Ed Lines

LET’S have a show of hands then. Following David Cameron’s ministerial reshuffle last week, how many more of you are now suddenly inclined to plump for the Tories’ top totty over Red Ed’s dunderheads?

Let’s see … one … nope sorry! He was just wanting permission to go to the loo. That’ll be none then. Just as I thought.

I find it difficult to understand the mass cull of MPs who Cameron presumably thought were the best talents available when he gave them the job and who, having toiled their socks off for several years trying to get to grips with the infernal workings of complex Government departments, are now thrown out on their ears.

Just as these well-intentioned middle-aged men were finally able to unravel the Whitehall clicques, tackle the waste and expose the civil service chicanery, they’re out the door and in steps the latest wide-eyed innocents, who will have to start learning the infernal ins and outs of their briefs from scratch.

I’ll bet the massed ranks of Sir Humphreys laughed tears into their dry gins on Tuesday. Ever was it thus, ever shall it be.

In the sacked ministers’ places come a host of equally talented (or talentless) appointees, most of whom appear to have been given the job based on the fact that they wear a bra and Cameron thinks this is the secret to making him re-electable.

(I should emphasise that reference as being ‘wear a bra in public’ because by the time the Westminster sex scandal is exposed it’s a fair bet that half the Tory party’s grandees will be revealed to have been wearing them in private, complete with stockings and sussies).

But after the reshuffle, will the country notice the difference? Will it put tuppence on a loaf or take a shilling off a gallon of four-star?

What do you think?

All this ministerial musical chairs does is press home the flighty and inconsequential nature of a weak Prime Minister, neither so charming nor duplicitous as Tony Blair, but as pathetically ineffectual a leader as John Major ever was.

Just a posh boy, playing at being posh and important, without a clue what’s going on in the country.

I was sad to see William Hague go, because his increasingly annoying plummy tones apart, Hague was the most able and politically astute individual in the Cabinet – possibly the best Prime Minister we never had in modern times and a man whose leadership of the party came too soon.

But Hague had been playing at being Foreign Minister recently, not helped by Cameron’s disjointed thinking on everything from Libya and Syria to the EU. I dare say the step into the shadows will come as a relief for him.

The loss of Michael Gove however, celebrated by the exultations from the quasi-Marxist educational establishment, speaks volumes about the feather-lite tendencies of Cameron and his inner circle.

Gove was one minister getting the job done, in an area where Britain has been going backwards for years. Like him or loathe him he cared not – which I find refreshing in a politician. He put kids and schools first, and the meddling left-wing educational establishment and its dinosaurial unions at the back of the line.

There probably wasn’t a ‘nice’ way to tackle this most adversarial of ministries, but Gove’s downfall wasn’t because he was good or bad, but because he stepped up to every fight and punched back, and cared not who got black eyes in the process.

Sadly that’s why Cameron yanked him – because the PM wants to schmooze and sanitise his way back into Downing Street.

That’s what this reshuffle is – a bit of thigh and cleavage strolling up to No.10 for the cameras just like the Sayeeda Warsi stunt, while she was deemed useful, plus the cynical willingness to sacrifice your children’s education to hopefully buy a few swing votes.

That says all you need to know about David Cameron.


Tax loopholes? Just close them

I’M not usually slow to indignation, but am finding it difficult to get in a lather over the tale of wealthy celebrities avoiding taxes by investing in offshore shelters.

Is it immoral? It doesn’t matter if it’s not illegal. And I just can’t imagine busy multi-millionaires sitting with their morning coffee, poring over devilish ways to save a few bob.

They have accountants and business advisers who they pay to handle and invest their money.

They wouldn’t be much good if they weren’t trying to maximise their clients’ earnings, would they?

If there’s a loophole, let HMRC close it and claim back the money. Simples. I don’t think calling for fans to boycott Take That concerts over the affair will gain much traction.

If you really want to save our tax money, start with our own racketeering lawyers. A judge (a lawyer obviously) has approved funding of a case brought by a Kenyan-based Ethiopian farmer, trying to stop the UK Government giving aid to his government, because he says they’ve breached his human rights ... ergo his persecution is our fault.

So now a team of tax-funded UK lawyers will fight a hugely expensive battle with another team of tax-funded UK lawyers, over how the UK wastes its taxes on a foreign country, at the behest of a bloke who’s never set foot here, or speaks a word of the lingo.

I’ll bet the lawyer who found this anonymous farmer and dreamed up the wheeze gets drinks from his pals for the next 12 months.

And you just know that if the shysters lose the case, more judges (lawyers) will approve appeals all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Dickens couldn’t have made this lot up.


Ratcliffe family’s dignity is a tribute to little Summer Mai

ONE bright Sunday morning last year I sat in the lounge of the Ratcliffe family home in Thornhill, watching two detectives squirm as they tried – and failed – to explain why the Crown Prosecution Service would be holding no one to account for the possible murder of little Summer Mai Rogers-Ratcliffe.

Getting anything resembling an explanation out of the CPS is like asking the KGB to list its favourite torture techniques. You might be hanging on the phone a while. I tried unsuccessfully anyway.

As we in our small way – and the Daily Mail massively to their great credit – tried to unravel the inaction in answering the Ratcliffes’ questions over that little girl’s death, the huge weight of Britain’s ultra-secretive and unaccountable ‘Court of Protection’ (a system the 1950s Soviets would have been proud of) was wielded like a hammer against us.

Only this week, with the holding of the inquest into Summer Mai’s death, are small steps of progress being made in lifting the lid on this case.

The quiet but determined dignity of James Ratcliffe and his family in rattling the cages of our back-covering system – Kirklees Council, Social Services, the NHS and West Yorkshire Police are all involved in this case – is to their massive credit.

Tomorrow – Saturday – in Overthorpe Park, James and Deborah Ratcliffe, their family and legions of friends, will stage the third annual Summer’s Fayre to raise money for children less fortunate than most of ours, in memory of the toddler they lost. It’s timely because of the inquest proceedings in Bradford, which the media remains limited in commenting upon.

None of us can know what the Ratcliffes have been through, and continue to go through.

We can only wish that in similar circumstances, we could display their courage, strength and dignity – and pray that the truth somehow emerges and justice is done for that innocent child.

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