MAY 2014

Having just returned from the three week Easter recess the House will now rise early and prorogue on the 14th.or 15th.May.
There is a palpable sense of inactivity here at Westminster and the metaphorical tumbleweed rolls gently and undisturbed through the great Gothic halls of the Palace.
The Coalition has run out of steam, run out of ideas and is running itself out of road as it heads off the highway of hope into the lay-by of lost dreams.
The only game in town at the moment is the unedifying sight of Liberals and Tories scrapping like cats in a sack and as they turn ever inward they avert their eyes from the needs of the nation and the real pain that is being suffered in that world beyond Westminster.
You could say that this doesn’t matter in that honest socialists can spend more time campaigning and attending to their constituencies but there is something profoundly wrong with the body politic when it enters a year long siesta with nothing to waken the sleeper before May 2015.
Labour has been deploying the one great weapon at our disposal – opposition days – and we have now taken this opportunity over eighty times.
We have consistently said that while the Coalition may wish to ignore the national need we will not and the opposition day debates have reflected the real concerns of people in that we have raised issues from the NHS, Adult Social Care, Universal Credit, Energy Market Reform, Policing, Regional pay,blacklisting,apprenticeships, the low carbon economy, tuition fees, housing benefit, public sector pensions and countless debates on aspects of economic management and the role and future of the banks.
We have also raised issues ranging from the future of the public forest estate to ash die back and even – on the 23rd.April of this year – Northern Ireland.

We have also taken the chance to ask Urgent Questions which allow the Secretary of State to be interrogated on vital topics such as the UQ of the 12th.May on the subject of the shameless grab by Michael Gove of money earmarked for the expansion of the state school sector which he then shovels at the redited and utterly out of control free schools programme.
The scandal of the apparently unregulated system is that it appears to allow those Principals with no principles to feather their own nests to a degree beyond the dreams of avarice; or even the ambitions of a Tory MP in the pre- IPSA days.
Despite this activity the Palace is starting to resemble the court of Haile Selassie in 1974 when the nation had moved on and only the arcane and irrelevant rituals of the ancient court still stirred the dust in the Menelik palace.
In fact the comparisons are even more striking.
The aristocratic Emperor with the blood of privileged generations flowing through his veins still acted as if anyone beyond the walls was listening.
Each morning the Court of Informers would notify the Emperor of the latest plots and the Minister of the Pen always stood ready to take down the notes that were never called for.
In an attempt to create the illusion of activity the Emperor created himself as Grand Admiral of the Imperial Fleet (never easy in a landlocked nation) and raised several Cadets to the rank of Admiral. The current crop of Knighthoods which has left the shameless Liberals with more knighted MPs than female ones rather reflects this tactic.
Ultimately it – of course – made no difference and, while I would not compare Ed Miliband to Mengistu Haile Meriam or Labour to the Derg movement, the presence of an alternative to the fast fading Emperor has some historical resonance.
The best description of the dying days of the older empire is by the late and much missed Ryszard Kapuscinski and his book, The Emperor, stands alongside The Shah of Shahs, The Soccer War, The Shadow of the Sun and Imperium as one of the great works of reportage in the late 20th.Centure.
In the Menelik Palace the servants stood ready to open the doors that their family had attended on for centuries but no-one came in or out, the only movement in the great halls was that of windblown leaves and scraps of paper promulgating decrees that no-one would read.
The Emperor sat enthroned and attended by his daughter, the Jailer, and those of the ancient regime who knew no world but that of service to the dynasty and in the imperial zoo the newly presented anteater from Uganda burrowed to freedom, the panther howled and the last of the great imperial elephants fell slowly to their knees and finally toppled into death as starvation took them.
Cameron as the last Emperor? Not so fanciful when you feel the emptiness of Parliament today and the tangible sense of forthcoming regime change. As another great Pole, Joseph Conrad wrote “…and something else besides, something invisible, a directing spirit of perdition that dwelt within”describes the hollow House today.
Be assured that Labour is as active as ever and the ennui has not sapped our energies.
My greatest regret is that we are wasting so much time while the coalition crumbles and misery mounts beyond the Palace walls.

Easter 2014

My early nomination for Person of the Year is the heroic hairdresser of South Ealing; Mo Nabbach.

He’s the man who dared to put a photo of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un up in his window with the strap line “Bad Hair Day? 15% off gent’s cuts through April”.

The observant reader will note that my interest in gent’s hairdressing is somewhat restricted these days and although I am always the first person to know when it’s started to rain I do get a little tired of being asked if I get charged a search fee when I visit Solanki’s Hairdressers on Greenford Avenue.

The great Mo Nabbach swiftly spotted that Kim John-un’s hairstyle of shaved sidewalls, centre parting and bushy top comes close to any definition of a bad hair day and the fact that the long suffering citizens of North Korea are restricted by law to a choice of less than ten styles for men and about eighteen for women prompted a rather original advertising campaign.

What our hero had failed to take into account was the proximity of the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea which is found on Gunnersbury Avenue.

I’m not sure whether the North Koreans were aware that the most famous residents of Gunnersbury Avenue were Arthur Haynes and the man who has inspired me during three decades of public service and who is still the exemplar of sophisticated inclusive West London metrosexualism – the late Sid James.

Sid was actually a Lieutenant in the South African Army – under his real name of Solomon Joel Cohen – during the 2nd.World War and might have gone on to fight in the Korean War but was thankfully spared to delight those of us who turn to the “Carry On” canon when the days are dark and when nothing but a good guffaw will do.

The cheerful irrelevance of Sid was missing from the two diplomats who called round to Mo’s tonsorial boutique from the North Korean Embassy and who threatened him with legal action if he did not remove the poster which they claimed was disrespectful to the “Dear Leader”.

I am proud to report that Mo the Magnificent sent the two of them on their way without even the need to snip his scissors or strop a razor.

Mo rightly said that this was London – not Pyongyang – and he deserves our respect for this.

It is utterly tragic that the poor people of that secretive dictatorship will almost certainly not know about this blow for freedom and at the risk of becoming a little sombre and serious I would advise people to have a look at the almost unimaginable horrors that are a part of daily life in North Korea.

The UN Commission of Inquiry Report on Human Rights in North Korea has specifically recognised the targeting of Christians and a recent estimate is that there were between two and four hundred thousand Christians in NK of whom fifty to seventy thousand are in prison camps.

I advise anyone to read Shin Dong-hyuk’s “Escape from Camp 14” which tells the true story of a camp in which those born to prisoners spend their entire lives behind the wire. No-one is ever released from these camps and death by starvations seems a blessed relief.

John Sweeney’s new book “North Korea Undercover” is almost too painful to read but anyone who cares for their fellow human beings should be aware of the sickest of contemporary societies and what is being done by the sadistic leadership.

If you want some more information then please turn to the Open Door report “Voices from North Korea’s largest underground movement: the secret church”

It is available from:-

advocacy@opendoorsuk.org

It’s a long way from Gunnersbury Avenue to North Korea but there are human beings at both ends of the line. Unfortunately the tolerance and decency of Ealing is overshadowed by the nightmare of North Korea.

Respect to Mo Nabbach and our prayers for the tragic victims of the murderously evil society that exists at the point of a bayonet and in the shadow of the prison camps.