloodshed. It is a feature of terrorism that there will always be a hardcore of those for whom peace means a loss of power and influence and is anathema.
On the Ballswatch front young Ed has announced that he wants to introduce "school wellbeing cards" and a draft Primary School curriculum prepared for the Secretary of State by OFSTED (the organisation that gave the "Baby P" council a glowing report) recommends the phasing out of History and Geography as we used to know it in favour of websites and sex education for five year olds. The Highly successful Stretford Grammar School with a GCSE A-C pass rate in excess of 90%, is classed as a failure by OFSTED because its "race policy is out of date and its arrangements for sex and relationship education are underdeveloped". In Weymouth in Dorset the time-honoured position of Carnival Queen has been abolished in favour of a "community champion". Cardboard cut-out policemen are now appearing in shops and in Hackney, E. London, `elf and safety closed the Lido Pool because it is "too wet for swimming"!
Back to reality. The Big Organ Grinder has been burning holes in the ozone layer trying to drum up support for a united front at the G20 summit in London. With his policy crashing around his ears and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, telling the Commons Finance Select Committee that the UK cannot afford another fiscal stimulus Brown nevertheless finds the time and the inclination, while in Brazil, to ponder upon the 1701 Act of Settlement and the need to reform the rules of succession to the throne. Somehow, given his recent and dismal performance in the European Parliamentary chamber, I do not think that this is an issue that will intrude upon his conversations with Her Majesty for much longer. As Daniel Hannan, one of our South East Members of the European Parliament so delicately put it "You are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government".
If you have not seen Dangerous Dan's dissection of Gordon Brown may I commend it to you? The YouTube publication of the speech is currently running at well over one million hits.
Please fly the flag on St. George's day and remember that the best selling UK poster at present dates back to 1943 and bears the crown of George V1 with the slogan "Keep Calm. Carry On".!