Peter Rhodes on hair-hate, election blue water and a memorable moment in television

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Helena Bonham Carter in The Crown
Helena Bonham Carter in The Crown

Jeremy Corbyn declares war on “exploitative” landlords who let “squalid” and “substandard” properties. But what about exploitative tenants who, provided with good accommodation, turn it into something squalid and substandard? I bet there are as many bad tenants as rogue landlords.

Rachel Swann, the police chief pictured with a spiky hairdo at the Whaley Bridge dam emergency this summer, says she took a three-month break from Twitter after the crisis to escape “sexist and homophobic abuse” about her hair. Obscene or hateful trolling is, of course, unpardonable and should be prosecuted. However, if somebody chooses to look unusual in any way, whether by wearing a T-shirt with a political slogan, or a burka, or having many tattoos, or a spikey hairstyle, they are making a statement. And in a country which cherishes free speech and robust debate, if you make a statement, you invite a response. What else is Twitter for? I hope we haven't reached the stage where tweeting that a cop's hairdo looks like a loo brush is recorded as a hate crime, or any sort of crime. Laughing at the authorities without fear is one of the things that marks the divide between liberal democracies and banana republics.

You know how computers can pin-point your exact position to within inches? Take comfort from the following experience. I was looking online for a printer to go with my new computer. My local store was out of stock but they posted a helpful message saying they had plenty of printers at their Bristol branch which is 3,275 miles away from my home, or the Solihull and Chippenham branches which are respectively 3,489 and 3,195 miles away. I suspect my computer thinks I am on the other side of the Atlantic. Fine by me.

Because our society is obsessed with sex, most commentary on the new series of The Crown (Netflix) has been about alleged royal flirting and canoodling, and the good-time girl portrayal of Princess Margaret by Helena Bonham Carter. As a result, the astonishingly moving episode on the 1966 coal-heap disaster at Aberfan which killed 116 children and 28 adults has been neglected. I watched it a few days ago. The re-creation of the torrent engulfing the village school, the scores of tiny coffins in the communal grave and the bereaved families singing the mourning hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul created one of the most powerful moments in television I can recall.

I wrote recently that Hays Travel had sold the Thomas Cook trading name for £11 million. A reader points out that the seller was actually the liquidator, not Hays. My thanks.

In every election, there is one moment that suddenly creates clear blue water between the parties. This time it is the blindingly simple statistic that for every £1 of extra funding pledged by the Tories, Labour will spend £28. That's not blue water. That's an extremely large ocean, with en-suite tsunami.

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