Uncork the Gauke: Could the Tories go for another grey man to lead the party – like John Major

david gauke gov uk

David Gauke: potential leader? pic credit; Gov uk

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August is the time of the year when lobby journalists love to speculate on leadership plots. If Jeremy Corbyn had done really badly in the June general election – it would be all about who is going to succeed him. But as it is Theresa May who lost her majority and authority – the speculation is all about who will replace her – even though she is at the moment determined there will be no vacancy. So I thought I would add my pennyworth.

The last Tory PM to be deposed in office was Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and she was at that point even more unpopular than Theresa is now. Her disaster was the poll tax – which was quickly replaced by the present council tax – after she stood down.

People forget that at the time John Major was the least known of the candidates who stood to be leader and PM.

Just as now the leadership favourites were big beasts –  the two top runners were Michael Heseltine – who had resigned over a row over the  fixing of an order for a new generation of helicopters in what became the Westland affair – and Douglas Hurd, a well known big Tory beast and foreign secretary. Both are now peers.

Heseltine was at the time a bit of blonde bombshell – unpredictable and strident. Nicknamed ” Tarzan ” because- though he denies it – he was accused of swinging the Parliamentary mace in protest against Labour. Definitely regarded as leadership material – he had shades of Boris Johnson in his leadership claims for today.

While Hurd was seen as more thoughtful – just like Michael Gove who prides himself as a radical thinker – sees himself today.

But both these big beasts were trounced by the ” grey man ” – the relatively unknown John Major.

Today there is another relatively unknown man – a John Major for the 21st century. He is David Gauke. In the Westminster bubble he is known by the phrase ” Uncork the Gauke ” for  his ability to smoothe over gaffes made by his then boss George Osborne in successive budgets. He is a safe pair of hands to send to Westminster and handle Opposition anger over ministerial mistakes.

He was first out of the traps to address the Westminster  press gallery lunches this month – and came to put himself over as an agreeable lunch companion with a store of self deprecating jokes. He is also benefiting from Theresa May’s decision to promote him to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, presumably thinking like Thatcher about Major that he is no leadership challenger.

But don’t be fooled by his manner. At the heart of the man is a determination to continue the Conservative austerity programme. He was careful only to park plans to end the ” triple lock” on pensions and a new charging system for social care. He has since taken the decision to raise much earlier the pension age to 68 – something that was not in the Tory manifesto.

He also showed little real concern that benefit claimants had committed suicide as a result of  tough decisions. He came out in favour of means testing and to a question from me that his ministry was turning into the Department of Corporate Manslaughter – ignored the point – saying  lamely that there might be mistakes by staff.  There is a lot of difference between a  mistake and a suicide.

A lot is at  stake at the next general election – and Jeremy Corbyn has no longer that element of surprise that he is supposed to be a ” no hoper”  to become PM. So expect the unexpected from the Tories – they will devise new ways to stay in power and an unexpected figure emerging as their leader could be one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revealed: Boris’s Imperialist dream: £3 billion for military adventures ” East of Suez”

boris_johnson

Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson

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The row over Boris’s clumsy intervention over ” proxy  wars ” and ” puppeteering ” by  Saudi Arabia in the brutal war in Yemen has somewhat obscured what Britain is really up to in the Middle East.

The full text of Boris Johnson’s speech to his Arab audience in Bahrain released by the Foreign Office at the weekend reveals that we are going to be spending vast sums of public money propping up the  undemocratic and inhumane regimes run by wealthy Arab Sheikhs  in return for their investment in Britain. We are reviving plans for a world military role ” East of Suez”.

All this at a  time when Theresa May is committed to retaining austerity at home well after 2020 with  all that entails in cuts to disabled benefits, social care,public services and restricting the growth of the NHS.

Boris began his speech by boasting how his new foreign policy overturned Harold Wilson’s 1968  Labour Cabinet decision to withdraw Britain’s troops from Borneo,Singapore and the Middle East. He showed extraordinary affinity for the then foreign secretary, George Brown, who like Boris, was a very colourful figure once found in the gutter after a particularly hard night’s drinking..

He described his decision as ” a triumphant vindication” for  the ” brilliant “George Brown over  Europhile Roy Jenkins  who with a ” frog like beam ” was determined to get Britain into Europe ( how Brexiteers love to damn Europhiles even way back to 1968!).

But it was the picture he drew for Britain’s future role for” centuries to come ” that was the most revealing.

He pledged that Britain would be involved in any future crisis in Gulf – which given the present volatile situation is no mean commitment.

As he put it “:any crisis in the Gulf is a crisis for Britain – from day one; that your security is our security ” and that ” your interests military, economic, political – are intertwined with our own..”

He goes on to cite  the billions Britain is spending for new military engagements in the Middle East.

This includes:Reopening HMS Jufair, a naval support facility  in Bahrain, which His Majesty the King of Bahrain,Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said he remembered from his childhood before our disengagement.

Basing  Britain’s Gulf Defence Staff in Dubai.

Developing the Al-Minhad air base in the United Arab Emirates providing a hub for the RAF.

Establishing a Regional Land Training centre for the British army – one of only four in the world.

As Boris put it : “Britain has in total 1,500 military personnel in the region and 7 warships, more than any other Western nation apart from the US.  We are spending £3 billion on our military commitments in the Gulf over the next 10 years and that is deepening a partnership that is stronger than with any other group of nations in the world outside NATO.”

So what is the pay back.?So much Arab money is pouring into London that the city is becoming a Gulf owned state. Boris named the capital as the 8th Emirate.

As he put it : “London is sometimes called the eighth Emirate. I think I may have made that up myself, but we’re proud of it.”

And he detailed how much retail estate is owned by Gulf states in London.

The Qataris own The Shard, Olympic Village,Harrods, and Chelsea Barracks.

The UAE owns the Excel exhibition centre in Docklands and the Tidal Array in the Thames Estuary . And there is the Emirates cable car across the Thames.

The Gulf states own the DP World Port. which has replaced London Docklands.

And even City Hall the seat of London government is owned by Kuwait.

 

As Boris said :” I didn’t know it until today but I’m stunned to find out.”.

Of course the foreign secretary stated that Britain gains from exports to the Middle East – from Marks and Spencer to military equipment and even sand for golf bunkers.

However after Britain’s bruising encounter in Iraq it seems the Tories are rapidly becoming the main defenders of a group of very wealthy Arabs – all of whom ( it has happened already) could face uprisings in the future from their own people.

Britain would have to defend them or see large swathes of the capital being owned by the very people who have overthrown them or if there is war – by another country.

I am not sure how keen the British people will be to get involved – but for the Tories ( although they were careful not to say it) it has smacks of returning to the glory days of Empire and Rule Britannia. That could be a very big mistake.

 

 

 

 

Stop these nasty attacks on people living here now

Manchester tram attack

Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com

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During both the first and second world wars my family came under  suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or  Anglicising it  to something like Henkey.

The reason was that we were  at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently  anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.

Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen  for some time.

Frankly I blame  Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.

By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.

They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations  and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.

This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.

But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality  in a supermarket queue and telling  the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish  kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti  on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.

It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because  this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.

So what should  be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.

But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in  dynamic, prosperous, modern society  it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back  centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.

The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.

 

 

 

Did Boris steal Ken’s best ideas for London?

The site Londonlovesbusiness is rather an extraordinary place to find an interview with Ken Livingstone which is actually sympathetic to the former Labour mayor and critical of Boris Johnson.

But two articles  by Robyn Vinter in the past week give Red Ken a lot more credit than Blue Boris. You can find them here  and here . The second include a statement from Boris’s spokesman  listing all the things Boris says he has done for the capital.

Basically the articles say it was Red Ken who originally put forward the idea for Crossrail, London Overground. the Olympic Games and  what became to be known as Boris Bikes.

And there is also an extraordinary claim by Ken that you won’t find much evidence in City Hall archives that he was responsible for any of them.

The reason is he says is: “One of the things Boris’s team did once they won in 2008 was go through all the dates and records and websites at City Hall and remove my name from all of them and it took some time doing that.”

We have all heard that history is always written by the victors but to  change the actual archives used for people to research history is a step too far.

Given we have a key election for Mayor this year I put up links to these articles so people can judge for themselves before casting their vote.

 

 

 

Boris Johnson’s unlucky dirty tricks on the No 13 bus

The Number 13 bus - not to be used by Boris for a dirty tricks! Pictire Credit: Commons

The Number 13 bus – not to be used by Boris for a dirty tricks! Picture Credit: Commons

Is there no desperate act a politician will stoop if his mate could lose his seat on may 7? Well Boris Johnson is prepared to do it to save Mike Freer, his Tory colleague standing for Finchley and Golders Green even it means telling porkies in the seat that once returned Margaret Thatcher and has a large Jewish vote.

Threatened according to another Tory peer and now eminence gris of the pollsters, Lord Ashcroft, with losing his seat to Labour’s Sarah Sackman on May 7, Boris thought he could perform a minor miracle and save a much loved bus route,the number 13 from Golders Green to Aldwych and swing the vote.

Unfortunately for him his success turned out to be a lie – because he has no power to do so particularly under the purdah rules in a General Election which forbids politicians ( and Boris is of course a Parliamentary candidate elsewhere) from taking controversial decisions for electoral gains.

This didn’t stop Mike Freer – see below – posing with Boris on his website announcing he had saved the Number 13.

As he says on his website:

” London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has today announced that the Number 13 Bus from Golders Green to Aldwych has been retained. The Mayor’s announcement follows a long-running campaign by Mike Freer to save the much loved service. Mike raised the issue of the 13 bus during the Mayor’s visit to Golders Green last week.

Mike comments ““I’ve already had a meeting with TfL and told them they were wrong and when Boris came to Golders Green recently I told him he needed to go back to the drawing board.

The proposals have been dropped and the number 13 is going nowhere. I’m very happy about it. It’s always useful when you can get things done.

“Being an MP you don’t always get your own way but sometimes you can get a result like this. Under Boris’s mayoralty, the number 13 is going nowhere.”

Err Unfortunately not true Mr Freer. That is not the story Transport for London are telling the people as this letter shows:

Dear Stakeholder

We recently consulted on proposals for changes to bus routes along Finchley Road and Abbey Road, which included the replacement of route 13 with alterations to routes 82 and 139. We received over 3000 responses to the consultation which is now closed. However, concerns have been expressed that the consultation has been partially undertaken during the pre-election period which runs until 7th May.

It is therefore our intention not to progress the scheme at this time.  The comments received from this consultation will however be used to inform future bus network planning in the Finchley Road and Abbey Road areas, and any resulting proposals would be subject to further public consultation.

 Yours sincerely

Peter Bradley

Head of Consultation

Transport for London

All that has happened is that Transport for London has already postponed the consultation until after the election – when it will come back again. No doubt Mr Freer hopes he will have been safely re-elected by then and of course will have no interest in any cuts that follow for his constituents.

Revealed: The Old Etonian Baronet who snapped up London’s fire engines for £2

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank- a hooray henry owning all London’s fire engines for £2? Pic courtesy Daily Telegraph

This is Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank,  6th Baronet Brocklebank, of Greenlands and Irton Hall, Cumberland.

He is now the proud owner – not just of a  battered 2cv  racing car as pictured  here – but of the entire fleet of fire engines owned by the London fire brigade. When you next have a fire in Greater London this is the man who will responsible that the crew arrive in a properly maintained and equipped fire engine.

In the mad world of  privatisation  Sir Aubrey was able to snap the fleet and  get his hands on an income stream worth nearly £200m over the next ten years – for JUST £2.

You the  council taxpayers will be paying this man £1.5m a month to look after London’s fleet. He got this  at a knock down price because  the Greater London Authority foolishly under Ken Livingstone and even more foolishly under Boris Johnson and former London fire chairman, Brian Coleman, sold off  London’s fire engines and a 20 year lease on its own maintenance headquarters in Ruislip to a private firm.

The firm was sold on to AssetCo ( which I have written about extensively) whose  own chief executive, John Shannon, had to be dismissed, when he left it teetering on bankruptcy. The actual engines are at present owned by bankers, Lloyds TSB, one of the chief creditors of AssetCo London which had over £30m in debts and haven’t a penny to  replace the ailing fleet of engines from 2014. This has been admitted by Sue Budden, director of finance,of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, . She told councillors at a meeting last week: “When they look ahead and look at the big vehicle replacement that is due to start in 2014, I think they can see they are not set up to cover that.” The full story by me is on the Exaro  news website at http://www.exaronews.com.

Step in Sir Aubrey who bought ailing  AssetCo for  £2 – without the fire authority or its staff- even knowing until the deal was signed. Such is the new world of privatised services – elected people aren’t even important enough  to know who owns them.

Now Sir Aubrey appears to be the scion of a very famous and powerful shipping family who owned two stately homes. One, Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire was built for his namesake, the third baronet, who went on to join the board of Cunard, and drew up plans for the original Queen Mary in the 1920s. The family have a steam locomotive on the narrow gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale railway named after them and in 1927 there was a swish saloon known as the Brocklebank.

The present Sir Aubrey  even graces the picture collection held by the National Portrait Gallery – with portraits of him and his first wife, Dr  Anna-Marie Dunnet, purchased by the gallery in 2004. He was also like the all the family, educated at Eton but too old at 60, to be a contemporary of London mayor Boris Johnson.

But a closer investigation reveals that  Sir Aubrey is not all he seems. Gone it appears are the two stately homes – both are now hotels. And Sir Aubrey  now remarried  with wife, Lady Hazel, is actually on the electoral register at a£162,500  three bedroomed semi in Stanwick, Wellingborough in Northants – in the constituency of Tory Mp, Peter Bone.

He doesn’t even own his house outright – he has a mortgage with the very democratic Nationwide building society.

It is at this address in July  that he set up a small private company A & AB Investments Ltd, which paid the princely sum of £2 for London’s fire engines. It is this company that is now the ultimate owner of London’s fire services. He has since set up another company Premier Fireserve, based at  the leased maintenance plant owned by the fire brigade.

Nor does he have any of the illustrious careers of his ancestors. Instead he is non executive chair of a series of venture capitalist funds, under the name Puma – who simply offer very good tax avoidance schemes – by investing in anything from hotels, property, antiquarian books – and then liquidating their investments after five years to secure maximum tax relief and returns for their investors. Hardly reassuring for such a permanent feature as providing a fire service which cannot be traded for tax  avoidance.

His only other passion is racing 2cv cars – with a  team known as Twin Snails. Indeed the elderly boy racer competed at Snetterton in Norfolk over the August bank holiday weekend in the British championships. His team have had mixed fortunes -doing better at Snetterton but coming a cropper at Brands Hatch -see http://www.flickr.com/photos/maisiehexagon/492921242/

Now you may think I am making  all this up. I tried to contact Sir Aubrey five times  to find out his side of the story. But he is shy and reclusive when it comes to the press – and he never returned my calls. I wonder why as I never bite.

But I think any reasonable person would think he is not the  first person you would want to run a public service and he hardly even has a particularly good business record. It is time he is held to account and I have great hopes that  Ex MP Andrew Dismore, the Labour assembly member for Camden and Barnet, will pursue him on our behalf by every means possible to find out the truth behind this, on the surface, very dodgy development.

Coleman Update: Final Humiliation – Now facing the sack by true blue Barnet

A report tweeted by the editor of the Barnet Times series is forecasting final doom for Brian Coleman tonight Thursday)- when his own Tory group removes him from his Cabinet  environment portfolio. (see http://bit.ly/Jhqe8h)

This means is less than seven days his income from the taxpayer will be slashed from over £120,000 – to just £12-14,000 a year. For the very first time his income level may justify his subsidised fixed rent two bedroom flat he rents from Finchley Methodist church charity.

He still keeps the chairmanship of an important Barnet Council committee on the budget and spending – but he will no longer get his £38,000 Cabinet salary.

Boris Johnson seems to have taken the sensible decision to keep him away from the London fire authority after his big defeat at the hands of the electorate which saw Andrew Dismore defeat him by 21,000 votes.

How  the mighty are fallen – Thank God for democracy and transparency.