Alexander David Reith-Banks: at just 60 days old he has made a fool of his grandfather!

IT HAS BEEN A MONTH since it happened and my daughter and I are just about back on nodding terms. Not actually talking, you understand, but texting occasionally.

You can’t blame me for feeling stung. On March 3 Tash and husband Alistair delighted us all by presenting my latest (and third) grandchild, a boy weighing in at a healthy 7lb 6oz. Grannies love a baby, so they were overjoyed; the grandads, both of us called David, were chuffed to have been told that the name our offspring had chosen for the newcomer was Alexander DAVID Reith-Banks.

Fast-forward four weeks to the day the proud parents went to register the birth of the wee lad we were already nicknaming ‘Xander’: Gemma and I were preparing to leave home to attend a funeral when the following text arrived:

Happy-ish (look at that face!) family: So we’ve officially registered him, but with a little revision. On reflection, although we love the name Xander, we just felt that something more gender-neutral was more sensible and future-proof. Not to mention that people struggled to spell Xander. So let me introduce you to Lindsay (Lind) Carol Reith-Banks. We’ve been toying with it ever since we started getting things addressed to ‘Zander’. We just wondered if we were making his life too difficult. Also, what if HE wants to be a SHE or a THEY? Much better to provide some wiggle room, don’t you think? Am sure dad agrees?

Well, I hit the roof! Reader, within seconds I turned from one-time firebrand revolutionary to right-wing reactionary. Vileness spewed from my lips. Everyone and everything was blamed. . .

1. We should never have let her go to (expletive deleted) Cambridge!
2. It was my (expletive deleted) wife’s fault for filling her head with silly ideas!
3. It was working for The (expletive deleted) Guardian that has filled her head with all this nonsensical gender-neutral nincompoopery!
4. What was that daft (expletive deleted) Yorkshire husband of hers doing, letting her get away with it?

I was all for calling her there and then and demanding that they return to Islington Town Hall to reverse the terrible wrong that had been done to my grandson. Gemma pleaded that we were already running late for the funeral, so I was ordered to the car, leaving our mobile phones at home.

But as I fumed and fretted my way through the funeral service and burial of my old friend, the first inkling of unease was beginning to worry my joke-junkie daughter. She rang our house and the phone went to voice message . . . the same happened when she rang each of our mobiles in turn. She began to worry: had we cut her out of our lives? Was the will being rewritten at that very moment? She frantically typed a text to each of our mobiles:
Happy April First! It’s All Fools Day! Just joking. . . here’s the birth certificate to prove it:

You can scrape dad off the ceiling now. . . April Fool!

I am still sore. Truly, this is role reversal in the extreme: little Xander is only sixty days old and already he’s made his grandfather look like the Biggest April Fool in Christening-dom!


Watching the news
in the Line of Duty. . .
Between waiting for a builder to come and have a look at the leak in my leaky water feature (he did) and worrying that it wouldn’t be warm enough to dine on the Red Lion’s outdoor dining deck (wonderfully, it was) I’ve been anxiously scanning the daily papers for new revelations about actors which might have caused the BBC to cancel my final helping of Line of Duty.

Don’t laugh: ITV cancelled the showdown episode of The Viewpoint because of actor Noel Clarke’s alleged misbehaviour in real life. Sky then announced it was “halting Clarke’s involvement” in any upcoming productions. Fired, in other words, for an unproven allegation.

All this after the actor had received with great fanfare a special BAFTA award for outstanding British contribution to cinema, a recognition doubtless aided by the actor’s ‘diversity’ qualifications.

Ye gods! What with social media being boycotted by the sports world, kick-offs delayed by Black Lives Matter knee-bends and a Scottish striker quitting his career over a rival’s cruel taunts Match of the Day might be next to bite the dust!

Goodbye and good riddance! The party
I will NOT vote for in Thursday’s election

the habit of a lifetime by naming the candidate I WILL NOT be voting for in the Northumberland County Council election on Thursday (May 6).

After two years of their undemocratic jiggery-pokery I can tell you this: I WILL NOT BE VOTING CONSERVATIVE!

I don’t presume to tell you who I think YOU should vote for. I won’t even tell you for whom I WILL vote: that is a private matter for you and for me. While presents a spectrum of political views it is firmly neutral when it comes to your vote.

‘Jiggery-pokery’? Let me remind you of one of the scandals on which I have reported repeatedly since the following headline and story appeared in December, 2018:

    I have no option but to resign, says county                        councillor Lawrie

NORTHUMBERLAND COUNCILLOR Roderick Lawrie has admitted to The Clarion that he will resign his Norham and Islandshires council seat. “I have no other option,” he said, sadly.

 “My home is now in the Isle of Man,” he told The Clarion, claiming that EU regulations had forced him to move his snuff tobacco business to the offshore tax haven.

Concern has been expressed by some of the constituency’s dozen parish councils it was his duty to represent at county level that his attendance at full council and committee meetings was, at best, sporadic.

An article in the Lowick village newsletter at the time voiced the concerns of one of the dozen parishes:

“[Cllr. Lawrie’s]  election in 2017 was controversial, when he won the seat from long-standing and well-respected local farmer Dougie Watkin, a Liberal Democrat.

“It is said he secured the election through outsiders with postal votes who were unaware of the many years of excellent service given by Councillor Watkin.

“Lowick Parish Council confirms that Councillor Lawrie has been unable to fill the shoes vacated by his predecessor, and is waiting with interest to see what will happen next. A by-election is expected. . . when we expect the Conservatives will want to field a genuine and effective candidate. We understand that Mr Watkin is prepared to stand again, presumably with better support from his local Party this time.”

Mr Watkins, an NCC councillor for many years, was defeated after the LibDem vote collapsed nationally in the 2016 election. He is one of four candidates contesting the Norham and Islandshires seat. Ironically, after more than two years of expensive representation from an address 300 miles distant, Roderick Lawrie has finally withdrawn.

Too late for me! I will not be voting for the replacement Conservative candidate, which might seem harsh until you realise that the Northumberland Conservative Group was equally culpable in turning a blind eye to Lawrie’s absenteeism and deserves to be punished by the electorate.

In September 2019 I stopped merely writing about the county council and turned up at a full meeting to ask council and Conservative leader Peter Jackson why the area’s elected representative was not doing the job he was paid a £12,000 a year in allowances to carry out.

I asked Councillor Jackson: “ Would the chairman agree that a sitting Northumberland County Councillor who neither lives nor works in the County and since January has attended only ONE of the last FOUR full council meetings, only ONE local North area council meeting and – as far as my research has been able to establish – not a single parish council meeting this year is depriving thousands of Northumberland council taxpayers, who live within the dozen parishes for which he has responsibility, of the representation they have a right to expect?

Cllr Jackson’s reply? Despite Lawrie living overseas since December 2018, rarely attending an NCC meeting this year (and never a parish council meeting) the Absentee Councillor had a ‘wonderful record’ of helping parish councils in his constituency, he alleged. How? Via phone and email, Cllr Jackson claimed.

He saw no problem that Lawrie did not live in this country, let alone the county. He effectively waved away my protests on behalf of Clarion readers in Norham and Islandshires. So the campaign turned to its last resort. . . SARCASM. As the lockdown bit, the following headline appeared:

          The First Man in Britain to Self-Isolate!

I know why the ‘Absentee County Councillor’ Roderick Lawrie is almost silently representing his north Northumberland constituency from a new home 350 miles and a sea voyage away on the Isle of Man. 


And he has been doing it for more than a year now. The man who represents a dozen English border parishes from his Manx tax haven obviously saw the coronavirus pandemic coming long before anyone else. Plainly, he kept the news to himself in order not to panic the population.

Looking back over The Clarion’s recent coverage of his mysterious absence from many civic meetings I realise an awful truth: I have seriously misjudged County Councillor Lawrie.

I was too easily taken in by his “I will have to resign” assurances

I was wrong to doubt the replies to my questions put to the Conservative council leader Peter Jackson at a full county council meeting.

Little did I realise that the man I took for a mere absentee was actually a martyr, suffering self-isolation from the home he loved to keep himself fit for our sakes!

Now I understand. And I am comforted to know that County Councillor Lawrie is doing as much good for the people he represents now that he lives on the Isle of Man as he ever did when lived here!

Since then, nothing has happened. Having written endlessly and appeared at a council meeting to demand satisfaction – and not receiving any! – I decided that there was nothing to do but wait for my opportunity to strike through the ballot box. That opportunity arrives this Thursday.

I have only one vote and I know where it will go.



Figures and graphs supplied by reader/contributor COLIN WAKELING as part of his reaction to the original article. See his comments (below)


  1. Well said!
    With a degree of competition for the County seat this time round, I have at least received TWO pieces of election literature – from the Tory (who initially claimed he couldn’t find my letter box & so mailed it out when I complained) and the Independent (who was foolish enough to catch me outdoors when he called!). I did ask the Tory to pop by so I could bend his ear, but I fear he has taken a leaf out of our Berwick MP’s book by going for the photo-ops rather than making too much actual contact.

    I wanted to grab him over Cllr Lawrie’s disbursement of his members’ [£15,000pa] small schemes money. Kyloe parish was promised a variable speed indicator for Fenwick, but delivery came there none; we only received a response from our Isle of Man resident via [NCC’s most recent Conservative Leader] Glen Sanderson – only for him to tell me [Lawrie] had splurged all his unspent allocations at the last minute – someone in Cornhill parish must have had him by the * * * *s!

    I looked at the allocations of cash to the various parishes over the past 12 years (3 terms – 2 x Watkin & 1 x Lawrie) and one of my colleagues turned it into graphs – attached for your possible interest [AND ATTACHED TO THE END OF THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE, ABOVE – Editor]


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