Margaret Thatcher dies: The woman who saved Britain - verdict of 3 historians

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Britain was on its knees on May 3, 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister. Ever since World War II, politicians had made it their priority to manage what they considered to be its inevitable decline.

Mrs Thatcher was having none of that. Her priority was to make Britain powerful again, economically, if not strategically. And by 1983 — the end of her first term — it was clear she had succeeded.

It is hard to exaggerate the pitiful state of Britain in the Seventies. The reckless economic policy of Mrs Thatcher’s predecessor as Tory leader, Ted Heath, who between 1970 and 1974 printed money as though it were going out of fashion, had left a legacy of high inflation, peaking at 27 per cent in 1975.

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Mrs Thatcher's priority was to make Britain powerful again, economically, if not strategically. And by 1983 - the end of her first term - it was clear she had succeeded

But the Labour administrations of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan between 1974 and 1979 made things even worse. 

Wilson began by buying off trades unions with budget-busting pay rises and implemented a programme of food and housing subsidies that owed more to the Soviet bloc than to a supposedly western economy.

Jim Callaghan succeeded him in April 1976 and continued to spend money the country did not have. 

A refusal to accept that Britain could not spend its way out of trouble led to the International Monetary Fund having to rescue the country from bankruptcy in the autumn of 1976. The severe spending cuts the IMF ordered in return for its financial assistance aggravated relations between the Labour government and its notional supporters in the trade union movement.

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Led in those days by hard Leftists such as Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers Union, militant workers were more than happy to strike recklessly and at will.

Labour was still wedded to the concept of nationalised industries. British Leyland, famed for turning out ugly, rust-bucket cars, went bankrupt in 1975, partly because of the shoddy quality of its products, partly because its productivity and competitiveness were wrecked by its militant workforce.

Leyland was split into four divisions and its strike-plagued Longbridge plant was refitted at the massive cost of £140 million — equivalent to £1 billion today. 

The cars still failed to sell, proving that the state was appalling at running industries.

Mrs Thatcher's predecessor as Tory leader, Ted Heath, who between 1970 and 1974 printed money as though it were going out of fashion, had left a legacy of high inflation, peaking at 27 per cent in 1975

The other big nationalised industries — coal, steel, power and the railways — were overmanned, heavily subsidised, unable to compete internationally and a drain on the taxpayer. The phones were nationalised, too, and it could take six months to get a line installed. Without a serious restructuring of the economy, Britain would not only never join the modern world — it would go bust.

Things were grim for the private sector. The top rate of tax on earned income was 83 per cent, which drove thousands of the best and brightest abroad. 

It was an astonishing 98 per cent on unearned income, such as dividends, which prevented many people from investing in industry. Starved of investment, industry became ever more sclerotic.

The private sector was also held hostage by the unions. From 1976 a dispute had been running for two years at Grunwick, a London photo-processing laboratory, over the management’s refusal to recognise unions. 

It came to symbolise the struggle between management and unions in pre-Thatcherite Britain.

Jim Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson in April 1976 and continued to spend money the country did not have

Paralysed by strikes: In 1979, rubbish went uncollected in many cities (London's Leicester Square pictured), creating an image of rat-infested squalor and chaos that was beamed around the world

Grunwick was a small company, but the dispute became a flashpoint between the Left and Right, with Marxist supporters of the union members questioning the owners’ right to run their company the way they wanted. There were endless confrontations and clashes on its picket line, and the nation was divided over it. However, in the end the House of Lords upheld the management’s right not to recognise unions among its workforce. 

It was the start of the turn of the tide for the union movement, but its most destructive acts were yet to come.

By the winter of 1978-79, the public sector unions — accounting for more than a quarter of the workforce — were petitioning the Callaghan government for massive pay rises, but these were vetoed in accordance with the Labour government’s prices and incomes policy.

Callaghan wanted pay rises limited to 5 per cent in the public and private sector. He threatened sanctions on companies that broke the guidelines, only to find that Ford awarded their workers 17 per cent late in 1978. The unions renewed their unaffordable demands.

The Callaghan government lost a vote of confidence on March 28, 1979, and a general election was called

Lorry drivers — including those employed by oil companies and members of the TGWU — demanded a 40 per cent pay rise. The Army had to be placed on standby in case fuel supplies could not be moved.

From January 3, 1979, an unofficial strike of the drivers began and petrol stations started to close across the country. 

Flying pickets — politically motivated militants who toured the country looking for workers to intimidate — turned drivers away at oil refineries. 

Regulations for a state of emergency had to be drawn up, its implementation averted only when the TGWU agreed to a list of essential supplies that they would allow to be moved.

Eventually their demands were settled with a 20 per cent rise. Meanwhile, fearing they would be left behind, public sector workers organised the biggest day of industrial action since the 1926 general strike.

On January 22, 1979, the country was paralysed by a rail strike. NHS employees worked to rule. Ambulance drivers went on strike, with the Army again having to be called in to deal with emergency cases.

But the wave of strikes achieved their greatest notoriety in the actions of local government employees. 

Rubbish went uncollected in many cities, creating an image of rat-infested squalor and chaos that was beamed around the world.

Most infamous of all was the unofficial strike of gravediggers in Liverpool, which led to the dead going unburied and coffins piling up. 

In February 1979, when asked what would happen if the strike was not settled, the city’s chief medical officer suggested that the authorities would have to consider burial at sea.

The Callaghan government lost a vote of confidence on March 28, 1979, and a general election was called. Against the background of militancy the previous winter, Mrs Thatcher made reform of the unions and the removal of their legal immunities central to her campaign. 

None of this was reported by the so-called paper of record, the Times — it was closed down for a year while its workers went on strike.

Restructuring the economy: When Mrs Thatcher won office she delivered on her promises. Unions were forced to be democratic - no longer could they call strikes without a ballot of their members

When Mrs Thatcher won office she delivered on her promises. Unions were forced to be democratic — no longer could they call strikes without a ballot of their members. Flying pickets were made illegal.

Having emasculated the unions by bringing them within the law, Mrs Thatcher was able to proceed with the strategy of restructuring the economy and dragging Britain into the late 20th century. 

By 1983, when she faced re-election — after the small matter of the Falklands War — she had won her richly deserved accolade as a transformative prime minister. 

Unelected union leaders no longer dictated the terms of the political debate in Britain. For the first time since the Thirties, managers truly did have the right to manage.

Our money was sound again, thanks to her refusal to fund a client state in the way her Labour — and Conservative — predecessors had. 

As a result of all this, not only was our country transformed in four short years, but also our standing in the world and our ability to believe in ourselves.

  Greatest women's libber of them allBy Amanda Foreman 

They say a prophet is never recognised in their own land. Perhaps only now Lady Thatcher has died will her true worth as the most influential woman of the 20th century finally be acknowledged.

More than the Queen, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie or Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Thatcher proved to the entire world that a woman is the equal of a man.

The real Thatcher legacy — the one that will last for ever — has been the liberation of women from the shackles of male chauvinism.

When Margaret married Denis Thatcher in 1951, it was inconceivable a woman would be elected to the highest office in the land. Britain was a country run by men, largely on behalf of men, with women in supporting roles

When Margaret Roberts married Denis Thatcher in 1951, it was inconceivable a woman would be elected to the highest office in the land. For that matter, in Fifties Britain, it was inconceivable that a woman would do a host of things, including arranging her own mortgage, controlling her fertility or receiving equal pay for equal work.

Britain was a country run by men, largely on behalf of men, with women in supporting roles. There were no women ambassadors, judges or life peers. Nor were there women newsreaders, airline pilots, brain surgeons or bankers.

Thatcher was not entirely alone when she entered Parliament in 1959 at the age of 34. There were two dozen women out of 629 MPs.

But she was unique in being a mother of six-year-old twins. She had struggled for a decade to get to Westminster and once there she had to work hard to survive, trying — not always successfully — to achieve balance between home life and high office.

Thatcher was unique in being a mother of six-year-old twins. She had struggled for a decade to get to Westminster and once there she had to work hard to survive, balancing home life and high office

At the beginning of her career, she wanted to tackle issues affecting women that she felt were deeply unfair, but soon came to realise discussing anything ‘woman-related’ was disastrous for her credibility.

As a newly elected MP, she expressed outrage at the way pensions were skewed against working widows and that women must pay for the cost of childcare out of their post-tax earnings.

She tried to get her colleagues to listen, but reluctantly gave up the cause when it became obvious that her efforts were destined to fail.

Throughout the Sixties, as her political confidence grew, Thatcher made it her mission to show she was not only as good as the man standing next to her but better.

The first time Thatcher showed what she was capable of was as a junior minister in the Treasury during a debate on state pensions.

In 1970, Thatcher had broken the unwritten rules governing the behaviour of women in the public eye: she was acting like a man and must be taught a lesson

Her depth of knowledge, the result of hours of painstaking research and preparation, reduced the House to shocked silence. The Speaker had to call out twice before any MP rose to answer her.

Already an outsider because of her sex and class, this display of political prowess did not endear Thatcher to her colleagues. She suffered brickbats that no man in her position would have had to face.

As Education Secretary in 1970, she survived the single most vitriolic and personal campaign ever mounted against a woman politician. Ending free milk for children to release funds to build new schools was the cause celebre. But the anger against her over the ‘Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’ episode morphed into something much more sinister. Thatcher had broken the unwritten rules governing the behaviour of women in the public eye: she was acting like a man and must be taught a lesson.

Scenting blood, the Press, led by The Sun, who labelled Thatcher ‘The Most Unpopular Woman in Britain’, whipped up a hate campaign that spiralled out of control and became violent. At one student meeting she was pelted with rocks. 

Labour cynically encouraged the hysteria. Hoping to drive a wedge through Heath’s Cabinet, Labour MPs tried to hound Thatcher into resigning by barracking her every time she appeared in the Commons. 

Whenever she attempted to speak, they chanted ‘Ditch the B****’ and other humiliating slogans.

Most people, let alone most women, would have thrown in the towel rather than face this onslaught.

But if Thatcher had resigned, it would have sent the message that politics is too rough for women.

Several generations of women, including my own, would have been deprived of their only role model for political success.

Lady Thatcher went on to become the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century. She transformed the political map of Britain in her first two terms and the geo- political map of Europe in her third. 

Today, the idea that a woman can lead a democracy is so commonplace that people assume it was an inevitable development of modern society rather than the result of the enormous courage and tenacity of one woman.

  How terror stalked her every hourBy Ruth Dudley Edwards

Margaret Thatcher was still five weeks away from being Prime Minister when terrorists murdered one of her closest friends and colleagues.

In March 1979, the Irish National Liberation Army, a Northern Irish Marxist republican terrorist group, blew up the war hero, Airey Neave, her Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and one of her confidants, as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park. Privately, she was devastated; publicly, she was unbowed.

‘He was one of freedom’s warriors,’ she said, and vowed to ‘carry on for the things he fought for and not let  the people who got him triumph’.

Devastated: In March 1979, the Irish National Liberation Army, a Northern Irish Marxist republican terrorist group, blew up the war hero, Airey Neave, Thatcher's Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The loss of Neave was the first of many tragedies caused by terrorism that Thatcher would meet unflinchingly. In August in the same year, the IRA struck at the monarchy, when Lord Mountbatten, uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh and mentor of Prince Charles, was assassinated with three others while sailing near his holiday home in the Republic of Ireland.

On the same day, 16 members of the Parachute Regiment and two of the Queen’s Own Highlanders were murdered in Northern Ireland.

Violence would be a constant backdrop in her premiership — just four months before its end she would lose another ally when Ian Gow MP died in an IRA car bomb. But there was no chance Thatcher would compromise with those who bullied or threatened her or her country.

Violence would be a constant backdrop in Thatcher's premiership - just four months before its end she would lose another ally when Ian Gow MP died in an IRA car bomb

The terrorists’ objective was to break her will and force her to give concessions to republicans which would ultimately lead to a united Ireland. All they achieved was the hardening of her heart.

Global pleas in 1981 to give political status to Irish hunger-striking prisoners elicited the response: ‘Crime is crime is crime; it is not political’. Ten prisoners from the IRA and INLA would die.

An unintended consequence of the threats and violence from Northern Ireland during this time was to toughen up Thatcher and strengthen her inner warrior queen, her inner Churchill.

This became apparent a year later when Argentina invaded the Falklands in April 1982. The issue to her was clear-cut in terms of right and wrong, good and evil, and she faced down the doubters and dispatched the fleet.

For Irish republicans, on the side of Argentina, her victory accentuated their loathing. She is ‘the biggest bastard  we’ve ever known’, said one of their spokesmen, and they redoubled efforts to force changes in British policy.

Two bombs in London on the same day in July 1982 blew up four members of the Blues and Royals Household Cavalry and seven of their horses in Hyde Park, and seven bandsmen from the Royal Green Jackets in Regent’s Park as they performed a lunchtime concert at an open-air bandstand.

The English public had endured terror attacks from 1973, and these would continue long after Thatcher left No 10. But in her time in office it was personal: the IRA was obsessed with avenging the hunger strikers by murdering her.

In October 1984, they bombed her hotel during the Conservative Party conference. Miraculously, she and her husband Denis escaped without serious injury. Though good people did die, it succeeded only in strengthening her.

At 4am, leaving the devastated building, Thatcher told the BBC that the conference would carry on.

And at 9.30 that morning, after saying that the bombers had sought ‘to cripple Her Majesty’s democratically elected Government’, she added: ‘The fact that we are gathered here now — shocked, but composed and determined — is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.’

The wider public might not always have agreed with Thatcher's political ideology, but they admired her resolution, courage and self-belief

The IRA claimed responsibility and said to her: ‘Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war.’But she never showed any fear. In much the same way, she never allowed it to show how her hurt she was by the protests from the Unionist community (including burning effigies of herself) that marked the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. She later regretted signing the accord.

The miners’ strike was in full swing at the time of the Brighton bomb, and many on the Left regretted — and still regret — that the IRA had been unlucky. But once again, the wider public rallied to her as they had over the Falklands. They might not always have agreed with her political ideology, but they admired her resolution, courage and self-belief.

A few days after the bombing, she told her constituents: ‘We suffered a tragedy not one of us could have thought would happen in our country. And we picked ourselves up and sorted ourselves out as all good British people do, and I thought, let us stand together for we are British! 

‘They were trying to destroy the fundamental freedom that is the birth-right of every British citizen, freedom, justice and democracy.’

For that defiance in the face of terrorism and tyranny, Lady Thatcher deserves our admiration, our gratitude and her state funeral.

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The nasty side of Labour that proves it's unfit to govern

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Tony Blair’s broadside in the New Statesman magazine against Ed Miliband for being out of touch with mainstream opinion could not be more timely, given the distasteful, ungenerous and unChristian attacks on Lady Thatcher by so many on the Left.

In his article, the former Prime Minister identified one key reason for the Labour Party’s current failings: its bovine adherence to the out-of-date and dangerous policies that were destroying Britain before Mrs Thatcher became Premier.

Blair understands how her brave and imaginative ideas rescued the country by destroying the power of the unions, encouraging aspiration — and helping to liberate millions of people from state control.

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He appreciates that Lady Thatcher understood the values of the British nation — a people inherently conservative and who abhor the undemocratic, anti-aspirational aspects of socialism.

He can see, too, that Miliband is reverting to old Labour ways — and panders to the Left who so hated Lady Thatcher for destroying their power base and keeping their party in opposition for 18 years.

The Labour leader’s incessant whingeing about ‘the cuts’ is intended to please the old Left and the union barons who elected him. But because he does not offer any solutions to the problem of the debt engulfing Britain, he is reducing Labour to being merely a party of protest as opposed to a responsible alternative government.

Blair appreciates that Lady Thatcher understood the values of the British nation - a people inherently conservative

What’s more, the vulgar rage of the past few days has exposed  the deeply ugly side of this old-style socialism that Blair is warning about — a shameful lack  of humanity.

I’m not talking about those ignorant teenagers (who weren’t even born when Mrs Thatcher rebuilt this country) who are buying the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead. No, it is a rump of Labour MPs and peers who are insulting her memory.

These men and women must never be allowed to forget that they were defeated by Lady Thatcher in three general elections, through the democratic process.

Bilious: Glenda Jackson during Thatcher tributes in the Commons

Equally galling for them is that they realise Labour won in 1997 only because the Labour Party chose as its leader a virtual  conservative — Mr Blair.

He recognised the genius of Mrs Thatcher’s transformation of Britain and accepted her new anti-socialist consensus.

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Thus he ditched the socialist nonsense of Clause Four with its commitment to public ownership. He also rejected his party’s support for penal levels of taxation. In this way he made Labour electable again.

But when the Labour government under Gordon Brown returned to its old, discredited policies after 2007, it paid the price — as it did in 1979 — for running Britain into the ground.

Mr Miliband and his shadow ministers still fail to understand the values and aspirations of Britain’s hard-working families. This failing is combined with a meanness of spirit.

You have only to examine the behaviour of John Prescott, who cheered Glenda Jackson for her bilious attack on Lady Thatcher, or Lord Kinnock (a man whose absurdity was exposed by his acceptance of a peerage after a lifetime of demanding that the House of Lords be abolished) who has grandstanded his refusal to attend her funeral.

Of course, there are those on the Left who have behaved decently following the death of a political rival. But their obnoxious colleagues have shown yet again which is the real nasty party.

Not only have the Left’s moral and political limitations been exposed by the death of Lady Thatcher, the Right has been discomfited, too. Many Tory donors are preparing to give money to Ukip because it embraces a Thatcherite agenda. There is a lesson for David Cameron from Lady Thatcher: Elections aren’t won by being liked, but by getting voters to respect you and your convictions.

This youth post madness

How absurd that public money was to be used to pay part of the salary of a coarse and poorly educated teenage girl to represent the views of ‘youth’ to the police.

Thankfully, she has resigned following the disclosure of odious remarks she made on social media sites about issues such as drug-taking and promiscuous sex.

But this story highlights another madness. Five months after they were elected, has any police commissioner actually achieved anything — other than to spend yet more of the public’s money?

This week, a court in Indonesia upheld the death sentence imposed on British drug-smuggler Lindsay Sandiford. The country takes drug crime very seriously, as Sandiford knew very well. Therefore, I hope our Foreign Secretary will not humiliate himself and Britain by begging for her to have special treatment. It is not our place to tell another country what laws it should or should not have.

It's time more knights fell on their swords

James Crosby, an architect of the collapse of HBOS, has set a refreshing precedent by giving up a third of his annual £580,000 pension and asking for his knighthood to be revoked. We await similar sacrifices by his partners in mischief, former chairman Lord Stevenson (a friend of Peter Mandelson) and former chief executive Andy Hornby. Meanwhile, shouldn’t some other undeserved knights do the same? None is less deserving than ‘Sir’ David Nicholson, who presided over the Mid-Staffordshire health scandal and now runs the NHS.

James Crosby has offered to hand back his knighthood

Scottish nationalists say that if Scotland ever becomes independent, they would want to retain the Bank of England as the country’s lender of last resort. What a cheek! If their economy sank — as it might — the liability should not fall on England’s central bank. It reveals, I suspect, their fears that Scotland could go belly up after any divorce from England. What about their old slogan of Scotland ‘Independent in Europe’ — which would mean joining the euro and answering to the European Central Bank?

Sir Winston Churchill was divisive and was hated by many, as well as adored

Winston had enemies, too

How absurd for people to complain that the Queen decided to attend Lady Thatcher’s funeral. They said it was natural for her go to Churchill’s in 1965, because he was not ‘divisive’. What?

Tell that to people in South Wales, especially in Tonypandy, who still loathe him because he sent troops to quell colliery protests in 1910; or to the TUC, who hated him for breaking the general strike in 1926; or to those who suffered because of his disastrous Dardanelles campaign as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915.

Churchill and Mrs Thatcher had much in common. Both were great, both divided opinion, both made mistakes, both saved their country, and both deserved high honours in death.

Desperate to find ways of staying solvent, Greece is demanding £138 billion from Germany in reparations for pillaging the country in World War II. They may have a point, though I suspect German taxpayers have already pumped more than that into Greece in recent years. Even with such a sum, the Greeks would still be £175 billion short of paying off their debt. I wonder what Portugal might do to find a rescue package. They can’t go begging to Berlin because Hitler never reached Lisbon.






SIMON HEFFER: The week he woke up to the folly of the modernisers

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Normal politics is slowly resuming after the death of Lady Thatcher, and things are looking pretty grim for her old party. Tories canvassing ahead of the local government elections on Thursday week indicate they will be thrashed.

Although Labour will score some big wins, the Conservatives' most worrying threat comes from Ukip. Right across the South of England, traditional Tory voters are turning to the fringe party, attracted by its Thatcherite policies.

While its anti-Europeanism is a major factor (particularly considering the prospect of a new, uncontrolled influx of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria in the new year), UKIP is also offering more grammar schools, lower taxes, tougher public spending cuts, fewer wind farms and more defence funding.

David Cameron is under increasing pressure to embark on a radical, more Thatcherite agenda

Indeed, UKIP leader Nigel Farage mischievously claimed this week that his party would never have been formed in 1993 if Margaret Thatcher had not been kicked out as Tory leader.

An opinion poll also showed that the Tories would be much more popular today if she were still in charge.

Of course, this is deeply depressing for David Cameron, who is under increasing pressure to change course and embark on a radical, more Thatcherite agenda.

One of the influential voices urging a change of direction is the party's chief election guru, Lynton Crosby, an Australian pollster with a long record of success and reliable instincts about voters' concerns.

He is rightly worried about the number of traditional Tories who've become disaffected by the so-called 'modernising' agenda, with policies such as the legalisation of same-sex marriages.Any change of direction, though, won't be in time to stop the Tories' expected humiliation in next month's local elections. But it could reap dividends at the next general election.

The Thatcherite doctrine of letting hard-working families keep more of their own money must be adopted

Mr Crosby understands the importance of the party following Lady Thatcher's lead and reconnecting with working-class voters.

It can only do this by being the champion of aspiration - something that Labour, with its addiction to the Welfare State, will never be.

If, as expected, the Tories lose as many as 600 council seats on May 2, the calls for change will be unstoppable.

As a result, Mr Cameron would have to consider holding his promised referendum on Britain's membership of the EU as soon as possible, rather than waiting until 2017 or 2018.

He should also offer more incentives to the lower-paid by raising the threshold at which they start paying tax from nearly £10,000 (where it is now) to £15,000.

The Thatcherite doctrine of letting hard-working families keep more of their own money must be adopted. Iain Duncan Smith's recent brave welfare reforms should also be extended. Tactically, too, Mr Cameron must change tack. It's idiotic for him to attack UKIP supporters as 'fruitcakes' when, in truth, they are natural Tory supporters.

To avoid suffering any big electoral defeats, David Cameron must rein in the pernicious influence of the party's modernisers. And he needs to do that fast.

  Payback time for fraud Lord

It has been reported that disgraced Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, jailed for fiddling his Parliamentary expenses, shamelessly took £21,000 in Lords' attendance allowances plus £1,736 in expenses in the eight months after being released from prison. Yet he did not speak in a single debate nor table a single question.Meanwhile, I hear that Essex County Council is struggling to recover £286,000 worth of expenses from him that he incurred while council leader because ... he doesn't have enough money. Surely, that £21,000 of taxpayer-funded Lords attendance allowance could be repaid as a start.

The country owes a big debt to the man who was Lady Thatcher's private secretary in the last years of her life. Mark Worthington devoted himself to her over two decades, visiting her almost daily and running her office in the House of Lords. Churchill's private secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, was knighted for services to his country. Mr Worthington's service has been longer and more arduous. I hope David Cameron will ensure his devotion is properly recognised.

Change of heart After the Boston Marathon bombs, I couldn't help but recall when influential people donated to Noraid

After this week's Boston Marathon bombs, I couldn't help but recall a visit I made to the city nearly 20 years ago.

There I met countless influential people who saw nothing wrong with donating money to the  pro-IRA fundraising organisation Noraid, at a time when Irish terrorists were killing men, women and children all over the UK.

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That money dried up after 9/11, when America realised terrorism was not so glamorous after all.

First, politicians want to muzzle the Press and end freedom of speech in Britain. Now we learn that some of the pressure groups campaigning for such totalitarianism are receiving European Union funds.

The EU has long hated freedom of speech - threatening to stop the pensions of former employees who criticise it, sacking whistleblowers and even punishing MEPs who make anti-European remarks. It's another example of the anti-democratic nature of the EU that we must avoid here.

Just cool it, guv

The IMF, which has behaved disgracefully with its overtly political intervention to shore up the euro, seems to be regaining a bit of sense.

It has warned countries, notably the U.S., that quantitative easing - printing extra money to try to kick-start economic growth - could trigger another credit crisis of the sort that brought the global economy to its knees five years ago.

I hope Mark Carney, the incoming Bank of England governor, is listening. He seems to be a fan of quantitative easing - which history proves does not work because it simply bloats the money supply and ultimately risks causing inflation.

Labour has called for a 'debate' on how the country should honour prime ministers when they die. Since no one approaching the stature of Lady Thatcher is likely to die for many decades, I suspect another agenda.

Is Labour afraid that Tony Blair might one day be worthy of a similar ceremony to Lady Thatcher?

Is Labour afraid that Tony Blair, whom many party members loathe as much as Lady T, might one day be thought worthy of a similar ceremony - as the organiser of this week's funeral, Francis Maude, has suggested?

Insult to us all

It was gravely insulting that Barack Obama didn't send a member of his administration to represent America at Lady Thatcher's funeral.

Yes, it was gratifying that three former secretaries of state - James Baker, 82, Henry Kissinger, 89, and George Shultz, 92 - attended. But not to send the present incumbent, John Kerry, or Vice-President Joe Biden was plain rude.

Mr Obama once thought a pile of DVDs was a suitable present for PM Gordon Brown. He needs to learn how to respect an ally - especially as British soldiers frequently sacrifice their lives in America's wars.

This week's unemployment figures were bad, with a 70,000 overall increase. But most worrying was the fact that 20,000 of those are under 25. Youth unemployment - at more than 50 per cent in Spain and nearly 60 per cent in Greece - is tearing apart the social fabric of Europe. George Osborne must  immediately introduce tax incentives for firms to take on young people, such as making the wages of anyone under 25 allowable against corporation tax.




Vote Red Ed, get Red Len as the Labour dinosaurs roar back to life

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The Labour Party would like us to think that, ever since Tony Blair sanitised it nearly 20 years ago, it has been perfectly reasonable, sensible and fit for human consumption.

But Red Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union and the party’s principal paymaster, seems determined to make us revise that view.

In an interview in this week’s New Statesman — which a fortnight ago ran a piece by Mr Blair warning Ed Miliband not to move Left and to stop opposing moderate Coalition policies — Mr McCluskey has let rip.

Mr McCluskey is a copybook hard Leftist. A native of Liverpool, he supported the Militant Tendency at the height of its extremist activities in the Eighties

The roar of the dinosaur, which we imagined extinct by the mid-1980s, echoes again.

Mr McCluskey has just been re-elected leader of his union, and will serve until 2018. This victory, it must be stressed, was based on the backing of just 10 per cent of his members. Although he won 64 per cent of the votes cast, only 15 per cent of the membership bothered to fill in a ballot.

Militant

His re-election, he says in rather garbled syntax, ‘sends a message to the Government that I’m going to be here up to and beyond the next election, so any promises and any issues that we’re seeking from them [the Labour Party] will be implemented if they get into power’.

Unite — which absorbed the notoriously militant Transport & General Workers’ Union in 2007 — accounts for a massive 28 per cent of Labour’s funding. Its votes ensured Ed Miliband became leader in 2010 rather than his brother David, who had the most support among MPs and constituency party members.

It manifestly wants, and expects, considerable bang for its bucks.

With Mr Miliband already weak after some serious misjudgments he needs Mr McCluskey's intervention like the proverbial hole in the head

Red — or, as I like to call him,  Prehistoric — Len also hints that he and his union are prepared to ignore any reluctance by the Trades Union Congress to call a general strike (the first since 1926).

He is, he says, willing to talk to other unions about ‘anything else they might wish to do, over and above the collective decision of the TUC.’

Like union barons of old, he supports democratic decisions so long as he agrees with them.

Mr McCluskey is a copybook hard Leftist. A native of Liverpool, he supported the Militant Tendency at the height of its extremist activities in the Eighties. He also describes Thatcherism as ‘an evil creed’ and the funeral accorded the great prime minister (and attended by Ed Miliband) as ‘distasteful in the extreme’.

In his interview, he disparages Tony Blair who, unlike any other leader of his party, won three consecutive general elections, and warns Mr Miliband to ignore him. He also advises him to avoid supporting public spending cuts, or face losing the next election.

Protestors from the union in 2010. Unite - which absorbed the notoriously militant Transport & General Workers' Union in 2007 ¿ accounts for a massive 28 per cent of Labour¿s funding

Much more threateningly, he also informs his leader — his placeman, in effect — that if he carries on consorting with Blairites, and having some in his shadow cabinet, ‘then the truth is that he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history’.

He chillingly suggests the union might withdraw its support of Labour if it fails to act as ‘the authentic voice of ordinary working people’, effectively blackmailing Mr Miliband with the threat of removing almost a third of his party’s funding.

      More from Simon Heffer...   Why Drummer Rigby's killers should be charged with treason 24/05/13   The ugly truth is a smug Tory elite has sneered at the party faithful for decades 21/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: A serious contender? The grey man who could be David Cameron's nemesis 17/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: Think they can't axe David Cameron? Don't bet on it 10/05/13   The gentle giant of British cinema: If he'd been a Yank, he'd have won Oscars galore. If he'd been a Leftie, he'd have been knighted. Why Bryan Forbes was a cruelly unsung genius 10/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: There's only one way for Dave to stub out Farage 03/05/13   Could he trigger a snap general election? 26/04/13   SIMON HEFFER: The week he woke up to the folly of the modernisers 19/04/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

With Mr Miliband already weak after some serious misjudgments — such as his failure to correct his party’s perceived support for a lavish welfare state after the imprisonment of benefits scrounger Mick Philpott, who killed six of his children, or to control the deeply offensive response of some high-profile Labour figures to Lady Thatcher’s death — he needs Mr McCluskey’s intervention like the proverbial hole in the head.

His spokesmen were quick to dismiss the union boss as a marginal figure, but this is  simply not the case.

It is not merely the vast financial contribution Unite makes to Labour, or the fact that the party’s present leader would not be in his job without the deeply undemocratic union block vote in leadership elections.

It is that trade unions sponsor around 40 per cent of the party’s 258 MPs, and half the Labour candidates already selected to fight the next election are union-sponsored.

Their sponsors can bring heavy pressure to bear on some of them to support the extremist, socialist policies so beloved of Prehistoric Len. Indeed, it was Mr McCluskey who last year called for strikes and ‘civil  disobedience’ during the  London Olympics.

These are policies redolent of the 1983 Labour manifesto drawn up under Michael Foot’s leadership and which Sir  Gerald Kaufman, still a senior Labour MP, described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’.

Any such flavour to the next manifesto would leave Labour struggling for votes, and shut out support in the South of England which it needs to  have any chance of forming a credible administration.

However, the price Labour pays for ignoring the unions is, as Mr McCluskey has suggested, predominantly a financial one. For after Mr Miliband’s election as party leader in 2010, donations from individuals to the party have plummeted.

The Electoral Commission found in 2011 that 91 per cent of the party’s funding came from unions.

The more to the Left Mr Miliband moves — and, presumably in order to placate his paymasters, he signalled earlier this week that his policies would be further Left than those of any leader since Neil Kinnock — the less likely he is to find anyone in the private sector to give his party money.

The truth is that the McCluskey intervention sums up how little has changed in Labour since its dark, wilderness years of the 1980s.

Disruptive

It still speaks mainly for a small, militant but intensely disruptive faction within its own movement that is wildly unrepresentative of the mass of the British people.

Mr Miliband, meanwhile, has a wider problem. It is not just that he owes his place to the unions. In a parliamentary Labour party that is mostly comprised of people who did not vote for him — only 84 backed him in the first round of the 2010 contest and the rest would still probably prefer to vote for someone else in another leadership election — it is hard to discern who his real supporters in Parliament are.

McClusky disparages Tony Blair who, unlike any other leader of his party, won three consecutive general elections, and warns Mr Miliband to ignore him

Ed Miliband who is currently on the campaign trail has the problem that it is hard to discern who his real supporters are in his own party

We all know who the Blairites were, and indeed still are. They see their influence diminishing, which is why some of them, led by Mr Blair himself, have been so vocal in trying to persuade Mr Miliband to re-connect with the centre ground. The alternative is a party in which Mr McCluskey and his friends find their wishes granted — and which faces electoral oblivion.

We also knew who the Brownites were. Some are, indeed, in prominent positions in Mr Miliband’s shadow cabinet, waiting for the next vacancy to occur so they can pursue their ambitions — notably Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, and his wife Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary.

Arrogant Mr McCluskey has just been re-elected leader of his union, and will serve until 2018

But Mr Miliband’s supporters remain the people who propelled him to his present position in 2010 — the unions, and notably the biggest union of them all, Mr McCluskey’s Unite. The only real loyalty the Labour leader owes is to them.

He and his friends can, in their embarrassment at Mr McCluskey’s arrogant and undemocratic intervention, denounce the union baron and protest that he has no influence over what Mr Miliband would do. However, anyone with a memory that stretches back to the 1970s and early 1980s knows how the Labour movement works, and will suspect such a denial is worthless.

When Labour is in opposition — as it is now, and as it was under Michael Foot in the early 1980s — such internal squabbles are simply private grief. It is a different matter when Labour seems to have a chance of office: two years out from the next election, the latest opinion poll gives it a six-point lead over the Conservatives.

As he has warned us, Mr McCluskey will be there waiting for the promises he has extracted to be kept. And it will be the minority of his members who will stand to benefit from such blackmail, and not the hard-working, hard-pressed majority who make up middle Britain.

Because if anyone tries to tell you that a man who provides 28 per cent of Labour’s income, and for whom hardly anyone has the chance to vote, will not succeed in influencing policy, and that his fellow barons who provide the other 60 per cent will also hold back, you would be mad to believe them.






Could he trigger a snap general election?

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According to every opinion poll, the Lib Dems are a shadow of the party that fought the last general election. It now appears only a small number of deluded die-hards are prepared to vote for them — and I suspect even some of these will change their minds.

This is not surprising, considering the views of party leader Nick Clegg, which are completely out of tune with voters.

For example, this week he refused to countenance any temporary withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights to enable the deportation of hate preacher Abu Qatada.

Tipping point? The Coalition is badly split over Abu Qatada

Mr Clegg threatens that if David Cameron pulls out of the convention to allow the extremist Islamist to be sent to Jordan, the Coalition could collapse.

Of course, as a result of the insidious Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, there isn’t due to be a general election until May 2015. But there are possibilities that could mean that one is held much sooner.

For example, Mr Cameron, who has said his ‘blood boils’ over Abu Qatada’s continued presence in Britain, could use this as the perfect opportunity to exploit his Coalition partners’ weakness.

He could resign as Prime Minister over the issue. Ed Miliband would be invited to form his own coalition but if that failed, an election would be called at once.

Mr Clegg threatens that if David Cameron pulls out of the convention to allow the extremist Islamist to be sent to Jordan, the Coalition could collapse

Such a snap election would, in part, be fought over the issue of who really governs Britain — its government or the European Court.

Mr Cameron would undoubtedly ask whether the public wants serious criminals to be allowed to stay here or be kicked out of the country and be handed over to a foreign government that wants to put them on trial.

By forcing an election because of his determination to keep such a grotesque and evil man as Abu Qatada in Britain, Mr Clegg and his Lib Dems would be ridiculed by voters and be consigned to oblivion.

Also, the Tories could exploit Labour’s unreadiness to fight an election.

Mr Cameron, who has said his 'blood boils' over Abu Qatada's continued presence in Britain, could use this as the perfect opportunity to exploit his Coalition partners¿ weakness

Ed Miliband is facing the stirrings of a civil war, with Blairites pillorying him for his lacklustre and unprincipled opposition, and the union chief Len McCluskey demanding he revert to a pure socialist agenda.

      More from Simon Heffer...   Why Drummer Rigby's killers should be charged with treason 24/05/13   The ugly truth is a smug Tory elite has sneered at the party faithful for decades 21/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: A serious contender? The grey man who could be David Cameron's nemesis 17/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: Think they can't axe David Cameron? Don't bet on it 10/05/13   The gentle giant of British cinema: If he'd been a Yank, he'd have won Oscars galore. If he'd been a Leftie, he'd have been knighted. Why Bryan Forbes was a cruelly unsung genius 10/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: There's only one way for Dave to stub out Farage 03/05/13   Vote Red Ed, get Red Len as the Labour dinosaurs roar back to life 25/04/13   SIMON HEFFER: The week he woke up to the folly of the modernisers 19/04/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Also, Mr Miliband has failed to identify with the public mood over the Government’s welfare reforms.

Meanwhile, although the Tories have presided over a pretty poor government, things are starting to improve.

We have avoided a triple-dip recession (just), and the Tories have milked the glorious memory of Lady Thatcher as a staunch Conservative for all it was worth.

The Tories may be weak in the North and almost non-existent in Scotland, but similarly, Labour has failed to make much impact in the South. What’s more, the thought of Mr Miliband moving the party further to the lunatic Left will worry the hundreds of thousands of floating voters.  

Indeed, this week he said his policies would be more Left-wing than those of any leader since Neil Kinnock.

Clearly, the challenge of the next election is the reason behind Mr Cameron’s reorganisation of his circle of advisers.

His Australian pollster Lynton Crosby is busy plotting a strategy to re-connect with the Tories’ disillusioned core vote. Although he is planning for a contest two years ahead, if it happened in four or six weeks, the party could be ready.

As for Mr Clegg, he clearly believes that he will benefit by making threats over the treatment of Abu Qatada. But he is totally misguided.

In truth, he is offering a marvellous opportunity that many Tory MPs would be only too grateful to seize. Ultimately, for Nick Clegg it could turn out to be a suicidal move in what has been a mistake-littered career. Tipping point? The Coalition is badly split over Abu Qatada

So much for EU solidarityHow disgraceful that French President Francois Hollande is trying to cash in on Britain’s stand against human rights abuses in China.  While our trade with the country has declined as a result of such criticism and David Cameron’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet and an enemy of the Chinese state, the Socialist leader of France has gone to China to grovel to the Beijing regime in the hope of drumming up business.

French President Francois Hollande has gone to China in the hope of drumming up business while Britain is taking a stand against the countries human rights record

Isn’t it a wonderful sign of EU ‘solidarity’ that Hollande touts for business with such bullies, rather than supporting his European neighbour in our principled position?

Colonel Bob Stewart, pictured in Bosnia, has said many reservists could not be deployed overseas

Why cut the Army yet give aid to tyrants?

There is growing unrest about the plan to cut 20,000 soldiers from the Army — a fifth of the total — and ‘replace’ them by expanding the Territorial Army by 15,000.

It costs far more to train reservists, and their employers are often reluctant to let them be away from their jobs for up to a year. Colonel Bob Stewart, the Tory MP who led UN troops in Bosnia in the Nineties, has said many reservists could not be deployed overseas.

This being the case, why on earth does the Government think is it more important to use our overseas aid budget to give money to foreign dictators and tyrants rather than spending it to defend our country properly?

Nurses enjoy a well-deserved place in public esteem and should be paid more. However, the behaviour of their trade union, the Royal College Of Nursing (RCN), is unacceptable.

It was idiotic to reject the sensible idea  of ministers that before they qualify,  all new nurses should spend a year washing and feeding patients. Such mindless militancy by teachers’ unions has soiled that profession’s reputation. The RCN should avoid the same mistake.

Why has it taken so long for MEPs to realise the uselessness of the EU foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton? Her Left-wing background (a former vice-chairman of CND) just about qualified her to be a Labour stooge in the House of Lords.

When she retires as a commissioner next year, it is rumoured Nick Clegg might be her replacement. Why do we always send the fool of the family to represent us on the international stage?

Jo Johnson, younger brother to the London Mayor has started in his new role in the No 10 policy unit

A cynical stunt with BoJo’s broDavid Cameron’s choice of Jo Johnson as his policy chief is a cynical stunt. The appointment is a reflection of his obsession with the ambitions of Jo’s unreliable brother Boris Johnson.

I’m surprised posts in No 10 weren’t found for the Mayor of London’s ubiquitous father and sister, too.

Meanwhile, distinguished Right-winger Peter Lilley’s appointment to the policy committee is clearly designed to act as a signal of a return to Thatcherite values. But since Dave has spent seven years as leader ignoring such advice, I doubt he’ll start taking it now.

The International Monetary Fund is half-right that the Chancellor should ease austerity because there are so few signs of growth. But that should not prevent a cut in public spending. This week, however, it was reported that Britain’s annual borrowings of £120 billion fell by just £300 million year-on-year. We aren’t even trying to put ourselves back on track.






Why Bryan Forbes was a cruelly unsung genius - Simon Heffer

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To some film fans, he was an actor of sublime talent. To others, he will be remembered as a writer and director of great insight and psychological power.

What is beyond doubt is that Bryan Forbes, who died this week aged 86, made some of the most intelligent, compelling and thoughtful films in British cinema.

Indeed, it is fair to say he played a role in the industry that possibly only his former business partner Richard Attenborough could rival.

Towering talent: Bryan Forbes with wife Nanette Newman and daughter Sarah in 1960

His best-known films, many of them from the golden age of the black-and-white features in the late Fifties and early Sixties, are still often seen on TV, so enduring is their appeal.

The League Of Gentlemen and Whistle Down The Wind pushed the boundaries of cinema with their style and panache, and are as fresh today as when they were made more than half a century ago.

As with so many careers in films, his had its ups and downs: and the movies he made later in his life sometimes lacked the verve, wit and insight of earlier ones.

But had he been an American, he would have walked off with several Oscars — the Academy is notoriously parochial when recognising achievement — and it was something of a scandal that he was never knighted when so many lesser figures in the British movie industry were, in part due to their Left-wing sympathies.

Forbes had no silver spoon in his mouth, but got where he did on prodigious talent. He was born John Clarke in Stratford, East London, in 1926 and was drawn to acting from childhood.

At West Ham secondary school, as well as being a fan of West Ham United, he was said to be ‘the finest 14-year-old Shylock of his generation’.

It was on the advice of a BBC presenter that he changed his name to Bryan Forbes, and he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Like so many actors of the time, he honed his stage skills in the Army, entertaining the troops as part of the theatre troupe Stars in Battledress.

Almost as soon as he was out of uniform, in 1948, Forbes found his way on to the big screen in the classic The Small Back Room — playing the role of a soldier who dies shortly after being blown up by a small bomb.

Larger roles followed, in films that became part of the legend of the cinema of the Fifties. He acted as a clean-cut young officer in two classic prisoner-of-war films of their time, The Wooden Horse and The Colditz Story.

However, it was as a writer that he made, arguably, his major contribution to the cinema.

He began with another war adventure, The Cockleshell Heroes, in 1955, when he was still only 28.

Based on a true story, it recounted the raid by Royal Marines paddling kayaks to the harbour in Bordeaux to try to blow up German ships.

Forbes understood his own potential as a writer and resented interference with his scripts by the studios which commissioned him, and their unerring ability to make them worse.

Bryan Forbes demonstrates just how a demonstration should go during production of The Madwomen of Chaillot

So in 1959, he and Richard Attenborough formed their own production company, Beaver Films.

This ushered in Forbes’s purple patch as actor and director, but especially as a writer. In the company’s first feature, The Angry Silence, he wrote a mould-breaking story about the poisonous effect of trade union power in a factory.

Starring Attenborough, the film depicts a man sent to Coventry for putting his family above his union.

At a time when the post-war national consensus made enormous concessions to union power, this was considered to be highly provocative.

The film confirmed Forbes’s genius as a writer, and the striking originality of his mind and his willingness to engage with difficult issues.

His next film, released in 1960, could not have been more different, and it still stands as one of the most superlative British comedies: The League Of Gentlemen.

With Jack Hawkins perfectly cast against type as the criminal mastermind, it’s the story of a group of former Army officers — almost all of them cashiered — whom Hawkins’s character summons together to pull off a daring bank raid.

They almost succeed, and the story is told with unforgettable excitement and attention to detail. Hawkins, who had starred in some of the most legendary films ever made, said it was his favourite.

Bryan Forbes, 78, collects his CBE for services to the Arts and the National Youth Theatre, in 2004

Forbes’s wit in his script for The League Of Gentlemen rests in the exploitation of the unexpected. A former officer has run off with the mess funds. But another has been thrown out for unmentionable sexual deviancy and since earned a living as a conman, posing as a vicar.

But perhaps the best joke was Forbes writing a part for his demure,  highly respectable wife as (effectively) a high-class courtesan.

Again, the originality and wit of the script still flashes with brilliance more than 50 years later. For a comedy, it radiated a class not seen since Kind Hearts And Coronets over a decade earlier, and hardly seen since.

Forbes acted in the film, too — as did his second wife, Nanette Newman, whom he married in 1955, having been divorced by the actress Constance Smith four years after their wedding.

By then, he was bursting to try his hand at directing a feature. His opportunity came in 1961 with Whistle Down The Wind, based on a novel by Mary Hayley Bell, wife of the actor John Mills.

However, it nearly didn’t happen. Another director had been agreed upon and the Mills family — whose daughter Hayley was to play the lead in the film — objected when Forbes was chosen as the replacement after their first choice withdrew.

However, the family were won round and, at just 35, Forbes had a stunning directorial debut with the film about three children who hide an escaped convict in a barn when he dupes them into believing he is Jesus Christ.

Forbes directed as though he had been doing it all his life. Nothing could better exemplify his instinctive understanding of the art of cinema.

In his work in the early Sixties, he made a point of striking out in different directions with each new film he made.

And because he had been on both sides of the camera he knew how to get the best from the actors he directed, and how to make a screenplay work.

It was in the Sixties, too, that Forbes went to Hollywood — where he wrote and directed King Rat, about life in a Far Eastern prisoner-of-war camp.

He wrote for some of the leading stars of American cinema, notably Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman Of Chaillot. But the script he considered his best, for Attenborough’s Young Winston, was rejected, to his disappointment.

Conversely, in 1969 his supreme cinematic talent was recognised when he was appointed head of production at Elstree Studios.

The British film industry had had a disastrous decade, with cinema admissions collapsing due to the rise of TV.

The entertainment group EMI bought Elstree — seeing it as a vehicle to revive the industry.

Forbes announced a schedule of new releases, including The Railway Children, but the money they made was insufficient for his financiers. He resigned after two years and tried his luck in Hollywood once more.

There, in 1975, he made movie classic The Stepford Wives, which won him a new generation of admirers. He made other, less distinguished films in America, but in the Eighties turned his hand to the theatre.

Writing, though, remained his prime talent. After the Elstree debacle he  produced two volumes of an autobiography and then embarked on a long career as a novelist, and also ran a bookshop.

Forbes was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the Seventies, which he said made him feel as if he had ‘been given a death sentence’.

He claimed that, with the help of his wife, he was able to control it by cutting gluten from his diet. More recently, however, he said that doctors had eventually admitted he had been misdiagnosed.

He and Nanette Newman were happily married for nearly 58 years, their elder daughter Sarah becoming a journalist and the younger, Emma, a TV presenter. In later life, Forbes’s leading interest was the garden of his Surrey home.

He was a modest, serious man of enormous charm and one of the most versatile and accomplished men ever to work in British cinema.

Last year, in an interview in the Mail, he was asked what the order of service at his funeral might be.

He replied: ‘I’m not very religious, so I’d be happy for family and friends to remember my good bits, scatter my ashes in the garden and plant a tree in my memory.’

Perhaps that wish will now come true, and the ten acres that he and his wife nurtured from a wilderness into a thing of beauty will become his final resting place.



SIMON HEFFER: Think they can't axe David Cameron? Don't bet on it

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These are particularly turbulent times for the Tories. Despite claiming to have learned from the defection of many thousands of their traditional voters to UKIP in the council elections, the party’s leadership has failed to act.

As a result, frustration is boiling over, with many backbenchers in open revolt. It is likely that the Commons Speaker will accept an amendment from them next week that condemns the absence of an in/out referendum on the EU from the Queen’s Speech. 

This will bring divisions into the open and fuel the mood of sedition stoked by party grandees Lord Lawson and Michael Portillo, who have attacked David Cameron for his prevarications on the EU.

Losing voters: Despite claiming to have learned from the defection of many thousands of their traditional voters to UKIP in the council elections, the party's leadership has failed to act

Both men say the PM’s hopes for a renegotiation on Europe either won’t be successful or, if it is, will bring little change. 

They are quite right, and have exposed Mr Cameron’s casual attitude towards reality.

For the truth is that while Europe wasn’t the only reason the Tories did badly and UKIP did well a week ago, it has become emblematic of why core Tory voters are deeply unhappy. They prefer UKIP’s policies: to reduce immigration, taxes, public spending, overseas aid, the number of wind farms and to promote selective education.

  More... Nice but dim: Voters' damning verdict of Ed Miliband who they do not think will take the unpopular decisions that Britain needs Leaving the EU would not be 'cataclysmic' for Britain, Boris Johnson insists as Tories increase pressure on Cameron Rattled Cameron gives MPs free vote on Europe: Tory ministers could vote against their own Queen's Speech

They waited for signs in the Queen’s Speech that the  party might move in a more conservative direction — but were sorely disappointed.

Admittedly, there was no pledge to legislate on homosexual marriage — but there was no red meat to throw to the Tory faithful either. The PM’s supporters argue that his hands are tied by the Lib Dems.

But that excuse, like Tory patience, is wearing thin. Mr Cameron is not, I suspect, in favour of Britain withdrawing from the EU — which increasingly looks likely to be the result of any referendum. 

Many in David's party are realising how his lack of principle and Tory spirit is making it very hard for them to win the next election

And his Leftist foreign aid and anti-new grammar schools policies were formed some years before he established the Coalition.

But then I have long thought Mr Cameron was not really a Conservative. Many in his party, having made excuses for him during his eight years as leader, are increasingly coming to the same view — and realising how his lack of principle and Tory spirit is making it very hard for them to win the next election.

Yet the fact is that this is a broadly conservative country. Almost half the votes cast in the council elections were for the Tories or UKIP. 

It should not be hard for a genuinely conservative party to win an overall majority.

But Mr Cameron does not seem to embrace this mindset with a conservative vision of Britain. 

Party members are especially frustrated by his refusal to hold a referendum on the EU in this parliament, which would undoubtedly take the sting out of UKIP. Here, again, Mr Cameron blames Lib Dem opposition. But hang on a minute — there was only one party before the 2010 election to promise voters such a referendum. And that was the Lib Dems.

So, why have they changed their view and refused to help the Prime Minister of the Coalition — of which they are a partner — to get such a measure through? 

Was his manifesto promise just another monumental lie by Nick Clegg in order to get votes, similar to his lie about  opposing tuition fees for university students?

So why on earth doesn’t Mr Cameron force an early referendum and show voters the arrogance of the Lib Dems and Labour who ignore public opinion on such an important issue.

But in the absence of such a sane approach, brooding discontent is building up among Tories towards their leader. This, I believe, could end in a leadership challenge.

For history proves the Tories are ruthless. If Mr Cameron’s refusal to change policies looks like bringing certain defeat, they will dump him. 

And if they do so, it will happen in the best Tory tradition — suddenly, stealthily and causing the maximum rancour.

  Nigel needs to face facts Nigel Lawson's policy of shadowing the Deutsche Mark in the Eighties when Chancellor was disastrous for Britain with catastrophic results

Nigel Lawson was never a euro-fanatic, like his colleagues Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine. 

However, his policy of shadowing the Deutsche Mark in the Eighties when Chancellor was disastrous for Britain, not least in the encouragement it gave his successor John Major to blackmail Mrs Thatcher into joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1990, with catastrophic results. 

Lord Lawson, like the economist John Maynard Keynes, says that when the facts change, so does he. 

But the facts haven’t changed: rigging an exchange rate was as idiotic then as now, as the eurozone’s implosion proves.

A third of government infrastructure projects are late, over budget or both. Given our disastrous record of managing such things, it is ironic that the Queen’s Speech proposed paving legislation to build the £32 billion high-speed railway between London and Birmingham and carving up some of England’s most beautiful countryside. Why not sort out manageable, smaller transport problems instead?

  Queen CamillaThough the Queen has said she won’t attend this year’s Commonwealth conference, any talk of abdication or a regency is absurd.

Her Majesty is 87 and simply wants to avoid long-haul flights and have the odd day off.

It means more work for Prince Charles and his wife, who deserves a reconsideration of her status. It is ridiculous that she can’t use her husband’s rank and title.

It is time to re-open the debate about making her Princess of Wales and, eventually, Queen.

 

Political anoraks enjoyed the new memoirs of former Labour minister Lord Adonis spilling the secrets of the Coalition negotiations in 2010 — he says Nick Clegg hoped discussions would drag on for months. Why? Did the profoundly fourth-rate Lib Dem leader want to postpone the day he would have to form part of a government — and start breaking promises he had made to voters?

Did the profoundly fourth-rate Lib Dem leader want to postpone the day he would have to form part of a government - and start breaking promises he had made to voters?

  Insult to UKIPIn due course, Lib Dems who lost council seats last week, because of their and their party’s dishonesty and ineptitude, will be appointed to the House of Lords. 

Why, when UKIP — a party that has three times as much support — isn’t offered any life peerages? 

Eating humble pie last week, the PM said Tories should respect those who voted UKIP. 

Shouldn’t this respect extend to giving a party with more than 150 council seats and 11 MEPs a fair representation in the upper house?

  Tough China      More from Simon Heffer...   Why Drummer Rigby's killers should be charged with treason 24/05/13   The ugly truth is a smug Tory elite has sneered at the party faithful for decades 21/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: A serious contender? The grey man who could be David Cameron's nemesis 17/05/13   The gentle giant of British cinema: If he'd been a Yank, he'd have won Oscars galore. If he'd been a Leftie, he'd have been knighted. Why Bryan Forbes was a cruelly unsung genius 10/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: There's only one way for Dave to stub out Farage 03/05/13   Could he trigger a snap general election? 26/04/13   Vote Red Ed, get Red Len as the Labour dinosaurs roar back to life 25/04/13   SIMON HEFFER: The week he woke up to the folly of the modernisers 19/04/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Predictably, scare stories are circulating about Britain losing trade with China as a result of David Cameron’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama — an enemy of the Beijing regime.

China is embarrassed about its vile treatment of his Tibetan people.

But if it wants to stop trade with Britain, it would suffer heavily, given  the scale of our imported Chinese goods.

In any case, I am worried that Mr Cameron has started to cave in — saying Britain recognises Tibet as part of China.

He should stick to his principles and keep supporting Tibet’s demands for autonomy.

Though the Chancellor took a penny in tax off a pint of beer in his Budget, it’s reported that 26 pubs are shutting every week. This threatens a change to our culture because the closure of a village pub tears the heart out of a community, as well as costing jobs. George Osborne must act and introduce tax breaks to protect this way of life.

Scots missed?

However hard he pretends otherwise, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond cannot convince his country-men an independent Scotland could keep the standard of living it enjoys now, with its economy cushioned by English subsidy.

This week it was predicted mortgage rates would rise in an independent Scotland because the cost of servicing the Scottish debt would increase.

Following George Osborne’s suggestion that Scotland could not stay in the sterling zone, the number supporting independence is falling precipitately.

That being so, isn’t it time that the English were asked if they are happy to keep bankrolling Scotland?




SIMON HEFFER: Philip Hammond, a serious contender? The grey man who could be David Cameron's nemesis

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Quiet determination: Behind Mr Hammond's bank-manager-style exterior lies a man of considerable accomplishment

You may not have heard of Philip Hammond — there’s little reason why you should. After all, the Defence Secretary is not the most charismatic politician.

Grey both literally and metaphorically, he has an unfortunate knack of reminding people of John Major. 

In public appearances he is always competent, but often sets new standards for dreariness.

However, behind Mr Hammond’s bank-manager-style exterior lies a man of considerable accomplishment. 

Unlike most of his colleagues, he has  had a proper job — he was a successful businessman in property and manufacturing before joining the Tory front bench, and has made a reputed £9 million fortune.

Some of his friends say that, keenly aware of his own abilities, he harbours a quiet determination to lead his party — which is reason enough to pay particular attention to his public pronouncements at a time when the Tories are facing something close to civil war over Europe.

His announcement last weekend that he would vote to leave the EU were a referendum held now was remarkable for several reasons.

First, any minister who had said such a thing even 12 months ago would have caused an outcry and would probably have lost his job. There is no outcry now because much of the country entirely agrees with such sentiments and Mr Cameron is badly weakened: he won’t come down hard on a minister who is actually in touch with the voters.

Second, Mr Hammond, 57, was responding to an identical and equally surprising statement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. 

A number of Mr Gove’s Cabinet colleagues view him as a certain leadership contender when there is a vacancy, despite his fiercely denying such ambitions, and his own protestation of Euroscepticism confirmed their view.

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Mr Hammond showed himself to be so anxious to match Mr Gove on this question that his fellow MPs now believe he, too, is eyeing the top job.

After all: if John Major could do it, why shouldn’t he?

‘Philip is a proper Tory,’ one of his friends told me. ‘And he is hugely focused.’ He has certainly manoeuvred himself carefully during his party’s recent upheavals, and not just on Europe, in an attempt to make himself as attractive as  possible to mainstream Conservatives.

He didn’t vote for the Same Sex Marriage Bill in February, with the excuse of being abroad on MoD business. He had, however, talked publicly beforehand of his scepticism about gay marriage, deeming it ‘too controversial’ and saying it did too little to protect the right of different religious faiths to refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

Hammond has spoken of his scepticism about gay marriage, deeming it 'too controversial' and saying it did too little to protect the right of different religious faiths to refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies

This was not seen at the time as him positioning himself for the leadership, but rather as a sincere expression of his conscience.

But yesterday Hammond poured salt on his party’s wound on the issue by saying there is ‘a real sense of anger among many people who are married that any government thinks it has the ability to change the definition of an institution like marriage’.

To say that can only be construed as an open challenge to Mr Cameron’s judgment and authority.

Given the mood of the Tory party, it will have done Mr Hammond no harm that Mr Gove not only voted for same-sex unions, but spoke eloquently on the subject, too.

Not that Mr Hammond doesn’t have his critics on the Right. He took over as Defence Secretary after Liam Fox’s resignation in 2011 and promptly implemented manpower cuts, albeit under orders from the Treasury, that many defence experts — and the Tory MPs whom they brief — regard as having left our Armed Forces seriously weakened.

He has been under fire for failing to commit the government to buying enough F-35 fighter jets to equip the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers that are due to come into service in 2020.

Given the mood of the Tory party, it will have done Mr Hammond no harm that Michael Gove not only voted for same-sex unions, but spoke eloquently on the subject, too

However, Mr Hammond has had one success at the MoD. Applying his businessman’s eye to the books, he spotted huge amounts of waste that had escaped the notice of previous secretaries of state. That would be a useful talent to apply more widely in government.

There is no leadership vacancy yet, and neither Mr Hammond — an Oxford-educated engineer’s son — nor Mr Gove will do anything to help create one. But there are grave doubts in the Tory Party about the way the EU referendum discussion is proceeding — via a Private Member’s Bill, because Mr Cameron lacks the guts to make it government policy — and the whole mess could yet end up in a sustained backbench revolt against the leadership.

If it does — and with George Osborne damaged by his troubled stewardship of the economy and Boris Johnson out of the Commons — Mr Hammond, a married father of three, is well placed as a Tory traditionalist candidate.

So if he suddenly orders another clutch of F-35s, take it as a sign he’s a serious contender — and remember he’s brighter and more formidable than John Major ever was.

  King's tarnished legacy There have been plaudits for Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Bank of England governor next month.

But I fear history will regard his strategy of printing money as a disaster of judgment comparable to Churchill returning us to the Gold Standard in 1925, which handicapped us in the Crash of 1929.

Britain has printed £375 billion and used it to buy Government debt, driving down interest rates. 

The inflationary implications of this should terrify all of us. Using part of that £375 billion to fund tax cuts would have been a more effective stimulus, less expensive and far less damaging.

  Who'll back Average Ed? Worrying times: Lord Sainsbury, a minister in the Blair government, has refused to give the party any more millions from his supermarket fortune because Ed Miliband is 'average'

It is shocking enough that 90 per cent of Labour’s income comes from trade unions, but that figure may increase now Lord Sainsbury, a minister in the Blair government, has refused to give the party any more millions from his supermarket fortune because Ed Miliband is ‘average’. Labour voters should be gravely worried that hardly anyone who creates wealth in this country wants to devote any of  it to help Mr Miliband to get  into Downing Street — and, more to the point, to allow the  tax-and-spend maniac Ed Balls to move in next door as Chancellor.

Isn’t it refreshing that young people who have to pay a market rate for their degrees are complaining about inadequate teaching and lack of value for money that their courses represent? Such a financial discipline means bad courses have to get better or die out altogether. It also means the universities that offer poor courses must improve their service or they will risk going under. Mediocrity and Mickey Mouse courses have been tolerated in higher education for too long — all, naturally, subsidised by the state.

The Government says it doesn’t agree with the National Audit Office’s finding there is a £3 billion black hole in the funding of the London to Birmingham high-speed rail link or with its view that the business case for the development is inadequate. But the project is madness. Designed to convince people in the North the Tories are doing something for them, it will achieve nothing of the sort.

Spending some of that money on better roads and local rail links, enterprise zones and new schools would have far faster results.

  Does Brown show Enoch was right?Gordon Brown rose from the political grave this week to join the anti-independence campaign in  Scotland, but reverted to type and attacked the Tories. 

With his devastating inability to understand public opinion, the former PM savaged those who would control immigration, saying Government policy on the question was becoming ‘Powellite’.

This was just as Mr Brown’s former colleague Peter Mandelson confessed the last Labour government sent out ‘search parties’ to attract immigrants to Britain. 

The result is there are many Labour supporters without jobs who may wish Enoch Powell had shaped their party’s policy, too.

        More from Simon Heffer...   Why Drummer Rigby's killers should be charged with treason 24/05/13   The ugly truth is a smug Tory elite has sneered at the party faithful for decades 21/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: Think they can't axe David Cameron? Don't bet on it 10/05/13   The gentle giant of British cinema: If he'd been a Yank, he'd have won Oscars galore. If he'd been a Leftie, he'd have been knighted. Why Bryan Forbes was a cruelly unsung genius 10/05/13   SIMON HEFFER: There's only one way for Dave to stub out Farage 03/05/13   Could he trigger a snap general election? 26/04/13   Vote Red Ed, get Red Len as the Labour dinosaurs roar back to life 25/04/13   SIMON HEFFER: The week he woke up to the folly of the modernisers 19/04/13   VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Theresa May is right to say murderers of policemen should die in prison. Indeed, I thought that was the deal when the political class, against the wishes of the people, abolished capital punishment in 1969.

But we get into dangerous territory when we stipulate the life of a policeman is worth more than the life of a woman who dies after a vicious sexual assault or a teenager stabbed while queuing for a hamburger. Murder is murder. Many ‘life’ sentences are too short. If necessary, build more prisons and enforce the law.

Merkel calls the EU tune

France’s pitiful president, Francois Hollande, was carpeted by Brussels on Wednesday — the first anniversary of his election — for running his country’s economy so disastrously. Unemployment is rising, capital is fleeing and the deficit appears uncontrollable. 

Brussels’ strings are pulled by the EU’s German paymasters, who’ve had enough of Hollande’s antagonistic attitude to German leader Angela Merkel. Thus, a promise was forced from Hollande to behave better towards her.

The French have fought the Germans three times in the past 143 years and don’t want to do it again.

Yet I predict pressure from Merkel to increase austerity will bring serious unrest within weeks. 

The French won’t swallow Germany’s insistence on the harsh medicine necessary to reform their economy. After all, they have seen only too clearly what has happened in Greece, Spain and, now, Italy. 

The Franco-German axis in Europe is over because of France’s addiction to high spending. So, the balance of power in the EU rests firmly in the Fourth Reich.

Labour pretends it is united against a euro referendum, but it will be hard to control its dissidents. Labour MPs know they, too, are losing support to Ukip and are fed up at the way Ed Miliband and the elitists around him ignore the feelings of their working-class vote. John Mills, a shopping channel boss who gave the party £1.6 million in shares last year, says he is funding the Labour For A Referendum movement. The Tories must exploit Labour’s reluctance to trust the people.




Nick Harris: £5.5bn TV pays to screen Premier League

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One of the world's poorest countries, Burma, where workers earn an average of just £819 a year, has splashed out £25million to buy the rights to show Premier League football on television.

With Burma's current TV contract worth a mere £200,000 over three years, the new deal represents an astonishing 12,400 per cent hike in rights fees.

The deal, involving a pay-TV company called Sky Net, is just one example of the extraordinarily successful way the Premier League have sold their worldwide broadcasting rights for 2013-2016.

Star of Africa: Manchester City's Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure

In the last round of overseas rights sales, for 2010-13, the League earned £1.437bn from all foreign broadcasters combined.

But overseas deals for 2013-16 will surge past £2bn in value, which, when added to domestic deals for live rights (£3bn from Sky and BT), Match of the Day highlights (£178m from the BBC) and near-live rights and internet rights (still to be sold), means the League will earn a mouthwatering £5.5bn from broadcasting during that three-season period.

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That money, less the League's running costs, will be shared out among the 20 clubs who make up the top tier of English football.

And when the new deals kick in next season, even the club who end up bottom of the Premier League in 2014 will receive a £60m payout from the TV money, while the champions will pocket £100m.

The Premier League's success in selling their product around the world has already put them on top of football's global earners, and this new deal will widen the gap on their closest rivals.

While the Premier League currently pulls in £479m a year from overseas broadcasting, La Liga in Spain get £132m, Italy's Serie A £74m and Germany's Bundesliga just £50m.

The willingness of broadcasters in Burma and elsewhere to spend increasingly large sums to buy the Premier League rights reflects the confidence of companies such as Sky Net, who are unrelated to domestic rights holder BSkyB, that they can find enough customers to subscribe to pay-TV channels carrying Premier League action.

While Burma has been ruled by a military junta since 1962, when Ipswich Town were League champions under Alf Ramsey's managership, the country, now also known as Myanmar, is undergoing a slow and painful transition towards democracy.

Official data from the World Bank places Burma at 164th out of 185 nations in their wealth table, with almost all the poorer nations being in Africa.

But Sky Net believe the economy is becoming sufficiently liberal and that there are now enough wealthy football fans there that they will easily recoup their investment of around £8m per year in a country with a population of 60m, roughly the same as that of Britain.

Burma may represent the biggest percentage hike in rights values but there are numerous examples of other markets booming this time.

In Thailand, a company called Cable Thai Holdings have done a £202m deal for 2013-16, a 432 per cent increase on the £38m paid for 2010- 13. Rights values have also leapt, among other places, in India (up 225 per cent from £28m to £91m), Vietnam (up 249 per cent from £6.3m to £22m) and Indonesia, doubling from £25m to £50m.

Other Asia markets, notable Singapore and Hong Kong, were already hugely lucrative and worth between £150m and £200m for the three years to 2013.

New deals have retained the value if not increased it in those places, while Japan and Korea have seen increased deals but not on the scale of some neighbours.

Uniquely in China, the Premier League have sold the rights on a six-year basis from 2013, not a three-year deal.

This is to allow for long-term development of a key market that has been traditionally hard to crack.

On the other side of the world, in the United States, rights values have soared as NBC thrashed rival bidders to win the 2013-16 rights for £157m, or almost four times the amount paid by Fox for 2010-13.

Across the Americas and Central America combined, the League will earn around £240m from 2013, or four times the £60m currently.

The last set of deals to be done are in Europe, where only Scandinavian rights have been sold, for £162m, up from £111m last time.

Much of the rest of Europe is expected to show flat or small growth. But the total pot will still be enormous.

Olympic stars missing from BBC shortlist

After last year's controversy over the absence of women on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the arguments this year are raging over the big names missing when the 12-strong list is announced on the One Show on Monday.

Golden girl: Laura Trott missing from list

Nobody from the country's three main sports will feature after a poor year for Britain's footballers, cricketers and rugby players.

But in the afterglow of London 2012, the final dozen will inevitably be dominated by Olympic and Paralympic heroes.

Even so, a glut of cycling contenders means one or more of Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott and Sarah Storey will not make the 12, and there has been much debate over the appropriate mix of Olympic and Paralympic contenders.

If Paralympic stars Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds are all included, others, such as Ben Ainslie, Kat Grainger, Alastair Brownlee, Greg Rutherford or Nicola Adams, must make way.

The 12-person selection panel, headed by BBC Director of Sport Barbara Slater, have ensured a decent mix of genders and sports but the only four 'absolute banker' names on the shortlist are hot favourite Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Andy Murray and Jess Ennis.

Murray will not attend the show on December 16 but the BBC will have a live feed to his winter training base in Miami.

Golfers Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy may not make the 12 as they will inevitably be honoured in the Team of the Year award for Europe's Ryder Cup win.

Flying high: Sir Alex Ferguson flew back with supporters

Sir Alex has the common touch

Proof that Sir Alex Ferguson has not lost his common touch came when he flew home from Turkey in midweek on a fans' charter, and took to the public address to thank supporters for travelling to the 1-0 defeat at Galatasaray.

Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton hitched a ride back on Tuesday night, rather than return on Manchester United's plane on Wednesday, to make sure they were back for the funeral of former Old Trafford winger Kenny Morgans, a survivor of the Munich air crash, who died last weekend in South Wales at the age of 73.