Gale`s Westminster Year 2010
 
It began with snow and a failed political coup.  In the Palace of Westminster Labour heavyweights Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt made a last-ditch attempt to topple Gordon Brown from the Leadership of the Government  before the 2010 election . It failed. Promised support melted away faster than the flake of snow that had brought Britain to a standstill. Cadbury`s flaked as well as the company was flogged off to what the founder`s granddaughter described as “an American plastic cheese company”.   Mr. Blair gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war and opinion polls indicated that 80% of the public thought that he had lied.
 
In February the Government lost more friends through proposals for a £20,000 “tax on death” and probably killed off any chance that Gwyn Prosser might have had of hanging onto the Dover parliamentary seat by suggesting the sale of the port to the French.

Nick Clegg, the still largely unknown leader of the Liberal democrats announced, in a speech that echoed through the corridors of power later in the year, that his party would be “kings not kingmakers” and “The Three Tenners”, Chancellor Alastair Darling, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and Dr. Vince Cable, took part in a televised debate that was to be the curtain raiser for clashes between the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals` Leader in the run up to election day.
 
The waiting ends in April. Gordon Brown goes to see the Queen and “The Rotten Parliament”, as it has become known, is dissolved.  The Gods are angry. A volcano erupts in Iceland and Britain is shut again.. For the first time in years birdsong is heard at Heathrow airport.
 
In the first party leaders` media debate Nick Clegg tops the polls on 43% with David Cameron on 26% and Gordon Brown on 20%.  Suddenly it`s “game on” and those of us who have been predicting a hung parliament for months wish we`d backed our instincts at the bookmakers. The election turns into a TV talent contest. “Dancing on Thin Ice”. A careless Prime Minister describes one Mrs. Gillian Duffy as “The sort of bigoted women who used to vote Labour” while his radio microphone was still live.  As it turns out on polling day there were to be many like her.
 
May 6th “The first day of summer” but it rains on the parade. Former Liberal Leader Paddy Ashdown has said that “A hung parliament would not be a dream – it would be a nightmare”.  His nightmare becomes a reality and after days of three-party wrangling the Tories and the Liberals form a “ConDem” coalition.  At the Treasury the outgoing Chief Secretary Liam Byrne leaves a note for his Liberal successor, David Laws saying “There is no money left”. It turns out that he was not joking.  As the Little Ships leave Ramsgate harbour for a 70th Dunkirk Anniversary visit one cannot help wondering just what those who gave so much in the Second World War might have made of the mess that Britannia  finds herself in.
 
Before the election the political parties announced “no plans to raise VAT”.  In the emergency budget only heating fuel and children’s` clothing are spared. 20% VAT it will be. The  Building Schools for the Future programme  is axed and Health Authorities and other quangoes face the chop.   From 1st January 2011.
 
BP spills oil across the Gulf of Mexico and  Barack Obama, already on the political slide, does a bit of Brit-bashing. Don`t mention the football. “For you, Tommy, the World Cup is over”. And the Royal Mail is put up for sale.  What, if the Dutch or the Germans buy the form, will happen to the Queen`s Head on our stamps?
 
Russian spies are found embedded – in more ways than one – in the USA and by Christmas it looks as though they may have been bedded in the House of Commons as well.   The Alternative Vote bill, part of the price for LibDem support of the coalition, is published and the Miliband brothers go head-to-head as the battle for the man – or woman -  to replace Gordon Brown as Leader of the Opposition gets under way.
 
August. The Prime Minister and his wife head off to the West Country for a spot of family holiday, Samantha Cameron goes into premature labour of a different kind and baby Florence is born.
 
During the recess Mr. Blair publishes his memoirs. Bets are placed. Will “A Journey”, as the book is grandly called, be remaindered by Christmas?  September. The House sits again and the Revenue and Customs announces that it has messed up about 18 million of our tax records.  The Head of R&C, “Dave” Hartnett, does not resign.  The Holy Father visits the United Kingdom, in the Party Conference season Ed Miliband is announced as Leader of the Labour Party and The Opposition and his brother, David, slips into the shadows to lick his political wounds.  The World`s largest wind farm begins to generate  energy off the coast of East Kent.
 
October. Our National Debt has broken through the trillion-pound mark and the interest on borrowed money, at £120 million a day, adds up to more than our entire annual budget for defence.  If times were hard, they are about to get a good deal harder.  “All policies have to be re-examined says Trade Secretary Vincent Cable as Liberal Democrats – all of them – who had signed a pre-election pledge not to increase university tuition fees now find that that is exactly what we are going to have to do. Students and violent militant activists take to the streets in pitched battles with the police. The mob is “kettled” outside the Palace of Westminster and Members of Parliament are equally “kettled” within.
 
With £18.5 billion to be knocked off benefit payments and “workfare” back on the agenda the true reality of the UK`s  financial situation begins to bite just in time for Christmas.  We have not, though, yet been bailed out by the EU or the International Monetary Fund and we still  stand a chance of saving our grandchildren from the workhouse.  Which is a source of comfort in at least one Kent household as the Gales` first granddaughter makes her appearance.
 
A Royal Wedding is joyfully announced and we end as we began, with South eastern trains stuck in snow, a nation in debt and wishing ourselves and those that we care for a healthy, a peaceful and a better New Year. Have a good one!

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