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One of the more eye-catching appointments in Gordon Macavity’s new Junta was that of David Milliband to be Foreign Secretary. This may well come to be seen as the most Machiavellian move in his clearing out of Blair’s Augean Stables. Milliband has instantly been promoted to be Heir Apparent, but as he is seen as a dedicated Blairite by the Macavity Militia, is also seen as someone to be stymied in his advancement.
In those circumstances, what better place to put him than the Foreign Office? Here he has no domestic money to spend with which he can curry favour with individual constituency MPs and thus build up his own power base within the party. Modern Prime Ministers do most of the serious foreign affairs stuff anyway, so Milliband will find himself with Macavity glaring over his shoulder almost all of the time. Inevitably if something goes right Macavity will quickly grab the credit for himself. If it goes wrong, well Macavity won’t be there, will he? And Foreign Affairs has so many opportunities for things to go wrong: just ask Lord Carrington!
With the continuing refusal by Macavity to honour Labour’s Manifesto pledge to have a referendum on the new EU
Constitution Amending Treaty, Milliband will have to bear much of the brunt of the righteous indignation of the British people who have so shamefully been denied their right to give or withhold their whole-hearted consent to our extinction as a nation state. In addition, by convention, he will be unable to speak out much on domestic policy matters which are the preserve of his fellow Cabinet members, save to appear on the BBC’s “Question Time” where he will find himself forced to defend the latest act of serial incompetence perpetrated by one of Macavity’s other inspired appointments.
With all the enthusiasm that was generated by Blairites for Milliband as a possible contestant in the leadership stakes, it was easy to overlook the important question about Milliband: what has he actually achieved? Not an easy one to answer: answers on the back of an envelope, please.
In his last incarnation in charge of farming and the environment Milliband continued to preside over the inept farm subsidies system that his predecessors, Margaret Beckett and Lord Bach, had singularly failed to make work properly, to the grave detriment of our hard pressed farmers and seems to have done not a great deal to remedy the damage that his party has done. Nor does he appear to have cared much for it, being obsessed with headline catching stuff about wind farms and carbon foot prints and the like.
Just one look at his employment record will reveal that he has always been a professional politician. His first job was for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. From 1989-94 he worked as a Research Fellow and policy analyst at the Institute for Public Policy Research and from 1992-4 was Secretary of the Commission on Social Justice. In 1994 Milliband became Tony Blair’s Head of Policy and was a major contributor to Labour’s manifesto for the 1997 general election. After Labour’s victory in that election, Blair made him the de facto Head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, a position which he held until the 2001 election.
After a year as a backbench MP he was appointed as Schools Minister, a junior minister in the Department for Education and Skills in June 2002. On 15 December 2004, in the reshuffle following the resignation of David Blunkett, he replaced Ruth Kelly as a Cabinet Office Minister. In 2005, he was promoted to the Cabinet as Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, a newly created cabinet post with responsibility for housing, planning, regeneration and local government. However Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was officially in charge of these portfolios. Milliband was not given the title Secretary of State, although he was a full member of the Cabinet.
In other words he has never had to hack it in the real world nor rub shoulders with ordinary men and women who have ordinary jobs and ordinary lives.
Isolated in the Foreign Office he will be away from Westminster much of the time. If things go wrong and he finds Macavity’s militiamen briefing against him, it is much harder to defend oneself from Ulan Bator than it is from inside the Westminster Village. And, of course, there is the little matter of his former master, one Tony Blair, gadding about the Middle East trying to create that all-important legacy for himself as Middle East super-envoy, which will doubtless muddy the waters for Mr. Milliband. If he tries to coordinate matters with Blair, Macavity will see that as disloyalty. If he runs counter to Blair, then our Foreign Policy is seen as weak and divided.
Before Macavity was given a clear run at the leadership, no one else in the Labour party having either the support or the guts to run against him, it was being put about that the Tories were really fearful that Labour might ditch Brown and choose Milliband instead. The Tories allegedly feared Milliband as he was more telegenic, less hidebound by ideology, almost as young as David Cameron and the acceptable face of Blairism. Others, however, were less impressed, thinking his unctuousness and rather nannying manner a distinct vote loser.
One thing is for sure: Macavity has handed him something of a poisoned chalice with the Labour’s Iraq millstone firmly round his neck and the war in Afghanistan looking increasingly tricky. If he manages to avoid disaster in these areas, he may emerge unscathed from the experience. If not, yet another promising career will have been trashed.
One of Britain’s longest-established breeds, Gloucester-type cattle were numerous in the Cotswold Hills and the Severn Valley as early as the 13th century. They were valued for their milk, producing Gloucester cheeses, for providing strong and docile draught oxen and, as a final product, for their beef.
In the last two centuries however, outbreaks of disease, the introduction of other breeds and the development of intensive farming led to a dramatic reduction in their numbers. By 1972 only one significant herd remained and the breed was in danger of dying out.
Following the dispersal sale of this herd, a small group of purchasers was determined that the breed should survive. As a result, the Gloucester Cattle Society was revived and the breed has moved from near extinction to there being over 650 registered females.
Gloucesters are a rare and beautiful breed and are a joy to keep. To see them lying peacefully on a fine summer’s evening with the sun shining on their lustrous black-brown coats, or standing with white tails swishing and thriving calves alongside, is a stockman’s pleasure that is hard to match. It is now imperative that the breed is supported, to ensure it lives on for future generations to enjoy.
The Gloucester breed is strikingly beautiful. The body is black-brown with black head and legs. A white stripe passes down the back, continues over the tail and down over the udder, covering the belly. The picture is completed with mid-length, up-sweeping horns, which are white tipped with black. In relation to modern breeds, it is medium in size.
The cows are docile and amenable and respond well to individual care. They have a flat lactation curve, giving an even production of milk for up to 300 days. This is kind to their udders and helps their longevity, for which they are renowned, often breeding for 12 to 15 years. Gloucester cows also take well to hand-milking and make ideal house cows.
Even the bulls merit the breed’s reputation for docility. They are active and get cows in calf to a tight calving pattern.
Old Gloucester Beef is a speciality product that satisfied customers are coming back for again and again. Gloucester cattle produce a good carcase of excellently flavoured beef. The good marbling and fat cover enhance its cooking qualities. Slowly grown and simply fed on extensive systems, the meat is hung for up to four weeks to bring out the very best of the flavour and tenderness of the beef.
For centuries Gloucester cows have been associated with Single and Double Gloucester cheese-making and this tradition still continues. Double Gloucester cheese is widely available, but Single Gloucester cheese can, by law, only be made on farms in Gloucestershire that have a pedigree herd of Gloucester cattle.
On the assumption that this extraordinary story in the Daly Mail (HERE) is true, it reveals almost all that you could ever wish to know about the nature of Blair’s Labour party and about his particular craving for the company of the the rich and the famous. And the Mail has got a full-frontal photograph (literally!) to prove it. Ho, Ho!
The Huntsman was much cheered by this story. Blair and Levy come out of it as gullible chumps, the type that, upon receipt of the the email telling them they had won the Dutch National Lottery, would happily send their bank account details in reply so as to facilitate their getting their mitts on the loot.
It is just so tawdry a tale.
One is firmly left with the sense that, on this occasion, the two spivs were themselves caught out buying a dodgy load of ‘Swiss’ watches only to find they were all made in China.
The other Mail story which will have the average decent person sit up is HERE. If correct, then there will be a lot of egg on the faces of various Pinkoes in the media who have confidently been telling us throughout this scandal that the Police inquiry would inevitably peter out for lack of evidence.
If true, any trial arising out of this particular sleaze scandal (and on the uncontested facts, this is probably the worst political corruption scandal in modern times) will dominate the next year or so and swiftly take the gloss off GB’s Premiership. Any trial, particularly if, as suggested, it were to encompass charges relating both to corrupt dealings in Honours and perverting the course of justice, seems likely to involve most of the upper echelons of the Labour Party putting in an appearance in the witness box at Court No. 1, The Old Bailey. It will be interesting to see how GB and the Ministry of Truth manage to spin that one every night as yet another Labour Worthy makes his or her sorry way up the street to the court door.
Oh my! What a lovely thought….
Hot on the heels of a bomb being planted or abandoned in The Haymarket comes the news that GB has appointed the Former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West to the government as Home Office Minister for Security. This will, of course, be trumpeted by GB’s spin doctors as evidence of him taking a tough line and ‘the smack of firm government’. We shall see.
Sir Alan has a distinguished military record and on any view is a gallant former officer who will be deserving of respect in his new post.
Born in 1948, he was educated at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Joining the Royal Navy in 1965 he served on 14 different ships, three as Captain. In 1980 he took command of the Type-21 frigate HMS Ardent in the rank of Commander. Ardent was sunk on in May 1982 during the Falklands War. West was the last to leave the sinking ship and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership.
Promoted Rear Admiral in February 1994, he subsequently became Commander United Kingdom Task Group in February 1996. In October 1997 he was promoted to Vice Admiral and became Chief of Defence Intelligence. West was knighted as a KCB in 2000. He was promoted to Admiral in November 2000 upon taking up the post of CinC Fleet, NATO, CinC East Atlantic and NATO Commander Allied Naval Forces North.
How this appointment will play out is yet to be seen and one would counsel caution before a rush to judgement. The Huntsman is second to none is his admiration for our military. The Royal Navy, The Army and the Royal Air Force stand out as institutions whose values and ethos are of the highest order and whose members are deserving of very considerable respect. As a breed they are far more attractive than politicians (not difficult, you may say!) Traditionally the “Brass Hats” and “The Frocks” loathe one another. In 1917-1918 Haig and Robertson were at daggers drawn with the mercurial Lloyd George in a way that acted to the detriment of conduct of the war against Germany.
Whether, however, they do so well when parachuted in as Government Ministers is rather more problematical. In Britain there is a traditional mistrust of having military men in Government that dates back to the days of Cromwell and the new Model Army at the time of the Commonwealth. Since then the military has kept its nose out of politics, a stance it carefully maintains today.
There have been, in modern times, some appointments of senior officers to Government posts. In 1914 Lord Kitchener was appointed to the War Office. By all accounts it was not a happy appointment and quite a few politicians heaved a sigh of relief when he was drowned when on his way to Russia aboard HMS Hampshire in June 1916. More recently Harold Alexander, who had proved himself adept at sorting out the political difficulties created by our relationship with the USA and other Allies in the Mediterranean in World War 2, came back being Governor-General of Canada in 1952 to be Churchill’s Minister of Defence. At that time each of the three armed forces was still run by a separate department and represented by a separate minister in the Cabinet, with the Minister of Defence as a co-ordinator; Churchill tried unsuccessfully to have other departments co-ordinated by such “overlords”. Alexander, a fine soldier and excellent Governor-General, found the work much less congenial and he retired in 1954.
Sir Alan West brings his skills as Chief of Defence Intelligence to the table as Minister of Security. Whether his experience there is what we need in the struggle against terrorism, which is very different from the world of conventional warfare, is a moot point. One only hopes he does not find himself being thwarted by politicians to whom personal ambition is more important than the interests of the State.
The Huntsman fears that a sound military man may well find the world of party politics not to his taste at all and that the very high standards of conduct to which he used are sadly lacking in a party which does not exactly sympathise with the armed forces (one thinks of the obnoxious Mandelson’s observations about “chinless wonders” as being pretty well representative of Labour’s view of the Military). One wishes him well but proffers the caution: “mind your backs!”.
Burglary and car theft are two of The Huntsman’s Bêtes noire. For years dwelling house burglary was under-sentenced by both the Crown Court and by Magistrates, offenders often being given derisory sentences. Burglary is but one step down from rape in the effect it has on householders, particularly female householders: there is, for both men and women, a very strong sense of the violation of one’s privacy and personal life. To have this met by, say. a sentence of twelve months imprisonment, which the recidivist burglar can do standing on his head, is simply an inappropriate response to a very serious offence. The starting point should be four years imprisonment for a single dwelling house burglary, regardless of the previous convictions of the offender or their age. A Non-custodial sentence should be almost unheard of for burglars. The Huntsman, having represented many burglars in the Crown Court, is absolutely confident that a dramatic fall in dwelling-house burglary would follow.
Car crime has also been under-sentenced for years. There is a historical reason for this. There are two possible offences when a car is taken. One is theft and the other is taking a motor vehicle without consent (that’s TWOC to the cognoscenti). The distinction is necessary because Chummy, when caught in possession of a motor car belonging to someone else, is apt to claim he always meant to return it and only took it to take his wife to the hospital: hence he lacks (if believed, which is another thing altogether) an necessary ingredient of the offence of theft, namely the intention permanently to deprive the owner of the car.
This is a sensible distinction. The problem arises on the distinction in sentence. TWOC carries a significantly lesser maximum than theft and sentences have been correspondingly Mickey Mouse.
The answer is simple. The sentence for TWOC should be the same as for theft and let the Judge make up his mind on the facts how serious it is. As a matter of policy sentences for TWOC should be ramped up immediately.
Let’s face it: a car is often the second biggest purchase a citizen makes and it can often be a highly valuable item. Seeing Chummy walk away with a ‘community sentence’ (that’s a ‘give him a pound out of the poor box’ sentence if ever) is, frankly, insulting and represents a dereliction of the State’s duty to protect its citizens.
In the USA nicking cars is met with charges of ‘grand theft auto’ which simply means that it amounts to a felony. We abolished the distinction between classes of crimes years ago, but in effect it means that the USA treats it as the most serious type of offence and doles out serious jail time accordingly. We should do the same. The emphasis should be on ‘how much inconvenience and distress did this cause to the owner?’ and not ‘How sad that Chummy did not want to walk a mile home after the pub last night.
The Huntsman is not holding his breath, however, as our political elite seems quite unwilling most of the time to do its duty to our citizens.
Take two gutted, very fresh, preferably wild brown, trout. Stuff with slices of onion, fresh fennel, tomato and one slice of fresh lemon. Sprinkle with good sea salt, pepper and fennel seeds and a small dab of unsalted butter. lay each trout in a piece of foil. Sprinkle some more fennel seeds over each trout and a little pepper.
Add a third of a glass of dry wine, Alsace pinot blanc or Cape chenin blanc. Seal the packets carefully and bake in the oven 20 minutes at 350 F or 180 C. When ready they should be nicely moist and just fall lightly off the bone. Serve with a fresh green salad with an uncomplicated vinaigrette, new potatoes. Wine: Alsace riesling or pinot blanc.
This is an tried and trusted recipe which, I am reminded, I have been doing for thirty years and more. I am inspired to have it as the first of my occasional recipes by virtue of having literally stumbled, in cyberspace, across an old friend of thirty years standing with whom I had lost contact for some time. I have cooked her this dish as she still has the recipe! Thus does one make an impression.
So, this is for Theresa de Valencé, late of Toronto Canada, now of Point Richmond CA.
This valuable piece I reproduce from the Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday (here).
I have for some weeks been urging readers to renew their passports, because you will soon not be able to do this without being fingerprinted and placed forever on the national identity register. I think fingerprinting is for burglars, and registers are for sex offenders, and I am afraid that millions of people are as yet unaware that this is going to happen. I don’t want anyone to be taken by surprise when it does. If you want to be registered as if you were a cow, and fingerprinted as if you were a mugger, then fine. If not, you need to act soon. Please do spread the warning as widely as you can
The interrogation centres where the fingerprinting will be done are being built and equipped, right now. And at some point in the next 18 months, perhaps much sooner, those who seek to renew their passports will be told they cannot do so unless they attend at one of these centres, often quite distant from their homes. I suspect there will be no warning, just an announcement that this is now the rule. The law has already been passed, and merely needs to be brought into force. The price of renewal goes up in October, yet another reason to get on with it.
Here are some questions and answers which may help those who have not yet acted.
Q. My passport is valid until 2014. Why renew now?
A. Because if you wait until 2014, and probably a great deal sooner than that, you will have to be fingerprinted and registered forever on a state database, simply to get a new passport, whether or not you wish to have a supposedly ‘voluntary’ Identity Card.
Q. How soon will this happen?
A. I do not know. The preparations are far advanced and the law already in place. My guess is that you are safe for some months yet, but I cannot be sure. My advice is to renew as soon as your summer holiday is over.
Q. Officials say that this change only affects new applicants and I do not need to worry.
A. This is a confusion of two completely different things. Pay no attention. New applicants do already need to attend an interview. Fingerprinting and registration are a separate issue, and have not yet come in. But they will.
Q. Do I get any credit for the unexpired time on my old passport?
A. Yes, you get a maximum of nine months credit for unexpired time.
Q. Can I do this at any time?
A. Yes, you can. You’re the one paying the fee.
Q. I’m told that new passports are microchipped. Surely that means this is all too late?
A. They are microchipped, but the microchip – at present – contains only the normal information written in your passport. Some people may find this objectionable, but it is nothing like as objectionable as being fingerprinted.
Q. Surely, once ten years are up, I’ll have to be fingerprinted and registered anyway, and this is all futile?
A. Not necessarily. If enough people renew early, it will be a sign of major resistance to the Identity Card scheme, and political pressure will grow for its abandonment. Also, if , ten years hence, several million people – whose passports all come up for renewal in the same short period – all refuse to be fingerprinted and registered, will the government be able to refuse them all the right to go abroad? Now, and ten years hence, it faces the government with real, effective resistance. Please tell all your friends to act now.”
One story you may have missed whilst keeping an eye on more glamourous matters in the Metropolis is this interesting account of how Alex Salmond acquired the first of what one suspects will be many nose-bleeds at the hands of the majority in the Scottish Parliament.
The Huntsman, having lived for some years in The Hague where they have a first rate tram system, is very much in favour of trams as an idea, so this story caught his eye. But it also tells one quite a lot about the state of play in the Scottish Parliament. Clearly the three other parties are not minded at all to give Alex Salmond much of a honeymoon break but are laying down an early marker for how tough it is going to be to get anything controversial through without support from elsewhere. The other parties will have to pick and choose their battles carefully to avoid giving the SNP too much future electoral ammunition (“we tried our best but those nasty Labour/Tory/LibDem types thwarted all our best ideas”) and only pick for defeat those measures which only have sketchy public support. But for now Alex Salmond will have to nip smartly into the Gents with his hankie pressed firmly to his nose.
It is also an important lesson for all those who would inflict on England yet another tier of fat-cat bureaucracy and talking shop in the form of an English Parliament. If we were foolish enough to go down that route then we can expect it to have an electoral system of a similar kind which will forever produce weak, coalition governments where cosy compromise rather than radical reform are the order of the day: after all, who really wants the LibDems (who will hop into bed with anyone for a sniff of power) perpetually in government as they hop from propping up first one side and then the other as the tide comes in and goes out? Three hundred years ago Westminster was the home of England’s Parliament. It can safely be left to do that great task once again through gentle evolution not by spending a lot of money on yet more politicians and bureaucrats.
By all means let us have an English Grand Committee (to which our Scots PM can be summoned to explain himself from time to time) which will be able to redress the imbalances of the Barnett formula and the West Lothian Question. But do we really want another talking shop with all its greedy snouts-in-the-trough elite and the hangers on? I think not.
One of the State’s main tasks is to maintain its armed forces so as to preserve the independence of the nation, the freedom of its people, the integrity of its territory, the freedom of its trade and to act in pursuit of the political and diplomatic interests of Her Majesty’s Government. That is a full time job: only once before has this post been combined with another, when the late Winston Churchill assumed it on 10th. May 1940 at a time when circumstances were somewhat different. Now to make it effectively a part-time post is a complete disgrace, especially when the incompetent incumbent is left in post. What sort of message does this send to our Armed Forces? What sort of message does this send to our enemies?
This will be seen very quickly to have been a major misjudgement by Gordon Brown and one may predict that it will soon be reversed (shortly after the incumbent cocks up again, one imagines). In the meantime the Tories should be hounding Des Browne as much as possible over his split responsibilities.
Mr. David Cameron put up a black yesterday by egging on his party to join in the thoroughly un-parliamentary scenes as Blair left the House of Commons for the last time yesterday. The ‘standing ovation’ given to Blair by his party was nauseating, given how they had spent most of last year jostling one another to get a clear run to stab him in the back and could not, collectively, wait to get rid of him.
It is not the way of the British Parliament to indulge itself in Stalinist Politburo self-congratulation of this sort. This was redolent of some minor Continental National Assembly rather than the Mother of Parliaments where, traditionally, approbation has been signified by the waving of order papers and cheering, which ought to be good enough for anyone. And all this for one Anthony Blair whose contempt for Parliament and the House of Commons became self-confessed yesterday.
The Huntsman finds this all rather tawdry and too reminiscent of that other recent un-British demonstration of emotion, all the Latino mewling and weeping and bouquet-throwing at the funeral of the late Diana, princess of Wales. Quite why we have to have all this foreign muck introduced into our public life remains a puzzle. Far better the phlegmatic stiff upper lip than to indulge in a load of false and shallow exhibitionism such as we saw yesterday. Mr. David Cameron’s jumping on the bandwagon is what we have come to expect from him so no surprise there.
The Huntsman dislikes Dennis Skinner’s politics intensely, but he knows how to approach the opposition: he loathes the Tories and gives regular and public vent to his loathing. The Huntsman takes the same view of Socialists and finds it difficult to stomach all this cosying up to Labour that seems to be the norm nowadays. By all means have individual friendships (just as one should always have a friendly pet Frog or German) with Socialists, but as a class one ought both to despise and hate them. It’s called ‘putting clear blue water between them’.
On the other hand, The Huntsman would cheerfully have Kate Hoey round for dinner, Her principled support for the campaign against the Hunting Bill won her many admirers.