BANKSY’S WEEK: Dishing dirt on ‘dirty money’.. Cruel trickster calls cops..MP drives blood donor issue

Writer David Aaronovitch: Stitched up in debate, he explains how cash can turn Reds true Blue

THERE ARE TWO ‘Denises’ who live in Milfield and take a pint with me at the Red Lion and they are not to be confused.

There is Dennis Cairns the joiner, who lives next door to my great friend and fellow writer Bernard Trafford up the lane at Sandyhouse; and there is old Denis Broon, long retired, who lives down the lane and who commanded the pub’s domino battle formations (which is to say he set up the tables!) before COVID-19 put paid to shuffling ‘the bones’ which others must needs have touched. And it is the latter Denis of whom I now speak.

I have played dominoes with two generations of Broon: his father, Jimmy Broon, played doms and drank with old Dod, my grandfither and, therefore, with a teenage and-in-those-days-totally-illegal me at the nearby Blue Bell. I recall Auld Jimmy being a bit of a misery but, as is sometimes the case, pere et fils are somewhat different: Denis can irritate but he is invariably cheerful and rather jolly.

Sadly, he is having a more miserable time than most during lockdown. His regular ports of call, the village hall where he enjoys snooker and table tennis, and the pub itself, where he takes a modest libation and invariably leaves for home with a packet of crisps for his ailing wife, have both been closed by order, and even now are only useable with appropriate care.

So, unable to organise any sort of gathering to celebrate his eightieth birthday recently, Denis invited his next-door-neighbours from either side to join him and his wife for a drink in the garden, carefully setting six chairs in socially-distanced pairs before settling down for a drink on a sunny afternoon.

The day was somewhat spoiled, however, by the arrival of a police patrol car from distant Alnwick “to disperse an illicit rave party” that had been reported by an anonymous and, of course, untraceable phone caller.

What kind of callous individual does a thing like that? The policemen were apologetic, not to say abashed, at their wrongful invasion and left as soon as they could. But the incident left a scar.

I make no further comment other than one of despair at such occasional acts of unkindness. Except to say that if we elderly doministas ever get our hands on the b*****d who did it, God help him!

Lively Letters

Watching Channel 4 on Monday evening: an NHS health campaign advert followed by one for Deliveroo. Priceless! – The Guardian

Sir, We watched the government’s new anti-obesity TV advertisement last night. It was followed by another commercial advertising a delivery service that would bring chicken nuggets to your door without the need for you to flex a muscle. Speechless, we ate the rest of our jam roly-poly and clotted cream in silence. – The Times

Sir, It occurs to me that an update to the elocution exercise in My Fair Lady might be timely. ‘The pain in Spain starts mainly on the plane’, perhaps? – The Times

How wealthy Reds can
buy themselves true Blue

I once debated the writer and Times columnist David Aaronovitch on the Quality v. Tabloid Press argument at a Hampstead restaurant owned by a mutual friend.

In that upscale, Leftie suburb (MP Glenda Jackson, home to Michael Foot) I should have been demolished, but no! The votes taken before and after we spoke showed a clear swing from that David to this one.

I quickly realised what had happened: the friends I had brought along had loyally switched their votes (despite not one of them reading anything other than The Guardian!) and I was forced to explain to the rueful Aaronovitch that it was a stitch-up. He graciously accepted my apology.

Now I shall call on another Aaronovitch favour to reprint his recent Times column explanation of how ex-Soviet oligarchs of the sort who donate millions to the Conservative Party can short-cut the route to a UK passport:

We’ve known for years that dodgy Russian money was pouring into London, and that it was the city du choix for any oligarch to wash their money in. In 2008, under Labour, we thanked such people for their confidence in our banking and legal systems by creating the Tier 1 Investor Visa for rich individuals. If you invested £1 million or more in qualifying UK investments (a figure that’s risen to £2 million), you could sail over the queue and live in Britain. After five years you can apply for indefinite leave to remain and then citizenship. Or, if you invest £5 million, that can be just three years, and if it’s £10 million, just two years. And maybe a bench named after you in the House of Commons. Bring me your plundering plutocrats, yearning to be tax-free.

So in they came. And our politicians and establishment figures were happy to visit them on their yachts, moored off Corfu or Monte Carlo. Doubtless believing that they were not just living the good life but also establishing useful back channels to Vladimir P. Do any of us imagine they would have spent the time to talk to the same person if they were on an average wage and lived in a semi in Solihull?


The news isn’t ALL
bad, Anne-Marie

Say what you like about MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan – and many do – but she’s sticking with The Clarion’s battle on behalf of Tweedmouth reader Eric Wood and Berwick’s numerous blood donors to get more donor sessions per year in Berwick instead of it entailing a 34-mile round trip to Wooler.

This was the reply she received from NHS Blood and Transplant when she questioned their assertion to The Clarion that COVID-19 was responsible for the costly round trips:

“In recent years, focus has moved away from the volume collection of blood – due to hospitals using less blood and improvements in clinical practices – with more emphasis placed on providing the right amount of each blood group at the right time. 

 As such, the need for less blood has seen the reduction some sessions and, during our annual review a couple of years ago, the decision was taken to reduce the number of sessions in Berwick.

This was because the Tweedmouth County Middle School venue was difficult for our team to access and a long distance from the team base, meaning increased risk of delays or even full session loss due to adverse weather conditions during the winter.

We also found the venue difficult to heat and therefore sometimes too cold to use. However, as mentioned in previous correspondence, last year’s annual review – for implementation in April 2020 – did increase the number of proposed sessions to be held in Berwick to two or three a year. Unfortunately, as you know, this was compromised by the COVID-19 outbreak. Plans remain to re-establish sessions in Berwick and we are currently investigating five potential venues. However, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, circumstances that the pandemic has brought about have regrettably led to inevitable delays to this process.”

A member of the MP’s staff told The Clarion: “It sounds as though NHSBT did intend to increase the number of sessions in Berwick this year after last year’s annual review. However, Tweedmouth Middle School being apparently unsuitable we are  not entirely sure where they intended to have the sessions this year.

“Regardless of this, it seems COVID-19 has not only meant cancelled sessions but also that finding an alternative venue has been delayed.

“I have set a reminder for a months’ time when we will get back in touch and see how they are getting on with the five potential venues. Now we have this on our radar we can keep pestering them until it is sorted out!”


  1. Well done to Anne-Marie Trevelyan (and The Clarion) for getting a completely different and much fuller response to the mystery of the disappearing blood donation sessions in Berwick. Why didn’t they give this explanation in the first place?


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