News comes of three of the region’s Tory MPs sending a spiky letter to Boris Johnson over his tinkering with the visa rules for Ukraine. Oliver Heald (North East Herts), Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) and Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk) complain that: “This is not another migration crisis, this is a crisis of war. This should not be business as usual.”
There are 37 signatories in all, from the One Nation Tory caucus.
Your reminder meanwhile that four Tory MPs in this region have accepted money from Russian donors. Brandon Lewis (Gt Yarmouth) £48,000, John Whittingdale (Maldon) £8,000, Robert Halfon (Harlow) £5,000 and Will Quince (Colchester) £5750. No adequate explanation has been given for these donations. Mr Lewis claims that “the Russians give us money because they admire us”. Readers may wish to consider what the Russians are presently doing to Ukraine and wonder whether this is a form of admiration they would prefer our own politicians to avoid. Those readers who live in the constituencies of any of these three gentlemen might care to take the matter further.
Quizzed by a local hack, Peter Aldous, Tory MP for Waveney, makes clear his horror over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but quite reasonably fails to see why this should in any way change his mind over his letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson regarding Partygate. Yet for the hack, that was presumably supposed to be a ‘gotcha’ moment.
Pecksniff’s advice to this young man would be to get out more. A very young Pecksniff was once entertained to lunch by the editor of one of our major regional dailies. The great man was complimentary, and wondered aloud over the fricassee de poulet a l’ancienne a la facon d’Ipswich how it was that your correspondent seemed to know much more about what was going on in the world than his reporters.
The young Pecksniff, ever eager to be helpful, suggested that while he spent day and night diligently absorbing the cadence and poetry of the vox populi, the hacks spent every moment not at their desks playing snooker in the paper’s social club.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South pours scorn on the idea of Johnson’s government being seen as serious in cutting the party’s ties with Russian money. He holds up a Christmas card from a Putin supporting Russian MP. It shows the MP and Boris Johnson, and says: “We open closed doors”.
Also on the TV panel is Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth South and one of the few hopes the Tories have of pulling themselves out of the abyss. Confronted by the Christmas card, he admits: “What can I say? It’s wrong.”
There is at the moment a cross-party Commons motion, calling on the government to undertake a full investigation of the security threat posed by Russia, as set out in Intelligence & Security Committee of Parliament’s Russia Report. The parties are listed: Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Democrats, Social Democratic and Labour… Now, is any party missing? Oh yes. You’ll never guess which one.
The bizarre position in which the Tories find themselves, of course, is that if they refuse to sign the motion, the only conclusion is that they demand that the government do not undertake a full investigation of the security threat posed by Russia. And this of a country with whom we are more or less at war. If any reader can persuade his or her Tory MP to address the question, whatever the answer might be, Pecksniff promises to stand you a pint at the Muckrakers next time you’re passing.
While the whole country seems to be sending parcels to the Ukraine, flying the Ukrainian flag, glued to the TV in tears at the monstrosities visited on its people by the Russian invaders and offering free accommodation to any Ukrainians who can reach the UK, let us turn to the part being played by home secretary Priti Patel, the Tory MP for Witham. It is she and her policies which can let in Ukrainian refugees, or – as is her preference – keep them out. Having misled the House of Commons two or three times already this last week and been caught out doing it by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, Patel was heard by microphones calling Cooper a “cow”.
As we go to press, the government’s squirming position on Ukrainian refugees still changes daily. Perhaps this is why Ms Patel refuses to give the opposition a security briefing, as would normally happen in these circumstances. Or perhaps it would mean she would have to sit opposite Yvette Cooper.
The reason she gives for not briefing the opposition is that she is “very sceptical of how they treat and respect security advice”. This takes a certain chutzpah, given that she was sacked from the government by Theresa May for holding her own secret discussions with a foreign power.
Meanwhile, whatever pig’s rectum of an immigration policy Ms Patel dreams up for Ukrainian refugees, there is free immigration and asylum advice available from a group of lawyers with experience in this field. The email address is: [email protected]
In an interview on poverty, Matt Hancock, Tory MP for West Suffolk dismissed the implication that the government don’t know what it’s like to grow up in extreme poverty, in a house with rats. “Rishi Sunak, right?” he exclaims triumphantly. “His mum was a pharmacist!”
Sunak went to Winchester College and is now married to one of India’s richest women.
Mr Hancock was in full rehabilitation mode, presenting himself now as a new romantic, a man driven by his passion for a woman to overstep the mark. Not, you understand, his quite unhealthy drive to prove himself in politics. That ambition still burns as bright, and Mr Hancock seems quite perky these days, believing he can return to the fold.
But nothing changes. He remains a braggart and a bully. Pecksniff has read the letters and the texts, and had close contacts with the Departments of both Business and Education when he was a parliamentary under-secretary jointly in both, working to undermine the Liberal Democrats and reporting every whisper to his master George Osborne in the Treasury.
More outlandish claims of romance. This week the hapless foreign secretary Liz Truss, Tory MP for South West Norfolk, has in a moment of romantic madness backed UK citizens who might like to go and fight in Ukraine, rather as British citizens heroically joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight in the Spanish civil war.
But Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons defence committee (and see above), one of the woman’s parliamentary colleagues, was appalled at the advice.
“We say NO to tasking the NATO alliance – but now endorse UK civilians, with no military training, to go and fight in Ukraine!” he rages. “Please do NOT go if you have no combat experience. You may get yourself and others who have to look after you, killed.”
Meanwhile, Ms Truss continues to pose for photographs. Shortly, do not doubt, they will appear photoshopped, with our hero Super-Truss leading the charge of Ukrainian patriots from their bomb craters, through the corpses of their comrades to glory. At least, glory for Ms Truss.
It is alleged that, so far, since she took up the post of foreign secretary, more than 700 pictures featuring the woman have been uploaded to the government’s Flickr account – an average of more than four and a half a day, or about one photograph for every five hours in the job.
A month ago Pecksniff wrote about the curious goings-on at Breckland District Council, which in 2006 bought Barnham Broom Golf Club. The original purchase price was apparently £8 million and they have since spent another £2 million on it. The Tory council were proud of their initiative at time. They featured the purchase prominently in their election material.
But something appears to have gone badly awry. With £10 million spent, they are now keen to sell it to the present tenants for just £2 million. Naturally this has caught the attention of the local tax-payers who take a dim view of the investment having lost what amounts to a staggering £500,000 in value every year. One such tax-payer has been in touch with Pecksniff with a copy of his correspondence with the council. He wrote first to council chair Councillor Roy Brame, who responded: “You will appreciate that it is not appropriate for me to comment on any matter connected with our commercial asset”.
But our tax-payer did not appreciate it. In fact he was rather keen that Councillor Brame should comment. So he tried again. This time it was: “We would not be able to provide any further detail to that already given due to commercial confidentiality”.
Commercial confidentiality taking precedent over public accountability every time, of course. Ever polite, our man wrote back, saying: “I remain utterly puzzled that as a constituent I am not permitted to see how my council spends my taxes”.
A resident and tax-payer taking an interest in how the council works and how it spends public money: the worst kind. This time the council’s response was final: “Unfortunately we are unable to discuss this further as it is confidential and we have said all that we can on the subject.”
So Pecksniff tried. A phone call involved four barriers of recorded multi-choice answers, each of which made it clear that its first priority is to make the caller go away. So Pecksniff had his man hang on for some minutes to be put through to whichever circle of hell was reserved for pushy members of the public. But dear reader, as you will already have assumed, there was to be nobody available to answer.
Now, Pecksniff is not a man to hold grudges. (Not true – Ed.) But let us see what a proper examination of Breckland’s doings over the coming weeks may reveal.
There is talk of Ofwat, the water regulator, having plans to link water company bosses’ pay to the pollution they pump into our rivers. We can be sure that this idea will not be overlooked by the many groups across East Anglia who have been making clear their anger at raw human sewage dumped in our rivers. Pecksniff will make it his business to keep close tabs on developments.
It seems that hunting is in profile again. With police reportedly losing interest in what happens during such events, it appears the hunts are becoming emboldened. The Waveney Harriers seem increasingly casual about their attitudes to the hunting ban, with the result that Suffolk police have handed a file of evidence about their activities on Boxing Day, given to them by Huntwatch, to the Crown Prosecution Service. This is the first time this has happened in East Anglia. In fact only one prosecution for illegal hunting has ever been brought under the act – in Merseyside, and against a poacher rather than a hunt.
John Ibbott, master of the Waveney Harriers declared: “We were hunting within the law. Huntwatch obviously take a different view, but none of the local constabulary who were there had a problem on the day.”
You don’t say.
According to the Norfolk and Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs, the harriers have been “up to their old tricks”, which include cub hunting and ‘digging out’. Our picture shows the pack on an occasion they attacked and mauled a deer, an incident which was reported in the national press. A dead badger was then allegedly dumped in the garden of the hunt monitor who took the picture.
East Anglia Bylines will be investigating hunting and the hunting ban in more detail over the coming weeks.
As far as is known, this gentleman has no connections with East Anglia, but it seemed such a shame to have his efforts go unremarked. It is reported by a news agency in Mallorca that a Ukrainian sailor has been arrested after sinking the yacht of his millionaire Russian boss. The boat is owned by Alexander Mijeev, an executive at Rostec, a Russian state-owned company which manufactures military equipment.
Regrettably, Mr Pecksniff’s Diary will not appear as usual next Friday, 11th March. Pecksniff will be in retreat with the monks of St Gallen for a few days, poring over manuscripts. The diary will return on 18th March.