Toby Neal: Bullies should follow Sergeant Wilson's example
You ‘orrible bunch of twerps. You’re a disgrace to the King’s uniform! Get out your toothbrushes and go and clean the latrines. One speck of dirt or dust, and it’s 20 push-ups all round.
Mmm... Insults, intimidation, harassment, threats, humiliation, and petty vindictiveness. The stereotypical stuff of being a Sergeant Major in the British Army dealing with inadequate recruits.
Well, I imagine. I have no idea if they are still like that. But if so, in the wake of the Raab report it surely can’t be a sustainable way of doing military business and it can only be a matter of time before Sergeant Majors are made officially extinct or subject to re-education programmes.
The model for a model modern military will be Sergeant Wilson from Dad’s Army, with his pioneering collegiate approach, with orders couched in such terms as “Frazer, would you mind awfully...”
As for Dominic Raab, well, ear-flicking, eye-jabbing, wrist-burning, and picking on weaklings are just some of the things absent from the report, widely characterised as a “report on bullying,” compiled by Adam Tolley KC. In fact the damning b-word is never explicitly daubed on Raab’s forehead.
But such was the politically hostile environment created at Westminster, with a tidal wave of pre-judgement, that it was inevitable that virtually any negative finding against him would have made his position untenable.
And there were negative findings. Adam Tolley outlined instances in which he said Mr Raab acted in an intimidating way, humiliated people, and abused or misused power. However, because of complainer confidentiality the specifics are vague and generalised.
As we convene the court of public opinion, how can ordinary folk fairly judge these matters if we are not given the detailed evidence?
There are some political ironies. Sir Keir Starmer makes capital by laying charges against Rishi Sunak that he is a weak Prime Minister, lacks leadership, and is soft on paedophiles.
Raab, based on this report, is the very essence of firm government, a grafter, a hard taskmaster, somebody who sets high standards for himself and expects them of others, yet does not lose his temper, shout or swear.
But a bully, says Sir Keir. That’s the same Sir Keir Starmer who gave a standing ovation to former Speaker John Bercow, who was found by an independent inquiry to be a serial bully and a liar.
The smartphone alert fiasco – and I was among those who didn’t receive it – shows once again that technology often makes the simple complicated.
When I was a youngster, the peace of the day would be interrupted from time to time by the haunting wail of a siren, just like those air raid warnings in wartime. It was the klaxon alerting the part-time firefighters in the town that they had a call-out.
As far as I know it worked fine, but fell out of use, I think, when they gave the firefighters pagers.
So, instead of a smartphone text alert to disaster or crisis, a method which has been shown to be unreliable and in wartime would probably be susceptible to enemy interference or jamming, why not simply use the tried and tested method known by previous generations?
The other day something happened in my life which has never happened before.
I went to an Italian restaurant with friends. But that wasn’t it. Nobody else wanted dessert, but I fancied some, so I ordered meringa tutti frutti. That wasn’t it either.
The meringa tutti frutti which emerged was at least three times bigger than I had expected and drew gasps. Somebody else immediately ordered one.
The never-happened-to-me-before bit is what happened next. We had a table in the window and the meringa tutti frutti was so impressive that people passing by in the street literally stopped to gawp in amazement. Well, one couple did, anyway.
Best of all, it was chewy, just like the meringues my mum used to make.