Peter Rhodes on techno-tyranny, the ten-bob note and stuffing mouths with gold

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

David Mitchell
David Mitchell

IN a tirade against smartphones, the comedian David Mitchell says he'd have been happy to stick with the technology of the 1980s such as answerphones, video recorders and Ceefax, rather than see so many people obsessed with social media. "Literally all the time, everywhere we go," he says, "there's people staring at their phones, talking to people on social media, insulting people on social media or bullying people on social media." All true.

BUT Mitchell makes the assumption that, deep in their hearts, people want to be free from the tyranny of technology. Yet do they? One of the grimmer properties of smartphones is that they reveal our true priorities and, while liberty may sound great, many people would rather be connected than be free.

A READER writes an eloquent tribute to the old ten-shilling note which he remembers as "a sign of wealth." There is something in that. I can recall when a single ten-bob note was enough for ten Gold Leaf and a couple of drinks - an entire night out paid for by one small sheet of paper. But I think this reader gets it wrong when he suggests it was hard to do the maths in old-fashioned pounds, shillings and pence. Working in the old system meant using the two, three, four, six, eight, 10 and 12 times tables on a daily basis. As a result, we were probably better at maths than the decimalised generations that followed.

AS the SNP Conference opened, it was surely time for the guilty person to be named and shamed. I refer, of course, to whoever it was who told Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP in the Commons, that he looks good in a waistcoat.

NOTHING oils the wheels of power politics quite like the lavish application of money. So how much will Boris Johnson eventually have to bung Northern Ireland to swing the DUP behind his Brexit plan? Is anyone else reminded of that great Labour politician Aneurin Bevan who, in 1948, miraculously managed to convinced hostile consultants to work for the new National Health Service? When colleagues asked him how he had stifled the doctors' complaints and won them round, Bevan smiled: "I stuffed their mouths with gold."

AND will this Brexit agreement, hammered out behind closed doors, bear much relation to the Brexit we had in mind three years ago? A couple of weeks after the 2016 Referendum I wrote: "The whiff of victory is slowly being replaced by something sugary in the air. Can you smell it? It is fudge." True then, true now.

TALKING of sugary things, spot the contradiction. Daily Mail last week: "Low-carb meals for a longer life... transforming NHS diabetes care." Daily Mail this week: "Celebrating ten years of Bake Off: Four pages of scrumptious showstoppers."

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