The politics of envy makes us ALL poorer

Can you imagine tax inspectors rifling through your possessions to see if their value corresponds with the self-assessment you’ve made under a new ‘net worth tax’?

We’re talking of items on which you already have paid tax. Or heirlooms for which your parents or their parents were taxed.

You’ve heard of the special ‘mansion tax’ payable by anyone owning a property worth more than £2 million.

Under the Lib Dem's proposed new scheme tax inspectors would get unprecedented new powers to go into homes and value rings, necklaces, paintings, furniture and other family treasures

The so called 'jewellery tax' was drawn up by Tessa Munt (left) and David Laws (right)

Now a Liberal Democrat policy document discusses a more extraordinary scheme – a special tax on those whose possessions and properties combined exceed £2 million in value.

Drawn up by Lib Dem MPs Tessa Munt and David Laws – who are close to party leader and deputy premier Nick Clegg – this envisages: ‘HM Revenue & Customs, in policing the system, may have to visit homes to test whether asset values of jewellery paintings etc were correct.’ (Tax inspectors currently need a court order to enter homes in this way.)

The ‘net worth tax’ would have the effect of adding massively the estimated 300,000 people affected by the mansion tax by including all their possessions as well as ‘buy to let’ property owners whose combined portfolio exceeds £2 million.

Nick Clegg has made clear his views about taxing the rich saying 'we need to make sure people see it is being done as fairly and progressively as possible'. By 'progressively', he means raising taxes on the rich steadily

Commons public administration committee chairman Bernard Jenkin, said on Radio 4 last August: 'If the politics of envy made a country rich, we'd be very rich'

Tory MP Charlie Elphicke calls it ‘the politics of envy at its worst…people won’t stand for it.’ But is he right?

Most of us know perfectly well that you can’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.

Churchill said: ‘For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle.’

Yet many - even people who are well-off - enjoy hearing the better–off squeal about higher taxes.

We’ll tolerate our own taxes rising if we hear the very rich are squealing about theirs.

Labour and the Lib Dems more or less exist to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor - although neither, of course, describe that as their raison d’ĂȘtre.

MP Charlie Elphicke has described the scheme as 'the politics of envy at its worst' and claims that 'people won't stand for it'

The Tories have to pretend some enthusiasm for the practice while yoked in coalition with the Lib Dems.

Not all Conservatives, though. Plenty of Tory MPs hate David Cameron’s coalition accommodations with Nick Clegg.

      More from Peter McKay...   In 70 years, have we gone from the greatest to the weakest? Silly spats prove how weak our leaders are 19/05/13   Is Cameron readying his lifeboat like Blair? 12/05/13   Don't panic yet, Dave. It's Red Ed who should be worried... 05/05/13   Sir, we are charging you with being a celebrity... 28/04/13   Will one of our cities be next to face 'lockdown'? 21/04/13   Grocer's girl who 'got above herself' 14/04/13   Ed needs a dose of the old Blair snake oil 07/04/13   Labour's addiction to welfare hurts us all 31/03/13   Now Dave's 'dog whistle' guru is calling the tunes 24/03/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

I suspect they include Commons public administration committee chairman Bernard Jenkin, who said on Radio 4 last August: ‘If the politics of envy made a country rich, we’d be very rich. Most rich people are contributing far more in tax than other people.’

This is true but he knows there are notorious exceptions - rich people who go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying any tax at all.

Such people give the rich, generally, a bad name, just as benefit cheats tarnish everyone who relies on the State for financial assistance.

Jenkin says we’ve already driven wealth creators abroad by taxing them too heavily.

No doubt it is true that some have left for that reason but I doubt if they are a significant number. Yet further wealth taxes are bound to have that effect.

Surely the Government should concentrate on collecting the wealth taxes which exist rather than dreaming up new ones.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has made clear his views about taxing the rich, saying: ‘If we are going to ask people for more sacrifices over a longer period of time, a longer period of belt-tightening as a country, then we just have to make sure that people see it is being done as fairly and progressively as possible.’

By ‘progressively’, he means raising taxes on the rich steadily, by increments.

The ‘net worth tax’ may come to nothing. But it might if the Lib Dems are in coalition with either the Tories or Labour after the 2015 general election.

Will we accept tax inspectors having the right to enter our homes to assess the value of jewellery, paintings and furniture?

Those who consider their own possessions and property worth far less than £2 million might think why not? Nothing for them to lose. Except that once established, there’s nothing to prevent such a tax being extended to cover any level of possessions.

The Government needs to raise more tax because it can’t – or won’t – freeze or, even better, reduce its expenditure. The crude calculation – even for a Tory chancellor – is that it’s more dangerous politically to lower spending than to raise taxes.

But the prospect of tax inspectors rifling through jewellery boxes, or studying paintings and furniture, should ignite a storm of anger.

The truth is that everyone is at risk in this thin-end-of-the-wedge wheeze, not just the rich.

Perhaps there will be a backlash, but the thinking behind this idea won’t disappear. It’ll re-emerge in another form.

Jessica Raine is currently installed in a love-nest with actor Tom Goodman-Hill, 42

Jessica Raine became the nation’s new sweetheart in BBC1’s sentimental period show Call The Midwife. Was there anything on the box more charming than seeing her pedalling about on her rounds, dispensing dewy-eyed sympathy to groaning expectant mothers?

Even the rascally playboy and Spectator diarist Taki Theodoracopoulos, who prefers to lust over the daughters of noblemen, declares his undying love for the dainty actress.

Now it emerges that Jessica, 30, is not as innocent as she appears. She is installed in a love-nest with actor Tom Goodman-Hill, 42, who has left his partner of 20 years and their teenage children.

Ms Raine’s agent, Kate Bryden, says: ‘Tom and Jessica did not get together until well after he and his wife separated.’

Be that as it may, has Ms Raine damaged her standing with the public? I hope not. We have no business judging her private life. My thoughts are with poor, rich Taki, mourning the lost innocence of Jessica in his Gstaad chalet.

Grow up Hugh, for goodness sake...

Hugh Grant announces the birth of his second child on Twitter, saying: ‘In answer to some journos. Am thrilled my daughter now has a brother. Adore them both to an uncool degree. They have a fab mum.’

Later, he added: ‘And to be crystal clear. I am the Daddy.’

The ‘fab’ mother — unnamed by Grant — is Chinese-born Tinglan Hong, 32, who met him in a Chelsea wine bar in 2008.

After their daughter was born 16 months ago, Grant released a statement saying: ‘I can confirm that Hugh Grant is the delighted father of a baby girl. He and the mother (again unnamed) had a fleeting affair and while this was not planned, Hugh could not be happier or more supportive.’

Revelation: Hugh Grant announced yesterday that he had had a second child with Tinglan Hong

Clarification: The actor later tweeted 'I am the Daddy' to any followers who were confused

The actor later told the Leveson Inquiry he regretted using the term ‘fleeting’, claiming: ‘I was protecting her reputation — I didn’t want her to appear to be a jilted girlfriend.’

Failing to name her on either occasion doesn’t do much for Ms Hong’s status, either. Neither does phrasing his initial message so clumsily that it didn’t acknowledge he was the father.

Knowing he dislikes and distrusts the Press, I don’t want to be too hard on Grant. But is it fair to wonder why, at 52, he sometimes acts and sounds like a teenager?

The trials of Kevin

The Coronation Street star Michael le Vell (real name Michael Turner), who has been charged with 19 offences, including six rapes, might be written out of the soap, it’s reported.

TV bosses are considering a storyline in which his character, garage owner Kevin Webster, is jailed.

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has been charged with 19 child sex offences, pictured with his wife Janette Beverley, who he split with last year

But wouldn’t ‘jailing’ Kevin of Corrie be prejudicial to Turner’s real-life trial? He has said he is innocent of the charges and will fight them vigorously. What if his character is earlier found guilty of the fictional ones?

Even if the show’s makers, Granada TV, drop the jail storyline, any criminal trial of Turner raises special problems.

As Kevin, he’s a star of a show which is seen by nearly ten million people three nights a week, most of whom will have come to a conclusion about his character. Can jury members be found in Britain who don’t know who he is?

Anjem Choudary has been recorded telling followers to claim benefits as part of their struggle to bring sharia law to the UK

Why welfare can't be reformed

Anica Ion, a 75-year-old Romanian grandmother, is delighted her unemployed son has made his home in Birmingham rather than his native Barbulesti.

‘He has ten children and the (British) State gives him more than £500 a month,’ she told The Times.

Only the most hard-hearted of us would shut our borders to poor foreigners who want to provide for their families. But should we be responsible for the indigent citizens of other EU member nations – or of any foreign country - whether they work or not?

Most of us would say ‘No’. We can’t afford it. Let their own governments help them. Or pay us to look after them instead of them relying on our taxpayers’ money being sent back to their countries of origin in the form of benefits, sometimes to build houses.

But some will say ‘Yes’. We must set an example to others. The foreign families we assist will eventually join the ranks of the employed and pay tax. Some may become brilliant entrepreneurs.

Inevitably, some will abuse the system, as our own benefits cheats do.

For example, the Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, who collects £25,000-a-year in benefits, has been caught by The Sun newspaper telling his followers that work (as most of us experience it) is ‘slavery,’ fit only for kuffars (non-believers).

Choudary thinks it’s perfectly in order to fight a holy war against non-believers while accepting benefits from them. He advises his supporters: ‘The normal situation is for you to take money from the kuffar. So we take Jihad Seeker’s Allowance. You need to get support.’

They say hard cases make poor laws. Plenty of the hardest are not foreigners but HM’s subjects, born and bred here, who have never worked, or sought to work.

But any meaningful attempt to reform the welfare system runs up against politics.

The Tories can’t do it for fear of being portrayed as cruel, nasty and unelectable. For its part, Post-Blair, Labour depends as a party on defending the benefits system. As do the Lib Dems.

Pistorius, who ran in both the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics last year, has said he will dispute his murder charge 'in the strongest possible terms'

Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius told police he shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, accidentally after a domestic row, according to reports from South Africa, and will dispute his murder charge ‘in the strongest possible terms’.

We’re told Ms Steenkamp was behind a locked bathroom door when she was shot and was still alive when he carried her downstairs and gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Earlier reports spoke of Pistorius’s ‘dark side’ and his gun collection. Police said they’d been called out several times to the Pistorius household and denied the theory that an intruder may have been involved.

Here, public discussion of cases isn’t allowed for fear it prejudices jurors. But if they can’t distinguish between what they’ve heard or read about, and what they’re hearing in court, are they up to the job in the first place?












'I didn¿t know enough' isn't an improvement on 'I didn't know'. It's a prompt to find out more, not a get-out-of-jail card

A saintly Scotsman arriving at the Pearly Gates is asked by St Peter if he’s led a good life. ‘Och aye,’ he says, ‘I was a good husband, a good father and — as you know — I neither smoked nor drank.’ 

St Peter: ‘Aye, so ye say, but what about thon nip of brandy on yer deathbed?’

The Scotsman, embarrassed: ‘Och aye, but I didna ken that would keep me oot of Heaven.’

There’s a great crack of thunder, a blinding light and a mighty voice roars: ‘WELL, YE KEN NOO!’

There’s a lot of it about, isn’t there?

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg didna ken the party’s former Director of Campaigns and Elections, life peer Lord Rennard, 52, had been accused of groping a string of women colleagues. Rennard denies the allegations.

Clegg didna ken the party's former Director of Campaigns and Elections, life peer Lord Rennard, 52, had been accused of groping a string of women colleagues. Rennard denies the allegations

Former BBC Director-General Mark Thompson didna ken there were stories about Jimmy Savile ravishing young women on the broadcaster’s premises, although they were general currency during his eight years at the Corporation.

Didn’t know — or, didn’t want to know? That is the question for both men.

At least ten Lib Dem women made accusations against Rennard, as we reported on Friday. One was offered a meeting with the peer to discuss the impact of his behaviour. After refusing — are you surprised? — she says she was told she had no future in the party.

  More... So what DID you know, Mr Clegg? Bombshell email: Nick Clegg was told about Lib Dem sex scandal four years ago We Lib Dems need honesty - most obviously from Nick Clegg himself

Party activist Stephen Tall says: ‘Just as the BBC turned a blind eye to the alleged offences of one of its stars, so, too, did the Lib Dems.’

It’s a good connection to make. The BBC’s absurd Pollard report on the Savile affair — replete with preposterous ‘redactions’ of any words that might prove remotely embarrassing for Corporation bigwigs — reveals an organisation where all the men and women at the top did everything they could to maintain (or feign) ignorance of what had happened. 

Having spent 36 years at the BBC, Jeremy Paxman knows where all its bodies are buried. He told Nick Pollard’s inquiry it was common gossip that the disc jockey liked the company of young girls — a tactful way of putting it. 

Former BBC Director-General Mark Thompson didna ken there were stories about Jimmy Savile ravishing young women on the premises, although they were general currency during his time at the Corporation

Pollard concludes that it was not a question of executives not knowing about Savile’s activities. It was that senior executives didn’t want to know. This has always been obvious, long before the story broke.

After all, Savile conducted some of his nefarious behaviour on BBC premises. He entertained young women in a caravan berthed in the BBC car park. How could his activities have remained unknown?

Lots of people did know, of course, as Paxman says in his evidence to Pollard. So why was nothing done about it? Possibly because to confront the problem would be to take responsibility for it. Heads might roll. And not just deputy heads. 

The other problem about Savile concerned class. He was working class and from the North. He appealed to a demographic that was well below the sights of the predominantly middle-class BBC management.

They knew he was a weirdo, but he was a weirdo in touch with the Prince of Wales and one who spent Christmases with Margaret Thatcher. He didn’t hide his activities. He flaunted them.

The allegations against Rennard (pictured) are made by mature women. Clegg's initial defence - that he had no knowledge of the specific allegations - is a temporary device

The allegations against Rennard aren’t as serious. They are made by mature women. Clegg’s initial defence — that he had no knowledge of the specific allegations — is a temporary device. Having launched an inquiry, he now hopes that what he knew, or didn’t know, will cease to be the question.

He’ll be in the clear if the inquiry finds Rennard has a case to answer and also if it finds otherwise. 

So will the men who didn’t know, Clegg and Thompson, survive?

Thompson, like Clegg, has modified his defence from not knowing to not knowing specific details.

And he is no longer at the BBC. He’s the big bucks chief executive of the New York Times.

Clegg might be in less trouble if the Rennard allegations were his only problem. But he’s now regarded by some in his party as a drag on the ticket, the main reason why they face being wiped out at the 2015 General Election. 

Thompson’s clear of the BBC, but not out of the woods. If there are further claims that he knew more than he’s admitted about Savile — and did nothing — it will undermine his position at the New York Times. Local rivals of the Grey Lady, as the paper is known, will make sure of that.

Surely ‘I didn’t know enough’ isn’t an improvement on ‘I didn’t know’. It’s a prompt to find out more, not a get-out-of-jail card.

  Laura performed faultlessly at the Six Nations rugby match between England and France at Twickenham

Soprano Laura Wright, 22, sang the national anthem for the 82,000 crowd at the Six Nations rugby match between England and France at Twickenham.

While overcoated, heavy-booted and woolly-hatted spectators in the stands whimpered about the cold — myself among them — Laura performed faultlessly  in a white dress slashed to the waist.

A rugby player for Rosslyn Park Ladies, she is said to have ‘speed and good technical awareness’.

And legs that would distract the Dalai Lama.

Forget Oscars, television is the new cinema

The Washington DC blogger Andrew Sullivan says he’s tired of the Oscars — ‘the naked public relations, the excruciating host, the preening luvvies… It’s the celebration of a mass movie experience in the cinema that truly deserves to die for anyone over 25’. 

Instead, he and his partner watched Argo, an Academy Award nominee, ‘on a couch five feet away from a 56in, high definition, 3D flat screen television.’ 

They had speakers all around the room. Drank Coke at a tenth of the cinema price. And could pause the film at will. They didn’t miss the coughing, the sneezing and hard-to-place odours that are part of the cinema experience.

Young folk I know, who can’t afford huge tellies and banks of speakers,  watched Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained before they’d even opened in Britain by ‘streaming’ them on to their computers from illegal internet sites.  The best movies are always available because copies are sent out prior to the Academy Awards.

The cinema experience has been changed, too, by blockbuster television serials. When was the last time you had a conversation about a movie? Ever since 24 and The Sopranos — not to mention Breaking Bad, the best of them, I’d say — TV box sets have become big talking points. 

It would be a shame if the cinema died, and I’m sure it won’t. For the young, it’ll always be a refuge from childish  TV-watching parents. And for watching rubbish movies that aren’t available for streaming or downloads.

 

Who doped TV presenter Ben Fogle, turning him into ‘a ranting, raving lunatic’? He says it happened after dining at a pub in the Cotswolds where they had ‘delicious food and a little wine. Nothing untoward or strange’.

He’s telling us about it because, ‘where  a singer  might include their heartache and pain in a song, I need to put it into words’.

As a weekend sojourner in the Cotswolds, it would be handy to know the name of the ‘small country restaurant where we had a lovely evening’ though.

Fogle, pictured with son Ludo, now three, says he was doped after dining at a pub in the Cotswolds

  A credit to the party?

Having failed to preside over an economic recovery and lost the nation’s  so-called triple AAA credit rating, mutinous voices in the Tory Party are calling for David Cameron to dump George Osborne.

Cameron loyalists say he’ll never do it. He and George are too close.

Leaders should never be dependent on subordinates, even if they are friends. There are no friends at his level in politics. Only colleagues who are useful to you.

Osborne must be asking himself if he’s harming the party’s chances of victory in 2015. If the answer is Yes, he’s honour-bound to resign. And not leave it to the last minute.

  Your Bali HighnessPrince Harry’s recent skiing companion, Cressida Bonas, isn’t in a rush to marry, a so-called friend informs the Sunday People. ‘Her mum divorced four times, so she’s not about to rush into anything.’ 

However, if she was going to get hitched, ‘she would like to do it barefoot on the beach at Bali with just her closest family and friends’.  

Including the Duke of Edinburgh, I hope. Wouldn’t you pay to see his Victor Meldrew visage on this happy occasion?

 

Former drug dealer Olufisayo Ogundimu, 28, was successful in persuading a court that he should not be deported to his native Nigeria because he had fathered a child here and has another on the way by a second woman. 

The rule of law is more important than politics. Is this the exception?





The Queen a gay rights champion? I don't buy it

The Queen signs a new Commonwealth Charter today, declaring: ‘We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.’ 

‘Other grounds’ is interpreted to be a reference to gays and lesbians, whose sexual activities are punishable by death, life sentences or flogging in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth nations.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay and lesbian pressure group Stonewall, reacted by calling the Queen ‘a feminist icon’ who has taken ‘an historic step forward’ on gay rights.

Icon: The Queen signs a new Commonwealth Charter today, declaring: 'We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds'

But another gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, points out: ‘In truth, the Commonwealth Charter does not include any specific rejection of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This was vetoed by the homophobic majority of member states.

‘While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn’t appear to be gay-friendly. Not once during her reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community.’

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Will the new Commonwealth Charter’s anti-discrimination provisions make much difference? Or, like the contents of the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of every parliament, are they merely a description of what the powers-that-be would like to achieve?

We never make the mistake of thinking the Queen is personally attached to any of the policies she describes in Parliament. Why imagine it’s different with the Commonwealth? There must surely be occasions when she thinks ill of the policies her government has asked her to outline. But I can’t think of a single occasion when her mask has slipped.

Peter Tatchell says: 'While I doubt that Elizabeth II is a raging homophobe, she certainly doesn't appear to be gay-friendly. Not once during her reign has she publicly acknowledged the existence of the LGBT community'

As a Palace spokesman says of today’s announcement: ‘The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen’s position is apolitical, as it is in all matters of this sort.’ 

The monarch began her reign in the pre-gay rights era, when homosexuality was an underground, illegal activity. Now, all discrimination against homosexuality is illegal.

In her lifetime, it has moved from being an aberration to becoming an official third sexual preference.

Ben Summerskill reacted to the Queen's comments by calling her 'a feminist icon' who has taken 'an historic step forward' on gay rights

Indeed, HM’s current government is making homosexual marriage legal. Does HM approve?

We’ll never know.

In any case, when the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952, homosexuality was not the monolithic concept it is today. Then, there were degrees of homosexuality, from slight to extreme, and little public pressure for any change in the law.

Her Majesty will have known homosexuals — and have been close to some of them — throughout her life.

It’s said she occasionally went incognito to a cinema near Buckingham Palace with a certain unmarried courtier. Her late mother’s household staff was evidently composed of  disputatious, confirmed bachelors whom the Queen Mother addressed starchily one morning: ‘There is one queen in Britain today who has not had her breakfast.’

I don’t think much discrimination has ever been practised against homosexuals in the Queen’s household. But there isn’t much she can do about homophobia in her larger  family — the Commonwealth — other than to articulate the desires of those who run its day-to-day affairs.

Apologists for the Commonwealth nations which execute, jail or flog homosexuals say they do so under their colonial-era laws. But this is nonsense. 

Millions of Africans abominate homosexuality without having to rely on old laws they’re free to repeal. If they won’t allow the Queen to mention homosexuality among her Commonwealth’s new list of proscribed discriminations, there surely is no early prospect of them changing course. 

Bigging up HM as an enemy of homosexual discrimination could easily backfire, reducing her influence rather than enhancing it.

 

The sight of North Korean soldiers weeping at the presence among them of leader Kim Jong-un, 30, defies understanding. As does the decision to embalm and exhibit for all time the body of Venezuela’s dead leader, Hugo Chavez. Why do Far-Left leaders enjoy the status of gods, even in death? Perhaps if you treat people like unthinking children, that’s how they’ll behave.

 

Much-praised historical novelist Hilary Mantel says  her essay about Kate Middleton was ‘twisted’ by the Press to make it seem as if she was attacking the Duchess of Cambridge.

Having described Kate  as a ‘shop window mannequin’ who was ‘designed to breed’ — and much else in the same vein — did she expect readers to reflect: ‘Ah, this is how Ms Middleton is perceived, not how Ms Mantel sees her’?

Perhaps Ms Mantel was misunderstood. But, in truth, she must share the blame. And be a little  more gracious.

  With performances by the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie at her wedding, Tamara Ecclestone's big day could exceed £12 million

Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone reportedly spent £12 million on the wedding of his daughter, Petra, in 2011.

Now, the imminent marriage of 28-year-old daughter Tamara to Jay Rutland, 31, (who’s described as a former City stockbroker), threatens to exceed that sum, with performances by Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie and ‘DJ to the stars Calvin Harris’ as well as accommodations at the Hotel du Cap, private jets, expensive jewellery and world-class catering.

Having settled tens of millions on the demure pair over the years, you’d think they’d give Bernie’s bank account a rest and pay for their own weddings. But perhaps the old gent would be offended not to be bled dry by his nearest and dearest.

Somehow, former 1950s garagiste Bernie became the virtual owner of a major world sport and is worth an estimated £2.5 billion. Although divorce from his wife of 24 years, Slavica, and the provision of multi-million-pound mansions for their daughters made a deep hole in this fortune, he remains exceedingly rich.

I think Chancellor George Osborne might find that a special ‘windfall’ tax in next week’s Budget on Bernie’s spoiled daughters would go down well with we huddled masses.

Foxy isn't dead yet

Having resigned in 2011 as Defence Secretary for allowing a friend, Adam Werritty, too much access to his office, Dr Liam Fox is on manoeuvres again.

The Tory MP wrote a cogent, persuasive argument yesterday pointing out that the world’s GDP has grown by 55 per cent to nearly $77 trillion since 2000, but Britain is not sharing in this bonanza because ‘we are over-taxed and over-regulated and  we spend and borrow  too much’.

Liam is a foxy fellow. He doesn’t attack those in charge (Cameron and Osborne); he prefers to appeal to those who are seeking replacements for the Prime Minister and Chancellor. 

Is he a runner for either job himself? I think the answer is ‘yes’. If he can make Werritty disappear, he might do the same for our budget deficit.

Robin and Chris - what a fine pairNo doubt it was a comfort to Vicky Pryce to read the verdict of former Labour wife Margaret Cook on how ‘it is perfectly possible that she could be bullied in that way by a politically ambitious man’.

Dr Cook, a haematologist, recalled one occasion when her then husband, former Foreign Secretary Robin, and she had ‘a heated argument’ over who could use the phone while she waited in a professional capacity for some important laboratory results. 

‘It took the threat of death of a mother and baby — in his constituency — before he backed down,’ Margaret says in The Guardian. 

Surely there was a far better example of naughty Robin’s hauteur: didn’t he cancel their Wyoming riding holiday after being told at Heathrow to choose, on the phone, between his wife and his mistress  by Alastair Campbell? He opted for his mistress, even though his wife had bought him a pair of chaps  for their Wild West sojourn. That’s what I’d call off the Richter scale caddishness!

Chris Huhne's lover, Carina Trimingham, ‘prefers to stay out of the limelight’, reports The Times.

I realise it’s just a hackneyed  way of saying ‘out of sight’, but ‘limelight’ — the old method of highlighting theatrical performers — is hardly a fit description of the public attention recently enjoyed by Huhne and Ms Trimingham. Funny, though.

  Wealth: Tony Blair has gone on to become a multi-millionaire, largely thanks to his U.S. contacts

Don't mention the war

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, many of the British and  U.S. officials concerned recall how Tony Blair gave his unquestioning support to President George W. Bush. 

Bush’s then deputy national security adviser, Stephen  Hadley, says Blair told Bush — a year before the invasion — that he would support an attack on Saddam Hussein no matter what. 

Is any of this relevant now? Blair’s position is that the war was justified, period. He has gone on to become a multi-millionaire, largely thanks to his U.S. contacts. His spy chief, John Scarlett of ‘dodgy dossier’ fame, got a knighthood and his ex-mouthpiece, Alastair Campbell, is so well regarded by the BBC — which he once sought to destroy — that I am surprised he has not become its chairman. 

And the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War? Its findings have been delayed again, perhaps until next year. There’s a dispute over whether or not we can see the notes sent by Blair to Bush prior to the war. You don’t say!

The ill-behaved Canadian pop idol Justin Bieber, 19, is being unduly influenced by two, 20-year-old rappers, Lil Twist and Lil Za, according to The Mail on Sunday. They are ‘regulars on the LA party scene’. (Well, I know what that means. Not much. All serious — i.e. employed — folk there  are in bed by ten.)

Surely the new, foul-spoken Bieber is simply mid-transition from pre-teen idol to teenage rock star, a harmless  Dr Jekyll turning into malignant Mr Hyde, all to please an older demographic.





Is George 'too toxic' to survive the storm?

Osborne's fans say that being in Coalition with the Lib Dems means he can't be a proper Tory

Chancellor George Osborne said yesterday that the EU order to seize up to  £170  million from private bank accounts in Cyprus — including those of 60,000 UK expats — is a result of nations failing to deal with their debt crisis.

It wouldn’t happen here, he said, because David Cameron had kept us out of eurozone bank bailouts.

Then Osborne added that the Government would be compensating UK service personnel in Cyprus who lost 10 per cent of their money in the German-inspired, EU move. Meaning  we’ll be taking part in eurozone bank bailouts whether we like it or not.

Just days before his latest Budget, the Chancellor looks a bit twitchy. As well he might.

A ‘triple dip’ recession is threatened. It’s predicted that our economy  will grow at only 0.7 per cent this  year instead of the 1.2 per cent we were promised.

Osborne’s name has become ‘toxic’ to voters, says a new poll. They more or less back the Government’s  debt-reduction programme —  but not when Osborne’s name is attached to it.

Among Conservative voters, a shocking 53 per cent of those polled supported the pro-stimulus arguments of Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.

Osborne claims that Cameron has kept us out of eurozone bank bailouts, and this will prevent seizure of funds from private bank accounts, such as what has just happened in Cyprus

Not even the luxurious wallpapers produced by his family’s firm, Osborne & Little, could cover up the damage to George’s image. Now some senior Tories say Wednesday’s Budget is his last throw of the dice  as Chancellor.

      More from Peter McKay...   In 70 years, have we gone from the greatest to the weakest? Silly spats prove how weak our leaders are 19/05/13   Is Cameron readying his lifeboat like Blair? 12/05/13   Don't panic yet, Dave. It's Red Ed who should be worried... 05/05/13   Sir, we are charging you with being a celebrity... 28/04/13   Will one of our cities be next to face 'lockdown'? 21/04/13   Grocer's girl who 'got above herself' 14/04/13   Ed needs a dose of the old Blair snake oil 07/04/13   Labour's addiction to welfare hurts us all 31/03/13   Now Dave's 'dog whistle' guru is calling the tunes 24/03/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Will it be a glorious new dawn for George — or a chorus of jeers over ‘too little, too late’ tinkering?

The message from the party is that it will be a ‘steady as she goes and batten down the hatches’ Budget. Only minor tweaks are predicted.

The 3p-a-litre fuel duty increase due this September may be postponed. There could be a small increase in the amount we’re allowed to put into tax-free Isas. And more promises to build more homes.

Friends of Osborne say it’s not fair to dismiss him, nor to yearn for the solutions suggested by his critics. He just doesn’t believe in the kind of Reaganite economics urged on him by Right-wingers, like cutting taxes in the counter-intuitive hope that this will increase revenues. He’s a balanced-budgets Tory.

Nor is he inclined to slash taxes in the hope of promoting a consumer boom. He takes the traditional Treasury view that in a recession-battered economy, people would simply use such tax respite to reduce their debts.

Besides, say Osborne fans, being in Coalition with the Lib Dems means he can’t be a proper Tory.

He’s had one hand tied behind his back, so it’s not fair to dismiss him as the most unpopular Tory Chancellor in living memory. But life isn’t fair.

Others say there’s no obvious alternative to Osborne — and who’d want the job right now? But there is at least one good candidate, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

A funereal figure who could moonlight as a professional mourner, he — unlike Osborne — took the precaution of making his millions before devoting himself to politics.

So he has actual economic experience, as opposed to merely theoretical knowledge. At the Ministry of Defence, he is now known, I am told, as ‘Forensic Phil’. This on account of him being able to read and analyse defence ministry accounts, a rare if not unique ability in Defence Secretaries.

Gwyneth Paltrow has spoken out for the first time about her miscarriage

Once he’s sorted out our military spending, might he not move on to an even more pressing task — sorting the national economy?

Gwyneth Paltrow, 40, says she nearly died after miscarrying her third child, but adds: ‘My children ask me to have a baby all the time.

‘You never know, I could  squeeze one more in. I’m missing my third.’

Some might deplore Ms Paltrow’s readiness to give interviews discussing often delicate aspects of her personal life. But she must also provide comfort to many less-advantaged women who have suffered the same experiences.

And isn’t she a breath of fresh air compared with the snivelling showbiz types who seek the adoration of fans without offering anything beyond their one-dimensional professional performances?

No smoke without  papal fire

Pope Francis is said to scorn the dignities of papal office while being devoted to the poor. But has any incoming Pope ever exhibited enthusiasm for the papal perks and interested himself only in the wealthy?

For the faithful — and those who provide media commentaries for them — it’s always necessary to find goodness, even saintliness, in new Popes. At the same time there are always naysayers who claim the Holy Father isn’t all he’s made out to be.

Newly elected Pope Francis I is said to scorn the dignities of papal office while being devoted to the poor

Pope Benedict’s German ancestry was trawled over, as were his actions — or inactions, said some — over sexually abusive priests. Now we’re told Pope Francis had sinister connections with the Argentinian junta whom we fought in the Falklands.

The faithful won’t believe a word of it. His detractors will believe the worst.

Pope Francis will totter on into history, trying not to alienate too many believers while resisting pressure to align the Roman Catholic Church with the sexual assumptions and mores of the 21st century.

The Prince's visit to Saudi Arabia comes days after seven men were beheaded for stealing

Charles of ArabiaThe Prince of Wales’s visit to Saudi Arabia came a few days after seven men were beheaded for thieving. Some were juveniles when the crimes were committed.

This isn’t Charles’s responsibility, of course. So I wouldn’t expect him to raise the matter with Saudi authorities. But it might have been embarrassing to him if the executions had taken place on the day he and Camilla arrived. Were they brought forward for that reason?

Charles has let it be known he is studying the Koran. He wishes his subtitle when monarch to be Defender of Faiths, rather than Defender of the Faith.

I wonder if he raised with his Saudi hosts the possibility of establishing a Christian church there — a friendly, reciprocal gesture for Britain’s tolerance  of mosques. And if not,  why not?

Funny how it’s always a twit

The Cheltenham Festival racegoer who was photographed tweaking Prince William’s ear is identified as one of his ‘oldest and closest friends’, banker Harry Aubrey-Fletcher, son of Buckinghamshire’s Lord Lieutenant, Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.

Why did he tweak William’s ear? As an attempt to distract him during the first race, apparently. As a joke. Sort of. Harry, a banker with JP Morgan in London, plainly sought to demonstrate his closeness to the prince — thus emphasising his seniority among royal guests in the private box.

Harry Aubrey-Fletcher, son of Buckinghamshire's Lord Lieutenant was identified as the 'ear pincher' of Prince William

How fortunate that a photographer was on hand to record for posterity his telling gesture.Racegoing Harry would be a favourite for Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year.

Ear we go: Wills at the races

The SAS will  be shooting insurgents in Afghanistan with new weapons and ammunition that are more likely to kill than wound, says a Mail on Sunday report.

A source at the regiment says: ‘The shoot-to-wound policy was based on the assumption that once he was wounded, an enemy combatant would stop fighting, and so would his colleagues to give him first aid.

Keith Waterhouse founded the AAAA

‘But this backfired against the Taliban. The 5.56mm rounds did not take a big enough chunk out of them, allowing fanatical insurgents to keep on fighting despite their wounds. Tests are now taking place on at least three rifles specially designed to fire 7.62mm rounds.’

When our own troops carry on fighting after being wounded, they’re described as courageous and are sometimes awarded bravery medals. Taliban fighters who do this are ‘fanatical’. Isn’t the language of warfare interesting?

Britain’s AAAA rating

My late colleague Keith Waterhouse would have savoured the story about Mid Devon council abandoning ‘confusing’ apostrophes on street signs.

Keith founded the Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe, which dealt primarily with shop sign horrors such as ‘Price’s down while stock’s last’. 

But his AAAA was vigilant, too, over apostrophes dropped altogether, such as St Paul’s Square in Birmingham becoming St Pauls Square. Members threatened to pelt councillors with ‘overripe tomato’s and banana’s from the greengrocer’s’.

The battle is lost, though. There are Oxford graduates who don’t understand apostrophes. And the state of spelling is worse. The Sewing And Stitching Show, advertised outside the Olympia exhibition venue in West London as I passed last week, had a huge banner calling it ‘Sewing and Stiching’.







Now Dave's 'dog whistle' guru is calling the tunes

Spin doctor: Cameron's message to immigrants this week 'is pure Lynton Crosby' (pictured), says a Tory MP of Peter McKay's acquaintance

David Cameron’s message to immigrants this week — that they won’t get council houses for five years, and will have to pay to visit a GP — has a familiar ring.

A Tory MP of my acquaintance says: ‘This is pure Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s political guru.

‘He’s the Australian spin doctor famous for insisting politicians need “dog whistle” messages to summon voters back to the fold.

‘You may remember that he gave our then leader, Michael Howard, the same advice about immigrants in 2005. He said it wasn’t racist to talk about immigration. 

‘It didn’t work then, but that might have had more to do with Michael Howard than the message. It did work when Crosby got the [former] Australian PM John Howard to talk about immigration. And it could work for Cameron this time.’

Only the most dogged Leftists think it right that recently arrived immigrants — or visitors from the EU come to that — should be eligible for a full range of social welfare benefits.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have trimmed their sails on this topic after discovering from private polls what voters of all classes think on this subject. They’re more open to the idea of restricting some benefits.

Even migrants now settled here think new arrivals should establish themselves, and pay some tax, before becoming eligible for welfare. I saw some of them saying so on a London TV news show last week.

But will it work? Even if the new rules become law — and I don’t see how they can if applied to EU  visitors — won’t councils unsympathetic to the Government find ways around them?

  More... New immigrants told: You must pay to see a GP – and can’t have a council home We'll fight EVERY seat at next General Election, vows UKIP leader Nigel Farage as he dashes hopes of a Tory pact SATURDAY ESSAY: Why we on the Left made an epic mistake on immigration

Neither do I have much confidence that those who run our welfare system are on top of fraudsters, who seem able to get those ineligible for benefits — and some who don’t exist at all — on the public payroll without difficulty. And isn’t it all a bit late? Surely it would have been better to control the numbers coming in instead of issuing falsely low figures about them.

‘Labour can be blamed for the huge upsurge in immigration,’ says my Tory source. ‘They lied about how many were coming in, and did nothing about the pressure this was putting on the welfare budget.’

Speaking for the people: Only the most dogged Leftists think it right that recently arrived immigrants - or visitors from the EU come to that - should be eligible for a full range of social welfare benefits

True enough, but the Tories were HM Opposition. Shouldn’t they have shouted this from the rooftops? Instead, Cameron sought to ‘detoxify’ the party by hugging hoodie-wearers and huskies, and wouldn’t touch the subject of immigration.

‘Yes, but what people will remember is that Labour caused the problem, as they did with the banks,’ retorts my source. ‘I think Cameron, with Crosby’s help, could now be on to a good thing.’

Cameron’s right in one respect, certainly. He has to get his own people back on board. Every week, I meet Tories who swear they’ll never vote for Cameron again. Mostly, but not wholly, they’re put off by the gestures he’s made to keep the Coalition together.

His speech this week might help. And another small event yesterday won’t harm him — Eddie Mair’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show with London mayor Boris Johnson, whom some disappointed Tories think might be their saviour.

So Cameron has three things going for him: a guru teaching him to dog whistle voters, a party rival about whom questions are being raised, and an election opponent, Ed Miliband, whose only experience of Government was as a loyal Gordon Brown bag carrier.

  Different focus: A 'friend' of former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has said the star will never sing again

Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham (pictured on her last performance — at the Olympics closing ceremony) will never sing again.

So says a ‘friend’, who tells The People: ‘She has nothing but love and respect for all the girls and the journey they went on together. Now, though, her focus is on her family and her fashion business.’

A wise head on young shoulders. She’s firmly established in her own right, not at the beck and call of vulgar rock promoters.

She has more money than she’ll ever need, and a career dependent on no one but herself.

True, she doesn’t smile much. But that’s because she looks better sulky.

Former Labour deputy premier John Prescott says ‘a straight-talking Yorkie friend’ suggested to him that it was time the Queen stood aside and enjoyed ‘a long and fulfilling retirement’.

Why attribute this idea to a friend? Perhaps because Prescott’s a privy councillor, who is required to be loyal to the monarch. He was asked to tea with the Queen on his appointment. She received him in a room off the Palace gardens. A flunkey arrived to say all was set, referring to a function outside.

‘Who do we have today?’ HM inquired. ‘Archery For The Blind,’ replied the aide. ‘Better get the corgis in,’ advised the Queen.

Maybe she’ll ask Lord Prescott round again to supervise the target when the blind archers return.

  Did you watch the grisly ‘two Popes’ photo opportunity on  TV? Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict cuddled, prayed and ate lunch together  for the cameras. 

I can see what’s in it for Benedict. He remains a Pope, with all the trappings but no work to do.

But what’s in it for Francis? Having his predecessor lurking in the Vatican shadows, second guessing his decisions, can’t be a comfortable feeling.  On the other hand, he can hardly evict the old German.

His best course, at 76, would be to insist on similar treatment when he feels he’s served long enough.

  Europe's MoT failure

New MoT rules issued by the EU will mean big repair bills for motorists. Defective warning lights, faulty car seats and airbags will result in MoT failure if not repaired. 

Who dreams up these new rules? Car industry types, who make huge amounts of money from them. They lobby MEPs and EU officials, getting the Government to make us buy their goods. 

Our own Government could — as in other areas — say we’d prefer to  issue our own rules. But they won’t.  They’ve sold the pass, despite the anti-EU noises they make.

So how about them insisting that those who make the faulty equipment take more responsibility for it when it goes wrong. In other words, pay for it. It mightn’t go wrong so often then.

  Why Pryce is no Fred the Shred A Labour MP has written to the Prime Minister saying it is 'profoundly unacceptable' for Vicky Pryce to hold the title of Companion of the Order of the Bath

A Labour MP has written to the Prime Minister saying it is ‘profoundly unacceptable’ for Vicky Pryce — jailed along with her former husband, Chris Huhne, for taking his speeding penalty points — to hold the title of Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Cameron’s spokesman says: ‘The Prime Minister’s view is that it is a matter for the Forfeiture Committee.’

The Honours Forfeiture Committee — mostly senior civil servants — considers cases where an individual has been jailed for more than three months or has been struck off or censured by a professional body for failings relevant to the granting of the honour.

Last year, it stripped former banker Fred Goodwin of his knighthood after he guided RBS to the brink of collapse in 2008.

Ms Pryce didn’t behave well, either, but — unlike Goodwin — she has  been punished.

I think removing her honour — given for her economic work — would be mean and petty.

Former broadcaster Richard Marson has written a book alleging that two Doctor Who producers, now dead — John Nathan-Turner and Gary Downie — preyed on young male fans who visited the set.

Marson claims he was propositioned personally by Nathan-Turner. ‘He got a bit frisky, shall we say. I was a bit taken aback. I was only 17 and he said to me: “You’re so ******* provincial.” ’

Marson says he was sexually assaulted by Downie, who, he adds, would seek out good-looking male fans whom they called ‘doable barkers’ and have them queue  outside his office.

The BBC says: ‘Clearly allegations of this nature are very serious.’

It advises anyone with information to contact Dame Janet Smith, the former High Court judge who is conducting a review of the late Jimmy Savile’s activities.

Dame Janet’s ‘review’ sounds a relaxed, informal affair. Not like Lord Justice Leveson’s aggressive, televised media inquiry, resulting in suggested restrictions that would, in effect, give the Government control of the Press. Something’s very wrong here, isn’t it?

  Birleys leave a bad tasteThe family of the late society restaurateur Mark Birley are in dispute because his daughter, India Jane, has auctioned her father’s belongings rather than keep them — or distribute them among relatives, friends and members of his staff.

India Jane says she felt she had to carve out her own space, and her father would understand. But brother Robin, cut from Mark Birley’s will after hiring a private detective to check on India Jane’s then boyfriend, thunders: ‘Everyone is appalled. I could understand if my sister was desperately in need, but the opposite is the case.’

Surely this laundering of family linen in public is what would appal Mark Birley.

He was supposed to be an avatar of good taste.




Labour's addiction to welfare hurts us all

Iain Duncan Smith will announce this week that the news of his benefits cap - ensuring that families get no more than the national average income of £26,000 - has led to thousands of claimants finding jobs

The droll American comic Jackie Gleason once confided to a theatre audience: ‘My family was poor — but poverty-stricken.’ Poor being a natural, if regrettable, condition and poverty-stricken one that attracts government concern and assistance.

When the Coalition announced that disability claimants should undergo tests for their eligibility, the move was denounced as a cruel and pointless exercise by those campaigners who always seek to extend, not reduce, the welfare state.

Now it is disclosed that more than a third of those welfare recipients decided to drop their claims rather than face the tests.

Meanwhile, of the 1.44 million who submitted to assessments, 55 per cent were judged fit for immediate work.

For his part, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will announce this week that the news of his benefits cap — ensuring that families get no more than the national average income of £26,000 — has led to thousands of claimants finding jobs.

‘The number of families who are going to be affected is dramatically lower than we once thought,’ says a department official.

So, are we finally about to reduce our annual, £683 billion welfare bill (which represents around £1,000 from every tax-paying household)?

Alas not. While the number of claimants has fallen, those who remain are receiving more. Thus the Treasury has had to demand further cuts in other Government spending in 2015.

Even so, the welfare budget won’t be smaller. As Iain Duncan Smith says: ‘The reality is that this country is not cutting welfare, it is managing the growth at a lower level.

  More... Tories in turmoil over benefit cuts: Austerity programme shambles as Iain Duncan Smith 'admits defeat'... but Work Minister takes on malingerers Website that charges £19 for 'tips' on how to milk disabled benefits system Knives out for Osborne as 'whispering campaign' blames him for Tory poll woes

‘Across the UK — contrary to the headlines — all those on benefits will see cash increases in every year of this Parliament.’

Why so? Because the Tories, who’d like to rein in welfare spending, are having to govern as part of a coalition with the Lib Dems, who don’t.

Families who have truly fallen on hard times do exist, but publicity about fraudsters inclines us to think all benefits claimants are unworthy. Most of us have encountered welfare claimants who also work part-time for cash. Many professional criminals appear to be claimants.

Those on benefits are set to see cash increases every year under the current Parliament because the Tories, who'd like to rein in welfare spending, are having to govern as part of a coalition with the Lib Dems, who don't

Cases have come to light of fully employed claimants who don’t actually need the money, but couldn’t resist representing themselves as needy. TV comedy producers adore savvy welfare fraudsters.

Some justify a lifetime of ripping off the state by saying they once contributed taxes and want to see something returned to them.

By and large, though, those who have worked for long periods — who have got into the habit of working — don’t think in this way.

Tory ministers who talk about reducing welfare dependency —  usually off the record, to avoid  rocking the Coalition boat — are referring to generation after generation of claimants who have become unfit for employment by depending on state support.

The truth is that the real ‘welfare dependency’ problem is with politicians on the Left. They rely on the distribution of handouts to their client state to remain in power.

Fighting to secure more benefits: The real 'welfare dependency' problem is with politicians on the Left who rely on the distribution of handouts to their client state to remain in power

They were the ones shouting loudest when the Government announced tests for disability claimants.

They fight to secure more benefits, not fewer. In simple terms, they see the welfare state as a means of redistributing income from the rich and comfortably off to the less comfortably off and the poor.

It’s only ‘fair’, isn’t it? Without their dependence on fomenting class warfare by demonising the well-off and sentimentalising the poor, why would politicians of the Left exist?

For a time, Margaret Thatcher led a successful resistance campaign against them. And this was copied by Tony Blair and his New Labour followers. But Gordon Brown  sabotaged all hope of Labour  moving away from welfare dependency.

Frank Field MP — a rare Labour realist on welfare matters — was asked to tackle the problem, but Brown never gave up his own dependence on using benefits to buy votes and Field had to go.

Will Iain Duncan Smith become the Tory Frank Field, betrayed so that the Conservatives can fix a post-2015 coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats? That is the question.

 Another Korean War? Not without China’s say soNorth Korea's hereditary communist leader Kim Jong-un threatens the U.S. with destruction.

Looking like a contestant on BBC’s The Voice, he is photographed studying missile  trajectories.

The Obama administration says there’s nothing to worry about. It calls his threats ‘bellicose rhetoric,’ while provocatively test-flying nuclear-armed bombers over the Korean peninsula. 

Does Washington know something that we don’t? Beleaguered North Korea can’t be attacked without the support of China, its only real ally.

The Obama administration says there's nothing to worry about despite the recent photographs of Kim Jong-un studying missile trajectories

As a trading partner of America — and holding most of that country’s huge financial debts — has China promised secretly to rein in Kim Jong-un if he goes too far? Having fought the communist North to a truce 60 years ago — and exhausted its taste for foreign military excursions in Afghanistan and Iraq — surely  America needs China to deal with Kim Jong-un.

The Chinese are bound to have high-level intelligence on North Korea’s real intentions and military capabilities. And they have as much to lose as America if a war kicks off there.

For our part, Britain took part in the last Korean War in the early Fifties. No doubt we’d be expected to turn out for the next one. 

So, where was our Foreign Secretary William Hague while this latest sabre-rattling was going on? Campaigning against war-zone rape in Africa with Angelina Jolie. 

Funny old world, isn’t it?

  TV village people aren’t real The BBC's new, lower-orders costume serial, The Village, stars Maxine Peake as farmer's wife, Grace

The BBC’s new, lower-orders costume serial, The Village, stars Maxine Peake. Her role is farmer’s wife, Grace. John Simm plays her husband, conveniently also called John. He says: ‘John loves his wife, needs her, calls her mother, but beats her as well. He is a very scary father and husband when we first meet him, but then he changes.’

Of course he does. In TV drama, if not in life, redemption is routine. Baddies turn into goodies, while good-hearted (if naive) viewers sob on  their sofas.

True facts of country lifeFormer Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion says second home-owners should be taxed out of buying properties in the shires. ‘Townies in the countryside means rural communities are gutted,’  he claims.

Presumably he means property prices would fall and local young people would be able to afford a first home. An interesting idea, but would it work?

If it did, the Government might have to prevent, via more taxation, townies cleverly making their main residences in the country and designating their city properties as second homes.

Second home-owners don’t necessarily ‘gut’ country communities. They improve services and shops and, in my experience, it is largely the patronage of townies that has made farmers’ markets popular, to the detriment of supermarkets.

They also spend huge sums restoring near-derelict properties.

Sir Andrew is president of the Campaign To Protect Rural England. Even so, you’d expect him to realise that the way people choose to live is a little more complex than he suggests. 

Social engineering by taxation — or social class cleansing — appeals to a vindictive spirit, the idea that people can be penalised into removing themselves.

All it succeeds in doing, usually, is producing more money for the Government to waste.

  Our own Quentin Letts called the new West End comedy The Book Of Mormon ‘college campus adolescent. I tired of it after ten minutes’. Others said it was very funny.

I haven’t seen it, but am inclined to believe Quentin. You might think I’m bound to say this because we’re both writing in the Mail, but that’s not true. It’s just that Quentin’s reasons for finding it unfunny were more convincing than those saying otherwise.

News reports have stated that tickets for The Book Of Mormon are changing hands for £300. And yesterday the producers bought double-page ads in the papers. Is this the sign of success or failure?

Example: An encounter between Mormon missionaries and Africans in which the latter say: ‘**** you, God’ and ‘*** you in the ***.’

As Letts says: ‘Noel Coward drollery, this ain’t.’

However, news reports have stated that tickets are changing hands for £300. And yesterday the producers bought double-page ads in the papers. Is this the sign of success or failure?

Comedy generally seems to be getting nastier and more stupid. Last week we mentioned a Channel 4 show in which Jimmy Carr said he was being ‘b******d’ by Jesus Christ. I think I’ll give The Book Of Mormon a miss.

  Labour’s twice-fired ex-minister Peter Mandelson is said to be compiling a hit list of Eurosceptic politicians he calls ‘the Dirty 20.’ He would, wouldn’t he? As a former EU commissioner he’s obliged to defend the EU. If we leave the EU — as most  of those polled in recent weeks would prefer — might Brussels cancel the pensions of British former servants? Surely they wouldn’t be so ruthless, we might have thought — before seeing what they did to Cyprus.

 

Andy Murray says he finally won a tennis Grand Slam after having given himself a talking to in front of a mirror.

He told himself: ‘You are NOT losing this match . . .’

Afterwards, he said he ‘felt something change inside. I was surprised by my response. I knew I could win’.

Sport has changed. Once it was thought childish to show disappointment after losing or pleasure after winning. Now, acting out these emotions is part of the performance. How far we’ve come from Kipling’s poem, If, which advises:

‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same …

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it

And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!’






Ed Miliband needs a dose of the old Tony Blair snake oil

If a millionaire is someone whose net assets exceed £1 million, Miliband and Cruddas (pictured) are in the same category as 'the Cabinet of millionaires'

Labour’s latest slogan is: ‘Who wants to bung a millionaire? Dave does.’ It’s a reference to the Coalition Government led by David Cameron bringing the top rate of tax down from 50 to 45 per cent.

Labour’s new welfare campaign is launched by policy chief Jon Cruddas MP, who attacks ‘this Cabinet of millionaires’.

But doesn’t Cruddas own three homes, together estimated to be worth over £1 million? Labour leader Ed Miliband owns one in London which is worth around £2 million.

If a millionaire is someone whose net assets exceed £1 million (the usual definition) Miliband and Cruddas are in the same category as ‘the Cabinet of millionaires’. There isn’t anyone in the Cabinet earning £1 million a year, and Labour knows it.

Suddenly, Ed Miliband looks vulnerable on the welfare question. And not just because of his hopeless effort last week, via surrogates, to suggest that depending on benefits had nothing to do with father-of-17 Mick Philpott burning six of his children to death.

Deputy leader Harriet Harman’s all-over-the-place attempt to defend Labour thinking on welfare on the Andrew Marr show yesterday — interviewed by Eddie Mair — was no better. ‘Car crash TV,’ said a Westminster colleague. 

Labour activist Dan Hodges — son of Labour MP Glenda Jackson — thinks the party’s now in a panic over welfare, having first downplayed the Philpott issue.

He says: ‘Then they lost their heads, and dispatched Ed Balls to launch an hysterical attack on Osborne, driving the Chancellor’s comments to the top of the news bulletins, and making the Labour Party look like they had been employed as Mick Philpott’s defence attorneys.’

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Another party supporter, former Blair speechwriter Philip Collins, says: ‘Seven out of ten people agreed that the country needs to spend less on welfare. To this unanswerable fact there has come silence from the Labour Party and vituperation from the Labour movement. The party has no policy to speak of.’

Last week, the party’s most successful leader, three-elections-winning Tony Blair, ventured the opinion that he would have done better than Gordon Brown in the 2010 election, saying: ‘Frankly, if I’d had a fourth election, I would have given Cameron a run for his money. I am not saying I would have won, but it would have been tighter than it was.’ Such modesty! I wonder if it’s genuine. Blair is likely to have held on to enough seats in 2010 to allow a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, if not an overall majority.

Blair last week ventured the opinion that he would have done better than Gordon Brown in the 2010 election

Yesterday, Eddie Mair asked Harriet Harman: ‘Quick final thought. Do you agree with Tony Blair, that the election would have been tighter if he’d been leader in 2010?’

Harman: ‘Well, I’m not sure that looking back on that and making observations helps. I think our focus is on the 2015 election and we’ve got a very difficult job to do . . .’

That might be interpreted as: ‘Yes, and we may be facing the same problem in 2015 . . .’

It's very difficult for untried, inexperienced Miliband, the golden boy chosen by the trades unions, to lead Labour

It’s very difficult for untried, untested, inexperienced Ed Miliband, the golden boy chosen by the trades unions, to lead Labour. Blair was dragged down by the festering Afghanistan-Iraq Wars wound, our over-familiarity with his snake oil salesman persona and the determination of Gordon Brown and Co to drive him out of No 10.

Now Brown’s gone and the snake oil salesman persona seems to have made Blair a vast fortune. He’s now estimated to be worth £60 million.

But wouldn’t he have a surer touch on welfare than class warriors Miliband and Ed Balls?

  Liz has left the Hurley burly behind Liz Hurley stripped off and danced naked on a coffee table during her first date with actor, Tom Sizemore

Liz Hurley stripped off and danced naked on a coffee table during her first date with actor, Tom Sizemore, with whom she was appearing in the 1992 terrorist movie Passenger 57.

‘And it was a damn good routine,’ says Sizemore, then 26. ‘She knew what she was doing because she looked at me and asked: “Is it too bright for you?” And then got down and dimmed the lights and got back up and started dancing to music. After she was done, we had sex. It was wonderful.’ 

He then moved in with Ms Hurley. ‘And that’s when I found out that she already had a boyfriend back in England: Hugh Grant,’ he writes in the Mail on Sunday. ‘He hadn’t done Four Weddings And A Funeral yet, and I didn’t know who he was.’

The Sizemore-Hurley love was not to be. He recalls: ‘The last time Elizabeth and I saw each other romantically was heartbreaking. I called her up and said: “I can’t do this anymore.”’

Later, they met and Sizemore burst into tears. Ms Hurley told him : ‘Don’t cry. Let’s walk the dog.’

Sizemore concludes: ‘She didn’t like tears — no Brits do. They’ve been bombed by the Nazis; they’re tough. She said: “Tom , I’m begging you, please stop it. I feel bad enough.”’

Ms Hurley comes out of the story well. I think. Better than kiss-and-tell Sizemore, certainly. Yes, some may deplore her apparent two-timing of Grant but there’s little in his history to suggest he’s made a fetish of monogamy.

Table-dancing Elizabeth does not wish to comment on the Sizemore book and why should she? Her life now with cricketer Shane Warne is more pastoral than hanky panky.

She has chosen what another actress, Mrs Patrick Campbell, called ‘the deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue’.

 

Clare Balding combined the roles of Grand National circus ringmistress and Channel 4 commentator, effortlessly promoting jump racing, John Smith’s beer, Channel 4 and, of course, herself. Ms Balding isn’t a journalist in the usual sense of the word. She’s on hugging, first-name terms with racing types she introduces on camera — a fan with a microphone, not an independent reporter. Maybe she’s what’s wanted in our celeb-crazed world. It’s post-ironic, innit?

  A very British style of oligarch When Sir Frank Chapman quit the BG Group due to ill health in January, he received a pay package worth almost £6 million, we now learn. I wish him well.

The BG Group has operations in 25 countries, a market capitalisation of £44.9 billion, and it’s the seventh-largest company on the London Stock Exchange.

It began in 1812 as Gas Light and Coke Company before going in and out of nationalisation.

Are Sir Frank and his mega-rich colleagues in other previously-nationalised energy companies oligarchs?

So are Sir Frank and his mega-rich colleagues in other previously-nationalised energy companies oligarchs? Oligarchy is defined as ‘a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.’ An elite, in other words. 

In Russia, oligarchs are characters such as Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, who seized control of huge industries previously owned by the state.

Can you see much of a distinction between him and our own, lesser-publicised oligarchs who exploited our post-Thatcher enthusiasm for privatisation?

 

How sad Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna feels he has to apologise for saying on a social networking site seven years ago that some London clubs ‘seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes . . .’ Now he says that was ‘inappropriate and stupid’. It wasn’t. It was merely indiscreet. An occasion when ‘never explain, never complain, never apologise’ would have been more dignified.

  The crisis is hopeless, but not serious      More from Peter McKay...   In 70 years, have we gone from the greatest to the weakest? Silly spats prove how weak our leaders are 19/05/13   Is Cameron readying his lifeboat like Blair? 12/05/13   Don't panic yet, Dave. It's Red Ed who should be worried... 05/05/13   Sir, we are charging you with being a celebrity... 28/04/13   Will one of our cities be next to face 'lockdown'? 21/04/13   Grocer's girl who 'got above herself' 14/04/13   Labour's addiction to welfare hurts us all 31/03/13   Now Dave's 'dog whistle' guru is calling the tunes 24/03/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Police will claim compensation for falling over their truncheons — if it’s available and they’re allowed to do so. It’s as simple as that. 

Lawyers will always push for compensation to be available, knowing they will be first to get their snouts in the trough.

Politicians famously relish spending other people’s money. The great French thinker Albert Camus called concern for the welfare of the people the tyrant’s alibi. Even without such encouragement, some individuals will make welfare claims simply because such a system exists. They are the  crooked timber of humanity.

If it’s true we face a great, living-beyond-our-means financial and existential crisis, which no palliatives of Right or Left are guaranteed to fix, shouldn’t we consider a Year Zero in increased government spending, followed by a back-to-basics dismantling of discredited programmes?

Perhaps, but no party can do it. They’d be voted out of office. We are where we are. Only small changes can be made. Even then they’re vilified as evil attacks on the poor.

So, the situation is serious but not hopeless?

No, it’s hopeless but not serious.

  Why is Foreign Secretary William Hague not protesting about the Saudis’ plans to sever the spinal cord of Ali al-Kwawaher, 24, a prisoner who ten years ago stabbed another boy to death in a fight?

A Foreign Office official says we’re ‘deeply concerned’. If al-Kwawaher’s family could afford a six-figure sum for the ‘blood money’, the operation would not go ahead.

Some will say the Saudis are our oil-supplying allies. We must never offend them. That’s why they got a visit from the Prince of Wales and Camilla last month. How they treat their prisoners is their concern.

Surely this isn’t so any more? As Oscar Wilde said after being told he was being paraded, shackled, in the rain outside Reading Goal as a guest of the monarch: ‘If Her Majesty doesn’t know how to treat prisoners she doesn’t deserve to have any.’





Margaret Thatcher: The Grocer's girl who 'got above herself'

Why is Margaret Thatcher the object of puerile public hatred? Because she was ‘divisive’, we’re told. But her real crime was getting above herself — even in death.

According to The Guardian, royal officials have expressed concern about her funeral. Specifically, ‘about whether it is appropriate for such a controversial figure to be escorted on her final journey by more than 700 military personnel’.

Giving her such a send-off apparently trespasses on the privileges of monarchy who, by tradition, ‘are associated with ceremonial aspects of the military’. Getting above herself, in other words.

Thatcher didn't appreciate the fact that, outside her bubble, those who resented her new airs and graces were plotting her downfall. She'd got above herself, poor girl

When it was announced that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would attend Wednesday’s funeral, I thought this might be a sign that  the monarch wanted to lay to rest (forgive the pun) the notion that HM didn’t get on with our first woman prime minister.

For, in 1986, the Sunday Times reported — after a briefing by HM’s then press secretary, Michael Shea — that the Queen was worried about Mrs Thatcher’s ‘abrasive’ style of government.

Peter Morgan’s current West End play about the monarch and her  premiers, The Audience, has Thatcher (played by Haydn Gwynne) waving a copy of the newspaper at the Queen.

Is the Queen's planned attendance of Thatcher's funeral a sign that the monarch wants to lay to rest the notion that HM didn't get on with our first woman prime minister?

Thatcher confided to a friend of mine involved in the story that the row had knocked nine points off her poll ratings, ‘but it stopped any  further briefing against me from  the Palace’.

So why would the Queen, against precedent, attend Thatcher’s unwanted ‘state’ funeral if she found her divisive and not unifying? Like many aspects of our constitutional monarchy, it’s mysterious. On the other hand, perhaps there’s less in this row than meets the eye, as Dorothy Parker once said of a  pretentious play.

Meanwhile, Ken Livingstone says that a statue of Thatcher should not be put on Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth because it has been reserved for the Queen.

Ken Livingstone said that the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square has been reserved for the Queen and so can not be used for a statue of Thatcher

‘Red Ken’ blurts this out on the BBC TV comedy show Have I Got News For You?, saying it was something he’d heard while mayor of London.

Does the Queen really want a statue of herself in Trafalgar Square? I don’t know. But any suggestion that she does is enough to prevent Thatcher occupying the fourth plinth. And getting above herself again.

The former Tory leader, the winner of three General Elections, won’t  be having a state funeral like  Winston Churchill.

      More from Peter McKay...   In 70 years, have we gone from the greatest to the weakest? Silly spats prove how weak our leaders are 19/05/13   Is Cameron readying his lifeboat like Blair? 12/05/13   Don't panic yet, Dave. It's Red Ed who should be worried... 05/05/13   Sir, we are charging you with being a celebrity... 28/04/13   Will one of our cities be next to face 'lockdown'? 21/04/13   Ed needs a dose of the old Blair snake oil 07/04/13   Labour's addiction to welfare hurts us all 31/03/13   Now Dave's 'dog whistle' guru is calling the tunes 24/03/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The reason, it’s explained to us, is that she was ‘divisive’ while Churchill was ‘a unifying figure during one of the gravest moments in British history’. That’s bunk.

As her friend Simon Heffer pointed out in Saturday’s Mail, Churchill also divided opinion sharply, by using troops (not just police) to subdue protesting coal miners. And he infuriated trades unionists by breaking the 1926 General Strike.

Divisive means ‘causing or tending to cause disagreement or dissension’. Trying to govern a country usually involves disagreement and dissension. (Except in places such as North Korea, of course, where they are  punishable by death.)

For their part, Labour’s Harold  Wilson and his successor as PM, James Callaghan, caused enormous disagreement and dissension, while bankrupting the country and causing strikes which left the dead unburied and the streets piled high with  rotting rubbish.

Describing their policies as ‘divisive’ would be an understatement. The truth is that they closed more coal mines than Thatcher. Also, the Labour governments from 1997 to 2010 — even Gordon Brown’s — were guided overwhelmingly in their economic policies by her example, not Wilson’s.

So forget ‘divisive’ Thatcher. The real reason why she’s hated is because she was the daughter of a grocer, climbed to the top of the political greasy pole and appeared thereafter to ape the beliefs, attitudes and even the accent of her betters.

Dying in the Ritz, the guest of its wealthy owners, will have said it all for those who think Thatcher got above herself.

So will the fact that she planned for herself a state funeral in all but name and left us with a rumpus over where her statue should be sited.

She didn’t appreciate the fact  that, outside her bubble, those who resented her new airs and graces were plotting her downfall. She’d got above herself, poor girl.

Lady Thatcher’s selection of I Vow To Thee My Country for her funeral is a more ambiguous choice of ‘patriotic hymn’ than you might imagine. It’s from a poem written by Eton and Balliol-educated Sir Cecil Spring-Rice (1859-1918), but nowhere in the three verses is the ‘country’ identified as Britain. Spring-Rice said: ‘I am an Irishman, you see, that’s what expresses me.’ He was a cousin of the Irish Republican  gun-runner, Mary Spring-Rice.

Jane Seymour has separated from her fourth husband

The news that actress Jane  Seymour, 62, has parted from her fourth husband, actor-director James Keach, is broadcast by fellow thespian Richard E Grant.

He tweets: ‘Jane Seymour is Solitaire again [a reference to  her Bond role] after her fourth marriage goes Up The Khyber.  What can we do for her? It’s like  an Agatha Christie. Who’s next?  I’m worried …’

How ungallant, portraying Ms Seymour as a predatory woman. Grant should wash out his mouth with soap.

A friend of Jane’s is quoted as describing the bearded Keach  as ‘a very charismatic man, but he’s a flirt and has a wandering eye. They’ve been having trust issues . . .

Trust issues? How poignant. Jane said after their marriage in 1993: ‘We got our happy ending, which is all that matters.’

A smaller spoonful of SugarBusiness tycoon Alan Sugar says winning the constructive dismissal case brought against him by Apprentice winner Stella English is a victory against our compensation culture and vows to crusade against ‘ambulance- chasing lawyers’.

All power to him on that score, but I wonder if  the BBC ought to have a re-think over The Apprentice.

Contestants are warned, the tribunal was told, that if they win the contest and get a job with his organisation, Lord Sugar won’t be their line manager and they would rarely see him.If viewers were told the same, wouldn’t that damage further the credibility of the show.

Lord Sugar heralded the tribunal's decision as a victory against Britain's compensation culture

The Princess Diana Memorial Fund has  been exposed by this newspaper as having been hijacked by Left-wingers to fund ‘pro-immigration propaganda’. But it seems to have been hijacked by lawyers long before.

We may wonder why this wasn’t anticipated by its first chairman, lawyer Anthony Julius, who negotiated the Princess’s divorce. His own company, Mishcon de Reya, charged the fund £500,000 in 1998.

The awful, smirking showbiz type Simon Cowell is in the newspapers again. Meaning he must have a show to publicise.

'I’d love to have a family,’ he says to one of them.  ‘I’d love to father a girl,’ he tells another.

Simon Cowell has told the media he would like to start a family

Or, own a dog with three legs, he informs a third.

What’s stopping him, we may wonder. Other than his present, so-called life. But mustn’t be too unkind.

The late Michael  Jackson’s 15-year-old daughter, Paris (by ‘birth mother’ Debbie Rowe) shows off her ‘edgy, bold new look’ for photographers, chopping off her hair and dyeing the tips red with food colouring before prancing in a stage-costume while brandishing a guitar.

I suppose it was unrealistic to hope weird, dope-addicted Jackson’s children wouldn’t launch themselves into the disgusting pit of showbiz.

Princess Marie Marguerite Fahmy, French wife of late Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey of Egypt

Marguerite’s bottom line?Marguerite Alibert, the sexy but ‘utterly loathsome’ lover (in 1917) of Edward, Prince of Wales, then 23, was said to be expert in bed and in parting rich men from large quantities of money.

But she came a cropper after marrying a rich, Egyptian playboy called Ali Kamel Fahmy bey, who splashed out on women, boats and gambling — and expected  the women to do as they were told.

Marguerite complained of his love-making style, which she described to Noel Coward as ‘par la derriere’.

In 1923, in their suite at the Savoy Hotel, London, she shot him dead, but was acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey.

The story is the subject of Andrew Rose’s new book, The Prince, The Princess And The Perfect Murder. I can’t get over Marguerite complaining to Noel Coward, of all people, about Ali’s unorthodox canoodling habit.

Labour’s money worries

Labour leader Ed Miliband has secured a pledge of up to £1 million from property developer Andrew Rosenfeld, who lived in Swiss tax exile after making an estimated £100 million.

In 2008, he gave the party £1 million and then more than £500,000 last year. It’s reckoned he’s overtaken Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling as the party’s biggest donor, apart from the trades unions.

Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls sneer about the supposed Tory reliance on millionaires, but where would they be without their own Daddy Big Bucks, Mummy Big Bucks and Big Union Bucks? They can expect their finances to be subjected to a forensic probe before the General Election.

The Tories don’t have the answers to all of life’s problems, but they usually know who has the money, where they’re spending it and why.