Roger and his views > Westminster January 2014
Gale`s View from Westminster – January 2014 

January. At turn of the year The Parrett squawks and another parrot dies .Rain, but not enough to stop play. Fireworks in the Palace of Varieties, the Tory back benches are revolting, a `private` letter to the Prime Minister is leaked and the government does a handbrake turn over  refugees from Syria .  A fizzer under the economy, a good month for Number Eleven Downing Street and a bad thirty-one days at the office if you happen to be the Shadow Chancellor or that prophet of misery the Secretary of State for Business. M `learned friends refuse to don their wigs for a whole short day, M. Holland tries to go Dutch but ends up paying and some Democrats are accused of being rather too liberal. London Bridge may no longer be falling down but it looks as though Buck House is. A New Labour luvvie placeman accuses Ten Downing Street of shockingly trying to replace socialist apparat-chicks with conservative apparatchiks  and more than a few pennies are given to charity as a Royal Naval reservist fro Westminster makes too big a Splash! 

A month of rain was forecast and a month of rain we got. Red alerts from the Environment Agency have been the ordure of the day as raw sewage has in places flowed from inundated drains into streets and homes and gardens. We are told that December was the wettest since 1969 and we have faced the worst storms in twenty years as coastal landmarks have succumbed to wind and weather. The Rock Arch in north Cornwall is fallen and the Pom Pom rock on Dorset`s Jurassic coast is no more. Old Harry`s wife is long-gone but at the time of writing Old Harry, for those who enjoy the sail around Swanage and Studland bays, is still with us,  as is Durdle Door, but how much more punishment can they take?  It is, though, the newly-created Isle of Muchelney, marooned in the Somerset Levels, that has caught the tabloid eye and public sympathy and has brought the ill-fated Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, wellie-clad, to paddle through hordes of beleaguered residents of an ordinarily tranquil political backwater.  Fresh from the less than triumphant experiment in badger-culling (more badgers have probably been drowned in Somerset than were ever likely to be shot) Mr. Secretary Paterson found himself facing not only the wrath of local people but that of their elected representative, Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger. Woe betide the man who falls foul of that illustrious relative of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. With the banks of the rivers Parrett and Tone in his constituency invisible beneath the floodwaters my Honourable Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset was in no mood to be trifled with. Heads will roll and much coin of the realm will change hands before the waters have subsided and the damage to property, to livestock and to wildlife repaired.  Some reputations, though, will never recover. The Environment Agency, at whose door the responsibility for drainage lies, has spent rather too much money, it is suggested, preserving habitats for moles and voles and water birds and rather too little keeping the rivers clear and flowing freely. As a result, the natural drains are clogged and what might have been sorted for about four million pounds is now about to cost you and me, dear fellow-taxpayer, a very great deal more. 

In our part of the world, in East Kent, the EA has done a pretty good job and, credit where credit is due, although there has been some flooding we have been well-informed and by and large have kept our heads and our homes, literally and metaphorically, above water. In the West Country, though, it has been a different story.  Lord Smith, former Labour Culture Minister and currently heads of the Environment Agency is coming to the end of his tenure of office. Were that not to be the case I have a suspicion that his contract might not be renewed and it is a moot point whether he will survive to the end of his current two-year stint. The former Chris Smith is on record as saying that “one or two people have been throwing a lot of brickbats at the EA “and that “staff have been working day and night” to resolve the isolation of Muchelney and Much-else-besides. That, I do not doubt, is true. It is not, though, the poor bloody infantry but the Generals with less than adequate rural knowledge that have allowed the funding for habitats to be given preference over that for river clearance during these past many years. We now have the Prime Minister sending in an army, literally, who will have to await the ebbing of the flood-tide before they can safely even find the waterways, much less dredge them.  (Veni, vidi.  Exeunt omnes)


Meanwhile my parliamentary chum from Bridgwater has put his battle-waders on and is off talking to the Dutch to try to secure their expert services. The chaps who keep the Polder dykes clear have the specialist kit necessary and know, it would seem, rather more about “floods of biblical proportions” and how to prevent them than the blokes behind desks in Whitehall or Lord Smith and his predecessors in the House of Peers. 

Floods, at least, are Acts of God. While the sizeable lunatic fringe of Mr. Farridge`s party may like to believe that they are caused by the Houses of Parliament passing the same-sex marriage Act and while measures may be taken to predict and prevent the worst effects of heavy rainfall at the end of the day there are some events that even Noah, with his impressive connections, was unable to avert.  The same cannot be said, sadly, for self-inflicted political damage. Before Christmas some ninety-five Conservative Members of Parliament signed a letter calling upon Man David to introduce a right of UK veto over any or every proposal emanating from the European Union`s Commission or Assembly.  I know that, and I know what the letter said, because I was one of the signatories.  I am, though, quaint and old-fashioned enough to believe that a private letter to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, whether from one or one hundred colleagues, is exactly that and should remain private.  I suppose with hindsight it was inevitable, given the unrequited self-importance of some of the `usual suspects` behind this missive, that it should have been `leaked` to the press but my bone-headed associates who did this have diminished the value of the message and virtually guaranteed that instead of being regarded as the genuine expression of colleagues views it will have been dismissed as the ravings of malcontents. Not clever.  And equally not clever was the response of a Europhile Foreign and Commonwealth Office that described this call for the restoration of sovereign powers as “unrealistic”.  Wholly realistic if you are prepared to move, as a growing number of parliamentary colleagues now are, towards the European exit door. 

With Mr. Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee and a man never known to miss a photo-opportunity, waiting to greet the first New Year`s newly-admitted Romanian migrants off their plane the whole cauldron of immigration was brought swiftly back to the boil on January the first and has remained bubbling away menacingly ever since. Companies have, apparently, been advertising in Romanian newspapers soliciting applicants for some eight thousand jobs in the taxi-driving and hotel service sectors as well as vacancies for doctors and nurses. Professor J. Meirion Thomas has once again warned of the strain that `health tourism` places upon the National Health Service but is anyone listening? I suspect not.   Work and Pensions Secretary Mr.  Duncan-Smith and Home Secretary May seek an end to the provision of social housing for jobless migrants but nobody seems to have thought through how you deal with those from within the EU who arrive, take work and housing and then cease work.  Send them home? Try that on the Court of Human rights! Equally, those eighty-six Conservative back-benchers who voted, during the passage of the Immigration Act, to bring an end the “Right to family life” defence against the deportation of illegal immigrants must have divided our party in the knowledge that their proposal was in clear breach of Article 8 of Labour`s Human Rights Act and therefore ripe for referral to the ECHR.  I understand where they were coming from and had I not been barred from voting (I chaired this bill through part of its` committee stage and so had to remain neutral) I would have been sorely tempted to join them but governments have to remain and act within the law. This placed Downing Street in the impossible position of having to instruct Ministers to abstain, leaving it to the Opposition to defeat the `Tory rebels`. Shooting ourselves in the foot is of considerable comfort to an otherwise ineffective and weakly-led Opposition. 

Not that we are alone in internal turmoil. St. Nicholas of Clogg has managed L`Affair Rennard, about as badly as possible.  It must have taken a particularly distinguished degree in political ineptitude, faced with a bevy of female former party supporters and activists accusing the Liberal Democrat Party`s election mastermind of sexual abuse, to achieve the worst of all political worlds.  The `case against Lord Rennard` is unproven following an internal party inquiry. Nevertheless, the man has had his part`s whip withdrawn and now has to sit, if at all, as an in dependant in the House of Peers.  His crime is failing to apologise, in response to the instruction of the Deputy Prime Minister who is also his Party`s leader,, for “any distress that he may have caused” to his accusers.  Difficult to see, really, how Lord Rennard could “apologise” for actions that he has vehemently denied having committed without risking the possibility of being sued for damages for “distress caused” in the Civil Courts.  ”Chris” Rennard, as I understand he prefers to be called by those with whom he is on intimate terms, has issued a 2,500 word press statement in defence of his position and has  the helpful support of Lord Greaves.  I had never heard of Lord Greaves (he has probably not heard of me either) prior to this episode but I listened in awe and wonder as this ageing Liberal peer told Radio Five Live, in mitigation for any act that his buddy Lord Rennard might or might not have committed, that “half of the men in the House of Lords have pinched a girl`s bottom”. With friends like that “Chris” can ill-afford enemies. Mr. Clogg now faces a legal punch-up as Lord Rennard instructs Queen`s Counsel to intervene on his behalf and, because troubles come singly but in droves, he has also had to suspend from Party membership the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South who is facing charges relating to alleged sexual assault.

Of more lasting damage to his personal reputation, though, may be the Clogg`s much-trumpeted but ill-thought-through policy to introduce free school meals for large numbers of primary school children.  If you are going to claim credit for an initiative it is always a good idea to first make certain that it will work.  In this case the initially popular school meals idea has hit the buffers because Clogg`s team did not bother to establish whether there was sufficient floorspace to accommodate hundreds of additional munching school kids and whether or not the school kitchens could cope with the demand.  In many cases, given the increase in schools rolls since the establishments were first built, the answer is “no”. And so the wheels are coming off another scheme that seemed vote-worthy at the time. “Half-baked” is the culinary expression that springs to mind. 

I deplore the attacks launched by a motley band of left-wing and Green activists upon Mr. Farridge when he visited the Walpole Bay hotel in South Thanet`s Cliftonville. But for their activities this unremarkable attempt to stir up apathy amongst a handful of his party`s supporters would probably have gone unremarked but the rabble guaranteed their quarry precisely the kind of publicity that he so clearly craves. We understand that Farridge has found it necessary to remove his outfit`s imprimatur from Mr. David Silvester, the Councillor from Henley-on-Thames who declared that Gay Marriage had caused the floods. He now intends to conduct a purge of those with “extreme, nasty or barmy” ideas. The foxhunt supporting Farridge also wants to repeal the ban on keeping handguns introduced following the Dunblane massacre in 1996.  A number of us who were in the House at the time regarded the ban as a knee-jerk reaction to a terrible event and deplored Blair`s populist extension of the ban to embrace the.22 weapons used in Olympic competition but the collectors` items have all been either disarmed or destroyed and I detect no clamour, in this age of terrorism, for a return to the pre-Dunblane era. One wonders how many more anachronisms the man will find to espouse. 

A poll of MPs has revealed that we regard Margaret Thatcher as the greatest Prime Minister since the Second World War with Clement Attlee in second place. Bringing up the tail of the thirteen contestants was  Mr. Gordon Brown but history or future parliaments may judge “The Clunking Fist”, the author of many of the nation`s recent economic misfortunes , more kindly than those, on both sides of the House, than those currently suffering from the fallout of the last Labour government.  It is Milipede Junior, though, who possibly has most case to regret the legacy that he has inherited from his two predecessors. He finds himself shackled, because of the means by which he was selected as Labour Leader, to the power of the Trades Unions and all the signs are that “The most radical reform of the Labour Party for the last 100 years” is likely to result in a diminution of the power of the parliamentary Labour Party and still more electoral college influence being granted to trade unionists. The Politics of Envy is back on the agenda as Milipede tries to shuffle off the “New” Labour mantle and to drag his party back to “traditional” left-wing values.   We are told that his Shadow Chancellor, Edward Balls, has had a “nice chat” with Mr. Clogg with an eye on another hung parliament and the possible necessity of a Lab-Lib coalition although it is also noticeable that Milipede does not seem over keen to commit himself to Mr. Yvette Copper past the 2015 general election. Not keeping the seat warm for St. Vincent of Cable as a future Liberal Democrat Chancellor, surely?  Difficult, also, to see how Milipede can position himself as “the champion of the middle classes” as the benefits champion who was part of a government that imposed stealth taxes, increased fuel prices through the duty escalator, hiked up national insurance contributions and saw house prices rocket beyond the reach of first-time buyers before the crunch. You don`t create a “strong and vibrant” class of wealth and job creators by hammering them with the Shadow Chancellor`s proposed high tax rates. Just look across the Channel towards Mr. Holland`s socialist France. 

The current Leader of the British Labour Party said of Mr. Holland that “He has shown that the centre-left can win elections with a vision of a better more equal and more just world”.  This would presumably be the same French “visionary” who, having slumped to rock-bottom in the polls, presided over a seventy-seven per cent decline in inward investment in his Country and driven scores of high-achievers overseas through crippling taxes has now found it necessary to cut public spending by forty three billion pounds to avoid bankruptcy! 

The proposed “Challenger banks”  to offer increased competition that made a fleeting appearance in the middle of January seem to have fallen off the radar, although not before Milipede`s kite-flying had wiped about five hundred million pounds off the nation`s investment in existing High Street banks. And as if that wasn`t enough gloom for one Leader of Her Majesty`s Opposition in one month the admission, by Police Constable Keith Wallis that he had lied over the “Plebgate” affair that cost Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell his job has also left Milipede the Younger out on an uncomfortable limb.  It was, of course, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who said in November 2012 that he was “100% behind my officers” and that they had “accurately reported what happened” who had to eat the most humble pie. But it was the Leader of the Opposition who sneered from the despatch box, in the company of his Shadow Home Secretary, that Mr. Mitchell was “toast”.  The Milipede now believes that he has “nothing to apologise for”. There are those on his own side of the House, in high places, who think otherwise. 

A cautious Prime minister described the economy as “fragile” in his New Year`s message. Triumphalism is rightly off the agenda on this score.  It is the sacrifices of “the hard working British people”, to use the Government mantra, that have permitted what is recognised as the end of the beginning of the recovery. Only the fiscally illiterate would seek to claim that everything in the piggy bank is lovely but at the same time the man in Number Eleven, having taken a battering from all quarters for the past two years but having held his nerve must surely be allowed at least a smidgen of satisfaction. George Osborne, though, knows that we are still borrowing in the region of £100 billion a year, that still further cuts are necessary if we are sustain the recovery and that another £12 billion has to come off the welfare budget and that is a hard message to sell to people who are saying “we`ve given already”. The deal is that the working less well-off will get help. It will be the statutory minimum wage that is raised, as soon as possible, to £7 per hour.  For the time being there can be no middle class tax cuts. 

Nevertheless, the UK recovery is judged to be the best in the world with the prediction of 2.7% to 3% growth in 2014/2015 and the Office of National Statistics declaring an increase of 2% in sales of British made goods in November.  It`s not so very long ago that Olivier Blanchard, the Chief Executive of the IMF, was telling Chancellor Osborne that he was “playing with fire”. Now he concedes that he is “pleasantly surprised”. Jaguar-Land Rover revealed a 19% increase in sales for 2012, the last year for which figures are available.   Man David`s visit to China, the significant growth market, appears to be paying off.  The ONS also predicts that at last people in work will see the benefits of pay increases that are once again ahead of inflation.  3,100 people a day are finding work with the fastest rate of fall in those out of work  for 17 years and there are more people employed in the United Kingdom than at any time in this island`s history. With unemployment at 7.1% Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has revised his determination to raise interest rates once unemployment reaches 7%. He clearly has no wish to stifle the recovery.  A tightening of the benefit requirements is credited with leading more people to seek work instead of relying upon welfare for a living. With an eye on the future Business for Britain is calling for more cuts in the red tape that affects non EU trade and David Cameron promises a review of the business rating system that too many small business find oppressive.  If, under these circumstances, you would expect Milipede`s Shadow Chancellor to talk down Britain then you would not be disappointed. Faced with the vindication of Osborne`s economic policies Mr. Balls describes recovery from the dire circumstances for which he was in part responsible as “the slowest for 100 years”, accuses George Osborne of “complacency” and says that the progress that we have made in just three years is “not built to last”.  Not to be outdone the Eeyore of the Coalition, possibly one of only two people who sees himself in Balls` job in a future Lab/Lib coalition, St. Vincent of Cable, has to have his say. Having, earlier in the month, announced hopefully that the Prime Minister “will miss his immigration target” St. Vince now opines that an economic recovery at its fastest since the crash of 2008 “will not last”. There are those on the Labour benches who are unkind enough to suggest that “Ed Balls has lost his mojo”. There are those on the Liberal Democrat benches who question whether Vince Cable ever had a mojo in the first place, On the Conservative benches we merely marvel that this man whose name is almost synonymous with disloyalty to the coalition can honourably remain in Government at all. 

Ed Balls` response to Osborne`s success is to announce a proposed Labour reintroduction of the Politics of Envy and a 50% rate of tax. Lord Myners, the Labour Peer and former trade guru, suggests that this would not “win a pass at GCSE” and is joined in his criticism by the CBI`s ex Director General and Labour-appointed peer Lord (Digby) Jones and a collection plate full of Labour Party high-rolling former donors. Populist Balls` proposal may be but it has promoted something akin to civil war between  those on the Labour benches who wish to see Britain`s recovery sustained under a next Labour government and those who yearn for the Old Labour days of class warfare at whatever the cost. 

In other news, Members of the Criminal Bar Association (or “mess” if you want to give it their preferred egalitarian nomenclature) take a half- day`s strike to protest against cuts in legal aided assisted work. This might have gone unnoticed by a public not entirely sympathetic to the 25% of barristers earning in excess of £200 thousand a year at the criminal bar, the thousand or so earning around £100,000 a year or even that 25%, mainly part-time lawyers, who are genuinely finding life tough on £20,000 a year, had it not been for the photo of m `learned friends on the picket line revealing one fragrant young lady barrister carelessly sporting a £1,100 Mulberry handbag.  A present from an admiring client, of course. 

Having struck a chord with a cap on benefits of £26,000 a year (representing a pre-tax income of £35,000 a year) Iain Duncan Smithy is now proposing to restrict those benefits to something that more resembles the national average wage while at the same time limiting the payment of child benefit to the first two children only. He is also seeking to put an end to the £1 million a week paid in child benefits and tax credits paid in respect of twenty-four thousand families or forty thousand children living outside the United Kingdom. 

The BNP`s Nick Griffin has been declared bankrupt.  It should surprise nobody to learn that while bankruptcy is a bar to standing in a UK General Election it has no such limiting effect upon his capacity to present himself as a candidate for election to the European Parliament. The latter `travelling circus` is once again under fire for racking up a bill of 130 million (Euros or pounds? Who cares?) shuttling five articulated lorries full of documents, two especially hired express trains and an army of interpreters and other staff between Brussels and Strasbourg once every six weeks in the interests of honouring a Treaty commitment to `co-location` rightly described by Ashley Fox, a Conservative MEP as “a symbol of waste and stupidity”.  Mme Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and aspirant candidate to take over from the retiring M. Barosso, lectures that “The Prime Minister is destroying Britain`s future” through his desire to re-negotiate with Europe. George Osborne believes that Britain should be “In Europe, not run by Europe”. If that phrase seems vaguely familiar it could be because a younger Mr. Osborne was once a political speechwriter. For William Hague as Leader of the Opposition. 

The Salford Broadcasting Corporation is accused of poaching an audience that properly should belong to Commercial Radio by continuing to broadcast radios One and Two. An argument that some of us were making about thirty years ago, I know, but as ”we`re all in this together” and the Corporation is looking at ways to save money to meet the multi-million pound deficit on its pension scheme perhaps the time has come to remember the old equation between coats and cloth. Every little helps.  The Beeb has apparently also contributed a 21% property bubble in Salford. Eight Hundred and fifty well-salaried middle-class households re-locating from chi-chi West London to the Manchester suburbs has had an inflationary effect upon desirable family-size property prices. Back in London Dame Janet Smith, the former High Court Judge engaged in the Savile enquiry, is rumoured darkly to be contemplating criticism of sexual abuse on BBC property over a period of forty years. Publication of her report will, however, be delayed lest it influences pending criminal actions. 

Over at Buck House the ceiling is, if not literally falling in, in need of some care and attention.  Until three years ago successive Governments were responsible for the upkeep of the Royal Palaces and signally failed in their duty to properly “mend the roof while the sun is shining”. It therefore surely ill-behoves the Public Accounts Committee, under the Chairmanship of Tsarina Margaret Hodge, to suggest that the palace should be turned into some kind of Disney-style experience to help foot the bill. Still on the Royal beat we learn that Zara Phillips was back at home six hours after giving birth to her sixteenth-in-line-to-the-throne daughter. Out riding the following day, no doubt. Tough girl.  With Her Maj clocking up a youthful 88 years in April Prince Charles is being groomed as `the new face of The Royals` No question of Regency or abdication. Her Maj made it clear from day one that she is in the job for life but to share some more of the foreign travel might ease the burden a little. 

Across La Manche there is `a domestic` at the Elysee Palace as Valerie Trierweiler, the “first girlfriend” finds herself subjected to the same treatment that she, in turn, dished out to the mother of Mr. Holland`s four children, Segolene Royale. The French have traditionally taken a fairly relaxed attitude towards their Presidents` girlfriends but allowing oneself to be chauffeur driven wearing a crash hat on the pillion seat of a motor scooter is lacking in a certain je ne sais quoi to say the least and the fact that the getaway bicycliste then turns up on the morning after whatever happened in the Presidential love-nest on the night before clutching a paper bag full of croissants is not exactly what a lady might expect of the President of the Republique as a lover, is it?  One cannot help feeling that Messrs. Chirac, Mitterrand and even Sarkozy would have acted with a little more panache but I suppose if you tumble into bed with one of the least charismatic and unpopular men in France then “let them eat croissants” is about what you have to be prepared to accept. The outrider might at least have arrived with bottle of champagne. After all, as is his custom, the President was not in the driving seat was he?  After the Gay Marriage legislation was imposed upon the French Mr. Holland`s post-coital audience with His Holiness the Pope cannot have been a particularly jovial assignation. Must have made his unencumbered Brize Norton meeting and pub lunch with Man David seem positively cordiale. 

Let us end on a high board note.  Penny Mordaunt, a Royal Naval reservist and the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North, agreed to take part in Tom Daley`s televised Diving competition, Splash! As a boy I sought to impress young ladies by hurling myself head-first off the eight metre board at the Bournemouth Pier Approach swimming baths. I consider that anyone capable of climbing the extra couple of yards to the ten-metre board and then going off not forwards but backwards has to be either very stupid or very brave and Ms. Mordaunt is not stupid.  She did not win in the dive-off, of course. Having performed perfectly in rehearsals the God of Mermaids deserted her on the night and she over-arched herself with bruisingly painful consequences.  This gave the bourgeois women`s tabloid its gleeful “Top of the Flops” headline but it also not only earned her the admiration of colleagues on both sides of the House but earned a useful contribution to the upkeep of the Lido in her constituency  and to Forces charities.  I`d like to think that the tabloid press made a handsome contribution in respect of the sport that they had at Penny`s expense. I`d like to think so, but I doubt it – so why not cancel the subscription to your rubbish newspaper for a week and send the money saved to charity instead?

Ballswatch 

At the plenary session of the Council of Europe I encountered , while pressing the case for a constituent who has been held in detention in Malta for four years without trial (don`t take a holiday in Malta), the Foreign Secretary of Austria. An impressive young man and, at 27, Sebastian Kurz is the youngest Senior European Minister since Caligula`s horse. 

Justine Thornton. Aka Mrs. Milipede, is an environmental lawyer who has been advising a wind energy company in opposition to the National Trust, English Heritage and Northants Council who are seeking to protect that County`s “Elizabethan Landscape”. M`learned friends` “Cab Rank” rule compels her to take the job. But not, presumably, the money. 

A Visit Britain Hoteliers` guide advises proprietors not to try to talk to Belgians about their language divisions. Or politics. Divisions? At the heart of Europe? Perish the thought. 

There are, incredibly, still some eleven thousand black and white television sets in the UK. Instead of £145.50 the license fee is just £49.  Of course, if you did not have a television at all you could save the whole fee and have a lot more spare time. 

At £7.3 million the badger cull has so far cost £4,100 per Brock. For much less than that the DEFRS could have drained the Somerset Levels. 

Ms. Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the Sex education Forum advises “don`t make children kiss granny”. A “High Five” or a wave is “safer” and will help to “Avoid sexual exploitation”. It might, though, cost you today`s equivalent of a ten-bob postal order at Christmas. 

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is admirably seeking people to “Buy British” foodstuffs. His campaign could useful start in Whitehall. How many Schools, Hospitals, Prisons or the Armed Forces buy British food first? 

007 is now licensed not only to kill but to break the speed limit. MI5 and MI6, along with Bomb Disposal Officers, Mountain Rescue, Organ Transplant couriers, police, ambulance and the fire brigade may now travel at 45 miles an hour in a 40 mile limit without getting a ticket. 

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will be displaying the European Flag on May 9th, thus complying with the EU directive that says that the “EU emblem must be displayed at each managing authority”.  Displayed. Not “flown”. It will be on show in his Department`s basement for all who wish to go down and take a look at it. 

The policing bill is to be amended to abolish the time-honoured defence of “marital coercion”. Scholars will recall that this was the defence mounted by one Vicky Pryce while taking driving points for her husband, the former Liberal Minister Mr. Huhne. 

The Surrey Rugby branch of the Rugby Football Union has decreed that six to eleven year olds must “not be allowed to play to win” in games of mini-rugby. THE RFU`s Development says “it`s a fine line”. No it`s not. Do we want to encourage a generation of losers? 

The BBC has banned its children’s` TV presenters from wearing red lipstick or looking “too sexy” in order to encourage “positive role models” and to promote “correct relationships”.  Where has that genius been for the last forty years? 

Valete 

Paul Goggins, the Member of Parliament for Stoke and a former Northern Ireland and Home Office Minister. The Prime Minister reflected the opinion of the House when he said in tribute that Paul was both liked and admired. 

Ariel Sharon, Likud Defence Minister and in 2001 Prime Minister of Israel. The warrior who ultimately sought to promote Peace through Dialogue and angered many of his colleagues when he unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip. 

Chris Chataway, Dr. Roger Bannister`s four-minute mile pacemaker and, in 1954, the World 5,000 metres record holder. The BBC`s first Sports Personality of the year and elected as the Member of Parliament for Lewisham North in 1957. 

And Finally.......... 

We report the death, for the moment, of James Wharton`s European Referendum Bill.  Against the odds James piloted this tricky private member`s legislation through the House of Commons but in spite of the best efforts of lord (Michael) Dobbs it was defeated, with the help of Lord Foy (the former Peter Mandelson) and Lord Kinnock but mostly by the former Labour Minister Lord (George) Foulkes and a coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrat peers who conspired to frustrate the bill and to prevent it from reaching the statute book. 

Their Lordships have sent a very clear message to the nation: Only a majority Conservative administration will deliver a manifesto pledge and grant to the British people an in/out referendum in the next parliament. Whether for or against our continued membership of the European Union if you want to have your say there is only one way to vote.



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