Peter Rhodes casts his eye over the week's big news.
WE WILL not go to war. Parliament stood up to the Government. The anger, suspicion and fears of the British people were brilliantly expressed by our elected members in some fine speeches and the Prime Minister wisely backed down. This is how the House of Commons is supposed to work, but rarely does. Thursday night's vote was like a cruise missile. No-one saw it coming.
TONY Blair is in favour of military intervention. He has clearly learned nothing.
AFTER the enormous and enduring cock-ups of Iraq and Afghanistan, we should have learned enough by now to leave Syria well alone. Syria is not some clapped-out house of cards like Saddam’s Iraq or Gaddafi’s Libya. Syria has an army which is still fiercely loyal to President Assad. It is three times as big as the British Army and is equipped with some extremely deadly Russian hardware. Syria has allies including Hizbollah and Iran who may soon have the technology to lob chemical warheads into Europe. Above all, the lesson of history in the Middle East is that when dictators fall, chaos follows and the last thing the locals ever feel is one iota of gratitude towards the West.
FOLLOWING my invitation to re-write classic lines in modern terms, a reader re-drafts the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in need of a civil partner of either, or both sexual inclinations and be perfectly entitled to marry if they so desire".
INCIDENTALLY, it is possible to buy versions of Pride and Prejudice in simplified modern English. Like, everybody knows that a dude wiv shedloads of money needs a missus, innit?
OKAY, call me small-minded. Call me a Little Englander. You may even be excused for hissing “racist!” But I bet I wasn’t the only Brit whose hackles rose as Beth West explained the alleged benefits of the HS2 high-speed train on Radio 4 this week. She challenged British industry to “step up” and ensure this £30 billion (£42 billion? £70 billion? £100 billion?) white elephant is constructed. West is commercial director of HS2 Ltd but started her career with the US Government on Capitol Hill before becoming a New York banker. In barely 100 years, from the extermination of the buffalo, to the dustbowls of the mid-West and the ruins of bankrupt Detroit, the Yanks have made a right mess of their own country. Somehow, I rather resent being told by anyone with an American accent that I must accept the despoiling of my green, well-tended and still rather pleasant little land by a screaming 250 mph behemoth that none of my English friends actually wants.
THE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence claims that thousands of hospital patients are dying needlessly every year from kidney problems that could be treated. Really? If we believe this then we must presumably believe our hospitals are staffed by dimwit doctors and nurses unable to spot the very obvious symptoms of kidney failure. Is it not more likely that in many of these cases the patient is old and already extremely ill and the medical staff take the decision to let nature take its course? We all must die some time and, as every rookie registrar knows, kidney failure is one of the better ways. As one medical website puts it: “Death from kidney failure is usually painless and peaceful. It involves slipping into a coma (deep sleep) from which you will not wake up.” Maybe the condition could be treated. But if the only consequence of treating it is to ensure the patient dies of something much nastier, what’s the point?
WE HAVE just received our newsletter from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I can’t help reflecting that when we joined, back in the 1980s, it had very few members but there were an awful lot of hedgehogs. Today the Society has 12,000 members but there are very few hedgehogs. Curious.
I INVITED you to re-write great texts from history in modern terms. One reader offers this, from Winston Churchill: “I have nothing to offer but circulatory fluid, a rosy glow, the gentle application of elbow grease and blubbering and whimpering.”
NEARLY 25,000 students applied for courses at the University of Liberia and it was reported this week that every single one had failed the admission test. A spokesman for the African university said the youngsters “lacked enthusiasm and did not have a basic grasp of English.” They could always try media studies in England.