Thursday, 14 June 2018

Brexit Britain is a country with a Royal Mail which lends new meaning to part-time Second World War soldiers in an old TV series called 'Dad's Army'

Dad's Army was, and is, a much-loved BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War which ran from for nine series over 80 episodes for 11 years from 1968 to 1977 and regularly gained an audience of 18 million viewers. Its brilliant script writers, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, created a semi-credible squad of seven soldiers and attached a catch phrase to each one.

Now, tongue in cheek and complete with catch phrases, the Royal Mail, at the point of Britain's manifest confusion over Brexit, has issued a set of stamps to commemorate the show's 50th anniversary. Welsh MP Jonathan Edwards wrote : "Brilliant timing by Royal Mail to issue these Dad's Army stamps considering what we are debating over the next two days in the House of Commons." With further irony, Britain finds that, like Brexit, the actors, were not quite what they seemed to be.

Arthur Lowe played the leader of the troop, Captain Mainwaring. In the five years after the last episode of the series and before his death at the age of 66 in 1982, his alcoholism got worse and he was reduced to acting in pantomimes and touring theatre productions, sometimes passing out on stage or at dinner. A heavy smoker whose weight had ballooned, he was stricken by a fatal stroke in his dressing room at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, before a performance of 'Home at Seven.' "You stupid boy" originated from that moment when Jimmy Perry told his father he wanted to make his way in the theatre.

John Le Mesurier, who died the year after Arthur, at the age of 71 and played Sergeant Wilson, was also a heavy drinker, although never noticeably drunk. In the year the series ended he collapsed in Australia and flew home, where he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and ordered to stop drinking and accepted that "it was the cumulative effect over the years that had done the damage." In his last 6 years he avoided spirits and drank only beer and smoked cannabis in those spells of  abstinence from alcohol.

James Beck had played Private Walker over six series, when he died at the age of 44 in 1973, suffering from pancreatitis which is invariably caused by alcoholism. Jimmy Perry commented that heavy drinking was common in show business at the time and that he paid little attention to his  habit until : "I saw Jimmy’s legs and they were purple. It was the last episode he appeared in before he died."

Clive Dunn, who played Lance Corporal Jack Jones, and is immortalised with "Don't panic", was the second youngest member of the cast when he played the role of its oldest member, whose military service in earlier wars with General Kitchener made him the most experienced member of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard. Not known to the public was the fact that his staunch socialist beliefs often caused him to fall out with Arthur Lowe, who was an active Conservative and when Clive was appointed an OBE in 1975, it was reported that Arthur would only accept a higher-rated honour from the Queen. He died six years ago at the age of 92.

Arthur Ridley was 72 when he first played the prostate-prone, ancient Private Godfrey and was perhaps the the most surprising member of the team. Born in 1896, he served as a captain in the Army during First World War, where he was riddled with shrapnel, bayoneted and hit on the head by a German soldier's rifle butt and then medically discharged in 1916. He then went into acting and distinguished himself both  in repertory theatre and also as a the writer of 30 plays, including 'The Ghost Train' in 1923. In the Second World War he actually served in the Home Guard in his home town of Caterham. He died at the age of 88 in 1984.

John Laurie, who played Private Frazer, died 3 years after the last episode of the Series in 1980 at the age of 83 and was the least happy member of the team. As a young stage actor in the 1920s and 30s he had played prized Shakespearean leads, including Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth and featured in Olivier's three Shakespearean films. He couldn't quite reconcile his past with his present in Dad's Army and Ian Lavender recalled him saying : "I’ve played every part in Shakespeare, I was considered to be the finest Hamlet of the twenties and I had retired, and now I’m famous for doing this crap." Ironically it is as the chronically pessimistic Frazer epitomized in "We're doomed. Doomed." in that "crap" that he will always be remembered.

Ian Lavender, who is the only member of the team who is still alive at 72, first played Private Pike at the age of 22 and served his apprenticeship as an actor among the old hands in the cast. After the end of the last series he enjoyed a stage, tv, film and radio career interrupted by his operation for bladder cancer in 1993 and heart attack in 2004. When he appeared in 'Celebrity Mastermind' on BBC One in 1968, when presenter John Humphrys asked his name, fellow contestant Rick Wakeman shouted "Don't tell him, Pike!", in a reference to Captain Mainwaring's most famous line from Dad's Army.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Britain's lonely old men have scant consolation to learn their fathers and grandfathers were there before them

This year the Government announced the appointment of Tracey Crouch as  'Loneliness Minister.' She pledged to take on the “generational challenge” of loneliness, which studies had claimed was as harmful to health as smoking based on the suggestion that 9 million people suffer from loneliness. Against that backdrop old men and women in Britain, find that they are not part of a loneliness epidemic after all and on, the contrary, their predecessors were miserable before them..

Dr Aparna Shankar, from St George’s, University of London told the Cheltenham Science Festival that : “We are hearing now about this massive epidemic of loneliness.” She went on to say that the number of people suffering with loneliness in Britain, and not exclusively old people, has remained about the same since the 1930s. She said : “Across a lot of surveys the majority, well over half, say they very rarely or never feel lonely. And you find that about 7 to 10 per cent say they feel lonely. There doesn’t seem to be this massive increase.”

Apparently, a survey from 1947, the year in which a record number of baby boomers were born, noted : 'A distressing feature of old age is loneliness. All who have done welfare work among the old have found it the most common, if at the same time the most imponderable, of the ills from which the aged suffer, and its frequency was amply confirmed by our study.'

She made the point that there is a misconception about loneliness, which could be applied to old men : that it is about not having enough friends. Instead, she said, it was a mismatch between the kind of relationships they want and the kind of relationships they have, rather than the absence of relationships.

Either way, 'The Times,' bastion of the status quo, chose to headline its article about the Festival with :
I beg to differ : 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Britain is no country for hundreds of thousands chronically lonely old men for whom Christmas is "just another day"

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Britain is no longer a country for scarce old guitarist, Danny Kirwan, immortalised 50 years ago in a song called 'Albatross' and a band called Fleetwood Mac

Danny, who has died at the age of 68, was 18 when he joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968 and played with it until he was fired by Mick Fleetwood four years later. He made a major guitar contribution to 'Albatross' released in October that year and will always be remembered for his haunting melodies :

Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman and old men remember 1969 when they were young men and there was "something in the air"

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to Harry Walker, an old son of Coventry who was once briefly admitted to the ranks of the Aristocracy of Rugby

Harry, who has died at the age of 103, was born in Coventry in the second year of the First World War, in 1915, never saw his father. In fact, Henry, who was serving as an Army corporal in the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment, only saw his son once, when home on leave from service on the Western Front, before he was killed on the Western Front at the Battle of the Somme. A boxing champion in the Army, he had also performed as a gymnast in front of the King and Queen.

Without any support from the state, his mother, Mabel, a weaver by trade, was forced back to work in the mill and little Harry was brought up by his Grandmother. He recalled : "Mother married again, which was a bloody good thing for her, but me stepfather had his own life and his own children and he wasn't interested. What decisions I'd got to make, I'd got nobody to ask. So I had to make them myself."

From the age of 11 he attended the John Gulson School named after its philanthropic, Victorian Quaker Mayor and Alderman of the City of Coventry, where he began his association with rugby and played centre three-quarter in his first year then, as Harry recalled : "Bill Goddard, the sports' teacher, he says : "Walker, you're getting big enough now, you'd be more useful to us in the forwards." It was in one of his schoolboy match that a teacher, who happened to be the Coventry Rugby Football Club chairman, attacked him with an umbrella for what he considered to be an 'overly zealous tackle.'

After he left school at the age of 14 in 1929, he formed his own team, 'John Gulson Old Boys', so that he could continue playing and after being spotted a representative from Coventry Rugby Football Club visited his home and asked his mother if he could attend a Coventry Second XV game. As a result, he made his debut for Coventry at the age of 17 as a wing-forward in 1932, but was soon converted to a prop. It was a position in which he would remain for the next 20 years representing his hometown club on between 350-400 occasions.

In the morning of games, Harry was at work as a machine tool fitter and recalled : “You didn’t need gyms then because we all worked in physical jobs. I think our training equipment was three skipping ropes.” In fact, he was often at Butts Park Arena where he recalled training in the dark, mud and rain with those ropes.

The derby matches against Rugby, Leicester and Northampton were keenly contested, but these local hostilities were tame compared to the cross-border skirmishes against the Welsh. Harry recalled one match against Cardiff as an 18-year-old in 1933 where he came face to face with Archie Skym, the then Wales Captain. “At the first scrum as I went down, bang, he hit me. I was buggered. Arthur Wheatley, my second row, says, "You all right Harry?" and I couldn’t speak. So he says, "Don’t go down so quick next time". To be honest, I didn’t want a second time. As I was going down, Arthur says, "You’ll be all right, keep your back straight and you’ll have no more trouble". I looked at the Cardiff bloke and he was suffering more than me. I was all right after that."

“There was no mercy back then because there were some proper hard men. Eric Bates at Rugby, he was one. Digger Morris at Gloucester thought he was one; I didn’t.” Playing when he was a 19-year-old in 1934 he was part of a Coventry pack that marched a Leicester scrum back 25 metres with the headline in the Leicester evening paper ran : “Cancelled Fixture: Coventry Too Dirty”

A shade under six foot tall and weighing 16 stone and with thick black hair slicked to the side, he was a distinctive presence in his working class team playing for its working class crowd and he took immense pride in serving Coventry : “It was fantastic. You were representing your City and your community. Ninety per cent of the team were Coventry kids and if you went out on the street then everyone would know you.” During this time he sustained himself on his weekly wage of £3.10 shillings as a fitter and so fierce was his loyalty to the club that he would turn down a bonus offer of £100 to sign for Huddersfield Rugby League.

He was 25 when he was called up to fight in the Second World War in 1940 and not unsurprisingly was enlisted to play in the Army Rugby Team and said : "That was a fiasco. I'd played for the Army in London, then going back to base I was the only other 'rank' and I tackled one of the officers and messed him up a bit and he turned round and said : "You can't do that. I'm an officer !"

He made his debut playing for England against Wales at Twickenham in the 1947 first post-war Five Nations International, at the age of 32 and earned nine England caps playing as a prop in 1947-8, playing in Five Nations encounters and against Australia. In 1952 England asked him back but he had been disenchanted and rejected their approach and recalled : “We had to buy our own shorts. All they gave us was a jersey. They collected them back after the game and if they did not have your number they went through your baggage to find it. We all had jobs so it cost money to play for England as amateurs and all the while they filled the stadium.”

Although his tenure as an aristocrat in the field of rugby was short lived he did play for the Midlands against the touring Kiwis at Coundon Road, the Wallabies at Villa Park and the Springboks at Highfield Road made 30 county championship appearances for Warwickshire and played for the Barbarians when they met the Wallabies at Cardiff Arms Park in 1948 and captured by
Path√© News. He recalled : "The Australians had beat France, England, Ireland and Scotland. They were unbeatable." He rated this as his best win of his career and in the same breath couldn't resist saying : "And in those days you couldn't keep the jersey. They used to come round and take the bloody jersey off you."

Three years ago In his 100th year, the Rugby Football Union offered him a ticket, with full hospitality in the President's Suite, for a Six Nations match against Italy, but failed to include either travel or hotel expenses. Needless to say, on principle and Harry being Harry, he rejected it.

Harry, in his own words when interviewed by the BBC :

Harry's 103rd birthday celebrations as recorded by BBC Midlands : 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Is Britain, once again, a country for an old ex-offender and erstwhile politician called Jonathan Aitkin ?

Jonathan Aitkin, who is 75 years old, is about to be ordained into the Anglican Church by the Bishop of London. Before his fall from grace he was a Conservative politician who. when he was 57 in 1999, was sent to prison for 18 months, after being found guilty of committing perjury after lying on oath in a libel case against 'The Guardian'. He has since  described persuading his then teenage daughter Victoria to give him a false alibi as his “most shameful mistake”. He also lied about who paid for his £1,000 hotel bill at the Ritz in Paris.

Jonathan's early life had been one of privilege. Born in 1942, in Dublin during the Second World War, the son of  Peneloep, the daughter of the First Baron Rugby and William who was Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds during Jonathan's early life and until he was 21. Four years before he was born his Grandfather was the first British representative to the newly independent Irish state, at a time when Anglo-Irish relations were strained but improving. As a result, the Taoiseach of the new Republic, √Čamon de Valera attended Jonathan's christening at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, along with his Godmother Princess Juliana of the Netherlands.

It was not to last and the blight on his childhood came in the shape of tuberculosis, which he contracted when he was 4 years old and led to him spending the next 3 years as an inpatient on a TB ward where he was cared for and educated by Catholic nuns. Even on discharge, when he joined his parents at Halesworth in Suffolk he couldn't walk properly.

From the age of 7 onwards he followed the well-worn path of upper class privilege : educated at Eton College followed by life as undergraduate studying law at Christ Church, Oxford in the early 1960s. Then, like his father before him, he went into journalism. He served as a war correspondent in the Vietnam and Biafran conflicts and gained a reputation for risk-taking, which might have been an augur of things to come. When he took LSD in 1966,as an experiment for an article in the London Evening Standard, he had a bad trip and concluded : "this drug needs police, the Home Office and a dictator to stamp it out."

Television followed and his was the first face to be seen on screen from Yorkshire Television when it began broadcasting when he was 26 in 1968.

His first foray into politics led to his defeat as the Conservative candidate for Meriden in 1966, which was followed by success 8 years later, when he was elected as MP for Thanet East in the 1974 General Election. He languished on the backbenches during Margaret Thatcher's Premiership, possibly because he managed to offend her by ending his relationship with her daughter, Carol, and suggesting to an Egyptian newspaper that Thatcher "probably thinks Sinai is the plural of Sinus." 

His star rose when he became 'Minister of State for Defence Procurement' under Prime Minister, John Major, in 1992 and entered the Cabinet as 'Chief Secretary to the Treasury' in 1994, only to see his career go onto the rocks the following year following the allegations that he had violated ministerial rules.

In that year 'The Guardian' carried a front-page report on his dealings with leading Saudi arms dealers. The story was the result of a long investigation carried out by journalists from the newspaper and from Granada Television's 'World in Action' programme. At a a press conference at the Conservative Party Offices in Smith Square, London, at 5 p.m. that same day he denounced the claims and demanded that the World in Action documentary, which was due to be screened three hours later, withdraw them. He said :

"If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it. My fight begins today. Thank you and good afternoon."

Although he was defeated in the 1997 General Election which brought Tony Blair and New Labour to power, within a year he had been appointed as a representative for the arms company GEC-Marcon. In reality, however, his attempt to clear his name began to unravel over the issue of his violation of ministerial rules by allowing an Arab businessman to pay for his stay in the Paris Ritz Hotel.

The libel case collapsed and World in Action broadcast a special edition, which echoed Aitken's "sword of truth" speech. It was entitled 'The Dagger of Deceit'. More importantly, he was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice and, after pleading guilty in 1999 to both offences, was jailed for 18 months.

It was now that he began to study the Bible, learned Greek and became part of a prayer group which included, in his words : "an armed robber, a blower (someone who cracks safes), a kiter (a cheque forger), a couple of murderers and a dipper (a pickpocket)." 

On release from prison enrolled as a student of Christian Theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and covered this part of his life in two autobiographical works : 'Pride and Perjury' and 'Porridge and Passion.'

The Guardian remained sceptical about Jonathan's contrition and might have insisted that he demonstrate the sincerity of his repentance by repaying the legal bill of one-and-half-million pounds he landed on it by his dishonest libel action. In fact, he was allowed to drop the case on promising to pay costs, but then escaped from the liability when he declared himself bankrupt and revealed that most of his apparent assets turn out to be 'conveniently' owned by other people.

In early 2004, some constituency party members in his former seat of South Thanet proposed that he should return as Conservative candidate in the 2005 General Election, but this was scuppered by Conservative Party leader Michael Howard. Jonathan confirmed that he would not attempt a return to Parliament, saying that : "The leader has spoken. I accept his judgement with good grace."

As further evidence of his spirituality, he published : 'Prayers for People under Pressure' in 2006 and wrote a biography of the English slaver and Anglican clergyman John Newton entitled : 'John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace' in 2007.

After “being given the sacred trust” Jonathan now plans to work as an unpaid prison chaplain for three or four days a week, mostly in jails around London and has described the step as a “life-changer” and  “I’m every bit as excited as I was on my first day on the East Anglian Daily Times as the assistant tennis and funerals correspondent.”

Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington said :  "I have known Jonathan Aitken for several years and this is a calling that has grown within him and been tried and tested by many others. His experience of the prison system, both from the inside and the outside gives him a unique perspective to offer Christian ministry in this vital area of our life as a society. He brings Christian learning from his theological studies, wide life experience, knowledge of the wider issues in criminal justice and a pastoral understanding of the needs of prisoners that will help strengthen the church’s ministry to all."

In 2015 Jonathan said : "Power is a drug. Power gives delusions and one of those delusions is that you can walk on water and that the normal rules don't apply to you and you can get away with it."

Friday, 1 June 2018

Britain is a country awash with frail old men in hospital in need of a 'Frailty Risk Score'

In Britain, in England alone, 20% of hospital admissions in 2014–15 were among old men and women aged 75 years and over, accounting for around 40% of all days spent in hospital. Against this backgound a recent article in the medical magazine, 'The Lancet', published an article entitled :

'What proportion of older adults in hospital are frail ?' 

It began with : 'Despite the increasing level of knowledge about individual illnesses, modern health-care systems seem lost when seeing patients whose diseases come not one at a time, but all at once—especially when they come with equally complex social needs.' These are the old men and women who are labelled as 'frail.'

It made the point that disease-focused specialists, who push on with the only course they know, sometimes decry their frail patients as being "unsuitable" or "requiring social support"or "failing to cope or thrive." In addition, many hospitals and practitioners still somehow expect patients to present with primary complaints that give rise to well defined problems, which they can manage successfully using pathways that can be audited. An example might be an old man with acute stroke or heart attack.

It posited the case of medical a student on her first clinical rotation who encounters an old man with pneumonia. Most of what she has learned about pneumonia must now be set aside. If his case was uncomplicated he would not have been referred to speciality services, but given antibiotics and gone home. Her patient, however, :

* cannot give a history
* is not coughing
* cannot even sit up so that she can auscultate his lungs properly, something she knows she must do. r * does not have a fever or an increased white cell count
* has vague markings on the chest film which alone support the diagnosis.
* cannot go home

She might now turn to her teachers and ask : “What have you been teaching me about pneumonia if none of it works in the patients I'm supposed to see?” 

In time she will learn to recognise the delirium and immobility that are typical presentations in a frail patient with pneumonia. She will be able to ascertain whether the cognitive impairment and being bedfast are new and with this information, she will formulate a differential diagnosis and focused examination, and a pragmatic course of action - a care plan.

Her work might have been made easier if her hospital had planned for frail patients as part of what was expected of it. There is a growing body of opinion which says that hospitals must be encouraged to expect and thereby plan for frail patients as a part of what is required of them. To make this requirement clear, they need the right tools and one of those tools is the 'Hospital Frailty Risk Score' which provides hospitals and with a low-cost, systematic way to screen for frailty and identify a group of patients who are at greater risk of adverse outcomes and for whom a 'frailty-attuned approach' might be useful. On this basis frailty could be graded into 'low', 'intermediate' and 'high' risk.

Helen Roberts, Professor of Medicine for Older People at the University of Southampton, helped design and analyse the Frailty Risk Study. She said : “Frail older people admitted to hospital are at risk of deterioration in their physical and cognitive function but identifying this group of people is difficult. The Hospital Frailty Risk Score for the first time demonstrates how routine hospital data can offer a low-cost method of screening patients by frailty, to identify those at high risk of poor outcomes such as long length of stay, readmission or death, in all hospital departments. Implementing this score across hospitals could enable services to plan to meet the needs of frail people and improve their healthcare.”

Professor Simon Conroy, from the University of Leicester, commented : “It is hoped that by identifying and focusing upon this high-risk group that hospitals will be able to provide more holistic care to vulnerable older people to improve their outcomes.”

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to Cliff Curtis, its old Aristocrat among Galanthophiles

A galanthophile is an enthusiastic collector of snowdrops or 'galanthus' and in Britain there have been keen collectors since at least the mid 19th century. Some are commemorated in the names of snowdrop species or cultivars and thus join the aristocracy of the snowdrop world. The nurseryman, James Atkins of Northampton was one of the earliest and his tall, early-flowering, robust Galanthus 'Atkinsii' is still widely grown.

Cliff, who recently died, will also be immortalised by his tall 'Cliff Curtis', with its clean markings, pristine rounded flowers with long clawed outer segments like small white spoons.

When Cliff and his wife Joan moved into their 18th cottage, in Chapel Street in the village of Hacconby in Lincolnshire in the 1960s it stood on an old farmyard half acre plot, filled with rubbish and old sheds which provided a comfortable home to the Curtis's pigs. Then, when small-scale pig farming became uneconomic, the garden expanded and then took over and eventually became the home of 500 varieties of snowdrops. Cliff meanwhile was employed as a groundsman working for the Lincolnshire Local Education Authority.

When interviewed six years ago Cliff said : "Alpines were my first love. We used to have an alpine house, but now we concentrate on the troughs." He was referring to their ranks of aged stone feeding troughs salvaged from farm sales. It wasn't until the late 1990s that his serious snowdrop collecting began and he entered the lower ranks of the galanthophiles when he got down on the ground on his knees to appreciate the subtle differences between varieties. As he said : "Snowdrop people always have muddy knees and their bums in the air."

In 1948, when he was 83 years old, the galanthophile, Edward Augustus Bowles or "Gussie," discovered the cultivar, which he named 'Ketton,' at Ketton Cottage, which stood near Peterborough and introduced it to the public in the 1950s before he died in 1954.

Gussie had been forty years gone when Cliff's love affair with galanthus began, and in pursuit of that passion he tracked down the Ketton Garden where he discovered and announced 'Peardop.' Then, from elsewhere, came 'Little Joan,' named for his wife and of course, 'Cliff Curtis.'

The fact that rare snowdrop bulbs exchange hands for hundreds of pounds led him to declare in 2012 : "This is not a nursery. It is a hobby gone mad, although we do sell off the surplus bulbs at our open days. Sometimes, however, I wish I had realised earlier in my life that snowdrops can be much more profitable than pigs!"

Not surprisingly Cliff was often invited to inspect colonies of snowdrops in old gardens and
where sought a longed-for “yallery’un” or “green-tipped’un” that might be hiding just behind the next tree.
'Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years.'

From Wordsworth's 'To a Snowdrop.' 1819.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Britain is still a country, but Labour is no longer a party for an old politician called Ken Livingstone

Ken, who has been forced to make an inglorious departure from the Labour Party at the age of 72, after a membership of 50 years, had once had a political career which had taken him to the leadership of the Greater London Council in 1981 followed by two terms as Mayor of London.

His long final act of political suicide started in 2016, when Labour was convulsed by its first row about antisemitism in the party. Naz Shah, an MP, had apologised and was briefly suspended from the party after she shared a Facebook posting in which had suggested relocating Israel to the US as a “solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict”. It was then that he took it upon himself to defend Shah, and gave an interview in which he argued that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism, the existence of a Jewish state, “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”

His suspension from the party, but its decision not to expel him led to large scale uproar in its ranks and when it was once again convulsed by antisemitism in March this year, it was his name that repeatedly came up. In addition, he was held partly responsible for the political damage which was done in the last round of local government elections, when Labour failed to win Barnet Council in London, as had been expected, when Jewish voters turned away from Labour.

His final conclusion was that the long running row over anti-semitism had become “a distraction” and he resigned his membership of the party before the final hearing ever took place.

Ironically, it was in his first term as the newly elected Mayor of London from 2000–04 that he achieved his greatest success as a politician, when he was suspended from the Labour Party and stood against and beat the official Labour candidate, Frank Dobson.

It was during this time that he :

* came out in support of a proposal for the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London and insisted that the Games be held in the East End to promote urban regeneration.

* introduced the fleet of articulated over a hundred "bendy buses" to replace the old Routemasters, the design for which dated to the 1950s.

* gave the green light to clean power and with his 'Energy Strategy' committed London to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20%, relative to the 1990 level, by 2010.

* pedestrianised the north side of Trafalgar Square, transforming it into a public space with a cafe, public toilets, and a lift for the disabled.

* set up Britain's first register for same-sex couples, which, while falling short of legal marriage rights, was seen as a step towards the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

* introduced a traffic congestion charge covering 8 square miles in Central London, charging motorists £5 a day for driving through the area in an attempt to deter traffic and as a result reduced it by 20%.

* introduced the Oyster card system, the smartcard for use on the Tube, trams and buses which reduced passenger queues.

Having run London pragmatically for 4 years, he was returned to the Labour fold to win again in 2004, before Boris Johnson halted him in his tracks four years later, but in his second term he failed to  match the reforming zeal of his first term.

"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
Mark Antony reflecting on the death of Julius Caesar