BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
May 28. R.I.P. Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band who died yesterday aged 69. A sublimely soulful singer and inventive musician, Gregg helped shaped the whole Southern Rock explosion of the 1970s. He formed the band with his older brother Duane, an inspired lead and slide guitarist, who died in a motorbike accident in 1971. His percussive Hammond B-3 organ underscored Duane's duelling with their other lead guitarist Dickey Betts. Nashville born Gregg was hugely influenced by the blues, especially the vocal style of Little Milton Campbell, and wrote stand-out songs including Whipping Post, Melissa, and Midnight Rider. The band's biggest hits Ramblin' Man and Jessica (the Top Gear theme) had more of a country feel. His other claim to rock infamy was his hell-raising life-style. After shows Gregg would have up to five hotel rooms booked to entertain different female fans, saying that he didn't have the heart to turn women down. He passed away peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia following complications caused by liver cancer.
May 27. I'm not sure what good it does having the army in Downing Street etc. May seems to be aping Blair when he sent tanks in to Heathrow. It's meant as a show of strength but unless we're expecting Godzilla to come waltzing down the Mall it seems more like blind panic to me. Staying calm and carrying on is surely more effective than (over-)reacting like a tin-pot dictatorship. Besides, who are we kidding? The army, navy and RAF have been slashed to the bone, and it was only last weekend that the Sunday Times warned of 4,000 more job cuts in the Met police. Our military, security forces and cops do a hell of a job, but they are being bled dry. We need action to reverse that. Action this day, Mrs May.
Corbyn blames British and US foreign policy for the attacks, which doesn't explain why Islamist terrorists have also struck in Belgium, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Kosovo and Russia. It isn't our foreign policy that the Jihadists hate, it's us! It's Western civilisation; our values, our free speech, our democracy, our liberated women. Besides Jezza, always one to apologise for terror, forgets that the West went into Bosnia to protect Muslims and that most of the Jihadists' victims have been other Muslims in Africa and across the Middle East.
We're warned today that there are as many as 23,000 terror suspects in Britain – a little bit worse than the odd bad apple then. Yet we're told the way to beat them is to join hands and sing Don't Look Back In Anger. Hmm. As ever the fear of "offending" trumps the need for honest debate about the flawed creed of multiculturalism, the poisonous Muslim Brotherhood, the role of Saudi Arabia, our immigration meltdown and the ways liberal Muslims can help combat reactionary extremists.
The Tory lead was cut to five points yesterday. That means in two weeks time Diane Abbott could be Home Secretary. And if that wasn't worrying enough McDonnell could be Chancellor. Forget Alien Covenant. That's proper scary.
May 26. I was on the road with Ozzy Osbourne in the States just after he bit the head off a dove. The sick stunt unlocked a Pandora's box of American idiots. All sorts of crazies came out of the woodwork, turning up at his gigs with snakes, dead cats, skinned bullfrogs and the like – all recorded in unpleasant detail in my book Sounds Of Glory Volume 1. The media were rightly outraged. Yet instead of the story killing his career, wife Sharon used it to break him big. Ozzy's second coming dates from that moment of madness. That's one of the more upbeat tales in Mrs O's documentary Rock 'n' Roll's Dodgiest Deals which is shown on BBC4 tonight. This show does for old-time rock managers, like Sharon's crooked dad Don Arden, what Bilquis on American Gods did for Tinder.
May 25. Old school entertainers headlined a charity gala night in Dartford last Sunday. Jim Davidson put in a seven hour round trip just to do a ten minute slot, and was both hilarious and surprisingly clean. Well, there were kids in. Bobby Davro fired out gags and impressions like a human Gatling gun. Duncan Norvelle came on in a wheelchair and won a standing ovation. The warmth of the sold-out Orchard crowd could have defrosted Anne Robinson. The public love these guys, which makes TV executives' continued refusal to include them on variety bills as puzzling as it is self-defeating and infuriating. Brian Conley is another one, magnificent on last night's Palladium show but seen far too rarely on TV. I was there when Joe Pasquale came on and you could have toasted crumpets on the smiles of the audience. Yet I've seen both Joe and Davro leave comedy club crowds in stitches too. These turns are living gold. It is sheer madness to keep them off TV for out-dated ideological reasons...
Meanwhile back at Dartford, the rest of the bill included a country trio, engaging BGT dance act Twist & Pulse, Lee Mead, the Take That Experience, The Jive Aces, schoolgirl hoofers and more. Comperes Goodmaze & Shed caught my eye. There was the feel of a young Morecambe & Wise about them. They should really do more gags. They already have the chemistry. If they added comedy double act shtick they'd be onto a winner. Gary Goodmaze's Freddie Mercury impression would have romped home on Stars In Their Eyes. The night raised thousands for Demelza Hospice Care and Ifield Special School. Watch out for the next one.
May 23. Isis have claimed responsibility for last night's horrific bomb attack on the Manchester Arena, killing at least twenty-one concert-goers, including an eight-year-old girl. Already our gutless politicians are churning out the same old platitudes. Isn't it time for a more robust approach? Tom Holland's brave and instructive Channel 4 documentary Isis: the Origins of Violence is still available via All 4. It's a chilling reminder of what we're up against.
May 22. Social care has become the key issue in the general election with obvious consequences for any home owner. Unfortunately the various party proposals are as clear as mud. Theresa May tonight appeared to perform the first u-turn of the campaign by pledging a cap on the cost of care just four days after she had ruled it out in the Conservative manifesto. The prime minister then claimed, bizarrely, that nothing had changed. Clearly it had. The manifesto explicitly rejected a cap on social care on the grounds that it "benefited a small number of wealthy people". Instead, Mrs May announced a £100,000 floor along with changes that would compel thousands to fund their care at home by making their property count towards the amount they had to pay. The policy would mean that people would foot the bill for their own social care until they were down to their last £100K in assets – the cost to be taken from the sale of their estate after their deaths. So if your house is worth £500K your estate would be liable for up to £400K in care costs. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that this would mean up to 17per cent of people in their 70s who currently have free domiciliary care would now have to pay for it. The proposal was quickly and correctly dubbed a "dementia tax". Today Mrs May has said that as well as the £100K floor she would bring in an "absolute limit" to curb liabilities for care costs. She did not say what the limit would be. That figure would be decided after the election following a consultation, she said. It is estimated that this policy change will cost the state at least £2billion extra, partly paid for by strict means-testing for winter fuel payments. But let's say she caps it at £72,000 as the Tories proposed in their 2015 manifesto. What this means is, if your house is worth £250K you'll end up paying a far greater percentage of your estate than a person whose drum is worth half a million. The dementia tax will penalise people with modest homes and as correctly stated by the Tories last week benefit the wealthy. It's better news for the elderly in residential care whose homes are already factored in to calculations of their assets. The proposed changes mean that they would only have to fund their care until they have remaining assets of £100K instead of £23,500 as is the case now.
SO to summarise, under May's proposals people won't lose their homes while they are alive. Instead the cost of care would be charged after their deaths. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has rejected this strategy, saying that under a Labour government social care would be "properly funded" by the state via a massive increase in taxation, including inheritance tax. Labour advocate the creation of a National Care Service for England to be "built alongside the NHS". They would lay the foundations for this in their first term by increasing social care budgets by £8billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament, including an additional £1billion for the first year. They pledge that this money would pay for "a real living wage" for carers and the implementation of the Ethical Care Charter "ending 15minute care visits" and providing care workers with "paid travel time, access to training and an option to choose regular hours". Sounds good, but where would it come from? The party's "death tax" proposal, set out in an appendix to the manifesto, means families would pay an eye-watering 40 per cent tax rate on the value of a deceased relative's home if it's worth more than £425,000. Reducing the inheritance tax threshold would immediately affect 3.9 million of the 25 million homes in England, according to Treasury analysis. A further one million households would be forced to pay the tax by 2022 because of rising house prices. That would take the total to 4.9 million properties, just under one in every five English households. On the face of it, these are worrying developments. If as a result of May's plans you are unable to pass your property on to your children does it not still mean that effectively you lose your home? While if your house is worth half a million now (a modest sum in London and the Home Counties), a Corbyn government would help themselves to a hefty £100K from the sale after you've gone. There are also implications for future prosperity if the public are forced to shoulder the burden of higher taxation to consider, a sure-fire way of derailing the economy...
There are other unanswered questions too. Why are people with dementia singled out for punitive charges when people with cancer are not? Why does May insist that we'll carry on giving away £11billion a year in foreign aid when that dosh could be better spent sorting out health and social care without penalising people who have worked hard all their lives and want to leave something to their kids rather than an incompetent government? Why do we allow politicians to assume the state has a right to grab private property anyway?
Clearly whichever party forms the next government, either the Conservatives or Labour in coalition with the Scottish National Party, it will have deep implications for you and your house. My advice? Speak to an expert. Good estate planners know exactly what you need to do to protect everything you've worked for. I like these chaps but shop around.
*THE great health dilemma: for years the nanny state has told us what to eat and drink, applying punitive taxation to boozers and smokers. The result? More people now live long enough to develop dementia and Alzheimer's. D'oh! So have a drink, have a smoke, spark up a spliff. Enjoy yourself, because the only years you'll lose are the miserable ones you wouldn't remember living through anyway.
*NOW the unsinkable Theresa has hit the ice-berg of social care, the election is genuinely exciting and uncertain. The only problem is which one of these losers should we vote for? The Lib Dims are ridiculous, Corbyn's PIRA links disgust me, and UKIP look like a busted flush. If only there were a party that out the rights of the individual above the demands of the state. There is a clear space for an alternative voice that rejects the establishment, rejects big government and champions freedom.
May 19. I'll review Three Girls on Sunday. But what the harrowing BBC drama doesn't tell you is that only two of the evil Rochdale grooming gang are still behind bars. Four of the other scumbags are fighting deportation and have been granted permission to take their cases to the Court Of Appeal. Guess who's paying for it? That's right, you and me. A gallows would have been cheaper.
May 18. Tonight, exclusively to channel 3, it's... the ITV Losers' Debate. If I wanted to watch two hours of tedious also-rans with absolutely no hope of winning, I'd go to Vicarage Road.
The front page of today's Star is 'Cowell faces quiz on Mel B threesome', which sounds like the best ever specialist subject round on Mastermind.
STOP PRESS: R.I.P. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden (and Audioslave & Temple of the Dog), one of the defining talents of 90s rock and an incredibly versatile songwriter. A sad loss.
This Tory manifesto seems to largely target the elderly. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
An Irish Catholic perspective on Corbyn's life-long love affair with the Provos, here.
May 17. Downton Abbey – The Movie goes into production in three months. Hmm. Isn't that title a little too American for our aristocratic nobs? Downton Abbey – The Motion Picture would sound grander. Mind you, as it's clearly aimed at the Septics it's a wonder they didn't opt for the title GRANTHAM and shoot it in the style of Gotham with Bates as "batman", Barrow as Two-Face and Violet as Poison Ivy.
Talking of substandard works of fiction, Labour's manifesto added the water industry to its renationalisation hit list. How many billions would this set us back? John McDonnell has no idea. They haven't bothered costing it because they know they can't win.
May 16. Ian Brady dead. Condition satisfactory.
Theresa May is promising new employment rights for workers, extending unpaid leave for carers to up to a year, pumping up the minimum wage etc. But these rights won't mean a light if workers can't afford the fees to enforce them. Employment tribunals cost an arm and a leg, more than a grand a time in some cases. More empty rhetoric.
May 15. Funerals provide rich pickings for comedians. When the final episode of Peter Kay's Car Share aired last month it opened with Peter's character John and his gran driving along listening to Forever FM. Grandmaster Flash's White Lines faded and a cringe-worthy advertisement cut in. "It's not always easy thinking about what will happen after you're gone," said the voice-over as John shifted awkwardly. "But by paying just a small amount each month you can be assured of a lump sum to be enjoyed by your family when you're just a photograph in a frame." The ad finished with the slogan: "Arthur Whelan – for when tomorrow doesn't come." Ouch. The underlying truth of the advert was comically subverted by the crassness of the wording. The late great Irish comedian Dave Allen once wrote a television sketch which he introduced by explaining the old folk belief that only the first person to be buried in the local graveyard could get into heaven that day – so if two were buried, the last one in had to hang about in limbo until daybreak. Cue two funeral directors racing to get their coffin into the ground first. We see their walking processions speed up as they try to push their rivals off the path, tripping them up and even using an abandoned pram to transport the departed quicker to the grave. The whole slapstick death race is undermined hilariously when they reach the church only to find a third funeral already taking place...
The classic sitcom Steptoe & Son also mined bereavement for laughs. In the episode Oh What A Beautiful Mourning, Albert learns that his tight-fisted brother George has passed away. This is quite a surprise for son Harold who never knew his uncle even existed. Greedy relatives descend for funeral, hovering like vultures. But the joke is on the squabbling clan – George's will left all his money to animal charities... In real life, celebrities have been putting the fun in funerals for years. Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson's ashes were fired into the sky from a cannon paid for by Johnny Depp (who'd played Thompson in the film of his book Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas). Malcolm McLaren's last journey was never going to be a quiet affair. As the punk svengali's hearse made its way through North London to Highgate cemetery, 200 mourners sang along to Sid Vicious' version of Sinatra's My Way... Arguably the funniest real-life eulogy came from John Cleese at the funeral of fellow Python Graham Chapman. "And I guess that we're all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age of only 48, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he'd had enough fun," John said solemnly. "Well, I feel that I should say: nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries. And the reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste." Reflecting our schizophrenic attitude to death, Monty Python's cheery ditty Always Look On The Bright Side of Life has become the most requested song at British funerals. A 2014 Co-operative Funeralcare survey also found that Queen were the most frequently requested rock band. Top tracks? Don't Stop Me Now and Who Wants To Live Forever...
Here's something I wrote last week about the cost of dying.
May 13. Ian McEwan told a conference that the death of elderly voters over the next two years would help swing a second referendum against Brexit and the "gang of angry old men" who were responsible for it. Yeah, curse those doddery old bastards for daring to vote against the righteous wishes of clear-headed, not-at-all-bitter young guns like Michael Heseltine, 84, Kenneth Clarke, 76, Arsene Wenger, 67, Baroness Kennedy, 67, and John Major, 74. Ian McEwan is 68.
It's Eurovision tonight. I vote Leave.
May 12. A huge thank you to Sunday Dinner Diaries for the slap-up pre-birthday meal of pie, mash and stewed eels in Goddards of Greenwich today. Now I don't normally accept dinner invitations from complete strangers via the internet, but SDD intrigued me. She said her name was Faye West ("no relation to Fred"), that she was a food-blogger with a pedantic attachment to correct grammar, and that I had once impregnated her in a dream. Potential psychopath rating: six out of ten. I agreed to meet but warned her that if she were after dream child maintenance I'd be off like a shot. Faye suggested Wetherspoons – a promising start. Cheap, down to earth and lots of potential witnesses. I got to the bar of The Gate Clock and ordered a Doombar. There were no solitary women hanging about, either sane or otherwise. A prank? A set-up? I looked around for hidden cameras. But then she breezed in from the patio – quite tall, full of life and possibly white wine. "I could be a psychopath," she said, in a voice as Cleethorpes as Nibbs Carter. The smile suggested otherwise though. Faye was fun, gobby and engaging, and she proceeded to hit me with a string of barmy questions: If a man from NASA rocked up at the table and said I could go to the moon, but I had to leave right now, would I go? Of course I would. Who is the funniest comedian alive? Harder. Probably still Billy Connolly but Jim Davidson on form is top flight and I'd have to see Chris Rock live to make my mind up. Funniest book you've ever read? Harder still. If you'd asked me when I was 15, Spike Milligan's Puckoon. In the 80s, Bonfire Of The Vanities. This year, Diabolical Liberty.
What would my final meal be before the reaper came a-calling? A medium rare Chateau Briand with a bottle or two of Nuits St George. (Although I forgot to add served in New York or Vegas, I'm not fussed). My best ever Christmas present? My granddaughter. Which band would I most like to see live right now? Ho, that's harder. Probably The Jam but as Paul is unlikely to reform them I'd settle for Rose Tattoo. She also asked me what I thought of her nose. I thought it was very... Northern. The mad-ball questioning continued as we reached Goddards, where I discovered that the strangest thing about food-blogger Faye is that she emptied half a pot of pepper over her mash, crossing the not too fine line between seasoning and desecration. It was like eating with The Duchess from Alice In Wonderland (that's just a pepper reference, she threw no cutlery and was certainly not grotesque). I've experienced all of London's finest pie & mash emporiums – Manze's, Kelly's, Cooke's, BJ's, Raymond's etc and would say Goddards is right up there in the Premier League. Recommended for great service, fine grub, and the ready availability of London Pride. Faye's Sunday Dinner Diaries blog can be found here. She's certainly more Rooney than Ronay, and yet infinitely more entertaining than Giles Coren.
May 11. Labour's election manifesto was leaked before the shadow cabinet and the party's national executive could even read it, let alone endorse it. If Michael Foot's 1983 manifesto was "the longest suicide note in history", as Gerald Kaufman said, this one must be sponsored by Dignitas. Even Labour MPs are calling it "a cocktail of insanity". Corbyn pledges to spend billions on state-run enterprises. Labour would re-nationalise the trains and Royal Mail, nationalise the buses and parts of the energy sector, scrap tuition fees, bring in pay caps, rent controls, spend billions more on welfare and the NHS etc etc. Talk about Let's Do The Time Warp Again. The estimated cost of these proposals is an eye-watering £90billion a year. All to found by shaking the magic money tree. They'll clobber companies with corporation tax, punish anyone who makes a profit, hike up tax on "rich" people earning more than £80grand a year and so on. They'll have to move fast because by the end of year one there won't be any "rich" left to soak. Some of these policies might appeal to voters, especially any reliant on Southern Rail, but don't be fooled – they represent the economics of the madhouse. There has never been a single country in the world where a state-controlled economy didn't create shortages, misery and chaos. No-one in business ever said, "You know what the economy needs? More bureaucrats!" And yet instead of creating a clear blue ocean between Labour and the Conservatives, Theresa May is moving the Tories leftwards. May's manifesto, when it arrives, is certain to reflect her commitment to old-fashioned interventionist ideas. She's gung-ho for central planning, price caps, wage caps, higher taxes and crazy green energy policies. May is as much of a statist as Gordon Brown was. In fact all of the major players in this election are wedded to the economics of failure. What we need is someone with the guts and vision to spell out a radical alternative – an economy powered by entrepreneurs, competition, low taxation and a vastly smaller state.
May 5. The local election results painfully exposed the Labour Party's weakness. They lost control of Glasgow! They lost the Tees Valley in the North East! They lost in Merthyr and the West Midlands... surely even Diane Abbott can do the sums on this. Comrade Corbyn is leading Labour to the brink of extinction. And yet I can't see the far-Left relinquishing control of the party even if Corbyn falls on his sword. The likes of John McDonnell aren't bothered about parliamentary democracy. For them, "the revolution" is what matters, however doomed and demented that proves to be. There is much whispering about a new centre Left reformist party emerging before the year is out, possibly around Blair, but could it be that big state social democracy as a philosophy is as washed up as what passes for Marxism?
It was Total Wipe-Out for UKIP too as sympathetic voters threw their support behind Theresa May. Many think it's job done for Paul Nuttall's motley crew of purple rebels. What's left for them to achieve, commentators ask? Actually quite a lot. Trappist Theresa may still try to water down Brexit. She will be soft on immigration, and her economic policies are worryingly lame. May's energy price cap proposals are just as flawed now as they were when Ed Miliband proposed them. She also looks certain to raise taxes, when a real Conservative Prime Minister would seek to lower them. Lowering taxes generates growth and income, raising them just nobbles the economy. UKIP should be the party saying: No pay off to the EU, we don't owe them a penny piece. No "soft Brexit" sell-out. Reduce taxation. Reduce the deficit by cutting state spending. Growth, not "stability" etc, etc. A firm, clear, libertarian message that makes economic sense would show voters why the party has a place in a post-EU Britain.
April 28. The latest issue of Street Sounds is out any day now, packed with articles on Secret Affair, the Anti Nowhere League, Steve Diggle, the London International Ska Festival, Cock Sparrer's new album, the Gonads' US tour, the hottest Casual clothes labels and much more. You can order it from here.
April 27. The Tories look likely to drop their pledge to withdraw the UK from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in their election manifesto. This will keep us handcuffed to European human rights law until 2022 – the end of the next parliament. It's another reason not to trust Grey May and to question her commitment to Brexit. If only we had an opposition capable of exposing the Tories' weakness... Instead, ironically, we have a Prime Minister who is a closet Remainer pretending to be a Brexiteer taking on a Labour leader pretending to be a Remainer who has wanted Britain out of the EU since the 1970s...
May is not a strong leader. As well as her obvious fear of debate, her record as home secretary was woeful, she completely swerved the Referendum, and the only people she ever stood up to were the Old Bill, whose side you'd expect the Tories to be on. May's Muppets won't give us the clean break with the EU that Britain voted for. Frit and feeble, May's only selling point is she isn't quite as useless as the other guy.
April 25. My new radio show Sounds of Glory goes out live at 11pm tonight on 2ndcityradio.net with a sonic smorgasbord that takes in the Clash, Ian Dury, Rancid, Squeeze, the Libertines and all points between. If you miss it you can listen again on Spreaker.
Like it or not, this election is about Brexit, with Euro fanatics like Blair and Farron desperately trying to over-turn the democratic will of the people. 17.4million of us voted for self-determination last Summer and the quislings of the political and media elite have been agitating against it ever since. Blair is now asking people to vote for the most anti-Brexit candidate in their constituency, regardless of party. The obvious response it to suggest we fight back by voting for the most pro-Brexit (serious) candidate available.
April 24. UKIP are wrong to want to ban the burqa. Who are they to tell women what they can or can't wear? The burqa, niqab and hijab may well be oppressive but it's up to Muslim women themselves to reject them, not politicians. The state meddles in our lives far too much as it is.
April 23. Happy St George’s Day! Chesterton wrote ‘St George he was for England and before he slew the dragon, he drank a pint of English ale out of English flagon.’ I’m on my fifth right now, but round my way the streets are crawling with old dragons...
April 22. This is hilarious. Labour MPs have erased lame duck Corbyn from their campaign literature. We could have the first election ever where the leader of a major party only appears in the propaganda of their rivals.
April 21. Is Theresa May the person to deliver “strong leadership”? I doubt it. The Grey Lady’s tough image is media manufactured illusion, just as risible as the Left trying to paint her as “right-wing”. What kind of right-winger advocates raising taxes and flushing away our hard-earned tax money on wasteful foreign aid? May wants to be seen as the Thatcher of our times, but Maggie didn’t rush to the centre ground, she moved the centre towards her. UKIP could use May’s weaknesses to show precisely why they are still a necessary force, not just to see Brexit through but also to push for a vibrant low tax economy. Labour’s best hope is to bang on (and on) about the Tories breaking the spending rules at the last General Election. Some even speculate that May called this on to bury the scandal.
April 20. TV broadcasters are threatened to “empty chair” Theresa May if she refuses to take part in televised leaders debates. Mind you if it was a choice between Corbyn and an empty chair I’d vote for the chair every time.
April 19. Another general election! Just what nobody wanted, especially if the nobody in question is Jeremy Corbyn. Jezza looks set to lead the Labour Party into their biggest electoral defeat since 1983. So May could actually be doing the Blairites a favour. If Corbyn conks out at the polls, as seems likely, Labour moderates will be able to wrest control back from the Momentum mob. We might even hear the slogan ‘Save Labour, Vote Tory’...
May’s strategy is not risk free of course. The Tories may prove vulnerable to the Lib Dims in certain areas, particularly the West Country. Mind you, the more Sturgeon sticks her nose in the better the Tories will do south of the border. UKIP might nick a couple of seats from Labour, Thurrock looks particularly vulnerable, but their general vote will collapse. Meanwhile Labour voters can only sit back and reflect on what might have been if smart, down-to-earth, moderate man of the people Alan Johnson were leading the party instead of leaving Parliament.
Actually you can get good odds on Corbyn. I’ve seen him at 7 to 1 to win the next series of I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.
THERE was more sadness this week in TV’s vale of tears, EastEnders, as the Carters gathered to send off Sylvie – the Gran of the clan who recently electrocuted herself in the bath. As ever, the soap’s claim to reflect “reality” was sorely challenged by the storyline. For starters how did the cash-strapped Carters pay for her funeral?
Sylvie had dementia; she and had no plan in place. And funeral services don’t come cheap. The average cost in London is just under £3,700 (more if it’s a burial). That covers the cremation, the minister, the funeral director and local authority fees.
Granted it was a restrained affair by soap standards. Albert Square funerals traditionally involve a horse-drawn hearse, and a team of four shire horses costs £1,800. But even if Billy Mitchell did it at mates’ rates, the cheapest you can get cremated for in East London today is around £900, not including the other costs. And as regular viewers know the struggling family couldn’t even afford to fix the Queen Vic’s leaking roof.
Maybe they put it on Vincent’s purloined credit card...
This was the perfect chance for the writers to bring home the soaring costs of funerals – they’ve more than doubled since 2004 – and show how the Carters could and should have handled their grandmother’s final years.
For starters, as soon as Sylvie was diagnosed with dementia they should have persuaded her to give a trustworthy family member (there must be one of them) Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA). That would have allowed Tina, say, to help her make decisions or make decisions of her behalf. A Property & Financial LPA would have let her manage Sylvie’s bank and/or building society accounts, pay bills, collect her pension or sell her home if she’d had one. The Carters should also have looked at putting a funeral plan in place. These start at around £2,900 and consequently would have eased the burden when she passed, leaving the family just to pick up the tab for the wake (in this case, four Canning Town pensioners bang on the gin). The soap has striven to “educate” viewers for decades, and yet here they missed a golden opportunity to explain simply how best to deal with a relative who is sadly afflicted with dementia and how proper plan can reduce both the cost and the stress of funerals. This handy, easy to read information pack explains how it could be done.
*HERE is a link to a piece I've written about fake wills.
April 8. This blog is still shut, but it's difficult to keep quiet about Donald Trump launching dozens of Tomahawk missiles at one of Assad's military airfields in Syria. So much for "America First"... so much for avoiding the folly of counter-productive international wars... Trump violated US and international law to rain 59 shades of hell on the Shayrat air base. He had no UN remit for it, but justified it as a response to Assad's use of poison gas earlier this week. Yet there is no evidence that Assad did anything of the kind. Why would he? He's winning! Why would he risk provoking this kind of reaction? This smells suspiciously like a false flag operation. Bashar Assad is a bastard, there's no doubt about that. But he's a secular one. Who do the Yanks intend to replace him with? Another medieval theocracy? Look at the barbaric mess that followed when Western 'humanitarians' took out those other secular hard-men – Saddam and Gaddafi.
On the ground the people who benefit from Trump's bombardment are Assad's enemies, who are essentially al Qaeda – the scumbags who brought down the Twin Towers, and who gleefully slaughter Christians and other faiths across the region.
The complexities of Middle East politics make Game Of Thrones look like a game of Ludo. The West condemns Assad while high-fiving the Saudis who are no strangers to murdering and torturing their own people. Not to mention the poor sods in Yemen.
It looks as if Trump is lashing out abroad because he can't push his policies through at home. It seems to have worked for him, with hostile media outlets, the Washington establishment and the neo-con wing of the Republican Party suddenly singing his praises. But unless Donald's prepared to put boots on the ground for a generation he's just stirring up the wasps' nest.
The consequences for the Middle East don't bear thinking about. If Trump steps up the action, the Yanks will find themselves taking on Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. No doubt we'll get dragged in their mess too. More British blood will be spilt on someone else's problem for which there is no apparent solution. As the drums of war grow louder, logic flies out the window.
I'VE written a few more articles on Wills and related subjects which might be of interest. They are: Why musicians needs Wills,
The Mysterious Case of Ken Barlow's Will,
new love and your kids' inheritance, and how to ensure your Will rules supreme.
April 2. I'm shutting down this blog for a bit to work on the new novel. Cheerio.
April 1st. It's April Fools' Day, the day when jokers try and con the public with inventive lies. Or as Alastair Campbell calls it, Saturday.
At first I thought the Sun's Farage splash was an April Fools' prank. But it turns out the former UKIP leader was seen canoodling with 'glamour' model /porn star Valerie Fox in Virgin Upper Class on a recent flight to the States. Virgin Upper Class - three words that don't seem to readily apply to Ms Fox. Whatever the truth of the story, frustratingly it has blown my own chat with Farage out of the window for tomorrow's paper. (I'm sure that was the only thing blown, but I'm amazed that attractive women are so into him. I met a stunning brunette who declared her undying love for Nige, who she had never met, just days ago. They should form a fan club - Nigel's Nubiles! Farage's Fillies! Politics is a tough game but it appears that there might be compensations...)
March 30. Theresa May should go to the polls as soon as possible and get the mandate she needs to push Brexit through parliament. She'd walk it. Labour under Corbyn has never looked weaker. In fact they are in real danger of being over-taken by the Lib Dims as the second force in British politics. You wouldn't be too surprised if a new pro-EU coalition coalesced around Farron's mob with Blairite Labour MPs and wet Tories defecting to them. It would be a home from home for yesterday's men. You wouldn't be too surprised if Blair positioned himself as their figurehead either.
Which prominent and distinguished self-adoring Remoaner paid a dominatrix hooker to lead him around naked on a lead? Ask me in the pub and I'll tell all.
March 29. Happy Liberty Day! May has finally triggered Article 50. IF, and I'm still not convinced, we get full independence from the EU, the UK must swiftly become a low tax, deregulated economy trading with the world. That means burning every ounce of the mega-tonnage of red tape that Brussels lumbered the economy with. (Those imperial measurements were used deliberately; we'll have them back too please, along with duty free and weather forecasts in Fahrenheit.)
Spuds can be grown on Mars, say scientists. When they're carving kebabs up there, I'm interested.
March 27. I met Nigel Farage today hours after he reduced Alastair Campbell, Blair's liar in chief, to apocalyptic fury on Good Morning Britain. How did you stay so calm? I asked. "You have to," Farage replied. "That's how you win..." Read the interview, and Nigel's responses to my tough questioning, exclusively in this weekend's Daily Star Sunday.
March 25. Today I'm launching a historic campaign on Kickstarter to raise dosh for the Benny Hill statue. It will be sculpted by Graham Ibbeson who did the marvellous Eric Morecambe statue up in Morecambe. Here's where to go. Benny's statue will be erected (careful) in Southampton and will cost 65K or just 10 from 6,500 of Benny s millions of fans around the world.
March 24. The Westminster terrorist Khalid Masood was not an immigrant, he was born in Erith and brought up in Royal Tunbridge Wells, one of the posher parts of Kent. His name was Adrian. He didn't convert to Islam until he was radicalised in prison. So no-one should blame British Muslims in general for his terror attack on Westminster. At school, Adrian was the only black face in his year. Like the scumbags who carried out the attacks in Berlin and Nice, he was low-life, a petty criminal. The majority of terrorist outrages in Western Europe since 9/11 have been carried out by citizens of the countries under attack. The debate we should be having isn't about migration. It's about why we're breeding killers and how we tackle extremists in our under-staffed, under-funded prisons. According to his school friends, Adrian was also a long-term cannabis user. So we should also be asking why the political elite are so keen to decriminalise dope, including skunk.
March 23. Theresa May told the Commons today that "we will never waver in the face of terrorism". This on the same day that James Brokenshire attended the funeral of Martin McGuinness and just a day after she'd expressed her condolences to his family! No-one on the TV news pointed out the irony.
March 22. The horrific attack on Westminster dominates the news, largely with speculation. Should it? Rather than running around like headless chickens, wouldn't it make more sense to restrict coverage of such incidents to the facts in usual news bulletins. R.I.P. PC Keith Palmer and all of today's other innocent victims. London stands strong.
Lord Tebbit has come under fire for saying the "world is a sweeter place" after Martin McGuinness's death and that he hopes the former IRA Northern Commander is "parked in a particularly hot and unpleasant corner of hell". He also said: "He was a coward who never atoned for his crimes. There can be no forgiveness without a confession of sins… He claimed to be a Roman Catholic. I hope that his beliefs turn out to be true and he'll be parked in a particularly hot and unpleasant corner of hell for the rest of eternity." Here, here. McGuinness is lauded by the likes of Blair for becoming "a man of peace" and bringing an end to hostilities in Northern Ireland. So let's remember that this was the man who gave the orders to assassinate Mountbatten and who authorised the ambush at Warrenpoint, that most of his victims were fellow Catholics and that he was known to have killed and to have enthusiastically tortured using a power drill. Today let's also remember Patsy Gillespie, father of seven Patrick Duffy, James and Ellie Sefton, and mother of three Caroline Moreland who all died thanks to this man of peace. Let's remember Frank Hegarty. When this IRA informer fled to a safe-house in England, McGuinness went to his mother and, according to an eyewitness account, promised her on bended knee that her son would be safe if he returned to Londonderry. Within hours of his return his bullet-riddled corpse was found in County Tyrone. Hegarty's poor mother took guilt as well as grief to her grave.
David McKittrick's Lost Lives catalogues in detail the 3636 deaths due to the Troubles. Nearly 2139 of them, around 60per cent, were the responsibility of republican terrorist organisations, 1771 of these were attributable to the IRA… the people that John McDonnell, Labour Shadow Chancellor, is on record as saying should be "honoured" for their sacrifice and commended for bringing the British government to the peace table. Like Corbyn, McDonnell was always committed to a united Ireland. They wanted the IRA to win. Neither played any part in the peace process. Corbyn voted against the signing of the Anglo Irish agreement in 1985, telling the house: "Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some of us oppose the agreement for reasons other than those that he has given? We believe that the agreement strengthens rather than weakens the border between the six and the 26 counties, and those of us who wish to see a United Ireland oppose the agreement for that reason." Remember that at the ballot box.
And remember the IRA were on the verge of defeat before the Peace Process. McGuinness only renounced violence to save his own neck. Britain, led a compliant Blair and pressurised by Clinton appeasing his own voters, surrendered. We disbanded the RUC and its Special Branch. We released IRA killers back onto the streets guaranteeing their safety from future prosecution while establishing no such protection for our own soldiers. And the media spun it as a historic victory.
March 21 Martin McGuinness dead. Condition satisfactory.
March 20. My Rancid Sounds podcast for bands outside the corporate "biz" starts a new life on Second City Radio from 11am tomorrow night – you can listen online or via the app. And next month, I'll be launching a brand new Sounds of the Street show. The latest Rancid Sounds features the Godfathers, Booze & Glory, Neville Staple, Oxley's Midnight Runners, King Hammond and more with studio guest Nick Welsh.
March 18. Chuck Berry, who died today, was the Shakespeare of rock'n'roll. His lyrics, riffs and duck walk defined the revolutionary new music of the 1950s and changed pop forever. Berry's classic songs like Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene and Roll Over Beethoven were charged with wit and energy. The unique merger of country and the blues that he created inspired everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols. And of course he could play that guitar just like ringing a bell. When Keith Richards inducted Berry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame thirty years ago, the Stones guitarist admitted "I've stolen every lick he ever played." His ding-a-ling aside, carpenter's son Chuck sang about sex, cars and hamburgers sizzling on an open grill. His poetic words summed up the mood and the lifestyle of 1950s teenagers. Chuck Berry was a giant. He helped to define rock at the start and elevated it into an art-form. He's gone, but his influence will last forever.
March 17. To dispel any suspicion that the political elite are too close to the media, George Osborne was today announced as the new editor of the London Evening Standard. Naturally we can expect the BlackRock hedge fund to be covered with the same dignified impartiality that Theresa May has got coming…Osborne will work four days a week at the Standard (salary undisclosed) and one day a week for BlackRock (£650K a year) as well as making speeches for large wads of cash. Talk about Greed All Abhart It. Yet he also intends to remain as MP for Tatton. This is ridiculous. Three-jobs Geo can't possibly do all this and represent his constituents. He's in the wrong place. He ought to be in the Lords.
Happy St Patrick's Day! St Patrick was an Englishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland. You can find them now running the BBC. PS. St George's Day is five weeks away. How will EastEnders avoid it this year?
GCHQ say they didn't spy on Donald Trump. They just fitted his telly.
March 16. Useless Jeremy Corbyn missed another open goal today. Twelve police forces have sent files to the CPS about the Tories fiddling their election expenses and how many tough questions did the Labour leader hit May with yesterday? Nada. You can only assume Labour have been doing a little backdoor spending of their own. Anything to keep UKIP out of Parliament, eh chaps? Vivat democratia, and all that.
March 15. Scientists have found a plant over a billion years old. Yes, they found it at the back of a salad bar in Glasgow.
March 13. After I posted here about the importance of making a will, a bloke contacted me to say that his dad's will had been successfully challenged by relatives who'd been left out of it. So what was the point of making one, he asked?
It's true that wills can be challenged legally, but there is a simple way to back up your decisions. When you make your will you can also write a Letter of Wishes which effectively allows you to speak from beyond the grave and explain why you've cut someone out.
Maybe the relative had become estranged from you, or perhaps you've already provided for them while you were alive. The onus is then on them (the claimant) to show why they feel you had a duty to provide for them.
If they didn't rely on you financially and your Letter of Wishes explains why you've blanked them, then their own lawyer will advise them that their claim isn't strong and that if they go ahead they could face having to pay not only their own legal costs but also those of the people you appointed as Personal Representatives. This could run into thousands.
So why not just explain why you've cut someone out in the will itself? Here's why: once it has been processed through Probate, your will becomes a public document and anyone can pay to obtain a copy. It's not a great idea then to make public declarations about why someone has been left out within the will itself. Making old fall-outs public could wind up someone enough to start a claim. But a Letter of Wishes is private. Only your executors, the potential claimant and his lawyer see it. So common sense tends to rule the day. If no claim is made then no one needs to know what you said. To sum up: there are no guarantees your will won't be challenged but there are sensible ways you can back up your decision. And by the way that Active Wills deal I mentioned before is still available – they're offering wills discounted from their standard prices (£99 and £149) to £19.99 and £29.99 here: *The common reasons to challenge a will are either validity, undue influence or under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
March 11. John Le Carre will be involving in the writing a new BBC series. It'll be a second season of The Night Manager and not, as I'd hoped after the Richard Whiteley rumours, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Quiz Master…
March 10. Finally! The new season of the spell-binding Game Of Thrones hits our screens on 17th July. It's only seven episodes long, but I guess there are fewer cast members left to kill.
March 9. The CIA have used smart TVs to bug people, according to the latest Wikileaks allegations. So Game For A Laugh was ahead of the curve, watching us, watching you…
March 8. Here's my latest Rancid Sounds podcast: with top tracks from The Godfathers, Booze & Glory, Neville Staple, Duffy's Cut, King Hammond, Oxley's Midnight Runners, Assault & Battery, Hard Evidence & of course the Gonads. Special guest is the immortal Nick Welsh.
What a lousy, cowardly, self-defeating budget! By hammering the self-employed, ham-fisted Hammond has declared war on the Tories' natural supporters. So much for May's "conservatism". Who benefits? UKIP – if they can get their act together. Corbyn's response was pitiful.
March 7. I've just recorded a new Rancid Sounds podcast with some terrific tracks from The Godfathers, Booze & Glory, Neville Staple, Duffy's Cut & many more. Nick Welsh is my studio guest. I'll let you know when it's up and running.
March 6. Thirty years on, the images of the Zeebrugge tragedy are still haunting. After the news broke, I had the idea of releasing a charity single. It took just sixteen days to rush out the Ferry Aid single Let It Be which raised £1million for the families of the victims. It was a hell of a job to organise it, and I couldn't have done it without my team especially Sue Humphries and David Nicholson. Producer Pete Waterman was pivotal in all this. CBS came on board straight away and the song featured everyone from Boy George to Gary Moore via Mark Knopfler, Edwin Starr and Mel & Kim (I was secretly in love with Mel, R.I.P.). Paul McCartney not only gave us his blessing – he filmed a special piece for the video. Michael Jackson owned the publishing rights and when he rang from LA with the message "Go ahead, make a fortune" there was no stopping us. The record flew straight to number one and stayed there for three weeks.
March 5. There's a startling exclusive in today's Daily Star Sunday revealing that former London Mayor Ken Livingstone escaped a second assassination bid in the 1990s. The plan, involving a UFF hit-man and a 750-strong mob of football hooligans from various London clubs, are detailed by former London UDA commander Frank Portinari in his newly published autobiography Left-Right-Loyalist. This plot to attack the Bloody Sunday Troops Out march in January 1993 makes troubling reading, but what makes it more significant is that Spurs hooligan Portinari was once a Trotskyite Young Socialist. It was the Far Left's support for the IRA while they bombed working class pubs in England that made him, and many other natural Labour voters, trade in socialism for a violent form of reactionary nationalism. When you throw in the Left's decision to defend the Paedophile Information Exchange, and their bizarre approach to immigration, the reasons why so many traditional Labour voters abandoned the party become glaringly apparent. Current Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were also on that London march.
(Note for the hard of thinking: the fact that I find Portinari's story sociologically significant is clearly not an endorsement of his views or activities).
March 3. Richard Whiteley from Countdown was a spy, according to Ricky Tomlinson. And in a related story Ted Heath was a proper consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant.
It all seems barking to me. I can't imagine the affable Whiteley, R.I.P., in such a role. (Vorderman maybe, she looks like she has more secrets than the Sphinx). Besides if MI5 wanted a quiz-show host on the books surely they would have recruited my old chum the late Ted Robbins. Countdown conundrums may be tough, but the clues on 3-2-1 would have foxed John Le Carré. Still, we have to take Ricky seriously. Countdown needs to be watched with new eyes and Rachel Riley must be debriefed immediately. The woman is not so much MI5 as MI perfect 10.
March 2. Why does Nigel Farage even want a knighthood? Aren't they a) tainted and b) a symbol of the venal political establishment that he has fought against all his adult life? The hostility to Douglas Carswell is equally hard to understand. Carswell as a libertarian may be at odds with the Faragists, but don't UKIP allow different strands of thought now? Have they become some kind of reverse-Leninist, top-down monolith?
March 1st. Get well soon Brucie! Bruce Forsyth was Britain's greatest-ever game-show host and a much-loved all-round entertainer. (I feel guilty now for putting him in a triple with John McCririck and Vera Lynne but, as the great man always knew: you get nothing for a pair, not in this game…)
Feb 25. I've been looking into wills ever since Micky Fitz died, and Active Wills seem to be the best value around. They're currently offering wills discounted from their standard prices (£99 and £149) to £19.99 and £29.99, which looks a real bargain. Why does it matter? Well, if you don't make a will, you'll have no say over who gets your stuff once you're gone. For example, without a will current laws make no provision for your other half if you're not married to them. I've also been investigating related areas such as power of attorney and probate too, and will report back.
DANNY Dyer is accused of asking a woman to send him smudges of her "lills" (breasts), "bottle" (arse) and "boat" (face).
He clearly wasn't interested in her Jack & Danny.
FEB 24. Hard to see how either Comrade Corbyn or Paul Nuttall can last after the latest by-election results, but the smart money says Jezza will cling on like a suicidal limpet. Corbyn's views on the nuclear industry were probably the chief reason the Tories snatched Copeland from Labour. While the UKIP leader scored a disastrous own goal in Stoke-on-Trent. His series of porkies ranged from self-aggrandising fibs (such as claiming he'd played pro football for Tranmere Rovers) to the more serious suggestion on his blog that he'd lost close friends at the Hillsborough tragedy – a claim blamed on a PR. I don't think the tweeds helped either. Nuttall, a likeable down-to-earth fellow in person, called these astounding errors of judgement "mistakes". Unfortunately Stoke voters (and probably everyone else) now see him as Bootle's answer to Walter Mitty. Paul beat the Tories, but the combined UKIP and Conservative vote would have unseated Labour. UKIP believe correctly that there is much sympathy for some of their policies among Labour's traditional base, unfortunately Nuttall blew their chances of translating that into votes. Mainstream politicians have misled us for decades, the last thing Joe Public wants is another Billy Liar.
Clever Tories will now start asking what the point of UKIP is. If Theresa May implements Brexit, they'll argue, then why is the party even necessary? UKIP grew by being more Tory than the Tories, an approach that could still make sense if it fought for genuinely radical policies – lower taxes, less state, less red tape etc. May's Government are not as "right-wing" as the BBC believe and are vulnerable to serious opposition on a number of fronts. A UKIP that challenged vested interests and transnational corporations, and championed opportunity, small businesses and fair play would have a real point. A UKIP that presented itself as Blue Labour, Nuttall's stated direction, would tear itself apart.
It's interesting to note that the new Labour MP for Stoke, Gareth Snell, once accurately dismissed Corbyn an "IRA-supporting friend of Hamas". Yet by winning Snell has saved Jezza's bacon. He's now free to carry on leading the Party to disaster. Labour's vote fell by 2.2% here, UKIP's went up by 2.5%. To make a real difference UKIP have to stop looking like Dad's Army and start shaping up as a modern and radical challenge to the political establishment.
Feb 22. While fanatical Remoaners shrilly extol the virtues of the EU, the Euro crisis has steadily grown to Galactus status. Debtors in the southern states now owe hundreds of billions via the European Central Bank. The Bank of Italy alone owes E364bn in ECB liabilities. As they can't possibly repay this mountain of debt, what will happen to the Eurozone when they inevitably knock them for it? Galactus consumed planets. Defaulting will devour the EU, starting with the Deutsche Bank. Auf wiedersehen, Mutter Merkel.
Feb 20. Isn't it time to abolish the clapped-out House Of Lords and replace it with a second chamber that is elected by Proportional Representation and therefore accountable to the electorate? #ScrapTheLords
I'm shutting the blog down for a bit to concentrate on the new Harry Tyler novel, but I'll drop by every now and then.
Jan 1st 2017: Happy New Year! Let's hope we build on the promise of 2016 when democracy triumphed and the British people voted for independence – yet to be delivered by shifty-eyed Theresa May and her caucus of clowns. The folk throwing their toys out of the pram about last year are either cheesed off because they lost the vote, or because elderly rock stars died. I knew Rick Parfitt and will miss him, and I loved Bowie and Prince, but if you party for decades it isn't too surprisingly if the Reaper comes a-calling. No-one's immortal, except maybe Ozzy Osbourne.
Trump's big win provoked fury too. The Republicans' crap candidate beat the Democrats' crap candidate. Knees are still jerking angrily and the Donald isn't even in office yet. Let's see how it goes. The Trump presidency might surprise us all. For starters it should be great for workers in the fossil fuel industries, for growth, investment, tax-payers and the military. There's no doubt that of the two, clapped-out, scandal-dogged Hillary was the candidate most likely to drag the US, and consequently the world, into more disastrous neo-liberal wars. Trump doesn't want war with Russia, which is surely a good thing; whether he can avoid yet more conflict in the Middle East is another story.