Peter Rhodes on speeches, dangerous jobs and the only sane place to hold a climate conference

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Greta Thunberg

The British Army has hit its recruitment target for the first time in six years. Some pundits say it's the result of an advertising campaign featuring young servicemen and women. Maybe so. But I bet it's also the result of kids looking at the enormous debts that go with university, the low wages of an apprenticeship, and discovering that you can get some of the best technical and managerial training in the world, and get Her Majesty to pay for it, by signing up.

As for the occasional risks of military service, the armed forces don't feature in the UK's top ten of dangerous jobs. Soldiering may look risky but statistically you're far more likely to be killed as a farmer, builder or lorry driver.

The UN Climate Change Conference in November is due to be held in Glasgow but there is talk of shifting it to Birmingham because of soaring policing costs. Here's a better idea. Hold it in cyberspace.

Delegates and their hangers-on could surely do their stuff by video-conferencing from their own homes. No travel, no carbon emissions and no need for Greta Thunberg to find some achingly altruistic new way to cross the North Sea (a hang-glider plaited from seaweed, perhaps?). Coronavirus has shown the way. When plague is in the air, it's amazing how many “essential” trips suddenly become unnecessary. If we can self-isolate against an infectious disease, why can't we do the same to fight the allegedly greater threat of global warming?

Meanwhile after Storms Ciara and Dennis, I give thanks that I'm not house-proud enough to clean the moss off the roof every year as some of my neighbours do. What's the point? When the isobars are winding up to give us another thrashing, we need all the weight on the tiles we can get. Grow, moss, grow.

I wrote a few days ago about the curious thing we call coincidence. By pure chance, I heard Joaquin Phoenix's speech at the Oscars on the same day as I read a book by the veteran historian Martin Kitchen. Phoenix lumped all the world's oppressions as he sees them, from colonialism to dairy farming, into a single speech. He created the impression that drinking milk was somehow as bad as keeping slaves. His speech sounded great at the time but has been widely mocked. As I was half-listening to it on YouTube, I turned a page in Martin Kitchen's book where he describes that great orator Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) thus: “In a mellifluous Scots accent he delivered speeches of almost intoxicating effect. It was only later that his entranced audiences realised that he had said nothing at all.”

This, from the darling of the Left, Polly Toynbee on the Tory Cabinet re-shuffle: “Johnson’s choice of pipsqueaks and placemen, yes-women and yellow bellies is the most under-brained, third-rate Cabinet in living memory.” C'mon, Pol, don't sugar-coat it. Tell us what you really think.

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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