Doctors at Leeds General Infirmary heart unit said there was no hope for my baby girl… now after a second opinion my daughter is nine and living a normal life
A mother has told how her daughter’s life was saved by heart surgery – despite doctors at Leeds General Infirmary claiming ‘nothing could be done’ for her. Michala Cater, 39, claims she was told that her two-year-old daughter Lily would not recover from her congenital heart defect and that she should ‘go away and enjoy the time she had left’ with her.
But after seeking a second opinion, Lily had surgery at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The nine-year-old is now living a normal life.
Mrs Cater, of Bradford, believes Lily would be dead if she had listened to the consultant cardiologist at Leeds seven years ago.
At eight months old, Lily was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, or ‘blue baby syndrome’ – when the pulmonary artery that carries blood to the lungs fails to develop properly. Mrs Cater claims doctors at the heart unit said she would probably not live beyond five years old.
Then, when she was two, Lily took a turn for the worst. She was constantly blue and struggled to walk any distance.
‘We waited six months for the doctors to have a clinical meeting to discuss what to do,’ Mrs Cater said. ‘When we finally spoke to the cardiologist, he said he had spoken to a surgeon and there was nothing they could do for her.
‘He said she wouldn’t get on a heart transplant list because they couldn’t say for definite that she only had two months to live, but you could see how ill she was.’
Mrs Cater and her husband Paul, a window cleaner, found an American surgeon who had performed operations on patients similar to Lily.
The surgeon asked the couple to send him Lily’s medical notes – which Mrs Cater says the hospital took over one month to send.
It was only when Mrs Cater contacted a local newspaper to speak out about Lily’s poor treatment, that she says she received a call from her cardiologist.
‘He said “Why do you want to go to America for this operation, it can be done at Birmingham and Newcastle”.
‘I was shocked. We didn’t understand why he hadn’t mentioned this before. ‘He said we could try Birmingham but that they probably wouldn’t be able to do anything.
‘As soon Birmingham saw Lily’s notes, they promised they could help her and at least give her a better quality of life.’
Leeds General Infirmary has strongly denied ‘any suggestion’ that they ‘would act improperly either by restricting referrals or by failing to carry out surgery where either of these actions was the right thing to do’.
Baby born in top hotel after hospital turns expectant mother away
And hospital is unrepentant. Luckily it went well, even though the mother was old to have a first baby and hence in a higher risk group
Michelle, 39, and Richard Eades, 45, checked in at the four-star Radisson Edwardian Grafton Tottenham Court Road hotel after being asked to leave the maternity unit at University College Hospital at 10.30am on March 16th.
Four hours later, despite repeated calls to midwives, Michelle gave birth to George Reggie Eades on just two paracetamol.
The happy couple gave their special delivery the name “Reg” after the hotel’s initials R.E.G.
Ms Booth said: “They said I was in the early stages of labour, but it felt a lot further on. Basically, they said there was nowhere for us to go.
“Richard found the hotel. I think it was the first one he came across. It’s really hard to check in at that time of day normally, apparently.
“But all the staff were brilliant – they upgraded us, which was really sweet. We were all laughing and joking with them about room service and saying ‘we promise we won’t have a baby’. But then we did.”
The parents, who have recently moved to Hackney from South End Green, Hampstead, opted for a “hypnobirthing” technique, recommended by UCH to reduce the fear of labour in first-time mothers.
Ms Booth said: “I was thinking this natural childbirth malarky is a lot harder than I thought. The truth of it was, I was actually very close to giving birth. By 1.30 it was really full on. I was making a lot of noise. I was actually worried about getting thrown out of the hotel, so I was shouting into the duvet.”
She said her partner Richard rang the hospital again but was told “you’re still not there, it is very early days”.
Then, at 2.30pm Ms Booth had a “mad thought”. She said: “I thought ‘imagine if I’m giving birth’ – that’s the sort of thing you only hear about on TV. Then I put my hands down and felt a baby’s head on the wrong side of my body. Richard came in and caught the baby.
“I know I had gone all hippy with the hypnotherapy but I didn’t expect to have a completely natural birth.”
She said: “It was a bizarre moment. We looked at each other like ‘did we just do that? Have we really had a baby in a hotel?’ Then it was complete elation.”
The couple rang reception and six paramedics came up, cut the cord and carried Ms Booth 100 yards across the road and into the hospital.
Mr Eades said: “The paramedics were wonderful – one came on a bicycle then the others from two ambulances. Would you know any way we could contact them to say thanks?
“The team at the hotel were great too, I went back the next day with chocolates as thanks, the manager was very sweet and didn’t charge any extra cleaning costs.”
Ms Booth added: “We thought we’ve had quite an exciting story – and quite romantic too – that we would want to tell George when he grows up. I’m very proud. We called him Reggie after the Radisson Edwardian Grafton.”
George Reggie Eades weighed eight pounds eight ounces and is fit and healthy.
Pat O’Brien, UCLH Clinical Director, said: “The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advises that any woman assessed to be in the very early stages of labour, and who is giving birth for the first time, is advised to go home until labour is more advanced, keeping in contact with the hospital by phone to advise on progress.
“This is perfectly normal and research shows that women do better in familiar surroundings where they can relax.
“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Michelle and her partner on the birth of their healthy baby boy.”
£2k a day for trainee doctors as costs spiral out of control
Trainee doctors are being paid more than £2,000 a day for locum shifts in NHS hospitals as the bill for agency staff spirals out of control, a Telegraph investigation has found.
Ministers warned NHS managers to “get a grip” on the problem, saying that some hospitals were now relying on unacceptably high levels of temporary staff.
In some cases doctors were being paid rates of £15,000 a week – the equivalent to a doctor earning an annual salary of more than £700,000.
Senior managers at hospitals spending more than £2,000 a day on medical staff admitted that costs were “spiralling out of control” and sums paid had become “ridiculous”.
Our investigation discloses how hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent paying doctors via agencies, which take a cut of the payments, and found that:
* Hospitals spent more than £2 billion on locum doctors in three years – a sum which could have paid the wages of 32,000 junior doctors or 10,000 consultants over the period;
* North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust spent £15,000 hiring a consultant cardiologist for a week last July;
* North Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Foundation trust spent £2,794 for 24 hours cover in its Accident & Emergency (A&E) department in May 2011;
* A trainee doctor at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex was paid £2,107 for a 12.5 hour shift in January 2012;
* East Kent Hospitals University Foundation trust paid £2,474 for a non-consultant doctor to work nine and a half hours in A&E last April;
Despite repeated Government pledges to reduce wasteful spending in the NHS, the figures show that national spending on locum doctors has risen by eight per cent since 2011.
Dr Dan Poulter, health minister, said the lucrative market had been fuelled by the previous government’s decision to sign up to the European Working Time Directive, which set a maximum 48-hour-week for doctors in August 2009.
The rules mean that many hospitals have had to either take on more doctors, or use staff from agencies, which recruit from elsewhere in the UK and abroad.
Dr Poulter said: “It was a disastrous decision which had terrible consequences for patients, in losing continuity of care with doctors, and meaning that there is this over-reliance on locum doctors, and the problems with the directive are one of the key reasons why the Prime Minister has promised a referendum on Europe.”
However, he said that the best NHS trusts did not rely heavily on locums, and that the excess spending was “frankly, a sign of poor management and a need to get a grip.”
He said the issue would be among many inefficiencies tackled in a Government review of NHS procurement which is due to report next month.
Carolyn Apps, resourcing manager of East Kent Hospitals University Foundation trust told a meeting of hospital managers last summer that the trust had taken steps to get a grip on its spending.
In a report of the discussions, she said: “We were were just spiralling out of control and the expenditure was just ridiculous, so about 18 months ago we put in place our own framework and we don’t go off that framework”.
In fact the disclosures, revealed under the Freedom of Information act, show that last April, the same trust spent more than £2,400 for a “staff grade” doctor – a non-consultant – to work a nine and a half hour shift in A&E, a rate of more than £200 an hour.
At the same meeting, Neil Baigent, then a civil servant from the Government Procurement Service admitted that the market was so poorly regulated that “we could all leave this room now and go and set up a locum doctor agency, trading from our garden shed and supplying workers into the NHS.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “This is a shockingly wasteful way to run a service. So many hospitals are paying vast sums because there is no proper planning and management, so that instead locums are brought in on a last-minute, adhoc basis, at huge expense and to the detriment of patient care.”
The rates being paid for medical cover illustrate the scale of excess in the current system.
In total, 99 hospital trusts – out of 164 – responded to Freedom of Information requests about the sum they spent on temporary doctors.
These were used to calculate an NHS-wide figure, which shows £2.06 billion spent since 2010/11.
A total of 29 hospital trusts responded to requests for information about the highest rates paid for shifts. Of those, 27 admitted spending more than £1,000 a day to hire individual doctors since April 2010.
Most of the sums paid included fees paid to agencies. However, agencies which hire locum doctors have recently advertised NHS work which pays more than £100 an hour, plus accommodation.
Hospital trusts paying the highest rates said the locums were often working long shifts – equivalent to more than a day’s work – in specialties where there was a shortage of doctors.
They said agencies were used to cover sickness and peaks in demand, often at short notice.
North Cumbria University Hospitals trust said it had launched a recruitment campaign for consultants and aimed to scale back on use of locums, so that it was using none within three years.
British graduate with physics PhD, 31, fell to his death from block of flats after taking job in call centre he was over-qualified for
A victim of credentialism: There is more higher education than is needed
An academic jumped off scaffolding to his death when he was only able to find a job in a call centre after finishing his doctorate, an inquest heard today.
Dr Philip Elliott, 31, who had recently completed a PhD in physics at Reading University, was seen on the sixth floor of an apartment block in west London just after 11am on January 27 this year.
Police tried to call him down but he fell from the property in Cromwell Street, Kensington, an hour later, the hearing was told.
Westminster Coroner’s Court heard Dr Elliott – who was also a qualified engineer and was described as a ‘high academic achiever’ – had suffered a number of career knock-backs in the weeks leading to his death.
His landlord of seven years Harry Duphnath said the most recent he knew of was in December last year.
In a statement read to the inquest Mr Duphnath said: ‘I was aware Philip had started a job with Southern Electric – I think in a call centre – which wasn’t what he aspired to.
‘He mentioned being frustrated at work and unhappy about being there and had started looking for other jobs and going for interviews.
‘The last one was the week before Christmas in 2012. ‘I saw him ironing his shirt getting ready for the interview.
‘While I was there he checked his emails and he had one which said the interview had been cancelled. ‘He was a bit low about that, but he wasn’t angry. He said that he would plod on and keep going.’
The landlord said he received a text message from Dr Elliott on January 24, three days before his death, apologising for not doing some tidying up. It read: ‘Sorry. I’ve had a terrible time the last three weeks. Thanks for your patience. I can’t explain how stressful it’s been, but I appreciate it’s not your fault.’
Mr Duphnath said him and his wife Sonia were ‘utterly shocked’ to hear Philip had taken his life days later.
Det Con David Gadsby, of the Metropolitan Police, said a resident in the block where Dr Elliott died reported hearing footsteps on the roof at 9.30am that morning, but thought nothing of it and went back to bed.
An hour-and-a-half later a motorist driving past the building called police expressing concern a man might be preparing to jump.
Officers arrived within five minutes but were advised not to talk him down as it was too dangerous to get out onto the scaffolding.
Paramedics who were already on the scene tried to revive him but the science mad graduate was pronounced dead from multiple injuries at 12.10pm.
Westminster Coroner Darren Stewart said he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that Dr Elliott meant to take his own life as it could have been a ‘cry for help.’
Recording a narrative verdict, he explained: ‘It is clear he was a high academic achiever in science, having achieved a PhD from the University of Reading, but he had not been able to get a job for some time.
‘He took work which was perhaps not entirely suited to his skill sets in that he was working in a call centre.
‘However, it shows Dr Elliot was committed to gaining employment and to progressing in his life.
‘What is clear from the evidence is that he received a number of blows to his confidence in terms of jobs he aspired to which were either unsuccessful or withdrawn.
‘It is clear that this had an impact on his general morale, and on the 27th of January 2013 Dr Elliott climbed up on to some scaffolding in Cromwell Road, Kensington.
‘Officers decided not to try and talk Dr Elliott down as it would have been dangerous to them and to him.
‘Sadly, shortly thereafter, Dr Elliott made a gesture with his arms and appeared to dive towards the ground striking the pavement.’
He added: ‘Police enquiries revealed no indication Dr Elliott’s actions were planned or that he had intended to take his life, nor is there any evidence to suggest Dr Elliott was subject to any mental health care.
‘Whilst perhaps disappointed and suffering from a degree of depression due to his lack of work opportunities he was otherwise a fit, intelligent young man who had achieved well at university.
‘It makes the outcome of what occurred on January 27 2013 all the sadder due to that.
‘I am not satisfied on what has been presented before me as to be certain Dr Elliott intended to take his own. It is entirely possible this could have been a cry for help.’
None of Dr Elliott’s family attended the inquest in central London, but they have since set up a remembrance page in his memory.
British shale gas ‘could heat all homes for 100 years’
Britain is sitting on a “potentially massive” amount of shale gas that experts believe could heat every home for at least 100 years.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) is due to report on how much shale gas is under the country within weeks.
Sources close to the report say the current estimate of five trillion cubic feet is “almost certainly” due to be increased.
Dr Nick Riley, of the BGS, said: “We are sitting on potentially a massive resource, but whether we are able to extract it we do not know. We have to do the exploration and then we have to get the consent of the people.”
In the Budget last week George Osborne, the Chancellor, signalled the go-ahead for shale gas by promising tax breaks and bribes for communities that allow drilling in their back yard.
Industry insiders say the BGS could report between 1,200 trillion and 1,800 trillion cubic feet of gas under the UK, mostly in northern England. The other main reserve is around the Hampshire basin in the Home Counties, including Berkshire, Sussex and Kent. There are also pockets in central Scotland, Wales and the Midlands. The top estimate would represent sufficient gas to heat UK homes for 1,200 years.
Usually it is only possible to extract about a third of shale gas deposits.
Even at conservative estimates, that presume just 10 per cent of 1,500 trillion cubic feet of gas is accessible, there would be enough gas to heat our homes for 100 years.
Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – allows companies to extract previously inaccessible gas from shale by blasting water into the rocks underground.
Britain lifted an 18-month ban on fracking at the end of last year and already companies are gearing up to start drilling. Cuadrilla estimates there could be as much as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the Bowland shale alone
The exploration company is planning up to 10 wells around Lancashire over the next 18 months. Other companies ready to explore include IGas and Weir Group.
Past data about shale gas are based on basic geology and relatively shallow deposits. The new information from the BGS will be taken from much deeper wells.
Concerns remain around the possibility of triggering earthquakes, after initial fracking [allegedly] caused tremors and water contamination when gases leaked into the water table.
The BGS is also analysing the groundwater in shale gas areas so that when fracking begins it will be possible to tell if drinking water has been contaminated.
Promised Land, a film starring Matt Damon, to be released this month, presents the negative impact shale gas exploration can have, and is expected to add to safety concerns.
Balcombe in West Sussex has already set up a protest group and the campaign group Frack Off warns that other villages in the Home Counties could be in danger. Prof Richard Davies, of the Energy Institute at Durham University, said contamination of water was “extremely unlikely”. Prof Davies said the well tops could be as small as a few feet high but there could be thousands.
“We will need hundreds to thousands of these wells to get enough production for this to make a difference.” Shale gas is owned by the Crown, and firms would have to pay tax to the Government. But Prof Davies also sounded a note of caution: “The BGS can say what they like about the rocks under the ground and the gas in it but no one has produced a molecule yet.”
The great recycling con trick: How 12million tons of carefully sorted British garbage is being dumped in foreign landfill sites
Millions of tons of household rubbish painstakingly sorted by families for recycling is being dumped abroad.
Whitehall has admitted that waste from recycling bins is being shipped to countries including China, India and Indonesia, where much of it ends up in landfill.
In papers published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ministers concede that what happens to the 12million tons of ‘green’ waste shipped abroad every year is largely beyond their control.
The trade in sending rubbish abroad – mainly to Asia – has doubled over the past decade, as councils have increasingly turned to contractors to deal with mountains of waste generated by compulsory recycling schemes.
The law states that this rubbish should be recycled once it is sent abroad – but Defra now admits that in some countries it is simply dumped.
The department, headed by Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said it plans to tighten inspections at ports to curb the illegal trade in green waste.
The Government has always insisted that household rubbish is carefully recycled – but the Daily Mail revealed earlier this year that large amounts are deemed unusable by recycling plants, and instead sent to landfill. Now the Environment Agency has confirmed that material sent to China, Indonesia and India is also buried, rather than recycled.
As well as household rubbish, Defra admitted that other waste dumped abroad includes used tyres, sent to China, and discarded televisions and computers, which end up in West Africa.
Doretta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collections, said: ‘People will be very shocked by this development. ‘Most people believe their rubbish is recycled in this country. Now it turns out there are container ships coming here from China filled with televisions and computers … and going home stacked with containers filled with our recycled rubbish. That is shameful.’
The revelation comes after Defra launched a consultation with the waste industry about new recycling rules. Consultation documents concede that waste is being dumped abroad, although ‘the exact extent of illegal shipping is unknown’.
If stricter checks were introduced, the department says ‘our expectations are that the amount of waste exported illegally and then dumped in developing countries would reduce’.
The Environment Agency has asked councils to improve the quality of the recycling they collect, and to check what their contractors are doing with it.
It has told local authorities: ‘In the UK and the EU, increasing amounts of waste collected for recycling are sent overseas for reprocessing. Much of the waste collected from households … will ultimately be exported.
‘The majority of illegal waste exports we have intercepted include waste originally collected by or on behalf of local authorities via household recycling collection services.
‘We are particularly concerned about illegal exports of mixed household waste mis-described as paper or plastic. These typically derive from poorly-performing household collection and sorting systems.’
The news that household recycling is being dumped in developing countries follows the admission by Defra in February that recycling claims are exaggerated.
Official figures say 43 per cent of all the household rubbish collected is recycled – but the ministry said that, in reality, processors reject most recyclable material, which then often ends up in landfill sites.
Defra has also acknowledged that the main reason for compulsory recycling schemes is not lack of landfill space or the need to combat climate change, but instead the demands of the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, the latest version of which came into force last year.
Household recycling became the norm after Tony Blair’s Labour government encouraged councils to pick up non-recyclable refuse every two weeks.
Mrs Cocks said: ‘There has always been a big question mark over the recycling movement of the past decade. I fear we are now going to come under greater pressure to produce purer materials for recycling.
‘We have not had proper rubbish collections for a decade, but I think soon we will get monthly collections.’
A spokesman for the department said: ‘Trade in recyclable materials is a global market and we want to see UK businesses make money from it to help boost our economy. We would like to see our own recycling industry grow so that we can grasp this opportunity with both hands.’
From hedgehogs and bees to bluebells and daffs, victims of the UK’s big freeze: How longest winter had hit wildlife
Warmists are always shrilling about the threat to wildlife from their prophesied global warming. In real life the threat to wildlife is from colder temperatures
We’ve shivered all through winter and put up with a freezing March. But just after one of the coldest April days for 20 years, there is a glimmer of hope of some warmth.
With the Easter holidays over, temperatures are expected to creep closer to the monthly average and even reach double-digits over the weekend.
However, it could be too late for many of our wildlife.
Conservationists fear hibernating species such as dormice, hedgehogs and bats will all struggle to find food as they wake up from the longest winter for 50 years … if many of them wake up at all.
There are concerns many will have died because they went to sleep without enough energy reserves to see them through the prolonged chill.
Those which come out of hibernation face frozen ground and a lack of insects caused by the late budding of plants.
Many early varieties of flowers are still to make an appearance. Almost a thousand wild bluebell flowerings were recorded at this point last year, but only four have so far been reported by conservationists.
Met Office forecaster Dan Williams said after March’s prolonged chill, milder conditions are expected for the next few days, although any truly warm weather may be a few weeks off.
He said: ‘You expect the winter months to be cold, but March has trumped all of them and was colder still. April really picked up where March ended. The weekend will be pretty decent, with dry conditions and good spells of sunshine, especially on Saturday. Temperatures could reach as high as 11C on Sunday, which is close to the seasonal average.’
The prolonged winter has resulted in a significant drop in early spring wildlife compared with last year, according to the Woodland Trust, which compiles public reports in its Nature’s Calendar recording scheme.
Ladybirds and cuckoos are lower both in terms of sightings and also more importantly their distribution across the country.
The number of common seven-spot ladybirds seen this year has fallen ten-fold, from 1,169 last year to 119, while hedgehog numbers are drastically down on previous years – half the number had woken from hibernation in March compared to the last two springs.
Wild creatures reliant on blooms and buds for food are particularly suffering, with the RSPCA expressing concern over the apparent loss of fledglings.
Last year, the charity was looking after 130 fledglings in March, but only has a handful in its centres this year, suggesting fewer births due to a lack of food.
In Swindon, hundreds of thousands of starlings were spotted over the town centre in what experts believe was an attempt to keep warm.
Britain’s rarest flower has also failed to bloom this year because of the washout winter. The majority of Britain’s population of snake’s head fritillaries grow in a 110-acre meadow near Cricklade in Wiltshire. But last year’s deluges have left the ground saturated and the plants are showing no signs of blooming, as they usually do in April.
Dr Kate Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust: ‘The records we’ve received clearly highlight the prolonged delay to the arrival of spring with birds, insects and flowers all weeks behind compared to where we were last year. It is too early to say if there will be any long term impact this year but nature is remarkably resilient in the face of such extremes in weather.’
‘Whitewash’ on influx of Romania migrants into Britain: Official study fails to reveal how many will arrive next year
The only official Government report into future Romanian and Bulgarian migration into Britain has been branded a ‘whitewash’ – after it failed to answer the key question of how many would arrive next year.
From January 1, EU controls on workers from the two countries will expire, allowing almost 29million people free access to work here.
Following repeated refusals by ministers to estimate how many will come, the £30,000 Foreign Office-commissioned study said it was ‘not possible to predict the scale of future migration’ from the two EU countries.
However, the report did warn an influx could lead to pressure on already scarce primary school places, and of high levels of diseases such as measles among Romanian nationals.
The MigrationWatch think-tank has predicted about 50,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants could come here every year from next year.
Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘This report is a bucket of whitewash. In 60 pages it provides no estimate whatever. It doesn’t even address the only estimate published so far, by MigrationWatch.’
‘It brushes aside any indication of an increase in migration from these countries.’
Experts say the lack of any firm estimate makes it impossible to prepare for the extra pressure new arrivals could put on public services. They also fear the most significant disruption could be felt in the jobs market.
The report, by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, was published today despite officials receiving it ‘in draft’ as early as December last year.
It blamed lack of ‘current data’ on how many migrants are here, and said there was ‘no agreed definition’ of what migration was.
It said: ‘Estimates of potential migration to the UK are likely to be inaccurate and misleading and our report does not include these.’ It suggested Romanians and Bulgarians will migrate to Spain and Italy – despite much higher unemployment levels there. It said: ‘Survey evidence suggests the UK is not a strongly favoured location.’
The report did warn that families arriving with children could ‘potentially increase pressure’ on primary school places, and are likely to claim child benefit and other in-work benefits such as tax credits.
It pointed to high levels of measles, mumps and rubella among Romanian nationals and high rates of tuberculosis. And it said there could be ‘added pressure’ on housing.
Those who come are likely to be under 35 and working in low-skilled jobs, it said.
According to a British Labour Force survey, there are 26,000 Bulgarians and 80,000 Romanians already living in the UK.
Last month, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles admitted the Government had ‘no idea’ about the size of the possible influx.
Tory MP Philip Hollobone said: ‘I think they have avoided answering that question because the numbers are likely to be huge.’
Another Leftist hypocrite who despises those he claims to represent
In public he’s a hard-working man of the people, a rising star from South London tipped to become Labour leader one day.
In private, however, it seems Chuka Umunna – hailed by his admirers as Britain’s Barack Obama – is happy to be a man of the social elite, with a distinct taste for the high life.
The former DJ, now Labour’s shadow business secretary, belongs to an exclusive online club for so-called ‘jetrosexuals’, where he asked for tips on the best nightspots to avoid the ‘trash and C-list wannabes’ of London’s West End.
Fellow members of ASmallWorld, which has been described as MySpace for millionaires, reportedly include Tiger Woods and Naomi Campbell.
The invitation-only website, which was founded by Swedish investment banker Erik Wachtmeister, currently features an article about ‘mile-high hook-ups’ on private jets. It has also been described as a hunting ground for ‘sugar daddies’.
Mr Umunna, the 34-year-old centre-left MP for Streatham, South London, is registered on the social network with his middle name, Harrison.
In July 2006 Mr Umunna was still working as an employment lawyer, but was beginning to make a name for himself as a left-wing commentator.
On ASmallWorld, however, he was bemoaning the lack of ‘decent’ clubs in London’s West End, writing: ‘Is it just me or is there a serious lack of cool places to go in central London at the weekends.
‘Most of the West End haunts seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes, while other places that should know better opt for the cheesy vibe.’
Praising a club he had recently visited in Kensington, he asked for suggestions for ‘a trash-free, decent night’.
Two years later, when he was hunting for a safe Labour seat, Mr Umunna turned to the website for more advice, this time for ‘what’s hot right now’ in Miami. He said he was spending ten days in the city, and listed a string of exclusive clubs he had visited during a previous trip.
These included Mynt Lounge, which boasts of having the ‘tightest door policy and the most fabulous crowd’. It is visited by ‘A-list celebrities’ including Ricky Martin, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Its owner Romain Zago says: ‘Mynt is for the famous and fabulous’.
Mr Umunna’s other favourite, Mokai, promotes ‘Sexy Bitch Wednesdays’ which are reputed to attract ‘A-list celebrities’.
It also runs Weekend Warrior Fridays, where ‘everyone is beautiful after 4am’. He also took time to visit Nikki Beach, an oceanfront ‘sexy South Beach nightclub’ and Forge, which holds champagne happy hours.
A PR for the elite Opium string of clubs contacted Mr Umunna through the social network and offered him VIP passes, but last night the MP said he had not accepted the freebies.
But he did accept an invitation to a private party for ASmallWorld members at the British Luxury Club in London, which features a bar made of Swarovski crystals.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘In public [Mr Umunna] likes to portray himself as a man of the people. Yet we know in private he has a lack of respect for the public.
‘Chuka, or should I say Harrison, has been outed as the ultimate champagne socialist who revels in living the high life, brands the public C-list celebrities and trashes our capital city. You can’t get more out of touch than that.’
While he has not posted on the site since he became an MP, Mr Umunna last night confirmed that he is still a member of ASmallWorld.
When contacted by the Mail, he apologised for any offence caused by the comments.
A spokesman for Mr Umunna said: ‘Chuka used the ASmallWorld social network in the past, which is similar to Facebook.
‘Though his user account on the site still exists, he has not posted a thread on the site for many years, since long before he was elected as a Member of Parliament.’
The spokesman also said that Mr Umunna’s interest in ‘house music’ was well known, as he used to be a DJ.
He added: ‘In terms of the post from 2006, these were comments made on a private social network well over half a decade ago.
‘Though light-hearted in tone and context, and made long before he became an MP, Chuka accepts the choice of words used were not appropriate and apologises if any offence may have been caused.’
Another rich Leftist
All in it together? Clegg swaps austerity Britain for his family’s £7million, 20-room Swiss ski chalet
Three days earlier, he sat stern-faced through the Coalition’s latest ‘we’re all in it together’ Budget.
But with a flatlining economy and the row raging over benefits cuts, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg knew exactly where he needed to be – at his family’s £7million, 20-room, Swiss ski chalet.
Leaving the stress of austerity Britain behind, he jetted out with his family for an Easter getaway at the luxury villa nestling between fashionable Klosters and the resort of Davos.
His family’s retreat – which comes complete with its own chef – has a large wooden balcony for sunbathing and magnificent views through the pine trees towards Lake Davos.
Mr Clegg, 46, is enjoying his second holiday there this year with his wife, commercial lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the daughter of a Spanish senator, and their three young sons.
They flew out last Saturday and were enjoying the millionaires’ playground – a favourite of the Royal Family – days before the benefits cuts, which are due to come into force on Monday.
The Deputy PM’s chalet – which would cost around £10,000 a week if it was available to rent – has been owned by his Dutch mother Hermance and her relatives for decades, and he has been skiing there since infancy.
It was built by his maternal grandfather, who loved the area so much he became a Swiss citizen.
This week, Mr Clegg was seen on the slopes in a Dainese designer helmet, Killy ski gloves and a trendy Patagonia jacket in ‘Lib Dem orange’. He was spotted gallantly carrying both his and his wife’s skis, balancing them on his shoulders like a pair of hunting rifles.
On Thursday, on the way back to his villa, he stopped his people carrier and wound down his window when he saw some photographers, and asked: ‘Are you looking for me?’ Then he drove off.
He had earlier driven to the Jakobshorn mountain, where the family took a cable car up to the 8,000ft peak.
They spent three-and-a-half hours enjoying the slopes, rubbing shoulders with the super-rich. The warm weather saw many of his fellow skiers abandon the snow to sunbathe at mountaintop restaurants, where lunchtime bottles of wine sell for £70.
One skier told Mr Clegg outside a restaurant that he was a fan of his and thought that he was doing a good job. Mr Clegg replied: ‘It’s very difficult at times.’
As well as the Swiss hideaway, Mr Clegg, who is estimated to be worth £1.9million, also uses his father’s chateau in Bordeaux.
And a poor Conservative
Memories of the days he spent pounding the streets of London looking for work have played heavily on Iain Duncan Smith this week.
When he casts his mind back to 1981 he sees himself as a very different man — an unemployed soldier returning home each day to his girlfriend’s tiny bedsit in a bleak Victorian house, trying not to lose hope at a time when unemployment levels were nudging to a post-war high of 3 million.
Then a 26-year-old former lieutenant in the Scots Guards, with active service in Rhodesia and Northern Ireland under his belt, Duncan Smith had completed an HGV drivers’ course in his final fortnight in the Army to help prepare him for ‘Civvy Street’.
The reality, he says, was tougher than he had ever imagined — but he survived it. ‘There is always the lofty assumption that Tories like me don’t know what it’s like to live in the real world,’ he says. It is an assumption that clearly riles him.
Indeed, this week, during a heated interview about his cuts to the welfare state on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news show Today, the Work and Pensions Secretary found himself challenged to live on £53 a week.
Ambushed live on air by 51-year-old market trader David Bennett, who was complaining about cuts to his housing benefit, Duncan Smith was asked if he could survive on such an amount — roughly equivalent to the lowest rate of jobseekers’ allowance.
When the question was put to him directly by the BBC’s John Humphrys, the 58-year-old former Tory leader refused to side-step the question and replied: ‘If I had to, I would.’
Critics of his bid to trim Britain’s monstrous welfare bill swiftly pounced on the idea: an online petition calling for him to forego his £134,565 salary and live on Mr Bennett’s income for a year attracted more than 25,000 signatures on its first day.
But the reality is that Duncan Smith, the son of a World War II RAF hero, doesn’t feel the need to cave in to such cheap publicity stunts.
He’s already been there and done that and learnt valuable lessons about Britain’s benefit system from his own experiences.
In the 20 years I have known Duncan Smith, I have never seen him so animated about any subject as he was this week when I interviewed him in his constituency.
Today, he may be comfortably off, but he told me that as an unemployed ex-serviceman caught up in Britain’s Eighties economic crisis he has already faced the worst of times and learnt how to tighten his belt accordingly.
During those days of hardship, he would leave the house each morning and go looking for work, only returning in the evening after his future wife, Betsy Fremantle, had arrived home from her secretarial job. He wasn’t even meant to be living there — because he couldn’t afford to pay any rent.
‘The honest truth is that I lived illegally with Betsy in the bedsit, trying to pretend I was not there. I didn’t have any money, which is why I tried to avoid the landlady,’ recalls Duncan Smith.
Inevitably, he was rumbled by the formidable Mrs Fair, who spotted him creeping into the house. He was allowed to stay after agreeing to do jobs, from wiring plugs to changing light bulbs, and general maintenance.
Duncan Smith and Betsy were living in one room with a one-ring gas oven. ‘We had to keep the meter fed otherwise the gas ran out halfway through cooking dinner,’ he says.
The furniture was tatty, the carpet threadbare, and there was no television but they did have a radio. They shared the bathroom with three other bedsits.
‘They say love makes everything work,’ recalls a rueful Duncan Smith, who has been married to Betsy for 30 years.
‘Back then, a lot of people didn’t approve of people living together before marriage but we loved each other, we wanted to be together, and we were saving up for a proper wedding.’
Each day he put on his only suit and went to the nearest job exchange and, after another fruitless search, he went to the library .
‘I had the Stock Market Year Book so I could bombard all manner of company directors with letters. I was looking for a job, not benefits, and I wasn’t complaining.’
His cold calling paid off when GEC Marconi offered him the post of junior marketing executive.
‘It was such a relief as I thought I would get a job more quickly,’ he recalls. ‘It took months. I never claimed benefits so the little bit of money I had when I left the Army was running out. We lived economically — there were no treats.’
Betsy bought clothes in second-hand shops, a practice that would stand her family in good stead when unemployment came calling again — more of which later.
It is his experience all that time ago of being unemployed, of scraping by on scarce funds, that today gives Iain Duncan Smith such a sense of empathy with those he is determined to help in his role as Work and Pensions Secretary.
The job is the most difficult in government — a poisoned chalice as he freely admits, not least because under the last government, Britain’s welfare bill soared to £180 billion a year.
It was inevitable that any bid to cut it would provoke an outcry from certain quarters, although perhaps even he did not anticipate the extent to which the Left would try to demonise him as the living embodiment of the so-called evil Conservative government.
This week’s life sentence for Mick Philpott for killing six of his children in a house fire has hardened Duncan Smith’s determination to go even further and limit child benefit to the first two children.
Philpott, who claimed £60,000 in benefits a year, had 17 children by five different women.
According to Duncan Smith: ‘It is my view — which has not changed, but we couldn’t get Coalition agreement — that we should limit it to two children.
‘It’s not just child benefit but there are also the tax credits and huge and expensive properties the taxpayer has to maintain for these sorts of families.’
Not surprisingly, his hardline stance has focused attention back on his own life.
Fortunately for his enemies, he makes an easy target because he lives today in a £2 million 16th-century house in acres of farmland in Buckinghamshire.
He does not own the house, which belongs to his in-laws Lord and Lady Cottesloe, nor will he inherit it. He moved in a decade ago when Betsy’s parents, who are in their 80s and in frail health, couldn’t manage the property.
‘The personal vilification we have endured over where we live is outrageous,’ he says. ‘I am not involved in the property and Betsy does not have a financial interest. We don’t get a bean from the farm and have never drawn any income from her parents.’
Betsy’s older brother is the heir and he lives abroad doing charity work in India. The house, which is run-down and in need of modernisation, has been in Betsy’s family for centuries.
It was home to Sir Thomas Fremantle, an admiral who served with Lord Nelson in the Napoleonic wars, and whose son, also called Thomas, was a Conservative politician and the first Baron Cottesloe.
Betsy’s grandfather, the 4th Lord Cottesloe, was the unpaid chairman of the Arts Council and instrumental in the creation of the National Theatre. One of the National’s three theatres bears the Cottesloe name.
Duncan Smith says: ‘It is upsetting when they keep on about our privileged lifestyle. When times got tough we adjusted our spending accordingly.’
A case in point is when Duncan Smith left GEC to go to work for a property company called Bellwinch. It was 1988 and the height of the property boom. His timing could not have been worse.
The market crashed and Duncan Smith was unemployed again.
At the time they were living in a flat in Fulham, bought on a mortgage, long before the area became fashionable. Iain had gone to work and Betsy was at home looking after their son and two-month-old daughter.
‘Everything had been going so well. I remember looking out of the office window and seeing the director parking his car. ‘He was not expected at the office. I was puzzled and began talking to him about some of the projects we had started. ‘He wasn’t interested. He said: “We are going to have to let you go.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.’
There was hardly any pay-off.
‘I couldn’t bring myself to telephone Betsy. I went back to Fulham, walked through the door and said: “I’ve lost my job.” To her credit she said: “We are going to have to work very hard to get you back into work.”
‘I was depressed and felt a failure, like it was all my fault. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone so went through the pretence that everything was OK. My pride had been knocked to hell. I thought: this isn’t supposed to happen to someone who is keen to get on.’
They invested their meagre savings in an Amstrad computer and started writing letters. Unemployment was rising again and as their savings dwindled, Duncan Smith contacted the building society to reschedule payments on his mortgage.
‘It was an incredibly difficult time. I was running up debts as we were trying to eke out the little bit we had left.’
A lifeline came in the form of a job as publishing director of Jane’s Information group, the defence specialists.
Fast forward two years and Duncan Smith — who had been the Tory candidate in Bradford West at the 1987 General Election — was selected for the plum Conservative constituency of Chingford, succeeding Norman Tebbit, who is one of his great admirers.
In 2001, he became Tory leader but was deposed after two unhappy years.
He might then have given up on politics — in the way that David Miliband who, just over two years after failing to secure the Labour leadership, quit Parliament, triggering an unnecessary and expensive by-election.
Miliband is taking up a post in New York paying a £300,000 salary, having already earned more than £1 million on the international speaking circuit.
After announcing his departure, he was lionised on BBC news programmes without so much as a suggestion that he might have let down his constituents in South Shields.
Duncan Smith, on the other hand, moved on from his disappointing tenure as Tory leader by choosing a very different path, setting up the Centre For Social Justice think tank to examine ways to alleviate poverty and homelessness.
It was while he was leader that his moment of epiphany came, when he visited Glasgow’s sprawling Easterhouse estate where he witnessed generations of families who were locked by welfare dependency into poverty, joblessness and drug addiction.
He was moved to tears by what he saw and embarked on a personal mission to find ways of reaching out to deprived communities.
‘Easterhouse was important,’ he explains. ‘but it was when I was Shadow Social Security Secretary under William Hague that I became wedded to the idea that we had to change the benefits system to reward people who want to work rather than those who want to stay on benefits.’
His determination to see this through was why, when the Coalition came to power, he took on the thankless task of welfare reform as Work and Pensions Secretary.
He clearly believes passionately in the work he is doing, although he despairs at how the Conservatives’ austerity programme is reported — above all, by the BBC. ‘The BBC is always negative, never explains, never talks about why we are reforming, or the fact that national debt is rising to terrifying levels,’ he complains.
‘All the BBC case studies are hard-luck stories like that of the £53-a-week market trader. They never focus on a family stuck on a housing waiting list or in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.’
He is clearly exasperated, too, at how removing the Spare Room Subsidy — which will see housing benefit-payment cuts to council house tenants with surplus spare rooms — has been labelled the ‘bedroom tax’ by Labour.
When the BBC employed the same phrase, Duncan Smith complained. ‘Now they call it the “so-called bedroom tax”. It’s a disgrace.’
He points out that there are 390,000 tenants with two or more extra bedrooms in their homes — bedrooms that could be used to help to alleviate pressure on the 250,000 tenants in overcrowded accommodation, and almost 1.8 million people on the housing waiting list.
Duncan Smith knows the personal abuse will continue and that the Left will continue to exaggerate his wealth. In fact, the only property he owns is a one-bedroom former council flat in London.
Britain attempts to opt out of EU rules that let people easily delete their online data
Freedom to shut up
Britain is attempting to opt out of a European initiative allowing people to easily remove their details from online service providers such as Facebook.
The controversial move has caused uproar among privacy campaigners, who today accused the government of blocking an ‘essential move’
The rule, known as the ‘right to be forgotten’ has been developed by the EU justice commissioners in the face of growing complaints about the way Facebook and other social media giants retain information.
In its current form, which is not finalised, article 17 of the Data Protection Regulation provides for punitive fines – up to 2% of global turnover – for companies that refuse to comply with requests to erase customers’ personal details.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The right to be forgotten is a political sound bite that got out of control, but the idea behind it is an essential move.
‘It’s absolutely right that for companies who do not legally need to keep data, if you leave a service you should be able to delete your data wherever it appears across that service. ‘This change gives citizens that right.’
Britain’s objection to the EU move is that unrealistic expectations will be created by the right’s expansive title because the controls proposed will be relatively modest in their impact on the way data spreads, or is traded, across websites.
Mr Pickles agreed with these concerns, but called for the bill to be saved.