Peter Rhodes on being in bed with Jeremy, lessons from the Birmingham Six and the secret of national happiness

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

For once Comrade Jez is right.

Strange bedfellow

IF you had to choose the happiest place in the world, you'd probably want somewhere hot. Yet the top countries in the annual United Nations World Happiness Report are, in the main, cool. Finland is happiest, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. Six of the 10 are monarchies. None of the 10 takes religion very seriously. It is perfectly possible to be happy in a cold climate with a king or queen on the throne. It's the holy men who really make life grim.

TRANSPORT for London provides "Baby on Board" badges for pregnant women needing extra consideration. TV presenter Andrea McLean says some ladies should have "M" for menopause badges so that other passengers can "cut them some slack." Sounds reasonable but you know how quickly ideas spread. Before you know it,"M" badges would be joined by countless buttons and badges defining women needing sensitive treatment as "HF" (hot flushes), "PM" (pre-menstrual) and "TBFOA "(The Bastard's Forgotten Our Anniversary).

IT'S an unpleasant image, but today I find myself in bed with Jeremy Corbyn. Comrade Jez is wrong on many things but he's right to warn us not to "rush way ahead of the evidence" in the Salisbury nerve-agent affair and to beware of "emotion and hasty judgments." Like him, I despise the mind-set which says: "This is the Government's view and if you disagree, you must be a traitor." Theresa May's deadline for the Russians to admit their guilt or confess to incompetence was hasty. Boris Johnson's declaration that President Putin was personally responsible wouldn't stand up in any court.

THE truth is we know very little about the Salisbury incident. We have three sick people and a trace of a substance said to originate in Russia. We have been told at various times that the substance was sprayed on the victims in the street, slipped into their food, smeared on a car-door handle or hidden in a suitcase in Russia. All is uncertainty, yet we are told to be certain that Putin is to blame.

SOME sceptics recall the misinformation about weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion of Iraq but I am reminded of the 1975 trial of the Birmingham Six. A Home Office pathologist, Frank Skuse, told the court he found traces of nitro-glycerine on two of the Six, using the Greiss test. In the years that followed as the Six languished in jail, the Greiss test was called into question. In 1991, after 16 years behind bars, the Six were acquitted and released. I met Dr Skuse in 1992. He still defended the Greiss test but during our long interview he repeatedly emphasised a key point in forensic science. It is this: simply finding a chemical substance does not in itself prove that anybody is guilty of anything. Today's certainties have a strange habit of becoming tomorrow's cock-ups.

FEELING happy? Despite having a monarch and not much religion, Britain came a dismal 19th in the UN happiness ratings. Maybe our climate's too warm...

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world


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