Take a look at this clip. It’s the thoroughly decent Phil Woolas MP, Home Office minister, having his head kicked in by Joanna Lumley. Albeit a lot of men would pay good money to get Joanna to stare at them like that from so close up. Not that I’m suggesting she’d charge for that kind of thing, obviously. Anyway, I’m losing my thread here. Phil, and the Ministry of Defence, had got on the wrong side of an argument about Gurkha UK settlement rights. Actually, the government’s technical position was a strong one, but it took no.10 to spot that Ms Lumley’s status as national treasure combined with her transparently genuine love for and concern about the Gurkhas (her Dad was a Gurkha officer, ffs) formed one of those massive and fast EWS goods trains and the government was lying on the track. As a no.10 official probably said; “Oh-bejasus-she’s-going-to-kill-us-all-get-out-of-the-way-fast”. So a deal was done and everyone was happy. You can see how happy here.
Well, the MoD has been justifiably concerned about what it suspects are dodgy practices by some agencies who claim to be helping Gurkhas find out about settlement in the UK but may (or may not, I really don’t know) be charging money for a service which is already available free from the MoD. There was an internal inquiry, then a minister gave evidence to the Defence Select Committee about it. “OK so far, sort of”, I can imagine no.10 thinking, “but obviously we’ll be keeping Ms Lumley out of it, won’t we, ‘cos she’d kill us all. Again”.
Unfortunately, Ms Lumley wasn’t only not kept out of it, but was said, in the ministerial select committee evidence, to be essentially dishonest, with her ‘deathly silence’ on the matter being ‘personally irritating’ (it was put in the first person).
I watched the evidence session then waited for the explosion. It’s been a few weeks, so I thought maybe the problem was going to go away. Like a lot do if you leave them alone. But no, it seems more likely that Ms Lumley was getting her case together and planning her next actions very carefully. And that, I’m guessing, is where tomorrow’s press conference comes in.
The situation doesn’t really need analysis now, does it? There’s only one thing to be done. And this is it. The prime minister (who sorted out the whole thing last time and was, by Ms Lumley’s own account, charming in their meeting) needs to issue a statement apologising for the unintentional sleight delivered by the MoD and declaring his undying love for Joanna; all Gurkhas; everyone living in Nepal who might be related to a Gurkha; Gurkhali; Johnny Gurkha restaurant in Aldershot; everyone who might wish to be loved by the pm for any reason at all.
And if he can get Joanna to say, “I’m overwhelmed by the love I’ve been shown here, and I’m urging everyone to vote Labour in May”, then so much the better.