Peter Rhodes on moving statues, spending public money and the right time for jabbing old folk

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Time to go, Ma'am?
Time to go, Ma'am?

The latest victims to catch Covid-19 are some enormous gorillas in a California zoo. So who's going to make them wear their masks?

Another year, another statue. The effigy of the distinguished soldier General Sir Redvers Buller on his horse in Exeter is to be moved on the grounds that he represents the British Empire, and the inscription “He Saved Natal” is inappropriate. If the general and his horse must go then so be it. But how many statues of Queen Victoria in our towns and cities bear the words “Empress of India?” How long can they survive?

Strangely, the cost of moving the Buller statue from its site outside the city's college to somewhere else in Exeter is estimated at £25,000. Just up the road at Bristol is a group of fit, young folk who would gladly shift it for nothing.

But then if the public sector excels at anything, it is paying outrageous prices. The £25,000 tag for statue removal comes in the same week that the cost of a dismally underfilled free school meal hamper was estimated at £30. More proof that there is one sort of money that's always easy to spend. Other people's money.

As the statue-toppling campaign goes on, who will make the obvious point that our historical heroes and villains were shaped, as we all are, by the culture and education they grew up in? Some of the most compassionate campaigners of the past used language and held views that we find abhorrent today. And if we tear down old statues, we must accept that the coming generations, who may regard today's fashionable attitudes as deeply unacceptable, will rip down our own 21st century statues to our own cherished heroes.

If I had to put money on the next casualty of this constant evolution of values and language, I'd choose the term “people of colour” which suddenly became acceptable without, as far as I can recall, any public consultation. Are people really happy with it?

This time last year I was delighted to negotiate a really cheap car-insurance deal. Since then, thanks to the coronavirus, I have driven less than 2,000 miles, making it a particularly expensive deal. And soon it's due for renewal. I wonder how much, in the spirit of goodwill and customer relations, they'll knock off. Only kidding.

At every stage in this pandemic the authorities have been faced with options A, B or C, chosen B and then been lambasted for not choosing A or C. Political journalism has never been easier. Today, ministers are damned for not providing vaccinations 24 hours a day for over-80s. But if they'd opted for 24/7, the over-80s would have stayed away in droves and the critics would have howled about empty surgeries and nurses twiddling their thumbs at 3am. In winter, the average over-80's active day begins when the bus pass becomes valid at 10am and ends with Pointless. That's the time to grab 'em and jab 'em.

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