Peter Rhodes casts his eye over the week's big news.
“I’M a ginger so I'm 10 times more likely to make up a statistic.” Comedian Shawn Hitchins, apologising for claiming, incorrectly, that a fifth of all the world’s redheads live in Scotland.
THAT’S the problem with making claims based on statistics. You either do it boldly, confidently and with utter conviction or you do it, er, gingerly.
IT WAS wrong of the Daily Mail to accuse Ed Miliband’s Marxist father of hating Britain – especially when the only hard evidence came from a diary Ralph Miliband wrote when he was just 17. I shudder at the thought of being judged by anything I wrote at 17. To be damned by something your father wrote in his teens is grotesquely unfair.
AND yet, as Enoch Powell once observed, a politician complaining about the Press is like a ship’s captain complaining about the sea. Politics is a dirty game but all the players are volunteers. The first rule is that once you sign up, people will want to know everything about you. Ed Miliband could be the next prime minister, leading a nuclear-armed nation of 60 million. He deserves exactly the same level of scrutiny as any other prime minister-in-waiting. In a perfect world a politician’s dead parents would not be fair game. But remember the scorn, the sneering, the cartoons, the Spitting Image gags when the Left discovered to its glee that the Tory leader John Major was the son of a one-time circus performer? What’s sauce for the Majors is sauce for the Milibands.
IN THE week in which all eyes focused on the Marxist beliefs of Ed Miliband’s father, the eternal battle between capitalism and socialism was spluttering in our universities. And not all the staff are happy about it. Plashing Vole, the excellent website run by Wolverhampton University lecturer Aidan Byrne, reports on a ghastly David Brent-style “team-building” day foisted on unhappy staff by the uni management. The worst bit, apparently, was not the enforced singing nor the obligatory coloured T-shirts, nor even the lecture on “positivity,” but the Thatcherite banner which suddenly appeared on the lecture screen, urging them: “Be creative, grow the business, make money.” Byrne observes despairingly: “This is the slogan of the estate agency or the boiler room, not a seat of learning.”
YOU can understand David Cameron’s reluctance this week to be drawn on the question: “Are you a feminist?” I admit that until I consulted the dictionary, I assumed that only women could be feminists. Apparently not. In the end Cameron sort of agreed he was a feminist. Now, Mr Cameron, the obvious follow-up question: Are you a lesbian?
UNFAIR, too, to expect the PM or anyone else to answer the question: “How much does a loaf of bread cost?” I was shopping this week (a rare experience) and traipsing between shops found small browns costing anything from 80p to £2.60. I took this up with our local baker who tells me the price of a loaf of bread is much the same as the price of a length of string.
ANYONE else notice the remarkable similarity between Joseph Fiennes’ narration of The Great British Year (BBC1) and the voice of the late, great Oliver Postgate, creator of a much-loved Dark Ages hero? There were moments when I expected Fiennes to whisper: “Listen, and I will tell you more of the saga of Noggin the Nog.”
THIS week it was announced that the British Army is recruiting reservists who are IT experts to wage war in cyberspace. Without a shot being fired, a new generation of squaddies will slip hugely complex viruses into enemy computers, wrecking their infrastructure. Obviously, platoons of cyber-warriors will have to be organised into a new regiment. The Queen’s Own Geeks?
A LITTLE sign in the window tells us our local butcher is to close. There has been a butcher’s shop in those premises for more than a century. Now, it is making way for a patisserie. Across the road, our old bank has become a beauty parlour. It reflects a consumer society where traditional food and personal service make way for a rather pointless battle between cakes which threaten to make you fat and beauticians who promise to make you thin.
THE strangest complaint during the Fire Brigades Union strike was the firefighter moaning on Radio 4 that she had expected a 30-year career and it now looked like becoming a 40-year career. Comrades, this is an outrage. Let us raise the scarlet banner high to fight the monstrous imposition of a job for life.
I WROTE a piece three years ago about a trip to the Somme to find the exact spot where my great-uncle, Private Alvin Smith, was killed, probably by friendly fire, in September 1916. For those interested in such things, the short video of the trip is now on the website of the Western Front Association here.