January 1990

A month of unusually mild but stormy weather with hardly any frost but with gales damaging buildings, overturning lorries and killing 45 in the UK and a many again across Europe with global warming being blamed. The US ‘experienced the worst weather States for 50 years’. Apart from some minor problems, I was in good health but Di had been suffering from bouts of depression and seemed unhappy to be left with the children when I was staying to work on the new boat in Horning but we made up in the same old-fashioned way.

The children mostly over their colds this month and enjoyed some outings but there was the normal panic of organising the children's first day back at Kimbolton School after the holidays. Daniel and Debbie are mostly doing well at school, but Daniel's mock "A" level results show that he has still much work to do to get his university entrance grades for U.E.A. and now faces his driving test being delayed until March for lack of practice. Debbie still had time for her riding, was often at the stables and attended the odd event and I took Della horse-riding for the first time for several weeks and she managed to walk and trot. I was dropping in to see that Mum had settled back in Stanton, overcoming some minor problems and I was tending Dad’s grave and settling his estate. My journal needed some special attention, after the end of a decade, I managed some work on my financial affairs and I bought my first transportable cellular telephone could be used in the boat, car or elsewhere.

I had two multi-day trips to Horning to conduct major repairs and enhancements to our new boat, the Rolyat Princess, and undertook a very risky journey to collect our new Zodiac RIB, on the roof-rack, in severe gale conditions before leaving the vessel with its former builder, Barnes Brinkcraft, in Wroxham for repairs to the pump-out tank. This followed a family visit to Earls Court Boat Show and I just needed my radio license to be qualified to start venturing offshore.

I made a significant contribution to the Huntingdonshire District Council meetings, successfully supporting Labour and back-bench moderate Conservatives to ban stubble burning and out-manoeuvred Leader Cllr Holley by using points of order thus dividing his members. I witnessed the Finance Meeting of the District Council one evening where the Tories try to reduce the political impact of the Poll tax by £5 by taking £1/2 million from reserves, against the emphatic advice of the Director of Finance. Together with colleague Michael Pope, to study council finances where we spotted that the County Tories were subsidising the Poll Tax even more to save their skin and our subsequent press release led to many radio and newspaper interviews after I had sent a press release, ‘spilling the beans’. Our FOCUS newsletter campaign was vital and I worked with Michael Pope to discuss our plan for the following year’s FOCUS issues and the whole question of developing branch organisation and membership. I worked all day producing four local editions of FOCUS newsletters, which were well received with special editions for Priory, Paxton, Buckden and Eaton. I was orchestrating an anti-Tory plans for the coming May District Council elections agreeing cooperation with Labour and Greens over targeting election wards but I resisted involvement when attending the AGM of the local S.W.Cambs constituency Liberal Democrat Party.

Kenneth Clarke was presiding over the enormous disruption of the ambulance service and paying his chauffeur £25,000 which is double the £8-10K he is asking the ambulancemen to accept and widow of a man who died for lack of ambulance cover in Crawley did not blame the striking ambulancemen as 30,000 of them demonstrated in Trafalgar Square today! There was 90% public support for the ambulancemen and Tory back-bench M.P.'s were showing signs of anxiety. The Church of England is outspoken in attacks on government taxation and social security policy. The stock exchange is falling sharply (from 2450 to 2291 on the FT100 index) with jitters about inflation again. An epidemic of "Mad Cow Disease", BSE, is another negative factor as the EEC then considers a total 6-month ban for British cattle to Europe. The CBI are now predicting that manufacturing investment is at a long-term low and that we are on the brink of a recession.

Undercover soldiers in civilian clothes shooting three men dead in Ulster during a bank raid when the men were only using replica guns and then pumped further bullets into them whilst they were on the ground in a government shoot-to-kill policy. The Tory government experienced a back-bench revolt by over 30 Tory M.P.'s opposing the Poll Tax and Thatcher had to climb down at last on the matter of Football I.D. cards. Publication took place of the Lord Taylor report into Hillsborough football tragedy with ID cards now ruled out and all-seater stadiums are now considered to be the safer solution Mike Gatting and the rest of the rebel England cricketers started their South African tour but were the subject of huge upsetting demonstrations. Sir Robert Reid was highly critical of government policy towards the railways and called for more capital investment as industrial trouble grew elsewhere with Ford and British Aerospace affected. The Airbus Industrie threatened British Aerospace with damage claims after a dispute cost the Airbus consortium $40m in lost production.

There had been international praise for Gorbachev with even Thatcher calling him "A good partner in Peace" and suggesting that he should take credit for the Eastern European reforms but he had to cancel political visits overseas ‘to have time to deal with his domestic problems’ as rioting took place for three days along 85 miles of the Azerbaijan/Iran border USSR. Unrest in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, turned into racial violence and anarchy with 30 killed. With mobs rampaging in the Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Moscow had to send in 11,000 troops. Mass demonstrations were being planned in Lithuania offering more autonomy and Gorbechev ends the month in Lithuania trying to persuade them out of breaking away and is facing a tide of opinion that could yet overwhelm him.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, has backed Rumania's new leaders and offered to supply gas and oil but the post-revolutionary situation in Bucharest is far from a happy one with demonstrations in the streets for faster reforms. a new Vatican envoy, "a Latin American specialist”, has been sent to Panama to help with the negotiations on the future of former President Noriega General Noriega, the deposed Panamanian President, who has given himself up to the U.S. forces. China has ended Martial Law and so the process of resuming international relations begins, despite the atrocities of Tiananmen Square. 43 die in a Spanish discotheque fire, 100 are feared dead in yet another Dhaka Bangladesh ferry sinking. U.S. President Bush announces budget plans intended to halve the deficit and at least three American bases in the UK.

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