Peter Rhodes on closed minds, long generations and the Vogons are coming

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

David Dimbleby – chairman-in-waiting?
David Dimbleby – chairman-in-waiting?

When families have a habit of fathering children late in life, strange things happen. The death is announced of an American lawyer and historian Lyon Gardiner Tyler, aged 95. His father, who vividly remembered the American Civil War was born in 1853 and his grandfather, who was the 10th US President John Tyler, was born in 1790.

What this means is that a man born in the year that the first American president, George Washington, delivered the first State of the Union Address, 1790, had a grandson who would live to hear America's 45th President, Donald Trump, deliver his State of the Union address in 2020. Not a bad span for three generations, eh?

David Dimbleby says he may apply to be chairman of the BBC after being “horrified” that the Right-leaning former editor of the Daily Telegraph Charles Moore was being considered (Moore has since pulled out ) . “I think you need someone with a more open mind,” declares Dimbleby. By which, of course, he means a more closed mind.

The BBC is one of those organisations, along with universities and great swathes of the public sector, that welcomes diversity in all things – except opinion. If you do not subscribe to the current Metropolitan elite mind-set on everything from sexuality to religion and migration, you need not apply. The greatest triumph of the elite has been to outlaw views they disagree with and, having closed down the debate, proclaim themselves to be open-minded.

In his brilliant sci-fi yarn, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams tells how Earth is scheduled to be demolished by a cruel race from deep space, the Vogons, to make way for a hyperspace expressway. The Vogons are astonished that nobody on Earth is aware of the project because “all the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years.” And that's about the stage we are now at with HS2.

All the details about HS2, the high-speed railway that nobody wants, have been available for inspection for ages. But hardly anybody bothered to consult them because, well, nothing terrible could possible happen, could it? And who's got time to read all those views and analysis in the newspapers? And now it comes to pass. The ancient forests are being felled, diversions are imposed and some major roads are being closed, involving long detours, for months on end. It's happening folks. We tried to tell you.

Meanwhile, the number of UK rail passengers fell between April and June this year to the lowest level for almost 200 years. Only 35 million journeys were made compared with more than 400 million in the same period last year. User levels are back to those of the mid-1800s. Has there ever been a worse time to start building a new railway? Even the Vogons would think twice.

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