Gale's Westminster View - April 2007
Allow me to pick up where I left off.
The guys and one girl, Leading Seaman Faye Turney, did come home from Teheran safe and well. And some of them promptly flogged their stories to the gutter press for rather more than thirty pieces of silver. They apparently did this with the consent of the Second Sea Lord, who apparently believed that it was "right that the public had access to the personal details of this ordeal". They also did it with the knowledge and approval of the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne. " Dithering Des", seemingly "out of touch" with his office for a crucial 24 hours, realised the error of his ways over the Easter weekend and by Bank Holiday Monday was backtracking as fast as possible. To no avail. The damage has been done. Our armed forces, almost universally brave, dedicated, overstretched and self-effacing, have been made to look cheap and tawdry by a handful of self-interested incompetents. The Prime Minister, we are told, did not find out about all this until Monday morning. The Leader of the Opposition knew. The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence knew. Even I knew! But the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, now clearly residing on another planet, was unaware that his Secretary of State for Defence had committed a monumental and offensive gaffe.
I am still trying to persuade "The Legacy" to honour his undertakings and to make public funding available to the bereaved families of our fallen servicemen and women in order that they may be legally represented at the eventual inquests. It would be good to think that the television and newspaper fees shelled out to those who others worked overtime to see released might find its way into such a fund. Fat chance!
"I'm a prisoner - get me out of here" was thrown into sharp relief by the news of the deaths Lt. Johanna Dyer, Private Eleanor Dlugosz, Corporal Kris O'Neill and Kingsman Adam Smith, blown to eternity in a Warrior armoured car on the day that "our heroes" arrived home. The dead, of course, will have had stories that will never now be told to families and friends, much less to the media.
History, claimed the Prime Minister as the House returned after the Easter recess, will judge that his foreign policies and counter-terrorism measures were correct. Setting aside the fact that those policies were constructed not in Downing Street but at Camp David and in the White House I would suggest to Mr. Blair in the dying days of his third mediocre term in office, that "history" is something that emerges after the passage of a couple of generations, not a couple of weeks. Canvassing for the local government elections that take place on 3rd May the message on the doorstep suggests that the hand of destiny, Mr. Blair, is not on your shoulder but on the handle of the political executioner's axe!
Back at the beginning of the month the Kent on Sunday newspaper ran a story suggesting that new Euro-regulations were to come into force to allocate grades to EU tourist attractions. Because, it was said, countries like Luxembourg were short on battlefields and wartime historic sites, some of our better known UK locations such as the White Cliffs of Dover, emotive of the Battle of Britain, would in the interests of equality and harmonisation, have to be scored down. This edict bears the title "The APRIL1 directive”! Now, the truly appalling thing about this All Fools jest is that, as with any good spoof, it is, in the context of other Euro-nonsense, utterly believable! God help us if Brussels gets its hands on a copy of our local weekend newspaper. Fiction could become the mother of grim reality!
"Never ask a parliamentary question to which you do not already know the answer" is one of the political tenets of the House. I had a fair idea of the response that I would receive when I put down a written question asking the Home Office to give the number of convicts that have absconded from our local Open Prison on the Isle of Sheppey over the past ten years. Even I was not, however, quite prepared for the reply. A staggering six hundred and six criminals have "not responded to roll call" since central records first began in 1995 and the Home Office does not have "any system for collating recapture data" so they don't appear to know how many of the absentees have been returned to complete their sentences, how many are still free or where most of them are. Given this "walk-free" custodial environment there seems small point in charging, trying and sentencing these people at all!
The Clunking Fist has been taking the heat. It transpires that in 1997 The Chancellor of the Exchequer was well warned, by the National Association of Pension Funds and heavyweight economists that his pre-planned £5 billion-a-year raid on pensions would lead to the destruction of the best pension provision within the European Union. He did not heed the warnings and the rest is almost history. Except that when Young David and "Boy" George Osborne launched a lifeboat fund to assist short-changed pensioners as an amendment to the government's own Pensions Bill it caused acute embarrassment on the Labour back benches. Although The Fist predictably survived a vote of No Confidence in his personal management of the economy the government won the vote against the amendment by a humiliating 22 votes. On this issue the House of Lords may well give The Legacy a bloody nose on this issue in May.
The cash-for-honours dossier is now with the Crown Prosecution Service. The buzz is that Lord Levy, Downing Street Aide Ruth Turner, Jonathan Powell, Sir Christopher Evans and John McTernan may all feature more or less prominently in the submission. Simultaneously other sources indicate that one Amanda Delew prepared a `post-election strategy for high-value donors` including access to Downing Street and Blair after the `97 election. Can The Legacy really survive this onslaught? Which pig, if stuck, will squeal first? Not a pretty prospect. How convenient, then, that Blair crony Lord Goldsmith will, as Attorney General, have the final say in ant decision to prosecute. This, remember, is the man who revised his legal opinion over the commencement of the war in Iraq!
Royal Split Shock! Prime William and his longstanding girlfriend, Kate Middleton, separate to follow their separate paths. This generates a spate of extremely unpleasant, unnecessary and wholly unworthy but inevitable tabloid criticisms of Kate's "pushy" Mother, Kate herself, and William. Those "close" to the Royal Family and Media `Royal Watchers`, most of whom have staked their flimsy and parasitic reputations on engagement and marriage, went into tailspin and manufacturers of `Royal` memorabilia in the form of china mugs and tea towels are busily destroying premature stock.
Back at the Palace there are more ructions over whether Prince Harry is to be allowed to see active service in Iraq. The lad is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. He wants to serve, he's trained to serve and his uncle fought in the Falklands War as a chopper pilot. But will his very presence place the men under his command at risk? Or will he be confined to some awful desk job in a fortified bunker? Who would be a Royal Prince these day?
This episode has, however, generated Old Windy`s prize for the crass comment of the month. Learning of the Royal deployment debate The Legacy announces that he "would be delighted" if one of his children were to join the armed forces. The CND badge may have been consigned to the Downing Street attic but can you seriously see Mrs. Legacy allowing one of her lambs to be sent off to the slaughter?
Blair's ten years are over. Prepare for more of the same as the Clunking Fist takes the reins of something approximating power. The next General Election might not be held until July 2010 so we have a way to go to Young David's New Dawn. In the meantime, Cambridge win the 2007 Boat Race and Selina Scott and Chump win TV's Underdog Show. May will reveal whether The Beauty or The Beast becomes the President of France. But neither Greg Dyke nor John Major are set to become the next Mayor of London.
A footnote: the month began with an April Fool and it has just ended with one. It seems that the Trading Standards Office in my native county of Dorset has decided that one Mrs. Val Temple of the Sergeant Bun Bakery in Weymouth may not sell cakes known hitherto as Robin Tarts and Pig Tarts and Paradise Slices. The Tarts bear the figures of frog Kermit`s cousin, Robin and of a Pig (Miss Piggy) .Paradise tart is made of almond, fruit and nut. Trading standards are concerned, apparently that the Robin tarts do not contain robins and the Pig tarts do not contain pig and the paradise slices do not contain paradise! Presumably the Dorset trading sleuths are now scouring every corner of the county for pubs selling Shepherd`s Pie that does not contain shepherd!
To ex-patriate readers I can only say be aware of what you may come home to if you are thinking of returning to the Mother Country. Things ain`t what they used to be!