Barely had the bulk of the damaged vessel disappeared beneath the waterline last night before several rodents could be sighted frantically swimming away from the wreck. Amber Rudd is stepping down as an MP; Heidi Allen is stepping down as an MP. In other words, ideological allies once tipped as ones-to-watch are joining the likes of kindred spirit Justine Greening by jumping before being pushed by their constituents. The former Home Secretary scraped through by the skin of her teeth in 2017 and the current Lib Dem has changed sides twice since then; both are smart enough to recognise what comes next, but even now they won’t come clean; already, the volatile climate for honourable members is being blamed, particularly by Allen.

Yes, I’ve no doubt MPs are today exposed to a greater volume of abuse than their predecessors, but I think that’s due to two factors in 2019 – a) There are now more platforms for hurling abuse than there used to be; and b) The targets of the abuse were elected two years ago on the basis they would implement a democratic mandate the electorate gave them, and have subsequently shown nothing but absolute contempt for that mandate by attempting to thwart it. MPs can’t behave this way and expect no comeback; they are as responsible as anyone for the toxic atmosphere surrounding politics in this country, and it’s no wonder frustration has understandably overcome some more inarticulate members of the electorate as they’ve been locked out of the process. There’s no longer an excuse for abuse now, however, because the opportunity to participate has been belatedly restored and the electorate can make its point at the ballot-box – which is why the likes of Amber Rudd and Heidi Allen have bottled it and buggered off. And any MP with anything about them should have an inkling of wind direction at the moment.

The electorate has been handed a broom and confronted by a dilapidated barn plastered in farmyard faeces. It’s one hell of a clean-up operation, but those entrusted with the task can’t complain after months of hanging around waiting for permission to get on with it. The war that some in media circles excitedly anticipate once the campaign kicks-off may well fail to materialise; the majority of the anger that has permeated politics since the last General Election now has its only legitimate outlet available again, so bar the odd egg-throwing incident on the hustings, chances are it might not be as heated as many predict. The absence of an outlet has been part of the problem. With any luck, the shouting man whose vocal interjections have become the tone-deaf soundtrack to news broadcasts from outside Parliament might even take a breather; moreover, maybe MPs will show some respect for the deceased at last and stop evoking the ghost of Jo Cox whenever they provoke a nasty tweet.

Of course, many voters are being denied the opportunity to dish out some deserved democratic punishment due to the fact that numerous high-profile MPs are voluntarily heading for the same exit door as Amber Rudd, Heidi Allen and Justine Greening. Leaving the stage perhaps prematurely are the likes of Rory Stewart, Jo Johnson, and Owen Smith; we also wave farewell to a handful of notable veterans such as Kate Hoey, Vince Cable, Michael Fallon, Oliver Letwin, Nicholas Soames and Father of the House Ken Clarke; and, lest we forget, His Royal Lowness John Bercow is also leaving the stage. At least a few of those who’ve chosen to stick it out and take their chances with the electorate should provide us with some ‘Portillo Moments’ on Election Night, though interestingly, the man who handed the former Defence Secretary a batch of train tickets to keep him busy for the next 20 years – Labour’s Stephen Twigg – is also bailing out this time round.

Nobody but an absolute bloody idiot would attempt to forecast the result of this General Election, though I suppose it’s possible to speculate on some potential outcomes without the need for frying a few eggs in the event of cocking it up. 2017 was characterised by tales of the unexpected, after all. Few predicted the Tories would reverse their dwindling fortunes North of the Border, though it’s hard to see those remarkable gains being upheld now the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party can no longer rely on the inspirational leadership of Ruth Davidson; Theresa May certainly owed Davidson quite a debt last time round, and had the then-PM proven herself to be half as capable of galvanising support as her Celtic counterpart perhaps she’d still be in Downing Street today.

In 2017, the Lib Dems made a tentative recovery from the annihilation of 2015, and dispensing with Old Mother Cable in favour of a far younger model has seen some clever realigning on the part of the party. Its key role in Operation Austerity has become akin to the Lib Dem’s equivalent of post-war German evasion of the Swastika-clad elephant in the room; but by targeting the young Jezza groupies disillusioned with Labour’s incoherent Brexit stance, the Lib Dems are hoping 2010 is too distant a memory to get in the way of 2019. Despite Jo Swinson’s characteristic overconfidence, however, one wonders how many of the defectors from other parties that have served to swell Lib Dem ranks these past few months will still be in the Commons come 13 December. I can’t be alone in hoping Mr Umunna gets his chance to play Portillo.

I suspect many a decent and diligent constituency MP will bite the bullet simply because their constituents either oppose the Brexit position of the party the sitting member represents or – just as likely – cannot abide the party leader; and let’s face it, it’s hard to think of two more polarising party leaders than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Both are confronted with a tricky course to steer through traditional party loyalties and Leave/Remain divisions that threaten to throw those traditional party loyalties out the window – though Labour’s task is arguably the hardest; the Brexit Party will probably present the Tories with the only real challenge in Leave constituencies, whereas Labour’s apparent indifference to their own Leavers could postpone the New Socialist Revolution yet again.

If the number of times the nation goes to the polls in a decade can be used as a pointer to the veritable stability of the nation, it’s worth noting this is the first decade since the 1970s that we’ve had as many as four General Elections in ten years. There were just two each in the 60s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. In the 70s, three were condensed into just under four and-a-half years, followed by a further gap of four and-a-half years before the last one; this decade saw five years between the first and second, yet now we’re poised to experience our third General Election in not much more than four years. Draw your own conclusions from that, though the stability of the nation hardly needs spelling out. There is, however, a nice irony to the fact that the last day this incomparably useless Parliament will sit happens to be 5 November. It’s a quote I’ve used before, but it’s always worth remembering that Guy Fawkes was once referred to as ‘The last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions’…

© The Editor


There are some things in life with an eternal longevity that serves as an inexplicably curious comfort; we may not devote much attention to them, but it’s still a source of satisfaction knowing they’re there. The Shipping Forecast, for example – or Ken Bruce. Then there are others that appear in annoying possession of an undeserved immortality that outlasts any relevance they once had. ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ was one of those for what felt like centuries before receiving a belated mercy killing; yet we’ve still got ‘Later with Jools Holland’. And added to that listless list could be this current Parliament, which seems set to go on and on and on until every member of the electorate over 40 is pushing up the daisies. By then, the young – all of whom are unquestionably of a Remainer persuasion, of course – will have inherited the ballot-box and it should be safe to hold a General Election again without fear the result of the 2016 Referendum will be honoured or that we will actually leave the EU.

Social media is today awash with reminders of how Boris Johnson once declared something or other and has now outrageously gone back on his word – as though reciting the PM’s catalogue of U-turns proves without doubt that he’s not a man to be trusted. In most cases, his record both in and out of politics shows, yes, he probably isn’t a man to be trusted; but when it comes to Brexit, he hasn’t really been left with any option but to reverse every public pronouncement on the subject courtesy of a Commons that clearly takes perverse delight in thwarting him seemingly just because he’s Boris. But whilst MPs of all opposition parties – not to mention many in Boris’s own – are having fun playing parliamentary parlour games, the rest of us are watching on with weary exasperation, thoroughly sick and tired of the entire repulsive circus.

Given what we have seen this year, did anyone really believe the Halloween deadline day would be adhered to? I’ve already lost track of how many deadline days we’ve bypassed in 2019, so the news that the EU has granted yet another extension against Boris’s declared wishes hardly warrants the Prime Minister being regarded as the reincarnation of Richard Nixon. Even if his own incompetence undoubtedly played a part, the fact is that yet again he was confronted by a brick wall of Remainers whose self-serving obstinacy is having the counter-productive effect of making the PM a sympathetic figure; rightly or wrongly, and whatever the true motivation of his actions, to the public it appears he’s the one person trying to implement what a majority of the electorate voted for over three years ago. In their eyes, he is not the one to blame for the latest in a long, long line of delays; we all know who is, and the guilty parties know we know – which is why they won’t give us the chance to vote them out of office.

Oh, sorry! I forgot. The Lib Dems and SNP have now colluded to dangle a carrot that may at least present the Government with the opportunity to override the support of the Labour Party that the wretched Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires. And amen to that. For all there is to admire in some of Labour’s proposals when it comes to those areas of social policy the Tories have shamefully disregarded over the past decade, it is Labour’s deluded stance on Brexit that will probably cost them dear at the nation’s polling stations. Throwing in its lot with the cosseted concerns of the metropolitan Parliamentary Labour Party is a catastrophic misjudgement of the opinions of all the lifelong Labour voters a long way from London – the disillusioned diehard that has no more in common with the champagne socialism of Starmer, Watson and Thornberry than it does with Oliver bloody Letwin.

Labour’s pitiful position in the polls after probably the most disastrous couple of years for the Conservative Party since the mid-1990s speaks volumes as to its prospects on the hustings to come – and delaying a General Election is as much a tactic of self-preservation for Labour as kicking Brexit into the endless long grass is for the Liberal Democrats. If Boris Johnson has a habit of shooting himself in the foot whenever his fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better, Jeremy Corbyn has been equally accident-prone; the anti-Semitism issue has been swept under the carpet time and time again, yet it keeps coming back to further tarnish the Momentum bandwagon.

The remarkably close-run thing of 2017 is currently being exhumed by media Labour luvvies as an example of how the polls shouldn’t be relied upon as a pointer to the party’s performance. But Jezza was an unknown quantity to the electorate two years ago, when we were approaching a full decade since the financial crash and people were wearying of Austerity; his voice doesn’t sound quite so fresh now. Neil Kinnock’s failure in 1992 has often been put down to the fact he’d been Leader of the Opposition for too long – nine years at that time; Corbyn has held the same post for four, but it already seems so much longer.

The fanaticism of the Corbyn cult that characterised the 2017 General Election campaign has dwindled back to the hardcore now – as was inevitable with Corbyn not being crowned PM, despite his undeniably impressive, against-all-odds effort. Whipping-up the giddy enthusiasm of first-time voters by selling Jezza as a rock star was a policy destined to meet the same fate that befalls many a rock star whose zillion-selling debut album floods the charity shops when fashion moves on; the ‘difficult second album’ is not exactly eagerly-anticipated by the wider public. Indeed, for all its romanticising by the faithful, 2017 could actually be viewed in the same despondent light as the missed opportunity of 1992. Had Labour managed to win an outright majority and ousted Theresa May before her own party beat them to it, we wouldn’t have had a Hung Parliament, and therefore wouldn’t be trapped in this bloody Groundhog deadlock.

At least, for all their dominance in media circles, the People’s Vote mafia will invariably be split come Election Day, and this may well be their merciful undoing. A General Election should be fought on more than a single issue, but this one is bound to be even more Brexit-themed than the last; and that is not the fault of the electorate, but our elected representatives. The Second Referendum brigade are all-too aware that the problem when Parliament is overwhelmingly in synch with Remainer sensibilities is that voters are left with a dangerous variety of multiple choices – thus a ‘People’s Vote’ is the preferred option; that way, parties don’t come into it and they can all unite under the EU flag. With a General Election, however, the voters can only pick one pro-Remain faction, knowing another faction will suffer as a consequence – and there are so many to choose from! Leavers, on the other hand, largely only have the Tories or the Brexit Party – which is a profoundly depressing choice in itself; but such is life when you’re dead in a ditch.

© The Editor


It’s not often a present-day news story has echoes of a fifty-year-old TV drama series, but the gruesome discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated lorry in Essex this week has weirdly done just that. Thanks to the international publicity afforded this ghastly smuggling operation gone horribly wrong, it would now appear the victims emanated from Vietnam, rather than China (as was initially announced by police). I’m reluctant to invoke the spirit of Prince Philip and his neat summary of ‘Orientals’, but surely Old Bill jumping to conclusions based on clumsy racial profiling should have been kept private before a clearer picture emerged. Half-a-century ago, in an episode of ‘Softly Softly: Taskforce’, it was the Indian Subcontinent that provided the illegal immigrants whose bodies were uncovered in the gas tank of a docked vessel – though Barlow & Watt interestingly didn’t publicly speculate on the country of origin where their victims were concerned.

Those who regard ruthlessly-organised illegal immigration as a recent innovation might be surprised to learn that people-smuggling was a stand-by storyline of several vintage TV mainstays such as ‘Special Branch’, ‘Budgie’ and even ‘Dixon of Dock Green’; but for some reason it was the full colour turn-of-the-70s successor to the monochrome 60s ‘Z-Cars’ spin-off, ‘Softly Softly’, that sprang to mind when news broke of the latest tragedy to befall the most vulnerable of contemporary cargos. This BBC series, running from 1969 to 1976, saw the aforementioned CID double act that began in Newtown relocated to Thamesford, a Home Counties conurbation in which urban and coastal districts merged together, enabling the region’s constabulary (and the scriptwriters) to cover a wide range of scenery from mean street to bleak beach – scenery the familiar rep company of character actors making up the cast numbers in most UK TV dramas of the era could easily slot into.

The location was an ideal setting for the Thamesford Taskforce, a fictionalised portrayal of the period in which regional crime-squads pooled their resources and answered to a higher power that was entrusted with overall responsibility for law and order across a coalition of counties. Upon its formation, this particular Taskforce required the kind of heavyweight reputations amongst its senior personnel that would justify its existence. Foremost amongst these recruits was the fearsome Detective Chief Superintendent Charles Barlow, memorably played by Stratford Johns.

Barlow was a bull in humanoid form, a balding Minotaur that provoked panic in all proprietors of china shops within a two-mile radius when roused. Yet he was ‘hard, but fair’ – a description Ronnie Barker’s Norman Stanley Fletcher would later use in relation to Don Revie’s Leeds United team; both are applicable and very much of their time, the same time. Johns inhabited the larger-than-life character for 14 years, and though a notable lack of repeat screenings has prevented successive generations from forming the same appreciation of him as those who watched back in the day, Barlow remains one of the outstanding television creations of an era abundant in them.

Barlow’s was the first generation to miss out on the War, and one often gets the impression this was a grievance it then took out on the generation behind it, that misfire with the long greasy hair in its eyes and sneering disregard for the full range of Burtons’ brown ensembles. They never had to suffer all those dismal National Service drills in provincial backwaters, playing at being soldiers and having nothing to show for it in the shape of medals, maimed limbs, heroic anecdotes or stolen cigarette cases emblazoned with Swastikas. The weight of the chip on those shoulders was crippling. Maybe it would explain the ease with which Barlow barked and bit at the slightest indication of provocation.

If DCS Barlow was the bad cop, Detective Superintendent John Watt was the good one. Second-in-command since 60s Merseyside days, Watt had been by Barlow’s side through thick and thin. Played by Frank Windsor, Watt was gruff in a blunt Northern fashion, but approachable and diplomatic – the McCartney to Barlow’s Lennon. Notable other members of the Taskforce squad included PC Snow, played by the excellent Terence Rigby; the Brummie dog-handler formed a telepathic synergy with his canine partners which was given a heartbreaking jolt when his first sidekick Inky was shot dead during a siege; successor Radar was a bright Alsatian whose initial lack of experience was soon overcome via several acts of heroism. Less dog-friendly was Sgt Evans (David Lloyd Meredith), the rotund ginger Welshman prone to reciting Bible passages absorbed during many a Sunday spent killing time in the Valleys by attending chapel shindigs.

DI Harry Hawkins (played by future ‘Emmerdale’ star Norman Bowler) was the beefcake of the team, the kind of man who probably wore Tabac; not exactly what the next century would label Metrosexual – he was still too stridently masculine for that – Hawkins was nevertheless unashamedly well-groomed in a new way, certainly by the stiffer, starched standards of Barlow and Watt. There was also a token girl, DC Donald (Susan Tebbs), regularly referred to as ‘pretty’ by the older men surrounding her (in whom she brought out an overprotective paternalism); but it’s worth remembering that female officers comprised a separate unit ala the dog division at this time, rather than being ranked on the same level as male colleagues, so it’s no wonder the likes of DC Donald were special cases. There were, however, no ‘people of colour’ in the Taskforce – something the diversity-conscious BBC of 2019 certainly wouldn’t tolerate.

This engaging ensemble cast shared Shepherd’s Bush nick with the ongoing crime stories of Dock Green and Newtown at a time when the BBC evidently regarded the police station, rather than the hospital, as the prime setting for primetime TV drama. In that soothing seven-year window in which this popular trio of strong and solid cop soaps served as the antidote to ITV’s raw alternatives such as ‘Special Branch’ and ‘The Sweeney’, the line between crime and crime-fighter was unmistakable; there were no rotten apples in the Taskforce barrel, and the villains were villains – moustachioed, necker-chiefed, working-class, and not too nasty for pre-watershed sensibilities; even the skinheads and football hooligans weren’t all bad. None carried a swag-bag, but nobody would have been too surprised if they had.

The Thamesford Taskforce was neither the uniformed branch of the social services nor the paramilitary wing of Political Correctness. It was a proper police force, just as the criminals were proper criminals; television may have been transforming into colour, but morality (like certainties) remained black & white. We wanted them on our side when we were in trouble, and we knew we could trust them to defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer. Mr Barlow wouldn’t let us down, even if the real-life contemporaries who valued his interpretation of their profession were too embroiled in corruption scandals to emulate his simple principles. Perhaps, as with the persistence of people-smugglers, this merely shows we haven’t actually moved on much in fifty years after all.

© The Editor


Certain phrases that shouldn’t be taken literally nonetheless have a habit of painting vividly silly and very literate pictures in my strange head. Mention a customs border in the middle of the Irish Sea and I immediately see a sad, lonely little Jobsworth with a clipboard standing on a floating Checkpoint Charlie midway between Liverpool and Belfast; I then see goods being dragged onto said edifice by teams of burly individuals as though it were a swimming pool-based prop on some insane Brexit-themed edition of ‘It’s A Knockout’. Actually, more ‘Jeux Sans Frontières’, thinking about it. But I digress before I begin. Naturally, DUP opposition to Boris’s deal brought me here.

It goes without saying that the Democratic Unionist Party has been punching way above its weight for the past couple of years. The dominant force in Ulster Unionism, which was elevated to a position of unprecedented prominence at Westminster in order for Theresa May to shamelessly make up the Tory numbers in 2017, played a key, calamitous role in events leading up to the suspension of regular Stormont business almost three years ago; but Mrs May’s magic money tree rescued Arlene Foster and her henchmen from the fallout over the Renewable Heat Incentive affair and gave them disproportionate clout at the Commons whilst the party’s rightful home of the Northern Ireland Assembly remained mothballed.

The DUP’s main objection to the current PM’s solution to the backstop problem seems to be based upon the drawing of a distinct line between the mainland and Northern Ireland where Brexit is concerned. The DUP doesn’t want the special concessions that keep Ulster’s ties to the EU far tighter than the rest of the UK’s will be; DUP thinking is that the nation’s future relationship with the EU should be the same across the whole of the United Kingdom, as though the overemphasis on ‘Britishness’ that is a traditional hallmark of Unionism implies there has never been any divergence between Northern Ireland and the other three constituent countries of the UK – and any sign of one now is somehow selling-out to Nationalists or, even worse, the dreaded Dublin.

Which is, of course, bollocks. Ulster Unionism has always been quick to raise the Union Jack, but it’s a pick ‘n’ mix patriotism in which Northern Ireland gets to choose which bits of Britain it fancies and disregards all the bits it doesn’t. The liberal removal of many illiberal, archaic British laws that began during Roy Jenkins’s social reforming tenure as Home Secretary in the 1960s never crossed the Irish Sea at all; even when the old Northern Ireland Parliament was abolished in 1972 and the province was governed from London for the next quarter-of-a century, there was little social reforming in Ulster. Mind you, it could be said there were perhaps more pressing issues there at the time.

Social (and what is no doubt regarded as moral) conservatism has typified Protestant Northern Ireland and its political face for decades; at one time, such an approach was also regarded as being characteristic of Catholic Northern Ireland – just as it was of Catholic Eire. Listening to a radio adaptation of Edna O’Brien’s ‘Country Girls Trilogy’ the other day reminded me of how young women in particular – especially those from rural Ireland – were utterly infantilised by the considerable, corrosive power once wielded throughout the Catholic community by the Church of Rome. However, the irreparable damage done by the child abuse scandals, which have undoubtedly contributed towards the church’s waning influence, could well have played a part in creating the kind of climate conducive to the radical reforms that have taken place in the Republic recently.

In the public perception, these social liberalisations have tended to make the Republic resemble a vivacious party animal who happens to live next door to a curmudgeonly middle-aged man forever complaining about the noise. They have made Northern Ireland look as much of an anachronism to Dublin as it is to London, yet with Stormont in a state of suspended animation ever since the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister in January 2017, members of the Assembly (who continue to draw their salaries, by the way) haven’t exactly been in a position to address such issues.

Ironically, their absence from Stormont and the return of effective direct rule from Westminster has enabled certain policies to be imposed on Ulster that, had the DUP been more active on home soil, would probably have struggled to get a foot in the door. And the one Great British social reform of 1967 that even the Republic has now adopted was the one whose glaring omission from the Northern Ireland statute book made a mockery of Unionist objections to any Brexit deal making a clear distinction between Ulster and the mainland. Indeed, that very omission showed there have always been very clear distinctions. However, as of midnight last night, abortion is no longer a criminal offence in Northern Ireland.

As Suzanne Breen from the Belfast Telegraph pointed out on ‘Newsnight’ yesterday, the hypothetical (albeit plausible) scenario in which a rape victim risked receiving a longer prison sentence than her rapist should she terminate an unwanted pregnancy provoked by the rape has now been belatedly consigned to history, along with the Victorian legislation that has kept Northern Ireland out of step with the mainland for 52 years. The fact that the DUP were strong enough in their opposition to go so far as to recall the power-sharing Executive said a great deal about the party’s priorities; the less headline-grabbing, albeit important, issues affecting the Northern Ireland electorate were not deemed significant enough to warrant reconvening at Stormont, yet offer women the same ownership of their bodies as they have in England, Scotland and Wales, never mind the Republic, and the DUP are there.

Mercifully, they left it too late. Their failure to stem the march of progress also merely highlighted how detached they are from wider public opinion beyond the hardcore Unionist enclaves; temporarily resuming business at Stormont to debate a single issue ended in farce with petulant walkouts that emptied the chamber. The fact that Ulster will also be brought into line with the rest of the UK (and the rest of Ireland) on the legal standing of same-sex marriage must have been an additional kick in the teeth for the DUP. For some reason, I can’t help but remember Mo Mowlam’s recollection of Ian Paisley’s fire-and-brimstone reaction to the news that Elton John had been invited to play at the ceremony marking the founding of the Northern Ireland Assembly – ‘Sodomites at Stormont!’ All that remains for the DUP now is to lick their wounds and return to Westminster, where – unlike at Stormont – the party’s appetite for destruction at least has numerous sympathetic allies.

© The Editor


Recent late-night drama at the Commons may have made for compelling entertainment in its combination of contemporary political jousting and bafflingly archaic ceremony; but such events are relatively rare there, as is the high level of attendance seen when these occasions come around. The day-to-day routine at Westminster seems closer to those somewhat disorientating debates we’ve all caught live on BBC Parliament, when the significance of the subject under discussion is downgraded by the empty seats and an anonymous MP droning on whilst an undercurrent of chatter distracts the viewer – not to mention the sight of other MPs wandering in and out as though they’re looking for the loos. The hours might be flexible, but Parliament largely operates as a Monday-Friday enterprise.

The prospect of an exceedingly unusual Saturday sitting coming up has inevitably exhumed the ghosts of past weekends in the debating chamber. Most of these took place on the eve of (or during) landmark moments in the Great British history book – the Falklands, Suez, and World War II; according to one account I read, the future President Kennedy was present in the gallery at the 1939 debate, though JFK’s father was, of course, US Ambassador to the UK at the time. The fact that Brexit will now take its place alongside events that both made and shamed us is perhaps a measure of just how defining the era we’re currently living through may prove to be; but MPs being recalled to the workplace outside of standard working hours also shines a light on the curious anomaly that is a Saturday.

Doing what I do, where I’m not constrained by the rigidity of the set working week and all its attendant weekend rituals, it’s odd that Saturday still feels…dare I say it…special. I suppose, like so much in life, the associations formed in formative years are hard to shake. If one was not especially enamoured with school, Friday home-time was the polar opposite of Monday morning, a brief window of release in which one received a 48-hour pass to a parallel universe where the children’s schedule was not governed by an educational timetable. Friday night often saw bedtime pushed back a little, and then there was the prospect of a lie-in till at least 9.30.

The arrival of ‘The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ on BBC1 in the autumn of 1976 was quite a game-changer for my generation; whilst the notion of three hours’ live TV anchored by Noel Edmonds might not necessarily be something I’d stumble out of bed for in 2019, it certainly did the trick for nine-year-old me. I remember Saturday morning TV pre-‘Swap Shop’ being an uneven, pre-recorded mix of cartoons, silent comedies and earnest ‘how to play badminton’-type instructional shows; by contrast, the fact the BBC was then prepared to invest in a programme as ambitiously innovative as ‘Swap Shop’ made it feel as though the younger viewer mattered as much as the dads and their ‘Grandstand’/’World of Sport’ marathons. There was a proliferation of pop promos, for one thing; I was introduced to both Blondie and Kate Bush due to ‘Swap Shop’ airing the videos for their debut hits before even TOTP got them; but it was the novel interactive element that really made the programme something new.

From the warmth of TV Centre, Noel would link to Keith ‘Cheggers’ Chegwin, usually freezing his balls off in some unseasonal coastal resort, yet nevertheless engulfed by a swarm of kids eager to brave the elements just to get their faces on camera and engage in a communal swap; but the greatest appeal was back in the studio, when pop stars and assorted 70s celebrities would actually speak to viewers lucky enough to get through on chic Trimphones. Today, whenever I dispatch an item to a fresh address via Amazon and I can’t complete the order without providing a phone-number for the delivery man (one I often don’t possess), I always give 01 8118055, the old ‘Swap Shop’ number everyone of a certain age remembers. I sometimes wonder if said delivery man ever rings it and Noel Edmonds answers at the other end – ‘Hello, you’re through to Suzi Quatro. What would you like to ask her?’

At the end of the 70s, ATV’s long-running regional rival, ‘Tiswas’, received a belated network promotion and provided Saturday mornings with a more anarchic flavour; legend has it there was a Beatles Vs Stones-like loyalty demanded of the viewer when it came to choosing between Posh Paws and Spit the Dog, but I suspect most (like me) would constantly change channels for the two hours the two shows went head-to-head. It also goes without saying that the luxury of lounging around in pyjamas watching Showaddywaddy being plastered in custard pies was dependent upon whether or not one’s mother was intent on dragging her children around the shops.

My abject boredom with C&A, M&S and all the rest could be pacified by reading material in the shape of a comic or – on special occasions – a paperback from the extensive library then available in Boots. What I obviously didn’t appreciate then was that Saturday was also a parental release from 9-to-5; my mother’s escape was to do the city centre rounds, whereas my father would either go watch a football match or play in one. The industry of leisure can characterise a Saturday; whatever one’s idea of leisure happens to be, a Saturday can cater for it. The jaunty theme tune of ‘Sports Report’ and the melodic recital of the football results by James Alexander Gordon was an occasion unique to a Saturday, as was the fact that thousands of hardcore punters up and down the country made the pilgrimage to windswept terraces to watch their local teams kick-off simultaneously at 3.00. If they were lucky, they might get to relive the spectacle on ‘Match of the Day’ later that evening.

Naturally, time moved on along with Brucie and Parky, and the Saturdays of 70s children became defined by Techno rather than the Tardis. Many a dazed clubber can recall 90s Saturday nights ending sometime on Sunday morning, where a stint on ‘Bamboozle’ would be followed by crashing-out and waking-up to a half-eaten pizza and the suddenly-perfectly logical world of the Teletubbies. Or was that just people I used to know? Anyway, I’m aware (courtesy of my student neighbours) that this ritual survives albeit in a slightly modified fashion – proof that Saturday maintains its distinctive identity whilst surrounded by increasingly indistinguishable weekdays; and that cannot be a bad thing.

A Commons sitting on a Saturday is therefore a somewhat incongruous scenario, but we live in strange times. Boris is trumpeting his Brexit deal when it could well boast all the failings of his predecessor’s by keeping us tied to some of the more contentious aspects of EU membership, yet leaving us without a voice in Brussels; and, of course, Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP will all vote against it because ‘crashing out’ with No Deal and blaming everything on the Tories is better for their election prospects. And then there’s those beacons of eternal sunshine, the DUP. Saturday will probably end up being a bit of a damp squib in Westminster, but for many other people around the country the workplace won’t impinge on it at all. And for a country with some of the longest working hours in Europe, maybe that’s what makes Saturday special.

© The Editor


I’ve seen so many over the years, so forgive me if I cite the wrong one as an example; but I think it was a programme broadcast in 1990, marking the 21st anniversary of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, in which Eric Idle was asked what his plans for the future were; he replied that he was looking forward to marking all the Python anniversaries in the years to come. Tongue may well have been in cheek, but he had a point; there seems to have been a retrospective Python TV documentary every ten years ever since, though it was telling that this time round – when we reached the half-century – BBC2 chose to mark the occasion with a glut of repeats produced for previous Python anniversaries. Very confusing as a viewer in 2019, but I guess there’s only so much more that can be added to what’s been said before; and the individual Pythons have probably reached that age where they say the same thing more than once in the space of fifteen minutes, anyway.

When it comes to marking anniversaries of cultural events, I know I’m as guilty as yer average issue of ‘Mojo’; but I’m hardly unique these days. There was a R4 doc on the subject just last Saturday, and the growing appeal of anniversaries could be that they act as a refreshing and welcome breather from such a notoriously unstable present day. There’s certainly a steady supply of them as well; as soon as one’s been commemorated, another one quickly comes along. Indeed, the nostalgia bus service that is the anniversary industry appears to be travelling on an increasingly congested route. Today’s calendar is cluttered with anniversaries marking national and international events or the birth/death of significant cultural figures; and there seems to be an upsurge in official anniversaries of the safely-unalterable past whenever the contemporary feels so unnervingly unpredictable.

Anniversaries have a nice dependability to them that means each individual occasion can be celebrated once a decade without fail, even though there is a downside. Time has a canny habit of moving the goalposts of perception (no, ‘The Goalposts of Perception’ wasn’t the little-known sequel to Huxley’s lysergic manual); and every time a particular anniversary comes around, the goalposts have shifted again. We might look forward to marking an event we’ve marked before, but when what we got used to as ‘forty years since’ is eventually rebranded as ‘fifty years since’, it merely serves to remind us we’re all ten years older than we were the last time we marked it.

Just as each day takes us one step nearer to meeting our maker, it also takes us one step further from all that we choose to remember; the past is no more a fixed point than the present; it moves backwards at the same steady speed as we move forwards, and we cannot halt that progress. Maybe marking an anniversary is a subconscious attempt to briefly reverse the journey in both directions and bring a cherished moment close again. And if the event being marked was a cherished moment rather than some awful tragedy ala 9/11 or 7/7, the sentiment is perfectly understandable.

It’s possible to claim an anniversary doesn’t really gain gravitas and properly qualify for the honour until we reach a nice round number like 10; but I’d argue the first anniversary is as significant as the tens, twenties, twenty-fives et al, for the first lays the foundations for all the anniversaries to follow. And if the event being marked is a death, one whole year is the point whereby the late, lamented person suddenly ceases to inhabit a present tense within reach and is absorbed into the lineage of history – or that’s how it often feels. Once we bypass that twelve month signpost, we may as well henceforth be talking about the Georgians or the Victorians; that’s the kind of company the person in question now keeps. They have permanently slipped from our contemporary grasp. Also, when years supersede months as the method of measurement dividing now from then, the gap between the subsequent anniversaries seems to diminish with each one; we mark five years, and then it’s ten before we know it, then twenty…and on and on it goes, carrying us further from the event with ever-accelerating speed. A trick time plays on us, of course; but a potent one.

The disappearance of the frail WWI soldiers in their wheelchairs, who had become such a familiar poignant sight on one day of the year, is a reminder that some anniversaries can only retain their real relevance whilst the events they commemorate remain within living memory. When this ceases to be the case, the nature of their marking changes and arguably loses the personal touch that kept them prescient and genuinely moving. The Duke of Wellington used to mark the Battle of Waterloo by sharing a celebratory dinner with fellow veterans for a good 30 years after departing the battlefield, but the last time the end of the Napoleonic Wars was marked – the 2015 bicentenary – it was a very different kind of occasion. After all, Wellington died in 1852, and the last survivor of Waterloo passed away in 1898.

Yes, the public anniversary can be simultaneously personal if some of those present were also there when the event being marked actually occurred; but when there are none left, it transforms into something more choreographed, something in which an emotional response feels closer to an enforced duty, as though adhering to rules laid out by some sort of ‘grief committee’. It’s hard for those of us raised in a pre-Diana era to cry on cue, however, and whilst the public anniversary can be very seductive if one’s buttons are easily pressed by grand ceremony, in most cases it pales next to the exclusively personal anniversary – and the exclusively personal anniversary is often the only one we really make an effort to observe.

For many, the exclusively personal are the anniversaries we do remember and try to mark in a memorable manner. We respectfully tip our hat to the official public anniversary in which we have no intimate investment; but when it comes to our own lives, we all have our own little occasions to mark in our own special way that means nothing to anyone other than the parties involved. It would indeed be a bit weird, say, if the wedding anniversary of a non-famous couple was commemorated with a parade down Whitehall, a flypast from the Red Arrows, and live TV coverage with accompanying reverential commentary by Huw Edwards. I’ve a feeling I’d still tune-in, though.

Like their public counterparts, these ‘private anniversaries’ can also be imbued with as much sadness as joy; they can cause us to pause and recall those who are no longer with us. Melancholic commemorations aren’t the sole property of Remembrance Sunday, and while laying a bunch of flowers at the grave of a loved one may lack the communal element generated when wreaths are laid at the Cenotaph on a chilly November morning, sometimes the intensely private matters more. Sometimes, whether celebrating a joyous event or taking a moment to remember the dearly departed, the intensely private is what can make marking anniversaries a worthwhile aspect of what it means to be human.

© The Editor


Around five years ago I recall seeing a ‘Newsnight’ feature on female fighters of the Kurdish guerrilla army, the PKK, and I shamefully admit to being distracted by the fact that they were all stunning-looking women, each resembling a young Bianca Jagger in combat gear. I appreciate this is an exceedingly trivial reaction to a serious story on a serious subject; the PKK has been a bloody thorn in the side of Turkey for decades. But it was probably the last time I watched a report on the troubled fault-line between Europe and the Middle East and came away from it feeling anything other than despair.

Since 1984, the Marxist-Leninist group known as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (AKA the PKK) has been engaged in a persistent armed struggle against the Turkish authorities. Although regularly denied by the organisation itself, the motivation behind the PKK’s paramilitary activities has been given as a desire for a separate independent Kurdish state within Turkey. The campaign has claimed more than 40,000 lives over the last four decades, and the aborted coup to topple Recep Tayyip Erdogan from his throne in 2016 not only presented the Turkish President with wider powers to imprison his enemies, but also enabled him to publicly associate those of pro-Kurdish sympathies with the hated PKK, thus vindicating his authoritarian stance.

Erdogan was also uncomfortable with the Kurdish-Iraqi alliance against ISIS forces in Northern Syria. The PKK have launched many an attack from Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, and the realisation that the Kurds and Iraqis had combined into a formidable fighting force to take on an international enemy fed into the Turkish President’s paranoia that the Kurdish cause in Turkey would be further legitimised. For one thing, Erdogan and his party are Sunni Muslims, whereas the Iraqi forces in Syria are Shia; for another, the prospect of armed Kurds having both US and UN support in their incarnation as the Popular Protection Units (AKA the YPG) further weakened his argument, as did the YPG troops working alongside American comrades

Of course, things have changed over the past week. True, it can’t have been easy for Turkey over the last eight years with Syria as a neighbour, so a degree of anxiety regarding events on Turkey’s doorstep has been understandable. But from all accounts, YPG Kurds were doing a good job at preventing ISIS from encroaching closer to home, and US armed assistance was deemed vital to keeping the enemy at bay. Then President Trump, publicly declaring his weariness with Team America: World Police, decided to abruptly withdraw US forces from the region, a decision that left the YPG to not only fend for itself against the remaining ISIS insurgents, but to be confronted by the might of a Turkish Army overseen by a man convinced any Kurd with a gun in his hand is a PKK solider.

Trump’s sudden announcement could be regarded as an acknowledgement on the Donald’s part that there are bigger battles to be fought on home soil as impeachment proceedings provoked by the Biden/Ukraine affair progress; but it has inspired unprecedented expressions of opposition from within Republican ranks. Even the slavishly pro-Trump mouthpiece of Fox News has this week seen previously obedient Presidential cheerleaders publicly air their disgust at what is viewed as America abandoning its Kurdish allies in Syria. Of course, the mud-slinging of American politics will hardly trouble Erdogan, who wasted little time in launching an instant incursion into Northern Syria following what he perceived as Trump’s green light. Erdogan was never going to make a move that might risk spilling American blood, but now he has no such worries. And so a situation that was far-from stable has been destabilised even further.

Like most ongoing and seemingly never-ending conflicts, the Turkish-Kurdish grievance has a vintage of centuries rather than decades; it is rooted in ancient enmities stretching back to the Ottoman era, though the establishment of the modern state of Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI was the foundation stone of the PKK cause. Kurds have always seen themselves as second-class citizens in the eyes of their Turkish overlords, and Erdogan’s attitude in flexing his military muscles almost parallels Putin’s desire to recreate past glories – something that places Kurds back in their traditionally subservient role.

Purely by coincidence, I happen to be currently reading ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, a novel that has bugger-all to do with an extinct English county, but begins with the chaos during the Turkish destruction of the ancient city of Smyrna in 1922 – a Greek enclave burnt to a cinder at the end of the Greco-Turkish War, with an estimated death toll ranging from 10,000 to 100,000. Most of the victims were Greek and Armenian. An early example of how warlike Turkish appetites remained intact despite the redrawing of the Middle Eastern map, the tragedy of Smyrna to outsiders a hundred years on is reduced to little more than a footnote in a saga that has added innumerable atrocities since; but it serves as a reminder of how far we haven’t travelled in a century.

The YPG alliance with Arab militias, along with accompanying American air-strikes, has successfully expelled ISIS fighters from a quarter of Syria; given the collective name of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF – apologies for all the acronyms), this essential bulwark against Radical Islam has nevertheless left a depressingly familiar tide of refugees in its wake, most of whom Erdogan plans to house in a safe-zone ‘corridor’ he intends to establish across a vast expanse of 480km. Following the overnight removal of their US allies, the SDF has good cause not to share Erdogan’s optimism of a safe-zone along the Turkish-Syrian border; declaring it has been ‘stabbed in the back’ by Trump’s decision, the SDF predicts the Turkish President’s safe-zone will instead become a ‘permanent warzone’ reversing the hard-won victories against ISIS. Some of the images that have emerged of the region in the media these past few days appear to confirm that bleak prognosis.

At one time, I’ve no doubt I would have written something about this days ago. But like many in the west, I suspect there is an inevitable fatigue surrounding so much of what we see from the Middle East; when nothing ever appears to improve, the natural conclusion to come to is that nothing ever will, and all you can do as a detached observer is shrug your shoulders and leave ‘em to it. It seems President Trump has come to the same conclusion, though, unlike the rest of us, he was actually in a position to affect events to a degree, and he has done precisely that this week – in the worst possible way. In response to the outrage his move has provoked, Trump has backtracked a little, threatening to ‘totally destroy and obliterate’ Turkey’s economy should the incursion into Kurdish territory involve any action the President regards as ‘off limits’. But one can’t help but wonder what the limits are now.

© The Editor


Okay, I admit it; I did it. I wasn’t competing with the hyperactive elbows of Japanese tourists, for it wasn’t a sticky summer’s day, but a chilly one in February. All the same, like everybody else making a journey that must be a perennial headache for the good motorists of St John’s Wood, I wasn’t going from A to B for anything other than the sake of a photograph – and in my case, the blurred, out-of-focus product of a cheap camera I had to wait days to develop at Boots. It was 1988 and I crossed the zebra on Abbey Road. Recalling the evidence, I look like a black stick insect captured from a considerable distance by an undercover spy new to the job, closer to a clandestine portrait of a Cold War suspect than a faithful recreation of one of the most famous record sleeves of all time.

Of course, The Beatles had the clout to close the road and prevent traffic from getting in the way – for a few minutes, at least. And they could call on a professional photographer with a decent camera, someone who didn’t have to worry about being run-over. From all accounts, there was no awareness on the part of the four individuals concerned that this photo shoot was a landmark occasion any more than the music they took a break from recording that Friday morning required a fanfare. In the pre-digital camera-phone age, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr must have been among the most photographed people on the planet; and this was treated as just one more shoot of many. Like the alluring blur of the mini-skirted lower half of the anonymous girl passing the street sign on the back of the imminent album, this stuff happened without ceremony.

As we career towards the end of yet another year in an era without an epoch, there has been the usual roll-call of cultural anniversaries to mark; and it seems apt that a weekend in which a cantankerous contemporary has embarked upon the drum solo that genuinely does never end, ‘Abbey Road’ should return to the top of the album charts – back for the first time since early 1970. When the LP was originally dethroned by ‘Led Zeppelin II’ (after a solitary week’s pre-Christmas displacement by ‘Let it Bleed’), fans were unaware John Lennon had expressed his desire to call it a Beatle day the previous autumn; with a movie and accompanying album to come in the spring, new manager Allen Klein was eager to maximise his investment. Therefore, ‘Abbey Road’ was marketed upon its September 1969 release as the latest instalment rather than the final chapter.

Considering the frenetic speed at which rock and pop moved and changed in the second half of the 60s, it’s perhaps no surprise that the output of the acts dictating the pace was so breathless. Of the big three – Beatles, Stones, Dylan – only the latter had taken a ‘year out’ since his debut album, and being missing in action during 1967 was largely a consequence of Mr Zimmerman’s mysterious motorcycle accident the year before. ‘Abbey Road’ was released just ten months after the sprawling double epic of the White Album, and the brief gap between two LPs had been bridged by a couple of chart-topping singles that stood alone from album inclusion. Oh, and the opening months of 1969 had also consisted of slogging through the aborted ‘Get Back’ project before its corpse was reanimated by Phil Spector as ‘Let it Be’ a year later.

So, yes, there wasn’t much slacking on the creative front. That said, John and Yoko’s globe-trotting peace campaign – which also encompassed an instant anthem and a live show in Toronto – had drained the Lennon juices somewhat. Although ‘Abbey Road’ opens with his gutsy homage to Chuck Berry, ‘Come Together’, and side one closes with ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ – a blistering excursion into swampy Hard Rock – Lennon is often AWOL on the LP. Yes, this enabled McCartney to progress unimpeded as he constructed the glorious song cycle that spans most of side two, but it crucially gave Harrison the platform to effectively launch his solo career with perhaps his most peerless twosome – ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’. Without either of those songs, it’s hard to imagine ‘Abbey Road’ possessing half its enduring magic.

The aforementioned ‘song cycle’, which begins with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ until pausing for a brief breath before resuming with ‘Golden Slumbers’, was a canny way of stitching together a few half-finished numbers that nevertheless shine in the medley, such as Lennon’s acerbic pair, ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’. But it is McCartney’s mastery of melody that carries the conceit beyond any accusations of over-ambition, making the listening experience a joyous immersion in pop perfection utterly free from the self-indulgence that often typified the twenty-minute songs marking many of the Prog monoliths to come; there’s rarely a dry eye in this house by the time we reach ‘Carry That Weight’.

The celebrated duelling guitars that accelerate the climax of this 16-minute suite are followed by one final moment of melodious calm before the whole journey is brought to a memorable end with a symphonic sweep that should have closed the album, and indeed the decade, as a fitting farewell from its most generous cultural ambassadors. Instead, the silence before the needle meets the label is eventually gatecrashed by a short, throwaway ditty called ‘Her Majesty’; its presence was due to the accident of an engineer, but the sudden and unexpected appearance of the track appealed to the band’s sense of humour and they left it in there without announcing it on the sleeve’s track-listing. Sometimes I laugh along; sometimes, like ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ or ‘Octopus’s Garden’, it intrudes on the mood. But, as with all Beatle albums, there’s at least one song in there with someone’s name on it.

The slick, polished production of the album was at odds with the back-to-basics ‘roots’ approach that characterised ‘Let it Be’, something that was chic currency in 1969 courtesy of American acts like The Band and Credence Clearwater Revival; but one could argue the influence of ‘Abbey Road’ paved the way for the equally slick early 70s output of the Laurel Canyon aristocracy that went on to dominate US FM radio, as well as laying the foundations for British purveyors of technical excellence during that period such as 10cc – not to mention a 1973 product of the same studio, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

What sounded over-produced and artificial to the ears of contemporary critics weighed-down with Blues Rock baggage doesn’t distract from the quality of the songs where 21st century ears are concerned, however. ‘Abbey Road’ sounds like timeless pop at the peak of its powers – and one entirely free from any negative vibes; it’s a euphoric celebration of life set to music. No wonder its popularity is undimmed today. It contains the very factor at the heart of all the best Beatles music, and one that has probably kept them crucial to listening habits for more generations than merely their own – the ineffable human spirit at its most irresistible. The Beatles capture that better than anyone else. They managed to imprint it on vinyl and have continued to share it with us ever since. That’s quite a gift from them to us. Cheers, lads.

© The Editor


Yes, amidst the relentless Woke propaganda that constitutes the morning schedule of Radio 4, there are still some shows that are good to shave to; I heard one this morning, part of a series going behind the scenes of one-time headlines and examining the way in which the media re-jigs a story to suit its particular agenda. This edition of ‘The Corrections’ dealt with the 2016 street attack and murder of Harlow-based Pole Arkadiuz Joswik by a gang of juvenile delinquents; the horrible incident was almost immediately labelled a hate-crime inspired by Brexit, despite little evidence that the teenage perpetrators had Leave in mind when they inflicted the assault. Harlow has a large East European immigrant community and the distict is pro-Brexit; join the dots.

However, as a journalist interviewed for the programme pointed out, Fleet Street scribes are rarely dispatched to any newsworthy location without a remit. He gave a made-up example of being sent to somewhere like Blackpool. Commanded to write a sorry story of urban decay, said hack would visit all the most deprived parts of town out-of-season, study derelict high-streets, speak to depressed locals, Labour councillors etc. Then turn things around – write a tale of Blackpool’s regeneration: make the journey on a crowded Bank Holiday Monday, describe a swarm of happy holiday-makers, have some civic dignitary show-off plans for a new leisure complex or shopping centre etc. One person’s fake news is evidently another’s truth.

Okay, I appreciate it’s hardly revelatory that impartiality and objectivity are absent from the newsprint medium; it has always reflected the interests and bias of its editors and proprietors, not to say its readers. When it comes to broadcast media, on the other hand, the BBC has traditionally prided itself on impartiality and objectivity, even though this stance has taken rather a battering of late. Attempts to uphold the alleged breaching of editorial guidelines by ‘Breakfast’ presenter Naga Munchetty via her reaction to a report on Trump have left the Corporation with egg on its face once again; and on the subject of Brexit, the BBC’s pro-Remain position is woefully blatant, not only in the field of current affairs, but in every genre from drama to comedy; the subtext is both persistent and consistent. Hah hah hah – stupid racist Brexiteers; ooh – dangerous racist Brexiteers.

But this is the age of the nodding dog echo-chamber, lest we forget. If you have a point of view and you’d rather have it reinforced than challenged, there’s a whole community out there that agrees with you. Just make sure you don’t upset them. The online obsession with child abuse of a historic nature gave rise to some of the most extreme fanaticism yet seen, and it’s telling that even when certain untruths were belatedly exposed as such by the MSM, the refusal to accept what certain brave souls had been ripped to shreds for saying years before is still the line to take for some. As the main focus of R4’s ‘The Corrections’ reminded listeners, once a story is set in stone, for many that means it remains that way for good, especially if it chimes with an individual’s rigid beliefs.

Amazingly, regardless of the trial and sentencing of the discredited Carl Beech for his litany of lies that ruined many lives, a few fanatics continue to give credence to the convicted paedophile’s lurid fantasies – perhaps because some of those fanatics helped feed them in the first place. Despite the 2016 publication of a damning report into Operation Midland, one that referred a Deputy Assistant Commissioner and four detectives to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, it still took until Beech was in the dock before it became safe to say out loud that he was full of shit. And now a more uncut version of ex-high court judge Richard Henrique’s report has reinstated the redacted confirmation that the men from the Met conspired and agreed to irresponsibly announce that Beech’s tall tales of Westminster’s VIP Paedo Ring were ‘credible and true’ when the investigation had barely begun.

Scotland Yard’s ‘institutional stupidity’ is laid bare in the report. The decision to publicly back Beech was made by Det. Sgt Kenny McDonald (now retired) and then-Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, in response to which Henriques writes ‘I find it an error for two very senior officers who have never met a witness and, in the DAC’s case, not in himself read either Nick’s interviews or blogs, to announce to the press and public that they believe the witness.’ Current Met Chief Cressida Dick was, at the time, assistant commissioner of specialist operations, which included sexual abuse cases, though she is understandably reluctant to sanction further probing. Ditto Labour’s Deputy Leader, whose own grubby role in the sordid affair is writ large by Henriques. Tom Watson, who met Beech and encouraged him to pursue his allegations, is blamed for putting further pressure on officers; Henriques says ‘there can be no doubt’ Bunter ‘believed Nick’. Well, bugger me.

Though not the brightest of buttons in a Cabinet admittedly hardly overflowing with intellectual giants, Priti Patel this week followed in the footsteps of another female Home Secretary (AKA Mrs May) by refusing to kowtow to the police force. Patel has ordered a fresh inquiry into the damaging moral crusade that was Operation Midland, something Cressida Dick continues to resist, as do those rewarded with retirement or transferred to a cushy job at the National Crime Agency (i.e. McDonald and Rodhouse respectively). Whether any of the guilty men responsible for the ‘43 failings by investigators’ or the impressive waste of taxpayers’ money – £2.5 million, of course – or the needless tarnishing of reputations will ever answer for this disaster remains to be seen. Over to you, Home Secretary.

Unfortunately, as stated earlier about stories set in stone, there will forevermore be the ‘ah, but…’ factor even if innocence has been proven and a lie has been confirmed. Once a ‘fact’ is fixed in the public perception, it’s very hard to dispel it; whether proof of a myth comes via a Court of Law or an editorial apology, it makes no difference; for some, the belief that if smoke was once sighted there’s bound to be a fire somewhere is a permanent position. As Derren Brown has shown for entertainment and bad therapists with the default setting of childhood abuse as a response to any adult calamity regularly demonstrate, planting seeds in pliable minds is easily done. And if those seeds were obtained from the agendas of broadcasters, so be it, alas.


© The Editor