There was a knock on the door this past Saturday morning.
I opened it to find a young, well-dressed man standing there who said: “Hello sir, I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.”
So I said “Come in and sit down.”
I offered him a fresh cup of coffee and asked, “What do you want to talk about?”
He said, “Beats the shit out of me, nobody ever let me in before.”
Denis Waterman claims that he punched his ex-wife Rula Lenska twice, but insists “She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different.” Ah, that’s all right then. The man who most of us remember as ex-boxer Terry McCann in “Minder” goes on to dig himself a little deeper: “It’s not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her”.
I don’t know which statement makes me more furious – taken together, they paint the portrait of a thug and a woman-hater. Waterman, who spewed this odious stuff to Piers Morgan on his TV chat show (to be aired next month on ITV), did say he was “ashamed” of his disgusting behaviour. But he went on to whine, in what sounded an awful lot like an attempt to justify his actions, “The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in… and I… I lashed out.”
One last Budget leak, then. Today, George Osborne has come up with a very interesting idea to nudge us towards a little closer towards the Tory Arcadia. The idea is that every taxpayer will get an annual statement from HMRC (we’ve published a mock-up for someone on £50,000 here) detailing exactly how much tax they pay and what services it is spent on.
Conservative sources say that the idea is to “counter the relentless calls for more unfunded spending”. People will look at their tax bill, and in particular the large chunk of it that goes in welfare spending, and start demanding less largesse from the state. The principle is actually imported from the US – American taxpayers can already get a personal tax receipt on the White House website here.
But I’m sceptical of whether this will actually work towards Conservative ends. Here’s why: contrary to the claims of some of those who write underneath these posts, not all government spending is wasted. Actually, most of it, including most of the benefits bill, flows back to taxpayers.
The question is which taxpayers. The majority of taxpayers use the schools, the police, the NHS and so on. Most taxpayers even claim benefits: nine out of ten families with children are entit
Yesterday the NHS bill cleared its final meaningful hurdle. An attempt by David Owen, the longstanding darling of the Left, to delay its implementation was defeated in the House of Lords by 328 votes to 213. An emergency debate, tabled for today in the Commons, represents the final effort to keep the legislation off the statute books. It will fail as well.
And that will be it. Don’t bother turning up to your local casualty department or GP surgery on Monday. Thinking of dialling an ambulance? Forget it. There will be no NHS any more. It will have ceased to exist. I know this, because over the last month I haven’t been able to turn on the news, open a paper or browse the internet without a campaigner from the Drop the Bill campaign informing me I have less than a month/week/day to pull my health service back from extinction.
When I used to work for Labour we called this the “Flash Gordon” strategy: “I love you Flash, but we only have 24 hours to save the earth, economy, rail network, NHS, pound, etc”. In the midst of an election campaign it works a treat; it garners headlines, galvanises supporters and carries zero risk. You win, the earth is saved. You lose, you’re political vapour%
Let me quickly pay tribute to the Queen’s magnificent achievements and her perfectly judged speech before asking… who the hell allowed that creep Bercow to hijack the event with his self-serving PC drivel about the “Kaleidoscope Queen” – and, worse, to insert a thinly disguised plug for gay marriage into a loyal address? The man is a disgrace to our public life. I hope readers share my anger.
With relations between the UK and Argentina already strained over the Falkland Islands, top judges decided conditions in the country’s prisons are “inhuman and degrading”.
British tourist, Lucy Wright, 28, from south east London, faced extradition after she was caught trying to smuggle over 6kg of cocaine through Buenos Aires airport in 2007.
But the High Court accepted the lack of the most basic hygiene and food in the jail in which she would serve up to 16 years – along with evidence of “systematic abuse” of prisoners by jailers – meant sending her back to south American would breach her fundamental rights.
Mr Justice Silber said Wright had “freely admitted” being a drugs mule, but says the cocaine haul was targeted at the UK, nor Argentina, and has said she will plead guilty if prosecuted in this country for her crime.
The court heard evidence from Argentinian civil rights lawyer, Dr Maria del Carmen Verdu, that Wright, if extradited, would be at risk of dire hygiene standards, inadequate food, “systematic abuse” by prison staff and “cruel punishment and degrading searches”.
In a landmark address to both Houses of Parliament the monarch repeated her vow made on Accession Day in February to “rededicate myself to the service of our great country”.
In the ancient Westminster Hall the monarch stood to give her address, telling MPs and peers that since she came to the throne she has been a regular visitor to the Palace of Westminster.
She added: “During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure.
“Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.”
This was the monarch’s sixth address to both Houses of Parliament. She gave similar speeches in celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Silver Jubilee 25 years earlier in 1977.