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Peter Rhodes on the London Bridge horror, our changing public taste and a scoop to remember

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Covering the Cold War

Nine days to the General Election. Bags of time for Boris to blow it. And the same applies to Corbyn.

The Met Office goes judgmental. A recent bulletin warned the Channel Islands to expect “outbreaks of nuisance rain.”

On Friday I wrote how our legal system fails to keep dangerous villains behind bars, releasing them to kill again. A few hours later an Islamist terrorist who had been released early from prison butchered two innocent people at London Bridge. You may think my column was a brilliantly prescient piece of writing. The truth is that you could forecast another early-release murder at any time and be sure that in a matter of hours or days it will come true.

And if you want another prediction, it's that a “human rights” investigation will be launched against the cops for killing this terrorist instead of detaining him. If you are a vicious serial murderer or a terrorist, the English legal system bends over backwards to support you. If you're an innocent pedestrian on London Bridge, God help you.

Jonathan Miller who died last week was a genius but he didn't have a crystal ball. In 1986 he took the racism out of The Mikado by directing a politically-correct revival of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic and setting it not in Japan but in 1930s England. In the process, however, he took the three little schoolgirls out of kimonos and dressed them in St Trinian's-style gymslips. Acceptable in 1986, perhaps, but definitely dodgy today. Even geniuses can't guess how public tastes will change.

Thirty years ago today the Cold War ended with the Bush-Gorbachev summit in Malta. I was one of 2,000 journalists covering the event and it started unpromisingly. The American and Russian leaders and their officials were miles offshore on a warship, a small groups of journalists were pooling their copy for the rest of us and there seemed no chance of getting a decent line from the summit. But that evening, by a combination of events for which I can take no credit, I landed a nice little scoop.

Unannounced and unaccompanied, President Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign-affairs spokesman turned up in the little bar of the cheap hotel where I was staying. As the sole representative of the Western media, I introduced myself. He put down his lager. The great man, one of the most recognisable figures of the Cold War, was happy to talk and he waxed lyrical. “We have buried the Cold War, deep in the deepest part of the Mediterranean,” he beamed.

I began my report of the encounter for the next day's newspaper by re-writing Bogart's line from the movie Casablanca which somehow seemed to fit: “Of all the bars in all the gin joints in all the world, Gennadi Gerasimov had to walk into mine.” A night to remember. A new start for the world.

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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