Goodbye to a Train Robber, hello to segregated audiences

Daily blogger PETER RHODES on Ronnie Biggs and religious extremism

Ronnie Biggs

SO FAREWELL, Ronnie Biggs. We should never celebrate criminals or their crimes, but you had to admire Biggs's cheek. In one interview, repeated yesterday, Biggs claimed that the chief purpose of prison is to rehabilitate offenders and, as he had rehabilitated himself, it was not necessary for him to serve his term. Did anybody not smile?

LOOKING back, the Great Train Robbers' haul of £2.6 million seems puny. Inflation has soared and at today's values it would be worth about £46 million. But something else has changed. Back in 1963 this robbery horrified the nation because it was a calculated assault on national icons we cherished and respected: the Treasury, the Post Office, the night-mail train and, above all, our fine banking industry. If someone stole £46 million from the banks today, would we be horrified? Or would we reflect on what a tiny sum this was, compared to the billions lost through greed and fraud when the banking system imploded? Respectable men in smart suits cost us far, far more than Biggs and his gang.

AFTER much study, researchers at the University of California have concluded that men who marry attractive women are happier than those who do not. Good to see the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious is as busy as ever.

AS the row over sexually segregated audiences at British universities rumbles on, Aston University declares that it would tolerate such an arrangement at religious discussions so long as it was voluntary. And what if an audience voluntarily decided they'd like to smoke?

TOLERATING the intolerable, as with segregated audiences, is a sign of the weakness and confusion stalking Western societies. It is based on the daft notion that we must all respect anyone else's belief system, no matter what. I am reminded of a trip to Israel some years ago when our press party was introduced to an ultra-orthodox religious leader. Things started to go wrong when I greeted him in the hotel lobby and led him towards the bar. He stopped and delivered a little lecture, in a tone somewhere between indignation and sympathy, on how I should never invite someone like him to enter a place where alcohol was served. I apologised, then introduced him to a woman member of our party. She extended her hand. He looked at it with disdain and delivered another little lecture, in the same tone, on how someone like him should never be expected to touch the hand of a strange woman. Again I apologised and invited him to join us in the minibus. I then received my third lecture in as many minutes, this time on how someone like him could certainly not sit next to a woman. At about this time I realised I didn't respect this man or his beliefs. I thought he was a silly, attention-seeking, delusional and grossly overindulged prat. The only reason I didn't tell him so was that I was a visitor to his land and his culture. But if he came to this country to deliver a lecture and asked me to arrange a segregated audience, I would tell him not to be so damn silly. This is Britain. This is the 21st century. We do things differently. Get over it.

SIR Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, says grammar schools are “stuffed full” of middle-class children and do not improve social mobility. And what sort of school did Wilshaw, the son of a postman, attend? Surprise, surprise, he went to a grammar school in south London which led on to the University of London and a meteoric career. I have never understood the eagerness of some grammar-school kids (Margaret Thatcher, Roy Hattersley, etc) to deny others the opportunities they had.

GATEAU: French ventriloquist's boat, as defined on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (Radio 4).

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Comments for: "Goodbye to a Train Robber, hello to segregated audiences"


Great Train Robbery.

I can remember the Great Train Robbery taking place and the mixed feelings it generated. It was a mixture of being stunned by the audacity of the raid and some rather guilty feelings of mild admiration for it.

It evoked images of the wild west, and cowboys holding up the 3.10 to Yuma train by a Jesse James gang about it. At that time there was a whole host of western series being shown on TV: Maverick, Tenderfoot, Bronco, etc.

Later, when it emerged that the train driver had been seriously assaulted the mood I think changed and public sympathy for swung against what were just ordinary run of the mill criminals. The story continued to fascinate the public for months, as one by one, the robbers were tracked down, except of course Biggs until years later.


Re Ronnie Biggs. He was a crook, a thief. He was given a long jail sentence which was not served in full. On the basis of the £2.6 million pound haul, what sentence is now appropriate to the thieves and fraudsters at the banks and major companies? When individual corporations evade billions of pounds in tax ( with government complicity in many cases via an ineffective Inland Revenue, which finds it easier to extort money from small companies ) why should they be allowed to escape prosecution and what sentence should they be given?

Re segregation and tolerance. Interesting, is it not, that those who demand this intolerable practice are usually the minorities which claim they are discriminated against? Under no circumstance should segregation by gender be allowed anywhere, except possibly in hospitals. Why should we respect the requirements of any religion which openly treats women as second class citizens and denies them education? Any event where segregation is demanded or even offered should be stopped.


Re segregated audiences:

Britain suffered this from medieval times where Catholicism was the only true religion and adherents to other forms of Christianity had to be burned at the stake for heresy and to save their souls. Then Puritanism was the correct version and Catholics had to be murdered for an idolatrous religion and having allegiance to Rome.

One would think that having arrived at the 21st century where decreasing numbers believe in a god, we have in our midst a Muslim religion which poses the same problem to that faced by Britons up to the 17th Century. A religion which accepts no other faiths, considers that it has a monopoly on wisdom, is doing God's work and has a duty to impose itself on others irrespective of their beliefs or none. Crucially, it puts allegiance to a foreign country over and above any allegiance to the home country. Adherents who would impose seating arrangements at venues, instruct females as to their dress sense and take a legal product (alcohol) from law-abiding citizens by claiming certain streets as being under a foreign law. I would counsel our Muslim citizens that, traditionally, the British are a docile nation but we do have our limits.