Question Time 8th October 2020
Gillian Keegan (Conservative)
Andy Burnham (Labour)
Donna Kinnair (Royal College of Nursing)
Michael Portillo (Broadcaster)
Yanis Varoufakis (Economist and Greek Politician)
In Westminster politics, Coventry is a Labour Party rotten borough, controlled by the comrades for the last six decades. In the run-up to the December 2019 general election, outgoing local Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson claimed that the selection process for new candidates was “shambolic and underhand” with the national party in Islington trying to force Corbyn cronies into Coventry seats. With local members not even being allowed to vote, candidates were being parachuted in via an NEC stitch-up. That’s the Geoffrey Robinson who had to resign as Paymaster General after lending colleague Peter Mandelson over £300,000 to buy a house.
At the end of the process, Coventry had three female Labour MPs, two of them new, all of them with much-reduced majorities: Colleen Fletcher (Coventry North East), Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West), a ‘parachuted in’ Putney Owatemi and Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), a Warwickshire Sultana. Last year Miss Sultana, in her own words, “exasperated by endless cycles of global suffering, violence and needless killing,” apologised for a 2015 tweet which had said that she would celebrate the deaths of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush. Champions of world peace such as Kim Jong Il, President Assad and Iranian premier Hassan Rouhani will be relieved to hear that she plans no such celebration as they begin their eternities roasting in Hell.
As Mr Robinson hinted, Ms Sultana was elected in 2019 under Labour’s ‘snap election’ rules which circumvented the local party. Twenty-six-year-old grammar school girl Zarah, whose family hail from Pakistan, is an expert on everything, but specialises in Israel. Puffins with a strong stomach can read her vile and ignorant adolescent racist crap here and here. During her maiden speech to the House of Commons, she gave a lecture on ‘Fatcha’, despite not being born until three years after Mrs Thatcher had left office.
Also, despite being backed by Momentum and having been on the National Executive Councils of both Young Labour and the National Union of Students, Ms Sultana kept her trump card for this very Monday when she voted against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill. This bill puts onto the statute book the long-standing policy that intelligence officers and informers may participate in criminal activity if the evidence gained is proportionate to the offences involved.
Sultana’s contribution to the debate (in a screechy, posh voice without a hint of Coventry about it) described ‘Mr Finucane’s murder’. The Mr Finucane in question was Pat Finucane, not only a member of a notorious IRA family but also a senior Sinn Fein IRA staff lawyer. Finucane’s task was to manipulate the legal process in order to keep Irish republican murders out of jail and free to murder again. Subsequently, Finucane’s successor, Rosemary Nelson, was killed when a bomb exploded under her car. Sultana defined such killings as “deeply troubling acts of state agents.”
Make no mistake, Sultana has no interest in Northern Ireland. As evidenced by her previous tweets, the Troubles are a proxy to protect extremists amongst her own co-religionists. The actions of Finucane, Nelson and Sultana serve as a reminder of the necessity of covert human intelligence sources and the need to protect them in law.
Last week, QT’s black history month got off to a bad start with an all-white panel and an all-white audience. They spoke from multi-cultural Carlisle, of all places, where being from Penrith can get you beaten up. Will QT BHM fare any better this week? We shall see.
Cases are rising! Said the first questioner. Full lockdown! When not if, and what does this mean for business?
Andy Burnham (Labour mayor of Manchester) started on a very sombre note. The newspapers found out about all these COVID rules before he did. He got madder and madder. He wouldn’t accept it. La Bruce wondered if Andy meant civil disobedience? Andy meant much, much, worse, he wasn’t going to support it and would even challenge it. That’ll teach them! “The Government has lost the dressing room,” he concluded.
Gillian Keegan (Conservative) rambled on, but Andy interrupted her, insisting upon no restrictions without support. Gillian kept on mentioning furlough as support but it was pointed out to her that furlough was closed to new entrants and ended altogether at the end of this month.
A self-made successful businesswoman, Gillian married very well. Her husband, Michael, is currently a Crown Representative at the Cabinet Office, responsible for Government procurement. His father was Conservative MP Denis Keegan. One of the Bermudian Keegans, his mother was a Gosling, of the Goslings rum family. Goslings website makes much of their founder, James, but little of his business partner and brother, Ambrose. As it is black history month your humble reviewer feels obliged to consult the slave ownership database. Oh.
Gillian was educated at a state school near Liverpool, leaving with ten O levels. She makes much of becoming an apprentice at General Motors. Forget about shop floors, mucky overalls and greasy spanners, Gillian was a commercial management apprentice for five years before becoming a buyer (in the office all day long ringing around for prices of supplies) in 1989.
In 1992 she moved to NatWest in London to work as an IT buyer, quickly become an IT purchasing manager before moving to Mondex four years later. 1996 being the start of the internet age, Mondex was a digital currency system developed by NatWest, a precursor to today’s electronic, card and web-based financial transactions. Purely off her own bat, along with Michael (then a senior NatWest executive), Gillian had a very successful career in payments, retiring in 2012 (aged 44) to concentrate on politics and investing in venture capital.
A couple of the virtual audience spoke up for working together rather than political bashing. Andy was still miffed that the newspapers find out before he does. Janis Varoufakis (Economist and Greek politician), speaking from his front room, said something sensible. The reason the numbers were lower in Greece was that the Balkan peninsular is not ‘promiscuous’, not a hub for movements in the same way that parts of Western Europe are.
Shall we play multi-cultural cricket? We shall. Yanis Varoufakis was born in Greece (2 runs). His father was an Eqyptiote Greek (6) originally from Crete (2). Janis was educated in the UK (single). At the University of Essex, he became secretary of the Black Students Alliance (6). He went to live in Sydney (2) where he became an Australian citizen (4). He taught at the University of Texas (2) and is an honorary professor at the International University College of Turin (single). He is an ardent Remainer (26 declared).
Janis’s wife is Danae Stratou, the ‘artist’. As you know, her great works include ‘Dessert Breath’ (piles of sand photographed in the dessert) and ‘Black Boxes’ (a room full of cardboard), the effect of which the great artist modestly describes as such,
The project activated a dialogue constituting, in itself, a collective response to our multi-faceted predicament. By opening the ‘Black Boxes’ we symbolically bring to light the words that reflect what threatens us the most, or that which we are desperately eager to preserve.
Her greatest piece is widely acknowledged to be ‘Upon the Earth Under the Clouds’, which can be seen here. Where is it? Is it in one of those badly positioned godawful pots?
Is the girl begging for a Judge Cocklecroft hanging (in all three senses of the word)? I think she might be.
Broadcaster Michael Denzil (4 runs) Xavier (4) Portillo (6) was born in Hertfordshire (wide). Despite this, he was registered as a Spanish citizen (2), his father being an exiled Spanish Republican (6). His mother is Scottish (single). Whilst at Cambridge University he embraced conservatism (How is he! Out for 21). Regarding the question, he took a procedural view that these things should be presented to Parliament for debate rather than being announced and enforced. Incidentally, dressed in various shades of purple with a light blue shirt and blue socks, Portillo looked a bit like a railway franchise livery. Do Ruritania Railways serve a branch line somewhere?
Donna Kinnear (Royal College of Nursing) noted that we know much about the virus and how it spread. There was a first priority to protect lives and a secondary need for economic protection. “The dead can’t work”. You can tell she’s a nurse. She had been talking to nurses and they were disappointed that the public weren’t following all of the rules.
Carl asked a question. What measures are the Government taking in planning ahead? For instance, a vaccine?
Gillian wanted the R rate below one. Hands, face, space. She wanted a test that could give an instant diagnosis. But there isn’t one, Gillian. Bruce asked about a vaccine. Would it only go to 50% of the population? Gillian didn’t know and waffled.
Donna uttered the chilling phrase, ‘if a vaccine comes along.’ She mentioned a new norm, hinting at a permanence to our present predicament.
Michael agreed, total lockdown was impractical, the present partial lockdown didn’t seem to work. He suggested segregating by age, with young people going back to work and older people being protected. Michael was pretty sure that the damage caused so far, including to other types of health, wasn’t worth the coronavirus lives saved. We will hear more of this argument as time goes on.
Janis stressed the importance of track and trace. It’s not a question of resources, Greece is broke but it’s the UK that’s a shambles. Janis blamed this on subcontracting to mega medical companies. Janis thought the Chancellor was starting to have a bad pandemic, as furlough turned to a job support scheme. He suggested the Chancellor’s tax take would collapse faster than spending could be cut.
There was a near consensus from the virtual audience that communication has been poor what has been said officially has been contradictory.
La Bruce was brave enough to mention Burhman’s time as Health Minister. He mentioned H1N1 (swine or Mexican flu) but forgot to mention the Stafford Hospital, where 1,200 extra deaths occurred under his watch. He wanted track and trace to be more localised, not from call centres but from door to door, informing contacts. He repeated the need for furlough type support.
Paul asked a question. Coventry will be city of culture in 2021, will the performing arts last that long?
Janis wanted double furlough support for artists (his wife?). Instead of the Bank of England supporting the economy by capitalising banks, why not just put the money straight into people’s accounts? A new norm, a new universal income, concluded an audience contributor.
Portillo didn’t rule that out but looked unenthusiastic. He preferred to keep theatres open but clothe people appropriately to protect them. What do we need to do scientifically, perhaps in terms of apparel, to get back to where we were?
Gillian was challenged with the Chancellor’s comments that artists should retrain but not retrain. Health, food and IT were growing massively, she announced. There are opportunities for a different career. There are skill shortages. You could retrain as a nurse.
Donna said that they were 50,000 nurses short to start with and they didn’t get paid enough. It was a ‘goer’ to re-train as a nurse for artists or cabin crew but Dona quoted a survey showing 37% of the nursing profession want to leave it.
The arts will come roaring back at the end of the pandemic and were worth supporting in the meantime, according to Andy.
Next question, will The Donald get the sympathy vote?
Portillo quoted the polls but forgot to mention that the polls are always wrong. Portillo thought the gap would narrow but was too great to cover, he predicted a closer than expected win for Biden. Gillian said it was unbelievably polarised over there and Trump’s illness would make no difference. Bruce was determined to say that Trump was wrong, in this case, wrong to say that he was blessed have had COVID and recovered. What’s he supposed to say? He wishes he’d died?
Donna wanted him to isolate. Andy had no sympathy for him because of the lack of a mask and for breathing near the Secret Service which put “the health of millions of Americans at risk”. Burnham really did say that and then predicted a landslide for Biden which would save the world. He really did say that as well. I hope the newspapers don’t find out about the election result before Andy! Janis didn’t sympathise either but had been reading all of The Donald’s tweets. Donald Trump doesn’t do sympathy, he doesn’t want any sympathy, he trades on discontent and anger and envy.
Next week’s Question Time comes from Edinburgh, Coventry making way to be 2021 city of culture. Pile up the jugs and the cardboard boxes.
© Always Worth Saying 2020
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