Rhodes on a BBC star, England without Wales and Covid-19 – it's still stalking us

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Chris Mason – a masterclass
Chris Mason – a masterclass

A moment of appreciation for the Beeb's new politics editor, 42-year-old Chris Mason. He has navigated us through the Pinchergate saga and the downfall of Boris. His delivery has been lively without hysteria, and informative without preaching. A masterclass.

A survey reveals that Wolverhampton University has the smallest mental health budget of any uni in the UK. This may be a terrible scandal. Or it may reflect the fact, shown by the same survey, that Wolverhampton University is rated excellent for engagement and good for student satisfaction. If you're engaged and satisfied, why would you need a therapist?

As fighting rages in Ukraine, the new head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, says his troops must prepare “to fight in Europe once again”. Well, of course they must. Just as they prepared from the 1940s into the 2010s when the British Army of the Rhine stood, up to 80,000 strong, to defend Germany from any Soviet attack. Generations of Tommies dug trenches into the rich, and sometimes frozen, German soil and prepared for war across the dank, misty wastes of the North German Plain.

In 1990 I met a young British soldier in Bahrain. He'd been in the army for 10 years and, although he trained endlessly to fight in Europe, the wars he actually fought in were an amphibious operation in the south Atlantic (the Falklands) and a full-scale armoured attack in the Middle East (the First Gulf War). Moral: The war you get is not always the one you expect.

Covid has not gone away. Five of my friends have had it in the past few days, one couple suffering what they describe as “worse than the worst flu”. Feeling personally hunted by this virus, I turned to the NHS online maps showing how it is spreading.

And there I found a map I'd never seen before. It shows Scotland still attached to England but Wales entirely missing. It provides much food for thought. For if Wales were suddenly to vanish (unlikely, I grant you), England would gain hundreds of miles of seaside from Cheshire in the north through Shropshire, Hereford and Gloucestershire in the south. We'd probably have the best surfing beaches in Europe. Mind you, we'd miss Tenby.

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