Saturday 30 June 2018

Britain is a country where old men in isolated villages who seek fast internet are forced to take to their shovels and dig

The Welsh village of Michaelston-y-Fedw, which  roughly translates as 'Michael's Church in the Birches',.was a small community of 300 inhabitants to the west of the city of Newport with slow broadband speeds which added to its isolation.

Now, with the help of its old men, it has transformed itself into 'The Fastest Village in Wales' with its previous, miserable 1-4 megabits per second, replaced by a magnificent 1000mps. This wasn't provided by internet provider BT, but created by the resident's own efforts.

In fact, the villagers were unable to either download films, stream music or connect to internet banking, despite their proximity to the cities of Newport and Cardiff. As a result, they set up a community interest company and with £100,000 of EU funding and a grant from the Welsh Government, given with the proviso that they keep the costs down and the householders themselves would do as much work as possible, they proceeded to upgrade their fibre connection and join the 21st century.

As a result, the network, which involved raising £150,000 themselves and the digging a seven mile trench to lay the super-fast cables, was designed and installed by volunteers from the community consisting of farmers, teachers and a backbone of the retired old men of the village who collectively contributed thousands of 'volunteer hours' to the effort.

Brinley Richards, age 79, said : “It is a remarkable success story. I am so proud of the community. The village deserves recognition. Some of the people work more than 12 hours a day. I have no doubt that other parts of Wales will be asking us for advice.” In addition and beyond just installing high speed broadband, the project has also brought the community together : "It is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best things ever. I have got to know more people in the last four months than I did in the previous 25 years.”

Seventy-one year old Jim Dunk, 71, a retired marine worker, said he had lived in the village for more than 40 years but had made new friends through the project : “The number of people from different walks of life I have met has been incredible.”

Mark Graveston and Jim laying the fibre to Druidstone House.

Last year the Government announced that British homes and businesses will have a legal right to high-speed broadband by 2020, dismissing calls from the network provider BT that it should be a voluntary rather than legal obligation on providers. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said only a universal service obligation would offer certainty that broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps would reach the whole of Britain by 2020.

No doubt, Glyn Williams, in front of his newly connected house, is grateful he doesn't have to wait that long to get connected.

Friday 29 June 2018

Brexit Britain is no country for an old Prime Minister called Tony Blair

Like ex prime-Minister John Major, Tony Blair has gravitas. They have earned it : John served as Conservative Prime Minister for seven years at the tail-end of the twentieth century, before Tony took over for his ten year stint in 1997. In the length of his tenure he stands as 9th in the list of Britain's 54 Prime Ministers since Britain's first, Robert Walpole in the 18th century and although his reputation was damaged by his decision to go to war with Iraq, his achievements in office were considerable, not the least, his achievement of peace in Northern Ireland after 30 years of bloodshed.

On Wednesday he delivered his Chatham House speech and weighed into the Brexit debate by reflecting on the state of the Brexit talks :

“I have never been more worried about the future of our country than now, with competing emotions of anxiety and rage. We have a government whose every move is a calculation not about the interests of the nation, but the internal balance of advantage between the factions of the Conservative party, with the Prime Minister more a hostage than a leader. Meanwhile, the leader of the Labour party neglects to lead the fight here at home over an issue which literally determines the future of Britain and where he could  play a decisive role.”

Chatham House in the 18th-century house in St James's Square once occupied by three of his predecessors as Prime Minister, including William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It is now the home of The Royal Institute of International Affairs, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs.

He also said, on the issue of Brexit : "I am afraid I get bored with people telling me they’re bored of it. If it is by consensus the most important decision we have taken as a country since World War 2, then our preoccupation with it must continue until one way or another it is finally decided."

"The debate on Brexit has naturally focused on the economic fall-out. But the political effect of Britain leaving the European Union may be worse. At a stroke, Britain loses its position in the world’s largest commercial market and biggest political union. America loses its foremost ally which has often been a bridge between the two sides of the Alliance."

"Of course, the Brexiteers will argue that Britain can still be the USA’s greatest ally outside the EU. But examine the reality. Since the referendum, is Britain closer to the USA? Is the relationship stronger? On a global issue, who is the American President calling first on the continent of Europe – the British Prime Minister?"

"Presently, we are drifting towards March 2019 with no clear negotiating position, no resolution of the Northern Ireland question, still vaguely hoping Europe will allow us access to the Single Market without abiding by its rules which it will never do, and with senior Cabinet members openly debating the merits of a negotiating position which ‘threatens’ Europe with a no deal Brexit which is the equivalent of holding a negotiation on the top floor of a high rise building and ‘threatening’ to jump out of the window if our demands are not met."

"The whole thing has become so protracted that it has numbed our outrage."

Sunday 24 June 2018

Britain was, and still is, no country for old men 'hastened' to death at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Arthur Cunningham, known as 'Brian', who had served in the RAF, was a widower with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, when he was admitted to Gosport War Memorial Hospital, for treatment for a pressure sore in September 1998 when he was 79 years old. Five days later he was dead and was just one of the 456 old men and women who died after receiving unjustified doses of opiates at the Hospital in the 1990s. His stepson Charles Farthing who recalled that at the time : "There’s no way he was near death, has now found out that he was given a threefold increase in pain relief three days before his death.

Arthur Cousins was a soldier who fought in the Normandy landings on Utah beach and was reported as 'missing in action, presumed dead,' only to turn up two years later, alive, in a French hospital. He died after being taken to the Hospital after a series of falls, one of which led to a broken breast bone. Before his unexpected death he was recovering well. His son, Eric, said : “We always feel guilty. We saw him on the Sunday, he was sat in the chair right as rain talking about coming home to his greenhouse in a week’s time.“You ask your parents how they are and he did say to us, ‘I’m alright but what they’re giving me is doing my head in,’ he couldn’t think. “But you sit there and think, ‘Dad you’re getting the right treatment, you’re in the right place.’ You don’t argue. “I went down a couple of days later, and this nurse called me into the office, and said : "We’ve got bad news, we think you father won’t see the week out."” His Dad died on 25 August 2000, after receiving 40mg of diamorphine, the medical name for morphine, double the maximum recommended dose.

It was Gillian McKenzie, now 84, who was the first to go to Hampshire Police twentyyears ago in 1998, with concerns over the death of her mother, Gladys Richards, aged 91. She brought the families’ evidence to Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and former Health Minister, who secured the Public Inquiry into Gosport in 2014. Now the results of that Inquiry have been published the findings go beyond the worst fears of many.

It revealed that in the 1990s Dr Jane Barton, now 69, was then clinical Clinical Assistant in the 'Department of Medicine for Elderly People' at the Hospital. An inveterate workaholic, she decided from 1988 to 2000 to add to her extensive workload as a GP by taking on her new role at the Hospital. Under her jurisdiction, Dryad and Daedalus Wards at Gosport became informally known to staff as 'the end of the line.' A GMC tribunal was told how her daily schedule involved ward rounds starting at 7.30am, followed by a full shift at her GP's practice, before an evening round back at the hospital. She was also on call every other weekend and on regular week nights.

It was in 1991/92 that staff first raised concerns about :
* an increased mortality rate
* 'unnecessary' use of diamorphine
* concerns about Dr Barton's administration of the painkiller

In 2000 a NHS Independent Review Panel found that, while drug doses were high, they were 'appropriate.'

It was not until 2010 that the GMC found Dr Barton guilty of misconduct and that she had prescribed 'potentially hazardous' levels of drugs, but rather than being 'struck off' the Medical Register which would have ended her work as a doctor, she was given a list of 11 conditions relating to her practice.

Now Norman Lamb's 2014-initiated Report has revealed that Dr Barton :

* presided over a deadly system of 'pre-emptive prescribing,' allowing nurses on the wards to increase the amount of painkillers being used without the need for her consent.

* would communicate to staff in a sort of grim code, scribbling 'please make comfortable' on to the medical notes of incoming patients who would then be given huge doses of opioids, often via a device called a 'syringe driver,' which would pump drugs constantly into their system.

* supervised a regime, where hundreds perished, including many old men and women like Arthur Cunningham, Arthur Cousin and Gladys Richards who had been admitted with relatively minor conditions.

* had signed 833 death certificates, keeping sparse and in many cases incomplete notes detailing their care.

The Government Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the report’s findings were “truly shocking”, with whistleblowers and families ignored as they attempted to raise concerns. “There was a catalogue of failings by the local NHS, Hampshire Constabulary, the GMC, the NMC, the coroners and, as steward of the system, the Department of Health.Had the Establishment listened when junior NHS staff spoke out, had the establishment listened when ordinary families raised concerns instead of treating them as troublemakers, many of those deaths would not have happened.”

Bridget Reeves, the granddaughter of 88-year-old Elsie Devine, said in a statement on behalf of the families : This has been sinister, calculated and those implicated must now face the rigour of the criminal justice system. Accountability must take precedence here. These horrifying, shameful, unforgivable actions need to be disclosed in a criminal court for a jury to decide and only then can we put our loved ones to rest.”

While grieving relatives have spent 20 years seeking answers about deaths of loved ones, Dr Barton has largely refused to respond to their enquiries. Her only extensive public statement, issued through the Medical Defence Union, claimed she was 'faced with an excessive and increasing burden in trying to care for patients' at the Hospital and she added :
'Throughout my career I have tried to do my very best for all my patients and have had only their interests and wellbeing at heart.'

Speaking after the publication of the Report, Anne Cunningham, the wife of Arthur said :

'These people did not deserve to be put down like a dog. These people lived their lives only for someone at the end to decide to play God and put an end to them.'

ITV News Report June 20th

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."