Peter Rhodes on humiliation at Heathrow, the lure of victimhood and why we don't need to read manifestos
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
I solemnly and sincerely promise that in the weeks between now and December 12, the General Election will be mentioned in this column only when absolutely necessary (or when I can't think of anything else).
One good thing this time round is that we don't have to waste any time reading those election manifestos. They are not very different from the 2017 manifestos which you will find in your local public library, under Fiction.
As the row over TV licences for the over-75s rumbles on, I drift ever further away from the BBC. I may catch the news headlines or a Commons debate but these days I get half my news from Sky and most of my entertainment on subscription from Netflix. We have just binge-viewed our way through all 92 episodes of Mad Men and are starting on Breaking Bad. Week by week, box set by box set, the BBC, like golf, dentures and trains, is becoming something that other people do.
We'll probably never know why the historian Mary Beard, 64, was forced to strip to her undies by security staff at Heathrow. But I wouldn't mind guessing the humiliation of an elderly white woman was part of a box-ticking exercise to prove that Heathrow operates a profiling-free system. If the security teams focused on men of military age with a Middle East or Pakistan connection, they would be accused of racial, cultural or religious profiling. Questions would be asked in the House. A minister would be forced to apologise. So to prevent all that, the security people like to be seen to be even-handed. Even though it makes no sense. If challenged, staff will use the old line about only obeying orders. So here's an idea to save time with explanations. They could all wear a badge declaring: "I'm not just being stupid. I'm following orders to be stupid."
Our local zebra crossing - the old-fashioned sort with ye ancient Belisha beacons - was closed for a few hours for some BT landline repairs. This meant we had to walk a few yards either side of the zebra and cross in the old-fashioned way. Except for one middle-aged, middle-class man with a dog who berated the BT Openreach workers with "you're idiots!" and accused them of "forcing us to take our lives in our hands!" It was pure over-reaction. In situations like this you never know whether the person is just having a bad day, is mentally ill or simply a big girl's blouse. But I was reminded of a survey a few years ago which reckoned that 70 per cent of Britons are "members of victim groups.” The desire to be a victim, to see yourself as being put at risk by somebody else, is a growth industry.
Talking of which, I may well have been traumatised by the man shouting. Where is my support group, my counselling, my compensation . . ?