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Peter Rhodes on looking busy, the truth about trains and did our soldiers really fight for democracy?

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Fighting for what?

One of the mantras you hear at election time is that we have a duty to vote because British soldiers, sailors and airmen fought and died in order that we could put our cross on the ballot paper. It's a good line but does it stand up?

Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of old warriors from both world wars and other conflicts who said they fought for their mates, their regiment, their country and their own sense of duty. I can't recall a single one who said he fought to protect a constitutional monarchy and a first-past-the-post voting system. And how can anyone claim the five million Brits who donned uniform for the First World War were fighting for democracy when in those days women were not allowed to vote?

There is a great unifying ring to the claim that our khaki-clad heroes gave us our democracy. The painful truth is that the bloody fight for the right to vote was mostly fought in England's streets, squares and public halls by English people against English people. When you vote, give thanks the right side won.

An election-day wager. No matter who you vote for tomorrow or which way the result goes, it is a sure bet that five years from now the rich will still be rich, the poor will still be poor and politicians will still be offering the New Jerusalem. And Boris will be promising Brexit by Christmas.

As a side-wager, whether the trains are privatised or nationalised, it's a fair bet they will still be dirty, overcrowded and late because that is the nature of British trains.

It is always instructive to meet people who think they know your job better than you do. Take the reader threatening to “Call Rhodes out” for describing Nish Kumar as not very funny, on the grounds that this was “an unqualified opinion.” So opinions expressed in the media have to be qualified, do they? If so, bang goes the entire column-writing industry of the free world and heaven protect any hack who refers to Jeremy Corbyn as “Magic Grandpa” without producing conclusive evidence that he is a) a grandfather and b) capable of magic.

I recall the guidance I was given by an old journalist many years ago who said when it comes to writing opinion pieces, “you don't have to show your working”which meant you could express a conclusion without producing all the calculations leading to it.

Although, now I come to think of it, because apostrophes are silent, the old hack may actually have said: “You don't have to show you're working.” In my experience, you do. A good way to look as though you are working is to hang your jacket over your seat when you go for lunch. It says “I'm still in the building” even when you're actually in the Dog & Duck.

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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