Peter Rhodes casts his eye over the week's big news.
THIS was the week when the authorities announced that if you arrange an abortion because the unborn baby happens to be a little girl, you will not get into trouble but if you make the little girls sit behind the boys in a Muslim school, you will get into serious trouble. Proud to be British?
MY RECENT item on moves to take God out of the courtroom oath reminds a reader, a retired police officer, of the time his colleague stood up nervously on his first occasion in the witness box and solemnly promised: “I gare by almighty Swod.”
PROBLEM? What problem? The ruling classes will not be in the least worried by this week’s report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showing England has some of the worst literacy and numeracy rates in the developed world. Rich people know it doesn’t apply to their kids who can still get a fine education from as little as £10,000 a year in private schools. It’s the state schools, bedevilled by indiscipline, lack of leadership and the chronic dumbing-down of exams, that have allowed reading, writing and arithmetic to slide off the list of priorities. The same report tells us that Britain has the worst levels of social mobility in the Western world. The chances of a working-class kid making it into a top job are worse today than they were 50 years ago.
THE chief operating officer of Nissan, Toshiyuki Shiga, warned this week that it is “very important” that Britain remains part of the European Union. Sound familiar? In October 2002 Nissan issued another stern warning, that its huge UK operation could be endangered if Britain didn’t adopt the euro. Just because they’re big, it doesn’t always mean they’re right.
WHY is car insurance so expensive? A reader tells me his daughter’s new car suffered a tiny, glancing blow in a car park. The main dealer, sensing an insurance claim, quoted £600 for the repair and wanted to take the vehicle away for five days. A local bodyshop fixed it in a single day, for £72.
ANNIE Lennox condemns the “overtly sexualised” performances of some pop singers. Hang on. Would this be the same Annie Lennox who shocked us back in the 1980s by regularly forgetting to wear a shirt? Looks like a case of the bra calling the thong black.
THERE is an old belief that prostitutes do not pay income tax, on the grounds that the State would not dirty its hands by taking immoral earnings. This turns out to be an urban myth. Southwark Crown Court this week ordered a former “high-class escort” to pay £175,000 in unpaid tax and costs. At one stage she was earning £1,000 a night. Her excuse was that she was paying her way through university. BEd, presumably.
OUR changing language. Fiona-Natasha Syms was “beyond furious” and tweeted angrily when her former husband, Robert Syms , was sacked as a government whip. After a while, she reported, she was told to “stop lionessing.”
WHERE do they get the audiences for Any Questions (Radio 4)? The latest, from the solid, hard-headed Yorkshire town of Ilkley, considered making the under-25s report for training in exchange for the dole. So did the good folk of Ilkley want the nation’s youth to spend their days festering away on sofas, or to do summat positive for their money? Astonishingly, the audience voted overwhelmingly for the fester-option. I simply do not believe my fellow Tykes would vote as this audience voted. Maybe they had been bussed in from Lancashire.
A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote about a 90-year-old reader who closed his account, after 75 years with the same bank because they discontinued monthly printed statements – and the bank didn’t even bother to inquire why he’d quit. Yesterday I was contacted by a reader who became a member of the Trustee Savings Bank during the war and has stayed with them for 72 years. Suddenly she is told that, as part of the Lloyds-TSB reorganisation, she is to become a Lloyds Bank customer, and is not happy. She says: “We should stop worrying about global warming and worry about the decline in loyalty.”
WHO can argue with her sentiment? The older generation were raised in the belief that loyalty brought its own rewards. Today, they find themselves in a world where customers who stay loyal to one bank, electricity company or insurance firm are regarded not as assets but as suckers.
OUR town centre was closed for a food festival. Happy families wandered between the stalls, safe in the knowledge that this was a traffic-free zone. Not entirely. A fortysomething cyclist, old enough to know better, came hurtling through the crowd, startling the unwary and with not a ting-a-ling of warning.
A FRIEND had an equally scary encounter with a whole bunch of cyclists who were out on an evening ride, which involved flashing lamps on bikes, plus helmet-bulbs and reflective hi-viz jackets. He says this dangerous, dazzling, slow-moving mass of coloured lights looked like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but without the intelligence.