Perverse planning decision indicates that Boris is demob-happy, eager to help big developers

Mayor Boris Johnson has just overturned a decision by Bluer-than-Blue Wandsworth Council and granted an application by British Land to redevelop a large building which will further increase traffic and air pollution on Putney High Street.

The decision will infuriate the local residents and annoy not only the council but also local MP and Cabinet Minister Justine Greening. She has openly challenged Boris and wrote that she doubted the Mayor’s office “has a legal right to call in this scheme”.

The plans, for 97 flats above ground and basement floor shops next door to the existing Exchange Shopping Centre, were thrown out in July in a unanimous and cross-party vote by Wandsworth’s planning committee. In September Boris agreed to a request by British Land to “call in” the decision with a view to overturning it..

In his seven and a half years as Mayor of London Boris Johnson has “called in” only 14 planning decisions from  local councils. Three of them were in September 2015. His previous decisions overruled Labour council refusals of schemes where developers offered very little  affordable housing. There were also a couple of tower blocks and a Free School.

The Mayor’s powers can only be used legally if a Borough is under-delivering on its contribution to the London Plan. Wandsworth Council Ms Greening both told Boris that Wandsworth has, in fact, over-delivered over the past five years, and is well on track to deliver ahead of schedule over the next ten years.

Ms Greening wrote: “I do not believe the Mayor’s office has a legal right to call in this scheme. Our local, accountable democracy has worked, reflecting local opinion. I strongly support Wandsworth Council’s decision to refuse permission for this development”.

Putney High Street already suffers from some of the worst air and traffic pollution in London and the residents are furious. Air in our narrow High Street is trapped in a canyon as it is runs North South, and buildings already block the prevailing westerly winds from clearing pollution away”, said objector Keith Hawkins. “Putting even bigger buildings has been shown to make the situation even worse”.

Defending his decision, Boris said ignored all the facts saying the Mayor’s role was “to fight for Londoners who need homes”.  But a council spokesman said: “We are hugely disappointed. The Mayor confirmed that Wandsworth is playing a full and pivotal role in providing the new homes London needs, so we are at a loss to understand why he felt the need to intervene here.”

Committee member Jeremy Ambache said: “I am flabbergasted. We refused the application unanimously because the development was considered too large, poorly designed and it would not fit in with the other buildings along Putney High Street.

“Mayor Johnson has not kept his pledge to the electorate that he would desist from overruling local council’s decisions about their own local areas. His decision has made it impossible for us to negotiate a better scheme with British Land.”

The borough is rife with rumours that the Mayor is demob-happy and looking for lucrative directorships when he retires to the Tory bakbenches next year, allowing him to ride roughshod over people who voted for him.

Mr Hawkins also noted that Tory Mayoral contender Zac Goldsmith spoke very differently at his Party Conference. Goldsmith said: “Many Londoners are instinctively suspicious of new development and I don’t blame them.  Too often they have no control, no say over what is built in their back yard. New developments – often ugly, out of proportion, out of keeping – can be dumped on them with no thought whatsoever as to the effect it will have on their area. There is no case for ignoring local opinion.”

How unfortunate that Boris is beyond listening – if indeed he ever did listen.

For Boris it’s clean air tomorrow – but not today

In August London Mayor Boris Johnson approved the development of a massive cruise ship terminal at Greenwich claiming its effect on air pollution would be minimal. A month later he admitted it in fact the effect would be substantial, but hey, let’s not worry about it.

Speaking at City Hall, the mayor said: “One of the great delusions is that river traffic is in some way more environmentally friendly than others and it simply isn’t. They use colossal diesel engines and will be unquestionably adding to NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) and other pollution”.

So why did you say the opposite when you granted planning permission a few weeks ago?

The Green Party’s Baroness Jones, London Assembly member, was in favour of scrapping the scheme altogether. She told the mayor: “The Greater London Authority has played down all the pollution fears, possibly having been misled by the developers. You have allowed the GLA to support this thing. Could you just not have just turned it down?”

Good question. So what is the answer? Well, as usual when Mr Johnson is concerned, there are several.

“Local people are broadly supportive”, he stated. Er, no.  In fact there were 117 letters of objections, hundreds of names on a petition and only three letters in favour. He also mentioned the (notional) loss of revenue and jobs, which the developer admitted would be only 80. The rest was Boris Bluster.

The actual air pollution, in an area already known for its poor air quality, would be the equivalent of 688 HGVs parked with their engines running. There is a much cleaner option: onshore electricity could be supplied to the berthed ships. But the developers insist that would not be viable (which means more expensive) and Boris accepted their word with no comparative evidence requested or supplied.

Yesterday it was revealed that Green issues will be a vital battleground in London’s mayoral race with Seven in 10 Londoners in swing boroughs saying they would support a candidate who was convincing on air pollution.  Over 70 per cent of Tory voter said air pollution and climate change were now among their biggest concerns and almost four in five in the survey of 2,000 Londoners did not think politicians are doing enough to protect the environment. They could say that again – and hopefully will. The candidates are all promising jam tomorrow, but tomorrow is still over seven months away.

VolkWagen (VW) having making headlines for weeks now because of their rigging of emissions testing equipment in millions of cars and will hopefully paying very high price for it. The cruise ship terminal developers appear to have rigged the air quality impact of their scheme more effectively and, with the mayor’s support, are getting away with it.

Britain’s Housing Associations just committed suicide: update

If David Cameron thought he’d have a serious battle on his hands in taking on housing associations – part of his relentless war against social housing – he thought wrong.

When his election manifesto promised HA tenants the Right to Buy at a discount, it was pointed out to him that under current rules this would be illegal as HA are charities and as such cannot be forced to dispose of assets. Moreover, efforts to change the legislation would be unlikely to be passed by the Commons and even less so by the Lords.

Plan B looked a bit desperate. The Communities Secretary Greg Clarke offered a “deal” whereby instead of legislation, HA would sell “voluntarily” – but still sell to any and all tenants wishing to buy. The sector was given all of FIVE DAYS to approve the deal. Miraculously, they did – just in time to allow Cameron to crow about it at the Tory conference.

HA’s have never been known to act so quickly on anything, let alone their own death sentence. For this is what this is. In his speech the PM announced that the National Housing Federation had agreed that every housing association tenant will have the right to purchase a home with a substantial discount.

The government will compensate the housing associations for the discount – from the public purse, of course – and allow them to keep the cash to reinvest in building new homes, which will be for sale. The main supporters are the sector’s fat cats, the so-called G15 associations (not at all pompous). Most of them believe won’t feel the difference. They are already more developers than social providers, paying themselves handsome salaries.

I am old enough to remembers the beginning of the Housing Association movement in the mid-70s. It was a small, intermediate idea to allow people a choice between the free market and council renting. Known as “the third housing sector”, it was mostly made up of architects, surveyors and builders. The first home they designed, with some government grant, were, er, for themselves, and the rest were rented at sub-market rents, if still well above council rents.

HAs didn’t come into their own until the demise of council building in the 1980s. They then became the fig leaf of the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments, kept handy to cover up the dearth of social housing and the failure of the private sector to make up the numbers. At the same time, “social housing” evolved into “affordable housing”, a wonderfully vague term which was never defined and hardly ever affordable.

During this period the bigger associations became increasingly like private landlords. Their behaviour was often so bad that a special Housing Ombudsman had to be appointed to protect tenants and neigbours. Not very idealistic, but salaries in the sector ballooned and several CEO now get paid twice or more Ministers’ salaries.

Today’s David Cameron needs no fig leaves. Blue in tooth and claw, he has decided to privatise the housing associations and must be delighted that they have embraced his “deal” without a fight and will now go like lambs to the slaughter.

Once the small amount of dust has settled, the “third housing sector” will be no more. Associations will battle it out with developers, and most will lose – especially as their main source of dependency, Section 106 Planning requirements for social housing, are also being abolished.

Out in the Tory world, it will be Buy or Die. Put your life savings into a shoebox-sized “Cameron starter home” or move into a real shoebox in middle o’troad, Monty Python style. Whichever you opt for, the government won’t give a fig leaf. Just ask IDS.

There is one epilog here.

I will have no regrets as HA’s cease to be. I just hope that, as they abandon the very people they were meant to look after, their featherbedded leaders who accepted the chop on their behalf quickly and quietly do not cry all the way to the bank.

Martin Wicks, a council tenant and union activist from Swindon, said: “NHF chief David Orr surely deserves a knighthood or a seat in the house of lords for his crucial contribution in facilitating the destruction of ‘social housing’.”

Fellow housing activist Phil Campbell said: “This may be good for the NHF, but not for the homeless,  people who can’t afford to buy their own home, and private tenants who get nothing.

“David Orr has protected the housing associations who pay his wages but stabbed the rest of the housing sector in the back.”

UPDATE: NHF chief David Orr earns £179,000 a year following a pay rise from £165,000. As far as I know, he does not provide ANY housing for ANYBODY, certainly not people in housing need who would be lucky to earning 1/8th of that.

Our housing associations have just committed suicide.

If David Cameron thought he’d have a serious battle on his hands in taking on housing associations – part of his relentless war against social housing – he thought wrong.

When his election manifesto promised HA tenants the Right to Buy at a discount, it was pointed out to him that under current rules this would be illegal as HA are charities and as such cannot be forced to dispose of assets. Moreover, efforts to change the legislation would be unlikely to be passed by the Commons and even less so by the Lords.

Plan B looked a bit desperate. The Communities Secretary Greg Clarke offered a “deal” whereby instead of legislation, HA would sell “voluntarily” – but still sell to any and all tenants wishing to buy. The sector was given all of FIVE DAYS to approve the deal. Miraculously, they did – just in time to allow Cameron to crow about it at the Tory conference.

HA’s have never been known to act so quickly on anything, let alone their own death sentence. For this is what this is. In his speech the PM announced that the National Housing Federation had agreed that every housing association tenant will have the right to purchase a home with a substantial discount.

The government will compensate the housing associations for the discount – from the public purse, of course – and allow them to keep the cash to reinvest in building new homes, which will be for sale. The main supporters are the sector’s fat cats, the so-called G15 associations (not at all pompous). Most of them believe won’t feel the difference. They are already more developers than social providers, paying themselves handsome salaries.

I am old enough to remembers the beginning of the Housing Association movement in the mid-70s. It was a small, intermediate idea to allow people a choice between the free market and council renting. Known as “the third housing sector”, it was mostly made up of architects, surveyors and builders. The first home they designed, with some government grant, were, er, for themselves, and the rest were rented at sub-market rents, if still well above council rents.

HAs didn’t come into their own until the demise of council building in the 1980s. They then became the fig leaf of the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments, kept handy to cover up the dearth of social housing and the failure of the private sector to make up the numbers. At the same time, “social housing” evolved into “affordable housing”, a wonderfully vague term which was never defined and hardly ever affordable.

During this period the bigger associations became increasingly like private landlords. Their behaviour was often so bad that a special Housing Ombudsman had to be appointed to protect tenants and neigbours. Not very idealistic, but salaries in the sector ballooned and several CEO now get paid twice or more Ministers’ salaries.

Today’s David Cameron needs no fig leaves. Blue in tooth and claw, he has decided to privatise the housing associations and must be delighted that they have embraced his “deal” without a fight and will now go like lambs to the slaughter.

Once the small amount of dust has settled, the “third housing sector” will be no more. Associations will battle it out with developers, and most will lose – especially as their main source of dependency, Section 106 Planning requirements for social housing, are also being abolished.

Out in the Tory world, it will be Buy or Die. Put your life savings into a shoebox-sized “Cameron starter home” or move into a real shoebox in middle o’troad, Monty Python style. Whichever you opt for, the government won’t give a fig leaf. Just ask IDS.

There is one epilog here.

I will have no regrets as HA’s cease to be. I just hope that, as they abandon the very people they were meant to look after, their featherbedded leaders who accepted the chop on their behalf quickly and quietly do not cry all the way to the bank.

Martin Wicks, a council tenant and union activist from Swindon, said: “NHF chief David Orr surely deserves a knighthood or a seat in the house of lords for his crucial contribution in facilitating the destruction of ‘social housing’.”

Fellow housing activist Phil Campbell said: “This may be good for the NHF, but not for the homeless,  people who can’t afford to buy their own home, and private tenants who get nothing.

“David Orr has protected the housing associations who pay his wages but stabbed the rest of the housing sector in the back.”

How the UK’s Housing Associations committed suicide just in time for Cameron’s Conference speech

If David Cameron thought he’d have a serious battle on his hands in taking on housing associations – part of his relentless war against social housing – he thought wrong.

When his election manifesto promised HA tenants the Right to Buy at a discount, it was pointed out to him that under current rules this would be illegal as HA are charities and as such cannot be forced to dispose of assets. Moreover, efforts to change the legislation would be unlikely to be passed by the Commons and even less so by the Lords.

Plan B looked a bit desperate. The Communities Secretary Greg Clarke offered a “deal” whereby instead of legislation, HA would sell “voluntarily” – but still sell to any and all tenants wishing to buy. The sector was given all of FIVE DAYS to approve the deal. Miraculously, they did – just in time to allow Cameron to crow about it at the Tory conference.

HA’s have never been known to act so quickly on anything, let alone their own death sentence. For this is what this is. In his speech the PM announced that the National Housing Federation had agreed that every housing association tenant will have the right to purchase a home with a substantial discount.

The government will compensate the housing associations for the discount – from the public purse, of course – and allow them to keep the cash to reinvest in building new homes, which will be for sale. The main supporters are the sector’s fat cats, the so-called G15 associations (not at all pompous). Most of them believe won’t feel the difference. They are already more developers than social providers, paying themselves handsome salaries.

I am old enough to remembers the beginning of the Housing Association movement in the mid-70s. It was a small, intermediate idea to allow people a choice between the free market and council renting. Known as “the third housing sector”, it was mostly made up of architects, surveyors and builders. The first home they designed, with some government grant, were, er, for themselves, and the rest were rented at sub-market rents, if still well above council rents.

HAs didn’t come into their own until the demise of council building in the 1980s. They then became the fig leaf of the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments, kept handy to cover up the dearth of social housing and the failure of the private sector to make up the numbers. At the same time, “social housing” evolved into “affordable housing”, a wonderfully vague term which was never defined and hardly ever affordable.

During this period the bigger associations became increasingly like private landlords. Their behaviour was often so bad that a special Housing Ombudsman had to be appointed to protect tenants and neigbours. Not very idealistic, but salaries in the sector ballooned and several CEO now get paid twice or more Ministers’ salaries.

Today’s David Cameron needs no fig leaves. Blue in tooth and claw, he has decided to privatise the housing associations and must be delighted that they have embraced his “deal” without a fight and will now go like lambs to the slaughter.

Once the small amount of dust has settled, the “third housing sector” will be no more. Associations will battle it out with developers, and most will lose – especially as their main source of dependency, Section 106 Planning requirements for social housing, are also being abolished.

Out in the Tory world, it will be Buy or Die. Put your life savings into a shoebox-sized “Cameron starter home” or move into a real shoebox in middle o’troad, Monty Python style. Whichever you opt for, the government won’t give a fig leaf. Just ask IDS.

There is one epilog here.

I will have no regrets as HA’s cease to be. I just hope that, as they abandon the very people they were meant to look after, their featherbedded leaders who accepted the chop on their behalf quickly and quietly do not cry all the way to the bank.

Martin Wicks, a council tenant and union activist from Swindon, said: “NHF chief David Orr surely deserves a knighthood or a seat in the house of lords for his crucial contribution in facilitating the destruction of ‘social housing’.”

Fellow housing activist Phil Campbell said: “This may be good for the NHF, but not for the homeless,  people who can’t afford to buy their own home, and private tenants who get nothing.

“David Orr has protected the housing associations who pay his wages but stabbed the rest of the housing sector in the back.”

My father would have been 100 years old today. Here’s to the memory of a Very Great Man.

An old Jewish joke tells of an old Jewish man saying: “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

Had he lived longer, my father would be 100 years old today, and still not taking any care of himself.

Born on 8th September 1915 in Vienna, he lived through the worst of times – two World Wars – but also through the best of times, for him, as philosophy and technology were converging to enable his breakthroughs to impact on all our lives. I believe that his work in Linguistics was instrumental in allowing to talk to computers in our languages – not theirs.

Born to a well-to-do family on the move from Poland to Germany, Oscar Westreich was able to sing soprano in the Vienna Opera Choir. It gave him a fondness for the songs of Schubert and as his voice turned to a mellow baritone he would entertain us by singing Roslein von der Heiden alongside the traditional Friday night Jewish chants he was to learn later.

Growing up in Berlin in the 20s as the baby of a family whose wealth was in property, Oscar’s sister Berta was 10 years his senior and his brother Shmuel older still. But before his was 12 his father died on the operating table of peritonitis (burst appendix), not uncommon in pre-antibiotics times. His mother died not long after, at least partly of a broken heart. They were both only in their 40s.

Young Oscar attended both the Berlin Gymnasia (top high school) and Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) and graduated from both in 1933 with the highest grades ever achieved. But as he was celebrating he saw the Reichtag go up in flames (a Nazi provocation falsely blamed on “Jews and Bolsheviks”) and realised the writing was on the wall. With literally nothing but the shirt on his back he left his comfortable middle-class home and family and went to Palestine.

Although his aim was to pursue his studies, being penniless meant that for the first few years he had to work on the land on a kibbutz. Life was nothing like the fun holidays people go on nowadays: the work was backbreaking and spades were bloody shovels. He acquired a nice tan in time for the arrival, in 1936, of his saviour in the shape of my mother.

They had become engaged as 18-year-olds as Berta had married my mother’s cousin and the youngsters met on family holiday in the Polish resort of Zhakopane. My mother, too, was the baby of her family with far older brothers and a sister with families of their own. But having my father waiting for her in Palestine enabled her to leave a loving family and go to join him, which literally saved her life.

As soon as she got a job as a school teacher in Jerusalem my father was able to resume his studies. But in January 1943, when news of the fate of the Jews of Europe was reaching Palestine, my father could not hide behind his books. He joined the British Army and spent the next three years training and rising to the rank of sergeant in the Jewish Brigade.  I have written about this fascinating part of his life and the brigade separately and will be happy to send a copy to anyone who may be interested.

Demobbed in early 1946, it was back to the books for a while. But then the Israeli/Arab war broke out and Oscar was in uniform again, now as a lieutenant in the Israel Defence Force, and now known as Lt Yehoshua (his Hebrew name from birth) Bar-Hillel (after his late father Hillel).

With that war over, Yehoshua Bar-Hillel completed his PhD and took his young family (I was four, my sister Maya seven) to MIT in Cambridge, across the ocean, for his post-grad. We were supposed to stay for a year but ended up staying for three.

My memories are patchy (Chicken Pox ruining my debut as a ballet dancer (!), whooping cough, climbing street lamps like a monkey and watching the neighbours’ 3” television while they yelled at each other in the kitchen). But I do remember walks along the Charles River and my father making up stories for us about the adventures of two naughty squirrels, Anushka and Bulbula. After a while I acquired so much faith in his story-telling abilities that for a long time I believe he had actually  written The Jungle Book. Even now whenever I hear the name Riki-Tikki-Tavi I think not only of the intrepid cobra-slaying mongoose but of my intrepid father as well.

During those three years I became bilingual in English and Yehoshua met Noam Chomsky and began a lifelong relationship and working partnership. Much as I would like to, I cannot tell you what it is that they did – athough history can.  I shunned the academic world in favour of the realities of news and became a reporter which I still am.

The best compliment ever came one day when, after hearing one of my reports on the evening news, he turned to my mother and said: “She doesn’t talk rubbish”.

Having lost around five years of his career to the wars, Yehoshua finally caught up and got the rewards due to him before – and remarkably even more so after – his tragically early death just after his 60th birthday. I was already living in London then and was amazed, reading his incredible obituaries, to find how many people knew of him and his work and how highly they all thought of him. I should not have been.

Forty years on I still have a life-size photo of him above my computer and I often look to him for advice and guidance. It never fails.

I am totally his daughter in many ways, but not this: my father had no malice in him. His total inability to suffer fools (it’s not easy being a genius) and his utter lack of tact could have been confused for malice, but I knew – and know – better. His wit could be cutting, even wounding, but never with malicious intent.

I try to be more like him, and fail, and try again. I will keep trying.

Thank you, Yehoshua, for all you’ve been and done for me. I love you and always will.

Mira

#Antisemitism: The Myths and the Maths

It has become universally acknowledged that #antisemitism in this country is rising massively to alarming record-breaking levels. Most commentators accept this as a simple fact and some respond by demanding curbs on free speech, including senior MPs and even Ministers.

The myth that British Jews are living in fear of life and limb suits some people, to whom I will refer as the “Jewish Lobby”. I will do this because it is true, and because I have been called an #antisemite so often and so publicly (and that’s just by Danny, Lord Finkelstein of Pinner) that that must be true as well.

But the rise in #antisemitism is a myth and one which needs to be busted. And if it takes a Jewish #antisemite to do it, then so be it, with help from the Metropolitan Police.

When I asked the Met for figures and breakdowns of so-called “hate crime”, they were happy to oblige, adding that nobody asked them for these figures until I did. The results will strike fear into those obsessed with scaring British Jews, but actually show there is little to worry about.

In 2014 the police recorded 358 anti-Semitic offences. This is 177 fewer than claimed by the Community Safety Trust, but then the CST is a well-funded Jewish Lobby which would not exist without #antisemitism, real or made-up. The Met’s figures, by the way, also recorded 1,481 reports of homophobic attacks and 611 of Islamophobic ones (generally accepted to be massively under-reported).

The Met’s breakdown of anti-Semitic crime in London in 2014 – which included the aftermath of the Gaza massacres and the media coverage they got – was as follows: FOUR cases of assault with injury (only ONE GBH); seven cases of Common Assault; 36 cases of Criminal Damage to a Motor Vehicle and 38 of “Harrassment”, which could mean anything. The rest were online

Compare that if you will to 180,000, which is the total for offences in these categories recorded by the Met in 2014. So attacks against Jews made up only one in 500 of the total, while they make up around one in 86 of the population of Metropolitan London. We should all be so lucky.

So why are prominent, educated and articulate Jews behaving as though their future here is suddenly at serious risk? Why does Maureen Lipmann regularly pack her bags, citing #antisemitism in between appearances in the media and radio discussions on the subject – only to unpack again?

And why is Danny Cohen, 40, recently appointed Director of BBC Television at £320,000 a year (poor didums), telling a Jerusalem conference that he “questions the long-term future for Jews in the UK”, adding  “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as in the last 12 months” – which was when he was promoted to his powerful new job?

Possibly because they have chosen to believe the CST’s “statistics” rather than the police. The well-funded CST regards posters saying “Free Palestine” as #antisemitic events. Last August: Graffiti was daubed on a pavement reading ‘Jews kill Palestinian babies’. You may recall that in August the UK media was full of images and reports of Palestinian children and babies being killed by Israel in Gaza (the eventual total being 550).

The graffiti may have an unpleasant reminder, but it was factually correct. And it was certainly not a crime, more a report of a crime. So next time you see the CST figures, have the salt cellar at the ready.

Jews make up 0.5% of the population of this country but run a very effective lobby, which is their right. It is also the right of the other 99.5% to be aware of this fact and what it means in democratic terms. And before you descend upon me from a great height and add “Jew Hater” to #antisemite, I would like to put a few things on the record.

My father left Berlin in 1933 in the face of the real and imminently dangerous #antisemitism of Kristalnacht. My mother followed him in 1936 from Cracow, which fell to the Nazis in 1940. I was born in Palestine – yes, PALESTINE – in 1946, after my father, who volunteered to join the British Army to fight the Germans came home to Jerusalem. Most of their families (and mine) perished in Hitler’s camps and one of my uncles was saved by Oscar Schindler.

I grew up and was educated in Jerusalem, served in the IDF in the mid-60s and lived through the Six Day War. I was then a news reporter on Israel Radio until 1972. I then became aware that the Israeli government – decades before Netanyahu – had no interest in negotiating away occupied territory for peace.

Long before the atrocities of the occupation turned Israelis into what the late Professor Isaiah Liebovich called “JudeoNazis” (long before the baby burning) and their country became, according to Desmond Tutu and countless others, an Apartheid State, I could feel the rot setting in and wanted none of it.

So, in the words of Bob Dylan, “Call me any name you like, I will never deny it –

“But farewell, Angelina, the sky is erupting, I must go where it’s quiet”.

The Curse of Trump, or What is it with American Men and Menstruation?

It’s a curse. No – it’s THE CURSE. And it’s only right and fair that its latest champion should be a red-faced, card-carrying, misogynist porker.

You know what I’m talking about. In 1953 the Rev Chad Varah founded the Samaritans having conducted the funeral of a girl who believed her first period was a real curse incurred for her sins. With no one to confide in, she took her own life.

Last week the idea that Donald Trump may have suggested that his very attractive female inquisitor may be having her period appears to have send the entire American political and media worlds into a joint tailspin.

Apart from being a biological and reproductive inevitability, The Curse is nowadays rarely more than a bore, an inconvenience, a nuisance. It is also an anomaly.

With the evolution of television and film into purveyors of hard-core reality we can now, should we choose to, view all manners of sexual conduct – and misconduct – and every excess of violence, cruelty, bestiality and even murder. But any reference to the harmless monthly discharge of the lining of the womb by the female reproductive system is for some reason still taboo, on and off-screen.

Viewers of the recent French police series The Spiral could see the heroine checking her pants regularly, hoping for signs of blood which would tell her she was not pregnant. This is the real world and nothing was made of it.

But Hollywood seems stuck in an age when men were dusty, dirty cowboys but their women were immaculately dressed and coiffed, even the saloon whores.  For decades the Golden Rule banned a man and a woman being filmed in bed together unless one or both had one foot on the floor. Then we had the hilarity of trains steaming into tunnels and chimneys rising over the horizon.

This has long been replaced by freely writhing bodies – although American women invariably keep their bras on, even in Sex and the City. They can also be mutilated and sexually exploited in every way, and literally covered in blood from multiple stab wounds –  but NOT menstrual blood. No nay never.

And then came The Donald. He didn’t like the questions Republican candidates debate moderator Megyn Kelly was asking him, although she was from Fox News. “So, you know, she gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions”, said the Great Intellectual, “and you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her . . . wherever”, he roared. BANG!

As usual, the attempt to pretend he didn’t say what he said made things worse, especially with Fox on the case. No stone was left unturned to persuade us that the potty-mouthed multi-married billionaire is blissfully unaware of female anatomy and was referring to a, er, nose bleed.

I await with interest Trump’s utterances if he ever gets to debate Hillary Clinton, although I am sure she can easily bloody his nose and more besides.

Who decided how the UK votes on a UN resolution on the Gaza War? No, Not Cameron – Netanyahu.

When it comes to UN resolutions involving Israel, Britain now votes according to the wishes of the Israeli Government, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle has revealed.

In an extraordinary article marked “EXCLUSIVE”, Stephen Pollard details exchanges between the office of Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Number 10 which resulted in Britain voting in favour of a report which condemned Israel’s actions in last summer’s Gaza war and accused it of war crimes.

Britain was set to support Israel’s public stance on the resolution and oppose the resolution. But on Friday morning Netanyahu  rang David Cameron and asked him to support the resolution – because it represented a considerably watered-down version of an earlier one, Mr Pollard reveals.

Mr Cameron’s initial reaction was that it would be “pure madness”, particularly as he had made several strident statements voicing support for Israel recently.

However, Pollard explains, the Israelis feared that, had the watered down resolution been overturned, the original resolution on the report by the Gaza Conflict Commission of Inquiry, which was far more condemnatory, would have been revived.

In the end the resolution was supported by 41 of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council, including Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Unaware of Netananyahu’s Machiavellian intervention, Mr Cameron was ironically widely accused by Israel supporters of duplicity and hypocrisy over the UN vote. This is because in April he declared public support for the “self defence” war in Gaza, where last summer Israel killed over 1,200 civilians including 550 children.

Highly placed Whitehall sources have confirmed to Pollard that “the Israelis regarded Friday’s UNHRC vote as being the lesser of two evils. Although accusing Israel of war crimes, it also held Hamas responsible, and marked a significant watering down of the original resolution put before the council.”

One source told the JC: “We thought this was extraordinary, to put it mildly, but decided to do as Israel asked.”

“Both the Israelis and the Brits will deny this”, the JC was told. “It sounds bonkers. But it’s true”.

The exchange between Netanyahu and No 10 confirms Mr Cameron’s suspicions of the Foreign Office in the region.

His chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, took personal control of the UNHRC vote. According to an inside source he was “all over it, to make sure we didn’t have an important FCO cock up”.

Pollard also reveals that on that Friday morning Benjamin Netanyahu’s office also called Angela Merkel and other European countries with the same extraordinary request that they vote against Israel and against Israel’s public opposition to the resolution. They all complied.

I have previously noted the growing influence on Number 10 wielded by the Conservative Friends of Israel. In the new Government, a leading light of the secretive and opaque CFoI, Robert Halfon, has been hugely promoted.

On housing, the Tories offer one insane policy after another – but no solutions.

Two years ago I was asked to write an article for @IndyVoices on Help to Buy, the dodgy scheme which the Government launched to make First Time Buyers (FTB) feel that it was helping them onto the property ladder.

At the time I predicted it would be more Help to Buy Tory Votes (which, alas, proved to be true). I also predicted it was likely to contribute to the problem more that to the solution. A report from Capital Economics this week has now confirmed I was right on that too.

The analysts explained boosting demand from first-time buyers without increasing supply has pushed house prices up by 18% between March 2013 and September 2014. As a result the value of a 5% deposit on a typical FTB property has risen by over £1,500. The income required to buy an average FTB house has increased by 12% – while average earnings rose by only 1.5%. The property ladder is more elusive than ever.

At the same time, Government efforts to boost lending to riskier households by allowing them to borrow more (up to 95%) has been negated by efforts by the Bank of England (thank you, Mr Carney) to toughen up mortgage regulations to stabilise the economy.

Like a pyramid scheme, Help to Buy was good for the first tranche of people who took advantage of it, but only to the detriment of subsequent FTBs and the housing market as a whole. It was, however, VERY helpful to housebuilders – many of them big donors to the Conservatives – who were able to use it to shift a lots of often shoddy “starter” homes to captive buyers who could afford nothing else. And FTBs who stretched every sinew to get onto the ladder are now stuck at the bottom, worse off than if they were renting. But nobody cares about them.

Government economists are clearly aware of this. So what lessons have our leaders learnt? Mainly, it would appear, that lying to the voters about housing policies which are advertised as being of help to them is a winner. Which is why the re-elected government is launching more.

Housing associations will be forced to sell their affordable rented properties at a massive discount to people who can either not afford to buy (two thirds are on benefits) or not deserving of a handout from the public purse (some are on £100,000+ a year).

Housing associations have been given any details as to how and by how much they may be compensated from the public purse for the illegal confiscation of their property. They know, as we do, that in order to pay for this madness, the government is seeking to raise £4.5bn from forcing the sale of “the third most expensive” council houses “as and when they fall vacant”.

But in a recent reply to a written question, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has admitted he didn’t know how this would work. Several council spokespeople I asked also said no one had given them a clue as to how this policy might be implemented in the real world. Mrs Thatcher would had a fit.

Amongst the Tory Manifesto ‎pledges which are now falling by the wayside this is probably the least headline-grabbing. I for one hope is disappears without a trace.