If Theresa May can’t trust the Queen, it bodes ill for their future relationship | Stephen Bates

Her Majesty tends to get on best with PMs confident enough to gossip with her. May’s silence on Brexit even to famously discreet monarch speaks volumes

When a leak emerges from Buckingham Palace, and especially when that leak tells us what the Queen supposedly thinks, interest is unsurprisingly intense.

Regal unknowability – as exemplified in the recent Netflix series The Crown, where the young Elizabeth II is portrayed as learning that she must stay publicly above the fray at all times – is an essential part of our image of the royal family, and so any claimed breaches in the facade are bound to be studied closely.

Continue reading...

Happy Christmas !

The absence of news from the allotments may have led you to imagine that we old codgers have joined the great host of chicken-keepers in the sky. Nothing could be further from the truth and I am happy to report that all is well in our little fantasy world, including our flock of Blacktail Columbians.

Well that was the case until an hour or so ago when storm Barbara paid us a visit. Now we face a good deal of fence repairing, plus the distribution of a good deal of sand to avoid the need to fit the hens out with stilts. But at least it has given Albert the perfect excuse to maintain his grumpiness even at Christmas. Meantime the rest of us await with interest the reaction of Mrs Albert to her gift of a cement-mixer!

Anyway, the purpose of this blog is to wish all our readers a happy Christmas, and to thank you for your loyal support over what has been an interesting year.

Eat, drink and be merry!!!

Camber Sands deaths blamed on victims’ ‘culture’ by council

Incident log warned of increasing numbers of ‘non-British visitors’ to beach where seven men died this summer

The council that did not provide lifeguards at Camber Sands beach has blamed drownings over the summer on the limitations of “non-swimming persons of a certain culture”, according to an internal document seen by the Guardian.

Seven men – one of Asian heritage, one Brazilian teenager, and five of Tamil origin – died at the popular seaside resort of Camber Sands in East Sussex in July and August. All the men were described by family members as capable swimmers.

Continue reading...

Queen gives Theresa May royal seal of disapproval over Brexit

HM maligns PM’s lack of clarity, while Nick Clegg’s lunch with George Osborne proves it is the season of goodwill to all men


The party given by my close friend with terminal brain cancer that I wrote about last week turned out to be even more extraordinary than expected. It somehow managed to be both joyous and heartbreaking in equal measure – I’ll never forget it – and most people managed to save their tears for the way home. Stephen set the tone for the evening by saying that everyone had been sympathising with him about how difficult it must be. “It isn’t,” he said. “It’s actually incredibly easy. The diagnosis has given me an absolute clarity. A clarity of what really matters.” He then asked five friends who were personally involved in local and national charities to give presentations and invited everyone present to turn the occasion into a fundraiser for them. That, in turn, gave me a little clarity of my own. I’d been wondering about which charities should benefit from the Wasim Akram cricket sweater I sold at auction a couple of weeks ago. Now I know.

Continue reading...

Silent nights

For many of us, Christmas is a time of hustle and bustle, bright lights, music and over-indulgence. But for hermit Rachel Denton, this Yuletide will be a time of silence and contemplation. …read more  

The UK is at high risk of a terror attack – but how has it avoided one so far?

Lessons learned by intelligence agencies after 2005 London bombings and greater cooperation could help but threat level is still severe

London or any other part of the UK presents an obvious target for Islamic terrorists, more so than Germany given the UK’s high-profile involvement as the closest military ally of the US.

UK intelligence agencies repeatedly warn that it is just a matter of time before a British target is hit. In a rare speech earlier this month, Alex Younger, the head of the UK’s overseas intelligence agency MI6, described the threat posed by groups such as Islamic State or its sympathisers as “unprecedented”.

Continue reading...

Hope Not Hate founder attacks Nigel Farage over Brendan Cox remarks

Farage’s comments that murdered MP’s widower is linked to extremism condemned as ‘disgustingly offensive’

The founder of the campaign group Hope Not Hate has described Nigel Farage as “disgustingly offensive” for saying the widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox was tainted by extremism because he supported the organisation.

Writing for the Guardian, Nick Lowles likens the Ukip politician to Donald Trump, saying both seek to “vilify, abuse and bully their opponents into silence”, in part through abuse from their supporters on social media.

Continue reading...

Planners reject Donald Trump’s revised plans for Scottish golf resort

Officials say US president-elect must stick to ambitious 2008 plan for expansion of complex and not build cheaper version

Donald Trump’s plans to expand his Aberdeenshire golf resort by building 2,750 new homes and holiday flats have suffered a significant blow.

In a major victory for the president-elect’s opponents in Scotland, senior planning officials have rejected Trump’s bid to build a far less ambitious and cheaper version of the vast holiday and sports resort he originally fought for in 2008.

Continue reading...

Cyclist’s near-miss with train at level crossing caught on CCTV

Footage shows train missing cyclist by inches as he crosses tracks in Pudsey, Leeds

Dramatic footage of a cyclist coming within inches of being killed by a train has prompted fresh warnings about the dangers of level crossings.

The near-miss was filmed by trackside cameras and CCTV on board trains as they passed the Ducketts level crossing in Pudsey, Leeds, in the summer.

Continue reading...

Corbyn critic quits as Labour MP, triggering tight byelection race

Jamie Reed resigns to take job in nuclear industry, saying he will be able to achieve more for his community in Cumbria

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s most persistent critics quit as a Labour MP to take a job in the nuclear industry, triggering a three-way fight for his marginal northern seat with the Conservatives and Ukip.

Jamie Reed, the MP for Copeland in west Cumbria since 2005, told the Guardian he was resigning to work for the nuclear processing site Sellafield.

Continue reading...

Police hunting train surfer calling himself ‘the Silver Shadow’

Man criticised for endangering lives after climbing on top of a train moving at up to 100mph through Merseyside

Police are searching for a man who calls himself “the Silver Shadow” after he was filmed travelling on top of a train moving at up to 70mph.

British transport police said the man, who appears to be in his 20s, put his own life and the lives of others on the train at risk when he climbed on to its roof on 11 December.

Continue reading...

National Trust prepares to celebrate its gay history

Sissinghurst Castle, Knole, Sutton House and Smallhythe Place are just some of the properties that will feature in next year’s focus on LGBTQ history

The long happy marriage and the very separate bedrooms of Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, will be celebrated at their Kent home as the National Trust turns its attention for the first time to the gay history locked within the walls of many of its properties.

The Nicolsons were a famously devoted couple, and had two sons, the writer and publisher Nigel and art historian Benedict, but both also had passionate relationships with partners of the same sex.

Continue reading...

What can be done to prevent Berlin-style attacks in modern cities?

Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent – but there are safety measures cities can use, experts say

The Berlin lorry attack on Monday that killed 12 people and injured 48 others raises a pressing question for security services across the world: what can be done to stop such attacks?

The attack on Berlin’s Christmas market came six months after a 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring 484.

Continue reading...

George Osborne and Nick Clegg spotted having lunch in London

Pair had difficult relationship in coalition but lunch sighting fuels speculation they are working together to push for soft Brexit

George Osborne and Nick Clegg have been spotted having lunch near Westminster, fuelling speculation they may be coordinating efforts to avoid a hard Brexit.

The former chancellor and former deputy prime minister had an often difficult relationship in the Conservative-led coalition government, particularly towards the end, with Clegg describing Osborne as a very dangerous man whose behaviour was “very unattractive, very cynical”.

Continue reading...