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Peter Rhodes on the EU Empire, vanishing banks and an eco-rant too far

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Peak Greta?

ALWAYS keen to see how my bank is spending my money, I was fascinated by a series of massive full-page adverts for HSBC, celebrating the United Kingdom. The stirring text ends with the words: "We are not an island. We're part of something far, far bigger." Bigger than what? Over the past five years HSBC has closed 442 branches. Here's an idea - why not spend more money on branches and less on advertising?

IN the same period, Lloyds has closed 569 branches although I'm guessing that some of these may have been converted to stables. Judging by its TV adverts, Lloyds is today chiefly in the business of breeding black horses and galloping them up and down beaches. Sweet. And you customers are paying for it.

WE may have reached peak Greta. Until now, the 16-year-old Swedish climate campaigner has been regarded almost as a saint. It is almost heresy to question anything she says. And yet her shrill cry of "how dare you!" at the UN, directed at the older generation for having "stolen my dreams, my childhood" is a rant too far.

THERE was a time, not so long ago, when Greta Thunberg's native Sweden was the sort of small, pastoral, low-energy country that modern-day green activists get all misty-eyed about. After a terrible famine in the 1860s Sweden set off on a different path, embracing free trade, infrastructure and industrialisation. Living standards improved. Life expectancy soared. Sweden became the rich, healthy society that enables the Thunbergs and their neighbours to live such warm, safe, mobile and comfortable lives. Nobody set out to wreck the planet or steal Greta's dreams. Today's man-made global warming is the result of 300 years of men and women simply striving for a better life. Rising temperatures are the unforeseen consequence of that noble aim. We must all work to put things right. But trying to pin the blame on one generation and portray another generation as helpless victims is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense, too.

I TOOK some flak a little while back when I dared to describe the EU as an empire. In all last week's flurry of activity, you may have missed this quote on the subject. "The world of tomorrow is a world of empires, in which we Europeans and you British can only defend your interests, your way of life by doing it together in a European framework and a European Union.” That's from the European Parliament's Brexit representative, Guy Verhofstadt. Don't say you weren't warned.

GREAT coincidences of our time. September 19: John "Rottweiler" Humphrys retires from Today (Radio 4). September 25: Jeremy Corbyn agrees to be interviewed live on Today - for the first time in three years.

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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