Peter Rhodes on smart meter ads, hypocrisy in high places and the illusion of a non-political monarchy

I've had a smart meter for years. Yet my last three bills have been based on estimated readings: no apology, no explanation. It seems the energy companies, feverishly advertising smart meters, are promoting something as a perfect solution when it's actually unfit for purpose. Isn't there a law against that?

Perfectly punchable – the Guy Fawkes mask
Perfectly punchable – the Guy Fawkes mask

On October 8 I wrote that the greatest threat to the Conservatives was “the suspicion that while ordinary people suffer, the toffs are making a mint.” And along comes the Owen Paterson affair to remind us that some MPs make a very good living by promoting interests in Parliament. The Tories' opinion-poll lead over Labour has slumped to just one point and Boris Johnson's personal-approval rating, amid the row about free holidays, private-jet flights and sleaze, is on the skids.

In theory, there is plenty of time for Johnson to restore his popularity before the next general election, and no-one should discount Labour's astonishing ability to shoot itself repeatedly in the foot, sometimes by choosing dodgy candidates. But hypocrisy has a long, long shelf life. It lingers like a bad smell in a lift. As Joe Biden can possibly confirm.

The veteran columnist Peter Hitchins says he no longer supports the monarchy because of the Queen's blatantly political endorsement of the climate-change campaign. He claims to speak for “conservatives who believed that at the pinnacle of our state, one person stood above politics and could be respected for it. And now there is no such person.”

But did such a non-political monarch ever exist? In 1938 the Queen's father, King George VI, stood on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to applaud the Munich Agreement signed with Adolf Hitler. The King presumably believed Chamberlain's promise of “peace for our time” and was happy to give his royal endorsement. When the crowds are cheering wildly, don't be surprised to see royals elbowing in on the applause.

Maximum respect for the coppers confronting the optimistically-branded Million Mask March in London where hundreds of anarchists wore plastic Guy Fawkes masks. Eight officers were injured in the fracas but no marchers were reported hurt. Isn't this mask, with its smug and menacing anonymity and its sly tribute to the would-be mass murderer Fawkes, the most punchable face ever created? I admire the bobbies' restraint.

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