Marina's Labour lover revealed

Loving across the political spectrum, polar bears and selling stories to the Sun

Dear Marina,

I don't consider myself a huge animal lover. I do have a cat, but I also have a fur coat, and find it enormously irritating when those PETA people shoot me dirty looks when I wear it. But last week I came across hundreds of pictures of Knut, the adorable four-month-old polar bear, rejected by his mother and raised by a Berlin zoo keeper. After ogling over him, even I felt slightly nauseous looking at my white coat! Then I found it was an animal rights campaigner who said raising Knut raised by a human violated animal rights, hinting he should be put to sleep. I wasn't surprised hundreds of websites had popped up dedicated to saving him. Although it turns out he won't be killed, I keep wondering why a supposed supporter of animal rights set the world into a frenzy by saying a healthy polar bear should be put to sleep?

Miss Mink

Has the world gone knuts? With the Arctic icecap melting faster than a well sucked Fox's glacier mint, polar bears in the wild are drowning in icy waters or dying of starvation as their natural habitat dwindles. Around 8,000 (almost a third of the global polar bear population) are predicted to die in this way in the next 45 years.

Expect total extinction 50 years later. Knuts will have died of old age well before then. When he does shuffle off this mortal coil he can be stuffed and installed next to the dodo skeleton in the Natural History Museum.

The justification for putting the cutest furry wurry bear in the world to sleep is that he’d be happier because when the bars come between him and his keeper, Knuts will pine and die of a broken heart.

Hmmm. Alive in a zoo or dead in the water? Could someone send that animal rights campaigner a climate chaos brochure please.

Dear Marina,

While catching up on the latest gossip in the Daily Mirror and Sun, I was slightly more disturbed than usual when I found some of the British sailors freed last week had been allowed to share personal stories with the papers. Reading the details of the harrowing hostage situation juxtaposed with the latest celeb scandals just didn't sit right with me. Apparently now Blair and his ministers are wondering if they should have been more careful about letting the papers get hold of the stories. What do you think?

MT Slightly-Disturbed, Swindon

Maybe I’m just too caught up the local election campaign, doing my best to hold onto my seat against the Tory Party machine with its Blue Chip computerised election campaign and every gaga old dear in our nursing homes signed up for a postal vote. But really, I can’t imagine what Blair is fussing about.

At least these photogenic soldiers have genuine tales to tell. Unlike the lie peddling reports of weapons of mass destruction that led us into war with Iraq. Maybe that’s the problem. Blair’s so caught up in his own spin cycle he can no longer tell the difference between his dirty laundry and his bright whites.

Or is it that compared to what goes on in Guantanamo Bay - where eight UK residents are still detained - or the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers, the Iranians, quite frankly are just not brutal enough. Poor Faye, being forced to wear a headscarf and play endless games of noughts and crosses with herself. I mean how is Blair supposed to prepare our nation for war when that’s the best the Iranians can come up with. No one even lost a finger nail.

But it’s not nice fearing you’re going to die. Which is a reasonable excuse for not signing up to the armed forces in the first place.

Hi Marina


It's interesting and stimulating to read your column. I have a problem; although I am a Liberal Democrat like you, I find Tory women more attractive. I had a relationship with one of Tim Renton's female staff some years ago and have loved one of your fellow Lewes District Councillors [name supplied] from afar for the last four frustrating years. Do you ever feel tempted by Tories, Marina? Has Bonker Boris ever tickled your fancy?

Love, Bob Brown, Seaford

Having examined the notches on my bed post, so to speak, I can honestly say I have never knowingly fancied or slept with a Conservative let alone sparked up a relationship with one.

I’ve always sailed closer to the wind of New Labour and can admit to a few cross party away plays. There was the night I found myself [censored by Marina’s election agent] in a [ditto] with the now Labour MP for [censored by Newstatesman lawyers], for instance.

Later that week he invited me for a dirty weekend in Brighton – handwritten and signed on House of Commons headed notepaper! Oh why did I not keep the letter? But that was the winter of 1996/7 as we plotted in Grouchos, united against a common enemy – the Tory government. There was everything to play for. Those were fun times.

But Tories? Even those with a more favourable gene pool than the bonking Johnsons of this world, can’t help but open their mouths to ask in blunt foghorn tones: “How much is this going to cost?” It’s bad enough in council meetings when the Liberal Democrats are concentrating on positive outcomes and value for money. But in the bedroom department it’s a turn off. Not to mention scandalous!

Right. I’ve wasted enough time on this silliness Councillor Brown. If you’ve run out of Focus leaflets to deliver in Seaford (you obviously have far too much time on your hands) you can come and help deliver mine. As for you fancying Councillor [name supplied], you couldn’t afford her. See you at full council.

PS: The letter might be in a trunk in my loft.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.