Rhodes on plastic peril and the shame of Telford

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Time for a name change?
Time for a name change?

No surprises in this week's Greenpeace report showing that UK households throw away nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year. But don't blame the households. By now, if the promises of the 1990s had been kept, manufacturers would have abandoned plastic packaging for biodegradable alternatives. Yet every year more and more of the things we buy come in plastic.

Packing things in plastic is not only madness, it's also feeding organised crime. This week we learn that thousands of tons of plastic, diligently sorted for recycling by responsible British families, ends up dumped or burned in Turkey. With our wheelie bins and boxes we think we're doing our bit to save the planet but instead of solving a problem we're simply exporting it - and putting money in the hands of crooks.

Welcome to Telford, twinned with Rotherham, Lambeth, Rochdale, and all the other places where children have been sexually abused on an industrial scale, and their cries for help were ignored.

Ever since the new town's name was adopted in 1968, people saw the signs to “Telford” and were reminded of Thomas Telford, the great engineer and a Briton to be proud of. Not any more. Telford has become a shame-name. From this week, when the scale and wickedness of the Telford scandal was made public, that name will be inextricably linked with depravity and suffering. Residents will think twice before saying: “I live in Telford.”

You think it's unfair to besmirch a whole town? So do I. Of course it's unfair. But it's also a fact that some place names make us shudder years after an infamous event has taken place: Dunblane, Lockerbie, Hungerford, Enniskillen. So it will be with Telford, a decent town sullied by the evil of a few bad men and the complacency of those who were supposed to protect children and failed. If Telford were a business, it would today be seriously considering a name change.

I'd be bonkers to try to predict the result of the Tory leadership campaign. However, here is one cast-iron forecast to cut out and keep. Whoever wins the next general election will, after a few honeymoon years, become the most hated person in Britain. Happens every time.

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