I agonised over how I was going to vote on Same Sex Marriage (which lead a lot of people to wrongly assume I was voting against) but that process, which has been going on for some weeks and was particularly intense on Tuesday, ended with a decision to vote for the bill.
Iím in an agony of indecision over same sex marriage. On the one hand Iím not illiberal or homophobic. On the other I am not particularly bothered about this, think civil partnership is enough, and have concerns about the legal repercussions.
Cameronís revival of the Conservativeís poll ratings through his EU con has encouraged me to revive my blog. Firstly let me apologise for neglecting it so much. The truth is it had become too easy to criticise the shambolic Government and was becoming repetitive.
Iíve had my doubts about the organisation of the Olympic game staffing ever since two young friends told me what had happened to them.
Charles Kennedy the only Lib-Dem who deserves respect wants Labour to save Clegg from his own folly by voting for Lords reform. Sorry Charles. The second Chamber shouldnít have an elected majority.
The Tory Party is rallying to defend Emma Harrison of A4E and Working Links by turning its boot boys loose on Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Wednesday 16 November
Linda arrives back from her sister’s birthday in the USA. IPSA doesn’t recognise or reward spouses but I can`t function without mine, so she finds me run out of money, clean shirts, underpants, food in the fridge,and even the will to live. Re-energised, I go to a Civitas discussion on exchange rates led by John Mills. Britain’s failure is because the exchange rate has been too high for too long at the behest of the City, and Europe is in such a mess because Italy, Greece and Spain can`t devalue to lower their cost base as against Germany. So the rest now suffers because Europe is making the unworkable work. It`s nonsense to say our interest lies in holding the euro together. The quicker it falls apart the better for us. And for them.
This is going to be an awful winter. George Osborne will produce a couple of dead rabbits out of the hat in his Autumn financial statement. Yet nothing will stop the downward slide into gloom, high unemployment and more debt. Have a merry Christmas. It won`t be a happy New Year.
Tuesday 15 November
Starts with a BBC breakfast. Top staff for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire tell us about their proposed cuts. It`s crazy. We’re as much a nation as Scotland or Wales and should get the same treatment. Local radio and regional telly are basic to both the BBC and MPs. So the more general tactic is clearly to paint the picture as black as possible to fire us up to fight the cuts in the way the bureaucratic executives should be doing themselves.
In the torrent of denunciation of artistes` fees and the Director General’s salary, no-one broaches the real issue: that these cuts are forced on the BBC because the licence fee is too mean and they’re having to finance the World Service because the Foreign Office won`t. Yet the World Service does more to build Britain’s reputation and influence than the entire pin-striped staff of that hapless department.
Then to meet Lord Haskins who’s taking over the chairmanship of the Humber LEP to bring the two Banks together in their long standing relationship of total loathing. Tell him that Bridge tolls must be taken off because they’re a £30 a week tax on any company which draws employees from the other Bank and his job is to get a fair deal for the South Bank.
Then the great fishing debate. We`ve won this from the back bench business committee, only to find that our precious three hours is squeezed at both ends, like Marilyn Monroe, by a statement at the start and the clamour to debate fuel prices at the end. We get cut to two and a half hours and my Ciceronian disquisition has to be reduced to a five minute gabble
Then our housing rally, starting outside and moving to room 15. A serious housing crisis is building up with great shortages, particularly in the South East, a new Rachmanism in the private sector and big rent increases and housing benefit cuts for the impoverished.
Yet instead of going in for the Big Build Britain needs to take us out of recession, Government has opted for the Big Blame. They`re scrapping security of tenure and turning council and social housing into transit camps for the poor, rather like the old workhouses. There folk will be put on short term tenancies and shuttled out as soon as their lot improves. Waiting lists are to be reduced by pushing anyone who’s not in desperate need off, though even those in need can`t be housed because the Government proposes to sell off stock more cheaply then even Mrs Thatcher managed.
This is a building disaster which won`t reach the ears of our Government of millionaires setting the shattered building industry free to build millionaire mansions for chaps like them on greenfield sites rather than the public housing for rent we so desperately need.
Then to Reform Club for 200th anniversary of the birth of John Bright and the launch of Bill Cash’s book on his distinguished ancestor. The Reform Club ain`t what it used to be. I ask at the door “I`m looking for John Bright. Used to be a member here”. The attendant replies “Are you feeling well, sir? Are you sure you’re at the right place?” The Cash and Carry party is upstairs and very distinguished, apart from me, the only Labour presence. Bright has been appropriated by the Tories because he split from Gladstone over Home Rule but Bill Cash, another great trouble-maker, can claim some lineage. Michael Gove “a mere placeman” praises Cash but doesn`t promise to put his book on the national curriculum.
Monday 14 November
The Public Accounts Committee is always the central part of the two days a week it meets. Margaret Hodge has made it more aggressive than it used to be and we function as a pack of attack dogs with Margaret in the lead. Today’s victims are DEFRA and the Rural Payments Agency, one of government’s longer running disasters. DEFRA adopted the most complicated system of valuations in Europe (which must have been on the advice of the department because even Labour Ministers weren’t as brilliant as that). As a result we`ve now lost half a billion in Euro-fines, with £82 million still to come, which is why they’re not maintaining the canals, and wasted £300 million or so on bum computer systems. It costs four times as much to process a claim in England as it does in Scotland, but as usual no one is to blame and officials continue to get their bonuses. Manage to get a couple of questions in. Which is better than last week when I`d just got back from the dentist and my new false teeth fell out as I questioned Gus O`Donnell.
Sunday 13 November
Remembrance Sunday with service at the church then the long march (which I just about manage) to the cenotaph. Remembrance Sunday is so important for MPs that John Stonehouse, having practiced his fake suicide in Florida, came back for his cenotaph day and then went back to Florida to disappear.
It`s a very moving occasion. Grimsby is a town which serves and always does its duty. Attendance goes up and the wreaths multiply as the Defence budget falls. This year I lay a wreath myself. Last year I didn`t and a drunken dig bawled me out at the ceremony.
Saturday 12 November
Surgery is quiet but my grandson, Sykes, arrives from Sheffield University bringing a huge bag of dirty washing. Students are so spoiled these days. I used to post mine home to my mother. Says he hasn`t been able to afford to eat for days. So I buy two fish and chip dinners for him.
A very successful curry evening with Angela Smith (Grimsby born and bred) as guest speaker. Her talk is on “Labour: white, male and over fifty”. In Grimsby it should be “white male and over seventy”. But Labour’s defeat has brought in a large number of enthusiastic young people. They`re very solicitous and keep asking me if they can help me down, or up, the stairs, into the toilet, etc. The evening is a great success and actually makes more money than our fish and chip suppers. That`s internationalism for you. Sykes eats on remorselessly.
Friday 11 November
Start of a very military weekend. Leave London early to drive up but arrive late at our great signing ceremony for the Community Compact attended by lots of military top brass and everyone who`s no-one in North East Lincolnshire. As the Army shrinks we`re doing more for redundant Defence personnel.
Then to St James’s School to present a plaque commemorating two former students who were Battle of Britain pilots. Of the few who saved the nation in 1940 six came from Grimsby. Only 100 of them are still alive. One is at the ceremony. He flew Hurricanes and tells me that they were better than Spitfires (which I`d always thought the best) because the Hurricane was canvas covered so German bullets went straight through.
To a dinner celebrating the 100th birthday of the Grimsby Fish Merchants` Association. It`s managed, despite the Common Fisheries Policy and all the blows fishing has suffered, to keep the fish market going. Five courses of excellent fish and Edward Leigh as guest speaker.
Thursday 10 November
Speak at the Otago University Alumni dinner organised by Paul Beresford, who’s promised to pay me with a free tooth whitening and two fillings (one for each tooth I`ve got left). Most if the audience are doctors and dentists. They could have afforded Tony Blair. Instead they got me on the cheap.
Beresford is a brilliant dinner organiser. The Moss Bros benefit is suddenly invaded by a naked troop of Maori dancers doing terrifying hakas. How on earth did they get through security with their spears, knives and adzes? A few aged students remember being taught by me but probably only because I acquired an enormously sexy reputation by announcing in my 1959 inaugural lecture that “the romantics saw the world as an orgasm”. Most of the young New Zealanders didn’t know what this was. But the medical students, who’d come to inspect the new Pom, went into convulsive sniggers. In my speech I reminisce about the good old days as the audience falls asleep or shouts “Bring back the Maoris”.