Seeing red over ban

It's already billions ONE of this country's fast-moving gravy trains has to be the 2012 Olympics – or at least those who've got their noses in the trough. It's already billions over budget and there's still five years to go, during which time plenty more "unexpected" payouts will no doubt spring from nowhere.

There's a story doing the rounds that the world-famous Red Arrows will not feature at the Games because they're deemed too militaristically British. Have you ever heard such tosh?

Do these yellow-bellied civil servants and politicians not realise that the Great was put in to Great Britain by our military and it's a good job too, for our wealth and influence depended on it for centuries?

When I was at school a large chunk of the world map was coloured red – the colour of Empire. It made many of us proud.

There's an online petition doing the rounds, which I've signed, urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to ensure the Red Arrows feature. The petition is a good idea but its aim is off-target. It should be directed at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

One saving grace is that come 2012 the People's Party that's in power are more than likely to be in opposition, so it will be the Tories who have to act. Let's hope Dave the Rave has the guts to tell those who want the Red Arrows banned to go to hell.

Let down by those boys in blue

AS we near the 11th of the 11th, which this year falls on a Sunday, all is not well within the veterans' ranks, especially in North Yorkshire.

Indeed there is an undercurrent of anger among some of our old soldiers who feel the Peelers in North Yorkshire are letting them down. Take Skipton, for instance. The Royal British Legion organises the annual Remembrance Day parade and service and it's well attended by both military and civilians. Earlier this year the coppers told the Legion they'd reviewed their marshalling policy and banned the march starting from its usual spot in Sackville Street.

Instead the veterans would have to muster in Newmarket Street – a shorter route to the town's War Memorial.

There was no by-you-leave. The boys in blue, or some jobsworth who's paid out of public funds, decided this was to be the case. Alex Bentley, Skipton's parade marshall who has a chest full of medals from his military service, admits it was a "very low point" when the police decided to change tradition.

But what right have the police to arbitrarily do this? And why? So they can have more time to go on diversity courses? The North Yorkshire Police Committee, not for the first time, stays silent. It's high time they were called to account. And it's time for North Yorkshire's Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell to explain why this is happening on his watch because there is an awful lot resentment among us ordinary law-abinding citizens at the way the police decide what they will and will not do.

It can't be to do with money. Well, North Yorkshire Police spent 28,000 on a shower for the last Chief Constable Della Cannings just months before she headed to the rich pastures of retirement; they've provided 25 "company cars" out of the rates for the force's 25 most senior officers and after the police precept increased by a whopping 76 per cent in 2003 there was another rise a year later of almost 10 per cent. There was, as you can imagine, outrage among those of us clouted with such bills and for what? Certainly not a first class service.

Word of God.. in a bottle

BEING born close to the Yorkshire coast, it was easy to get to the seaside when I was a kid. Whitby has always been my favourite resort followed by Robin Hood's Bay, Staithes, Runswick Bay, Scarborough, Filey and Brid in that order.

Many youngster like me must have sat by the seashore and gazed at the water and dreamt of what to us were the "distant lands" of France, Holland, Germany, Norway and Denmark across the other side of the "vast expanse" of North Sea?

And many like me must have written their names and addresses on a piece of paper, pushed it in to a bottle, tightened the cap and threw it in to the ice-cold waters hoping for a reply. I'm still waiting!

I thought that practice would have sunk to Davy Jones's locker long ago. Wrong! In Norfolk, Pastor Leslie Potter hit on an ingenious short-cut to spread the word of God. Unlike missionaries of old who travelled the globe to get their message across, Pastor Potter put his religious ramblings in a bottle. Not just one but more than 50 plastic drinks bottles and he launched them in to the sea from Gorleston's blue flag beach.

But the forces of nature were pitted against his mass religious message armada. No sooner had it launched than the bottles were blown back on to land by strong easterlies.

Now the Pastor has escaped, apparently, the wrath of the council's environmental rangers but he faced what some would consider a worse fate – the displeasure of two women dog walkers.

Instead of turning their anger on Pastor Potter, shouldn't someone be asking why dog walkers are allowed to exercise their canines on Gorleston's prized blue-flag beach in the first place? If I lived there I would and I'm a dog lover.

Taxing times for Mr Benn

AH, the hypocrisy coming out of Westminster knows no limits. The latest embarrassing tale was exposed by the Mail on Sunday and involves latching on to legal tax avoidance loopholes by none other than Chancellor Alistair Darling and Leeds Central Labour MP Hilary Benn.

Money may not talk but as those of us who can afford to engage a competent accountant know we've been able to draw up wills that cut family inheritance tax liabilities by ensuring each spouse's zero-rated tax allowance is used in full.

Hilary Benn's case, the newspaper's investigative hacks discovered, involves a scheme to minimise his family's death-duty bill when his father Tony, 82, eventually dies. They trawled Land Registry records and found the 53-year-old Minister became a part-owner, along with two other sibblings, of his father's 4million London house in swanky Notting Hill shortly after the death of their mother Caroline in late 2000. So when the veteran left-winger does leave this earth each of the three Benn children can use their tax allowance so the death duty rate will be lower than it otherwise would.


What takes the biscuit is Gordon Brown and his Cabinet have been dragged kicking and screaming to change inheritance tax rates largely thanks to a campaign by the Daily Express. And then they "nicked" a Tory idea – only Labour's is not as generous. It's backfired spectacularly, as the opinion polls show.

John Thorpe He's grumpy, so you don't have to be

Leeds Bradford Airport's new CEO, David Laws.   Picture Bruce Rollinson

Leeds Bradford boss pledges to target more business traffic as it reveals rebrand to become “Yorkshire’s Airport”