A story appeared in the Mail last week that, on the surface, reiterated the regular ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ narrative so familiar to Alan Partridge’s favourite Fleet Street rag, but contained within it a grain of what worries so many who wouldn’t ordinarily fork out for Mr Dacre’s flag-waving cancer-watch daily. It concerned a retired railway enthusiast whose voluntary duties included the twice-weekly winding-up of the iconic clock used in Noel Coward’s legendary 1945 weepie, ‘Brief Encounter’, restored to the platform of Carnforth Station in Lancashire 13 years ago. Since its restoration, a Mr Jim Walker has had the official role of keeping the clock in working order – though no longer. Mr Walker has been relieved of his duties on account of a busybody overhearing him having a private conversation.
Mr Walker is now ‘banned’ from entering certain areas of the station he has been an unpaid worker at for more than a decade because a visitor eavesdropped upon his comments during a private conversation (yes, I’ll say that once again), comments stating he regarded the migrants from Calais as unworthy of comparison with the Jewish child refugees who arrived in the UK before the Second World War. Hardly an opinion nobody else has expressed of late, but so grossly offensive that it warranted reporting, with the upshot being that the Carnforth Station Trust has now taken action.
According to a solicitor’s letter Mr Walker received, there was a ‘serious complaint’ made by a family at the station in regards to ‘loud, offensive remarks’ that consisted of ‘inflammatory and highly abusive language’; in the words of the Carnforth Station Trust, this was categorised as ‘a very serious incident which could have involved the police.’ For the third time, I’ll just remind you this was a private conversation Mr Walker was engaged in with another individual; he wasn’t adopting the guise of a town-crier on the station platform and broadcasting his own personal opinion on the subject of immigration to everyone present. Nevertheless, expressing free speech in a private conversation (one last time) is now seemingly a criminal offence, as long as there are people at whom it isn’t directed who are prepared to go crying to the authorities. UK or GDR? You decide.
I guess we all have our run-ins with those who seek to impose their self-righteousness on the rest of us; just today I returned home to discover I’d been sold the wrong brand of cigarettes on account of them all looking identical since it was decided hiding them behind a cupboard and placing photos of gammy feet on the front would dissuade smokers. I wonder why chocolate bars don’t feature images of the obese on their wrappers or alcohol doesn’t come with a photograph of a wino in the gutter stuck to the bottle? Perhaps the prohibitionist lobby isn’t quite as fanatical where other unhealthy stimulants are concerned.
Anyway, I digress; back to Mr Martin. His personal point of view on a contentious subject (if, indeed, it was as innocuous as the Mail declared), not to mention the response to it, is one that seems certain to enflame passions on both sides. The Government’s decision to reduce the number of Syrian refugee children from entering the country on one hand seems like basic meanness and a pandering to the post-Brexit consensus of the Leave camp that often appears to legitimise the worst kind of ‘England for the English’ throwback; on the other hand, the bumfluff profiles of the ‘children’ apparently benefitting from the scheme that were plastered across the likes of the Mail suggests they’re not all as cute as the little boy whose washed-up corpse provoked a swift turnaround in Murdoch and Dacre-Land a couple of years ago.
Both points of view can no longer be expressed without vociferous reactions from its opposing opinion – bleeding-heart liberal Vs xenophobic racist etc. – neither of which helps the issue when it comes to addressing it; and yet the methods by which one side enforces its opinion have become increasingly worrisome, especially in terms of free speech and fair play.
Another development which could be viewed as an extension of the busybody shit-stirrer into private discourse is the instigation of Northumberland’s horrific ‘Crime Commissioner’, the newly-ennobled Vera Baird. Bemoaning the lack of rapes reported to police, Dame Vera once proclaimed this wasn’t good enough and more or less ordered every woman to get themselves down to their nearest police station and report a sexual assault, something that sounded akin to a virtual call-to-arms to ambulance-chasing law firms and female barristers with an axe to grind where the male of the species is concerned.
Fun-loving party animal Dame Vera has now taken this tactic a step further when it comes to rape trials; at her behest, an ongoing experiment in Newcastle has seen the addition of a dozen observers to the courtroom landscape. For the past two years, a committee of professional do-gooders who seem to spend their days sitting on panels that decide the futures of people they’ll never meet (the usual Star Chamber suspects of social workers, counsellors and academics) has been present at such events and has issued recommendations to senior judges presiding over them, something that must fill the accused in the dock with confidence.
On one of my four failed driving tests in the 80s, I remember there was an observer present on the backseat, taking notes on the performance of the examiner; any minor error I made was hardly likely to be overlooked by the man testing me when he himself was being tested, so the odds were pretty much stacked against my achieving a pass. Similarly, how anyone accused of rape can expect a fair trial when confronted by a coven of self-appointed experts with an evident agenda putting pressure on the judge is questionable.
The infantilisation of women at a Rape Crisis centre in the city unfortunate enough to be under Dame Vera’s regime is emphasised by the addition of children’s toys which the female visitors are encouraged to use as an aid to ‘recovering’ the memory of dim and distant sexual encounters, part of the drive to increase rape convictions at all costs. If guilty men are finally sentenced, fair enough; but the false allegation industry doesn’t seem to care about wrongful convictions as long as the statistics look good on the spreadsheet at the end of each year.
Vera Baird and her storm-troopers are of the same mindset as whoever conspired to deprive a pensioner of his harmless hobby at Carnforth Station – acting as unofficial moral watchdogs and exploiting a climate whereby deviations from the accepted consensus are greeted with fear and hysteria. If the US Government could paint Colonel Gaddafi as the Blofeld-figure he never was, it’s hardly surprising that Jimmy Savile could be posthumously rebranded the Most Wicked Man Ever or Ordinary Joe can be hung out to dry by Nosy Parkers whose sinister mantra is seeping into everyday life with unchecked stealth and is aided by the complicity of those to whom questions are a burden. Watch what you say – you never know who might be listening.
© The Editor