BorisI’ve been asked the question several times over the past couple of weeks if I think Boris is toast. I’ve only refrained from replying in the affirmative because of the evident absence of contenders waiting in the wilderness for the call to mount a challenge. There’s no obvious Michael Heseltine figure building up support and no Geoffrey Howe moment giving such a candidate the ammunition to strike when the Prime Minister is at his most vulnerable. Right now, the members of the Cabinet appear too mindful of their own perilous positions to stick the knife in with a devastating resignation speech or risk a career by standing against Boris, and of those exiled to the backbenches, none have the political clout or popular appeal that seemed set to hand the reins of power to Heseltine in 1990. Perhaps the fact Mrs Thatcher’s former Defence Secretary famously failed in his bid is at the back of Ministers’ minds as they shuffle uneasily in their seats and watch on as Boris stands in the firing line following the publication of the Sue Gray report into the ‘alleged breaches of lockdown’ at Downing Street.

Certainly, this is the PM’s most testing time since he blustered his way into Downing Street in 2019, ousting an unpopular and ineffective predecessor, neutralising the Brexit deniers by proroguing Parliament and enjoying a brief bask in the glow of a landslide Election victory. Then…well, we all know as to how events (dear boy) took control of the narrative; always tempting to imagine a non-Covid parallel universe in which the damage done by Boris’s multiple personality flaws was minimal due to them not being unduly tested, maybe even a non-Covid parallel universe in which Dominic Cummings remained the Prime Minister’s Mandelson rather than coming back to haunt him as the ghost of parties past. But it was not to be. Boris Johnson faced an unprecedented crisis and, unlike his great hero and inspiration when confronted by the nation’s darkest hour, he blew it. Whatever comedic charm lingered from his days as a refreshing alternative to the production-line politicians so loathed by the electorate was well and truly exhausted and extinguished by the double standards at play during the coronavirus Project Fear.

Interestingly, the majority of the outrage emanating from the ramifications of Project Fear isn’t so much based around the anti-democratic nature of the restrictions themselves – not to mention the extreme manner of their policing; lest we forget, the Labour Party currently indulging in a socially-distanced foxtrot on the PM’s grave repeatedly wanted those restrictions extended even further into the private sphere. No, what has struck a nerve with the British public more than anything in the wake of all the revelations is that the sacrifices they were asked to make and the misery they were forced to endure throughout the numerous lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 were not deemed sufficiently life-saving by those imposing them, those who took to our TV screens night after night to reiterate them in scaremongering, doom-laden language that implied following them was a do-or-die scenario. If the Government didn’t believe in them – and the behaviour of certain Ministers (including the First Lord of the Treasury himself) proves they didn’t – then they took us all for mugs. Well, that’s a bloody great surprise, isn’t it.

After dragging their heels in a fashion contrary to the way in which they vigorously policed the plebs during the lockdowns, the men from the Met have finally got their finger out and are apparently ‘investigating a gathering’ held in Boris’s Downing Street apartment, one that might possibly have breached the laws at the time. As has now become common knowledge, this gathering was no isolated incident within the ivory towers of the PM’s abode and the Met aren’t simply investigating this one non-party; they’re looking into all the others as well. According to the MSM, the Met investigations are responsible for the eagerly-anticipated Sue Gray report being published in an edited format, a bit like a trailer for the movie that remains frustratingly unreleased in its director’s cut. ‘As a result of the Metropolitan Police’s investigations, and so as not to prejudice the police investigation process,’ writes Gray, ‘they have told me that it would only be appropriate to make minimal reference to the gatherings on the dates they are investigating. Unfortunately, this necessarily means that I am extremely limited in what I can say about those events and it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report setting out and analysing the extensive factual information I have been able to gather.’

A huge sigh of relief coming from the direction of Downing Street, no doubt; but the PM hasn’t been entirely let off even with the slim-line, 12-page version of the report that appeared today. The paragraphs highlighting the ‘failures of leadership and judgement’ that are ‘difficult to justify’ may not name names, but it hardly even seems necessary. Of the 16 ‘events’ Gray has studied, booze looms large as the drinking culture that seems to be endemic at No.10 falls under the spotlight. ‘The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time,’ writes Gray. History tells us past PMs such as Churchill and Harold Wilson often found solace in a decanter to relieve the stress of the difficult times they governed in, but a quiet after-hours soak in spirits at the end of the working day is a far cry from a pissed-up Downing Street bearing more of a resemblance to a Bullingdon Club pub crawl than the heart of Government. And this at a time when the country beyond No.10’s hedonistic bubble was experiencing extreme personal privations imposed upon it by the same people gleefully ignoring them.

Last month, Boris denied during PMQ’s that a party had been held in Downing Street on 13 November 2020; if the Gray report seems set to contradict this denial, the PM could be accused of misleading Parliament, an offence that might be expected to be accompanied with a resignation. But don’t hold your breath just yet. The Commons having its first opportunity to react to this ‘sample’ version of the Gray report was bound to produce a hostile environment for Boris, with the predictable calls for him to quit emanating from opposition parties. Tory backbenchers have not refrained from joining in, however. Noted anti-Project Fear Conservative MP Steve Baker spoke of the propaganda campaign’s effect on the public, ‘to bully, to shame and to terrify them into compliance’, and there’s also a fair bit of head shaking when it comes to the decision to hold a couple of parties at No.10 the night before the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh; regardless of one’s opinion of old Philip, the staggering lack of sensitivity as the sovereign prepared to bury her husband is breathtaking.

As ever where shaky ground stood on by Tory Prime Ministers is concerned, a good deal rests with the response of the 1922 Committee and the 54 complaints against the occupant of No.10 that are required to trigger a leadership contest. We haven’t reached that stage yet, and the convenient intervention of the Met with regards to the full, unexpurgated incarnation of the Sue Gray report means Boris can momentarily deflect questions by announcing there will be no complete Government response to questions on the subject until the police investigation is itself complete – and that’ll hardly be this week. In the Commons today, the PM was able to quote from the current version of the report to support his stance: ‘No conclusions should be drawn or inferences made from this other than it is now for the police to consider the relevant material in relation to those incidents.’ Boris added that ‘it isn’t enough to say sorry’. No, it isn’t; yet, what might be deemed enough by those locked out of the Downing Street shindigs doesn’t appear likely at the moment – though we shall see.

© The Editor




LustgartenAnyone who frequented public libraries as a child will recall the hushed reverence within those walls often evoked the chilly ambience of a church, particularly the old-school Victorian model. Despite being a notoriously noisy breed, children were nevertheless accustomed to being seen and not heard during my own childhood, not as indulged as now, and raised on the kind of disciplinarian diet that rendered the silent environs of the public library less of a challenge than I suspect it would be for today’s kids. The location’s enforced quiet also attracted senior citizens; OAPs always managed to select a seat close to the magnetic pull of a radiator that made the library a more comfortable environment than their own homes, and many probably passed out in those heated enclaves, never to wake again. One notable ‘pensioner’ of 71 shuffled off this mortal coil in just such a fashion at Marylebone Library back in 1978 whilst reading the Spectator, a death that lacked the drama he’d made a career from embellishing with his customarily loquacious eloquence. And nobody today has a name that rolls off the tongue with quite the same dramatic spark as Edgar Lustgarten.

The name sounds undeniably Dickensian, though it was genuine – no theatrical affectation. If ever a name fitted the character gifted with it, Edgar Lustgarten was the right man for the right name. Following in his father’s footsteps as a barrister, Lustgarten absorbed all he encountered in his initial profession and soon embarked upon his second career as an author, expert and broadcaster on the criminal mind, working in counter-propaganda during WWII and then producing and presenting programmes for the BBC. By the early 1950s, he was regarded as a sufficiently authoritative voice to front the long-running series of cinematic shorts titled ‘Scotland Yard’. Each instalment would receive an introduction from Lustgarten in a library setting, and his role as host established the cliché later revived by Roald Dahl when he acted as fireside storyteller for the first series of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. The difference between ‘Scotland Yard’ and Dahl’s celebrated television anthology, however, was the fact that the former series was drawn from true-life cases gathering dust in the Met archive.

‘Scotland Yard’ being produced as a support series for the big screen meant it was shot on 35mm and it has the look and feel of a major motion picture. Lustgarten’s flamboyant, melodramatic delivery before each case unfolds certainly adds to the atmosphere, with every episode of a series that ran from 1953-61 reeling the viewer in from the alluring intro. The fact that none of the crime stories featured were fictional concoctions but rooted in truth means few of the episodes contain formulaic storylines and one never knows exactly what to expect; I’ve no idea what the process was when it came to the writers choosing which tales from Scotland Yard’s extensive files to dramatise, but every crime imaginable seems to be in there even if murder understandably recurs more than any other. But with Lustgarten at the helm, there’s relatively little chance an instalment will deal with the late return of library books.

With so much television from the 1950s surviving as poor quality telecine recordings of 405-line transmissions, the pristine cinematic look of ‘Scotland Yard’ undoubtedly makes it easy on the eye, and the period charm of the series has a style reminiscent of ‘The Blue Lamp’. Although the crimes depicted occasionally venture into the Home Counties, most are concentrated in the capital, which offers the viewer one more tantalising glimpse of London before the game-changing redevelopment of the 1960s altered the physiognomy of the city forever. Everything about ‘Scotland Yard’ is ultimately reassuring. All CID detectives wear hats and macs, whereas all uniformed officers have a distinct ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ vibe to them; avuncular seems to be the appropriate description of the police as portrayed in ‘Scotland Yard’, and there’s a notable absence of the mistrust in their honourable intentions that would be second nature today. It’s probably one of the last-gasp dramatisations of the boys in blue free from a cynical perspective, still viewed as the ultimate bastions of honest law enforcement before ‘Z Cars’ came along and reminded us the police were flawed human beings too.

For any aficionado of vintage TV, ‘Scotland Yard’ can also boast numerous sightings of eventual household names in early appearances. Roger Delgado, later to earn his spurs as the original incarnation of the Master in ‘Doctor Who’, routinely features whenever the story calls for an olive-skinned foreigner. Frenchman, Italian, Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean – Delgado’s your man. I even spotted formative ‘Coronation Street’ stalwarts Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) in small parts, along with Arthur Lowe, Wilfrid Brambell, and Howard ‘Captain Baines’ Lang from ‘The Onedin Line’. Comic actors John Le Mesurier and Harry H Corbett have a rare opportunity to get their teeth into dramatic roles in the series, though the actor who figures most in the lead detective role tends to be Australian-born Russell Napier as Superintendent Duggan.

It goes without saying that ‘Scotland Yard’ serves as a neat diversionary alternative to current preoccupations, a reminder – even if a sanitised one – of how this country’s premier police force was once perceived as a force for incorruptible good that resided firmly on the side of the angels. As with most previously-revered institutions, the Met has somewhat damaged its brand in recent times, though we expect nothing less from our institutions now. By throwing their lot in with activists promoting an agenda that alienates them from the masses, these institutions have lost all respect and left those they were intended to serve with a sense of self-sufficiency in the absence of hope from the State. When the public – as I have personally heard twice in the past week – have to wait upwards of six or seven hours for an ambulance or when I myself am found sitting as the solitary patient in a deserted GPs surgery (something I wish I’d had a camera on hand to photograph – #NHSCrisis), one knows the game is up. Edgar Lustgarten is no doubt turning in his grave as we speak – and probably delivering a memorable introduction to a heinous crime at the same time.

MIKE NESMITH (1942-2021)

MonkeesHe was the one with the woollen cap – singled out as an easily identifiable character along with the other three Monkees by the manufacturers who’d observed the cartoon incarnations of the Fab Four via ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’ and seen the potential in extending a franchise that The Beatles themselves had already moved on from. It was perhaps inevitable the American entertainment industry would seek to capitalise on Beatlemania by turning the phenomenon into a TV show, but the fact they put together their very own Prefab Four by assembling competent musicians and allying them to some of the best professional songwriters in the business sowed the seeds of the brand’s destruction.

Mike Nesmith was a Texan in possession of a Lennon-esque nonchalance that gave him a distinct persona within the Monkees’ unit and marked him out as a Bolshie critic of their clean-cut slickness. He was apparently the dissenting voice that rejected ‘Sugar Sugar’ when it was offered to the band and a prime mover behind the post-TV show career suicide movie that was the cult classic, ‘Head’. It was thanks to Mike Nesmith’s attitude that The Monkees remain one of the most admirable and likeable of all manufactured pop acts, and his death at the age of 78 leaves Mickey Dolenz as the remaining member of the original quartet – yet another sober reminder of mortality in an industry in which immortality still lingers as currency.

© The Editor




IMG_20211001_0001As someone who can now perhaps be regarded as the founding mother of modern cancel culture, Mary Whitehouse cast her net far and wide in the 1970s after springing to prominence as the high priestess of provincial opposition to the Swinging 60s. If what was known as The Establishment did its utmost to stem the tide of permissiveness and moral decay by using its in-bred influence to target pop aristocracy with drug busts that promised prison sentences, Whitehouse represented the middle-class, conservative voice of sanity for the W.I. backbone of traditional Great British values centred around deference, the Church of England and the Queen. Once established as a household name with clout, Whitehouse tackled pornography, X certificate cinema, the theatre, gay rights et al; anything she perceived as a threat to her worldview fell under her outraged gaze and she embarked on a fresh campaign to ban it. Either allied with fellow moral crusaders like Lord Longford and Malcolm Muggeridge under the Festival of Light banner or working as head of her National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, Mary Whitehouse’s ravenous appetite for stamping out liberal decadence eventually meant her disapproval became a badge of honour for those she pursued. One of the UK’s leading ‘girlie magazines’ was even amusingly named after her.

However, Mary Whitehouse’s first love was always the BBC. It’s interesting that the Whitehouse torch has today been picked up by the other side, so that the demographic she would have viewed as the enemy 50 years ago is now the one upholding her traditions; yet at the height of her powers, the Beeb – and particularly its television output – was at the vanguard of Britain’s Cultural Revolution. Yes, she was especially infuriated by the ‘Wednesday Play’ brand of gritty, groundbreaking drama, but she also found what she regarded as the increasing coarseness of sitcoms objectionable. ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ was a favourite target, though a memorable episode responded to her criticisms by making Alf Garnett a self-confessed supporter of the Whitehouse mission. By the early 70s, she even had a go at programmes produced for a family audience that could count the majority of the country’s children amongst their viewers. ‘Doctor Who’ attracted her attention during this period, though Whitehouse was not alone in feeling the show was taking the fear factor too far.

‘Terror of the Autons’ was a 1971 adventure for the Timelord in his Earth-exiled incarnation of Jon Pertwee. This story dealt with the invasion plans of an alien intelligence and centred on its ability to control plastic; it was able to breathe life into shop window mannequins as well as manufacturing ‘Autons’, humanoid figures it could animate to pose as the real thing. The scene that landed the series in hot water concerned two policemen the Doctor and his sidekick Jo had accepted a lift from; when the Doc became suspicious, he reached out to one of the coppers and ripped the rubber mask from his face to reveal the blank, featureless countenance of an Auton! The memorable scene that followed on a classic quarry location involved the fake policemen taking pot-shots at our heroes, emphasising nobody could be trusted in this scary new landscape, not even the humble Bobby on the beat. Mary Whitehouse was suitably outraged that the bedrock of her orderly society was being presented as a potential threat to the nation’s children, but the police authorities were equally furious that their attempts at convincing kids a policeman was the one grownup stranger they could trust were being undone.

Marianne Faithfull once reflected that the drugs bust she and the Stones were subjected to in 1967 trashed her naive faith in the police as the ultimate paragons of fair play, the line she’d been fed since childhood; but within a decade the dubious activities of coppers higher up the food chain had become headline news with exposures of across-the-board corruption at Scotland Yard. That a TV show such as ‘Doctor Who’ should even tap into this, albeit accidentally, is interesting, yet the slow erosion of trust in the police force that was once a given has never really gone away. If anything, it has continued apace with a succession of highly-publicised scandals, each one serving to erode that trust even further. The past decade has lifted the lid on the kind of corruption that often makes the bent bastards operating at the Yard in the 70s seem rather quaint by comparison, and the Met has remained the standard bearer, whether via its incestuous relationship with News International or its appalling collusion with the likes of the repugnant Carl Beech and its practice of fitting up innocent men as paedos. Credible and true indeed.

Even if we put the laughably desperate ‘Woke’ leanings of the force to one side for a moment and ignore the LGBTXYZ Cars, the way in which the police freely interpreted lockdown restrictions last year stretched the lingering vestiges of trust on the part of the public to breaking point; this as much as anything else successfully persuaded the masses that if the boys in blue are policing by anybody’s consent, it is not that of the masses but the powers-that-be. Sticking to the nation’s premier force and its illustrious track record, we can see that under the disastrous stewardship of Cressida Dick the Met has plumbed new depths of unaccountability. Calls for the Met’s head to quit are something many have been demanding for a long time – and for reasons other than the activities of Wayne Couzens taking place on her watch; yet the publicising of one especially rotten apple is more than enough for that demand to be renewed.

The murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer was shocking enough, but the revelation that he abused his position of trust, enticing his victim by flashing his warrant card and staging a mock arrest on the grounds of breaking Covid restrictions in order to carry out his sickening crime, has tarnished the force’s reputation even further. Had Wayne Couzens been an ordinary member of the public his crime would be reprehensible enough, but that he should have been a member of a profession that still bases its reputation upon trust somehow adds a grotesque layer onto his vile actions. One could argue his rare punishment of a whole life sentence was reached because of this, for it’s doubtful a young woman walking down a quiet street alone would have voluntarily consented to depart with a complete stranger had he not played upon the inherited belief in the probity of the police. Of course, the politicisation of this particular murder in a way that has heaped shame upon all of those who have indulged in such shameless exploitation hasn’t helped, yet some of the shit that has hit the fan in the wake of it beggars belief.

Cressida Dick now apparently recommends any woman stopped by a lone plain-clothes policeman should hail a passing bus (should one happen to be passing) on the off-chance he should be a rapist in disguise. If this is the case, how the hell can anyone in a vulnerable position be expected to trust a stranger whose warrant card is no longer a guarantee of safe passage? The stories that have emerged since the sentencing of Wayne Couzens suggest he was a career predator with questionable behaviour that triggered few warning signs as he was transferred around Home Counties forces with no vetting system in place. According to some sources, he had even been nicknamed ‘The Rapist’, which is unnervingly reminiscent of how Peter Sutcliffe had been nicknamed ‘The Ripper’ by co-workers at the haulage firm he was employed by long before he was finally outed as the real deal. But, again, the fact Couzens was a serving police officer utterly undermines any remaining trust in the institution even further. And if the police cannot be trusted, who can be? Maybe, in her own roundabout way, Mary Whitehouse was asking the same question half-a-century ago. Sadly ironic innit.

© The Editor




Regardless of where one stood on the issue, it still wasn’t a great look. Almost 40 years ago, TV news bulletins were awash with images of women being heavily manhandled by police as the former set up camp outside the Greenham Common airbase, protesting against the arrival of US cruise missiles on UK soil. In many respects, the scenario itself was a familiar one, following in a violent tradition that had characterised the old decade and would continue uninterrupted into the new. We’d seen it at Saltley Gate in 1972, in the streets surrounding the Grunwick building in 1977, and whenever the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League found themselves marching in the same neighbourhood; we’d also shortly see it on the picket lines of Yorkshire pits. And that’s not even mentioning the riot that erupted at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival or the incendiary wave of civil unrest that characterised the summer of 1981 in numerous cities across the country.

An army of coppers clashing with an army of strikers/demonstrators was so commonplace a fixture of British life in the 70s and 80s that it was probably more of a story if a strike or demonstration passed off with no arrests and no punch-up with the police. Of course, these explosive occasions were almost exclusively all-male affairs, where even if truncheons were only in the hands of one side, it was still a fair fight in terms of physical prowess. What made Greenham Common different was the simple fact that the majority of the protestors were women – and shrinking violets or not, it still didn’t send out a very positive message to see a big brute of a bobby reacting to women in the same way he would to rowdy football hooligans on a Saturday afternoon. Bras hadn’t been burned for that.

With changes to the law and the decline of trade union clout, industrial disputes are rare these days; rarer still are industrial disputes that spark the kind of physical clashes with the forces of law and order that once seemed part and parcel of strike action. Demonstrations, on the other hand, are still potential powder kegs, even if the police approach to them can be maddeningly inconsistent. The boys in blue didn’t appear too perturbed when Extinction Rebellion brought central London to a standstill in 2019, and their submissive response to BLM last summer was a nauseating spectacle that was rewarded with an outburst of vicious thuggery towards the police that made it look as though the authorities had lost all control of the streets to the mob. Since then, there’s been no further knee-taking, though there remain suspicions that some causes are regarded more favourably by the police authorities than others.

After the anarchy of summer 2020, there has been a notable clamping down on public gatherings of any kind, with lockdown rules and restrictions tightened to prevent any repeat of the ugly incidents in London and Bristol. Whenever there’s been a further attempt to stage the kind of protest the police didn’t initially have a problem with last year, the police have responded in a way that has inevitably led to accusations of a two-tier policing system – i.e. you can break lockdown rules if you’re carrying a BLM banner, but you can’t if you’re breaking lockdown rules by protesting against lockdown rules. When half-a-dozen people are unable to get together for a private family event in the privacy of their own homes, perhaps it’s no great surprise that a public gathering of hundreds in a public space – even if masks are being worn and social distancing is being observed as best as possible – is something destined to end in aggro. Lockdown legislation has effectively outlawed public gatherings, so any proposed event is a no-go; and if we accept that, then the reasons for staging one are immaterial. They ain’t allowed.

In the wake of the publicity surrounding the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard and the charging of a serving Met officer with the crime, a vigil for the murdered woman was planned to be held at Clapham Common. The announcement of this was greeted with a polite refusal from the Met, naturally citing Covid restrictions. It was then announced that the vigil wouldn’t be taking place so as to comply with the regulations, but the familiar floral tributes nonetheless began to swamp the Clapham Common bandstand; even the Duchess of Cambridge popped down earlier in the day and the atmosphere appeared to be in keeping with the routine Diana-esque vibe that is now customary when private grief becomes public property. Despite the official cancellation of the vigil, crowds gathered regardless and, as evening fell, the numbers were eventually sufficiently high enough to warrant police reinforcements in order to breakup what was an illegal gathering. What happened next depends, I guess, on which side you stand.

Whilst the term ‘peaceful protest’ has now become a euphemism for the exact opposite following its un-ironic use by the BBC to describe the BLM riot in London last summer, the fact that what was intended to be a genuinely peaceful protest on Clapham Common wasn’t given the official seal of approval is a bloody ridiculous state of affairs. One doesn’t have to support the idea of a gathering of this nature or the motivation behind it to conclude that it should have been allowed to take place. I won’t repeat Voltaire’s catchphrase here, but I think you know where I’m going. Anyone who believes these f***ing restrictions on our movements have reached the absolute limit now should feel the same way about it, whatever one’s position on the dubious morality of those pushing Sarah Everard forward as a posthumous poster-girl for a cause superimposed upon her.

Some say the crowds had been infiltrated by activists hungry for a confrontation with the coppers, knowing that it wouldn’t take much effort to provoke physical tactics on the part of the Met. It’s not too fantastical to surmise that this tragic death has been distastefully politicised in order to give these activists their ‘George Floyd’ moment – and that in itself is a disgraceful exploitation of a horrendous crime. Using the murder of a young woman as fresh ammo in the culture wars is beyond the pale. At the same time, had the police chosen to stand back and let the crowd get on with it – not unlike they did when the mob uprooted a statue in Bristol – then the crowd would have gradually dispersed, having made its point. By clumsily intervening and attempting to break up the gathering, the police gave any activists present precisely what they wanted, but they also would have enraged anyone there who actually turned up to participate in a non-violent vigil, those who have had enough of restrictions that have now been in place for almost a full twelve months. So many people in this country are at breaking point after a year of this, and this was the kind of moment guaranteed to make them snap.

No, it wasn’t a great look at Greenham Common in the early 80s and it’s not a great look in 2021. When the police moved in and began physically removing women from around the Clapham Common bandstand, there was no way they could make that action look anything other than brutal, awful and ugly. The images will linger and, in the same way the death of Sarah Everard has itself been politicised, the events of Saturday evening will be weaponised by all sides in the days and weeks to come; in the process, it will add yet another dispiriting layer to the seemingly endless layers of division that have taken every conceivable form – political, cultural, racial, sexual, ideological – since 2016. What a bloody mess.

© The Editor


According to what passes for ‘the Left’ today, cancel culture is merely a figment of the right-wing imagination, a collective conspiracy theory with no grounding in reality. The guardians of the new cultural order – keeping the peace on campus, in the workplace and online – are kind, compassionate, tolerant sorts, preaching love and understanding whilst denouncing hate, whether written down, spoken or simply thought of. And that’s evident in the way they respond to anyone they perceive to be questioning their Utopia. They spread their message through cyberspace like a benign virus that smells of fresh flowers and newborn babies. This makes the wrong see the error of their ways via gentle, sympathetic persuasion; and if the wrong continue to be resistant, they convince the wrong it’s more effective in the long run if they step forward and admit they’re wrong before conversion to the right side of history can begin. After all, the first step to admitting one is an alcoholic is to stand up at an AA meeting and say it out loud.

Mumford & Sons – perhaps the dullest band since sliced Dire Straits – have effectively dispensed with the services of their banjo player Winston Marshall this week, though it helped that he conveniently fell on his sword after some of that gentle online persuasion. His crime was to publicly state how much he admired a recent critical exposé of that cuddly anarchist collective Antifa in a book by journalist Andy Ngo. ‘Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy’ is evidently not deemed to be suitable reading material – I mean, was ‘White Fragility’ out on loan at Marshall’s local library or something? Anyhow, sounding suspiciously like he might harbour the wrong opinions, Marshall did his best to appease the outraged masses (i.e. a few pink-heads on Twitter) by issuing the kind of grovelling public apology that used to be written on a board slung around the neck during the Cultural Revolution. He announced he was taking a break from the band to ‘examine his blind-spots’. I hear the CCP has a decent re-education camp in Xinjiang if you’re interested in some intellectual cleansing, Winston.

Hot on the heels of such a shocking revelation that the outlaw spirit of rock ‘n’ roll remains alive and kicking, another dramatic act of voluntary cancellation also took place this week. Piers Morgan, the sweaty tomato of breakfast television, stormed off-set during a live broadcast of ‘Good Morning Britain’ and will not be returning. No great loss to yours truly, as I’ve never seen the programme in question beyond snippets that routinely appear on social media; but a man who has turned hypocritical double standards into an art-form by spouting some of the worst lecturing and hectoring pro-lockdown fanaticism whilst simultaneously jetting off to Antigua for a pre-Christmas break is not one it’s easy to warm to. Even his hissy fit had all the appearance of a classic self-important prima donna gesture when replayed endlessly across Twitter in the hours after it happened.

Moron was seemingly incensed by a supine defence of the Duchess of Woke’s latest sob story from one of those endless slimy ‘royal experts’ who pepper television that airs when most people are either at work or still in bed. The co-host of the show wouldn’t back down on his own personal (and less favourable) opinion of Harry’s missus when before the cameras; and, as it turns out, he wouldn’t back down off-camera either – especially when ITV bosses told him to publicly refute everything he’d previously said about the new queen of our hearts. Apparently, in the wake of that exiled actress having played the mental health as well as the race card, one is not allowed to call out her bullshit and one must praise her stunning bravery. Morgan refused to budge, and according to reports, he walked rather than take the Winston Marshall route of apologising when you’ve nothing to apologise for. Lest we forget, an opinion is subjective; it’s both right and wrong, depending where you stand. Airing an opinion is not a crime; neither is refusing to fawn at the feet of a privileged professional victim – yet.

I guess it is quite amusing that a sanctimonious American millionairess has become the current darling of the Guardianistas, perhaps telling you everything you need to know about where the priorities of the so-called Left are situated in 2021. Most of the Grauniad’s journos were probably at school with Prince Harry, anyway. Up the workers and all that. Mind you, it’s no great surprise that the kind of frivolous fodder that excites the chattering classes means jack shit to the wider population; after all, the wider population has more pressing concerns right now. A year of being subjected to the kind of repressive restrictions on civil liberties that would’ve left Erich Honecker thinking ‘Bloody hell, that’s a bit much’ means the majority of the British people are hardly going to be sympathetic to luxury whingeing from the resident of a Californian mansion. But, of course, every Identitarian utterance of Her Royal Wokeness is politicised. Everything from Mr Potato Head to Dr Seuss is politicised now – as is a tragic event that anyone seeking to politicise should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for doing so; but, naturally a) they do and b) they’re not.

When MP Jo Cox was murdered on the eve of the 2016 EU Referendum, the ramifications of the horrible killing continued to ricochet through parliamentary discourse in the worst possible way for several years afterwards, and it was often a way that was hardly respectful to the murdered woman’s memory. Labour MP and long-time opportunistic offender Jess Phillips invoked Jo Cox’s name and the fate that befell her during one of the heated debates leading up the Great Prorogue of 2019, implying that Boris Johnson’s clumsy attempts to shut up the opposition benches in order that he might speak without being drowned out by screams of ‘Tory Scum’ somehow equated with the ‘silencing’ of Jo Cox. And now that her felicitous flirtation with running for her party’s leadership seems extremely distant, Phillips has finally resurfaced to air her much-needed words and wisdom on another murder that has only just resulted in the discovery of a body.

But Phillips is not alone. Baroness Jones, the…er…world famous Green Party Peer has suggested the introduction of a 6pm curfew for men in the light of human remains – apparently those of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, missing for over a week – being found in woodland in Kent. The fact a serving Met officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder has presented some with a gruesome gift; we all know the organisation is institutionally racist, so I guess the appalling (alleged) actions of one employee must mean it’s institutionally sexist as well. What about institutionally f***ing useless? I guess putting police on the streets at night might help generate a greater sense of safety, but it’s surely more important to invest in daytime patrols looking out for pensioners on park benches that need a damn good fining.

Social media has been full of the usual suspects rushing to hijack the murder of someone none of them knew and claiming it for their cause; Sarah Everard is now representative of all violence towards women, something that is as inherent in the male of the species as racism is in anyone with white skin. All those exploiting this tragedy to fit an existing agenda are beneath contempt. Are any of them considering the feelings of Sarah Everard’s loved ones in all this, those who might actually want to grieve in private as the shock sinks in – something that would be greatly helped without her name being used in a game of political pass-the-parcel by despicable parasites who should (but rarely do) know better? Clearly not. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to draw any positives from this one.

© The Editor


Anyone raised on a Cold War TV diet of ‘Callan’, ‘The Sandbaggers’, or ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ will have realised early on that one easily identifiable hallmark of the ideological conflict that distinguished Us from Them was the concept of a free press or at least the freedom to express an opinion contrary to the consensus of the ruling class without fear of State censure. Viewing the wrong side of the Iron Curtain from afar, we in the West became accustomed to the consequences facing those from the East who dared to veer from the party line. As a precursor to Vlad’s unique liquidation policy, the likes of exiled Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was silenced as a critique of his country’s Communist government on the streets of London in 1978, when a poisoned umbrella tip applied to his leg in a bus queue curtailed his broadcasts on the BBC World Service as well as his life. That was an extreme example of the punishment dished out to rebel journalists from totalitarian regimes; if they were lucky, they might get off with a show trial and an indeterminate sentence in a Gulag. Yes, that was one way in which we could draw a clear line between Us and Them. That didn’t happen here.

What’s often forgotten in all this, however, is the clever way in which the powers-that-be of the Eastern Bloc justified their harsh treatment of ‘dissidents’ to their own people. They didn’t just remove prominent figures from the streets and offer no explanation for their abrupt disappearance; they went to the trouble of providing a reason they imagined would suffice, albeit of a kind not dissimilar to how China justifies the mass arrest and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in effective concentration camps today; the CCP brands those prisoners undergoing re-education as ‘Radical Islamists’, just as anyone questioning the wisdom of Moscow-sponsored administrations was branded an enemy of the State and a threat to national security back in the day.

Over here, any foolhardy souls contravening the Official Secrets Act could always face severe penalties, but so touchy were the security services during this period that the odd journalist would be plunged into hot water should they say certain things out loud. An infamous 1976 feature in ‘Time Out’ titled ‘The Eavesdroppers’ committed the cardinal sin of actually naming GCHQ at a time when even the existence of MI5 and MI6 was publicly denied; penned by British-based American journalist Mark Hosenball and Brit Duncan Campbell, the furore that followed saw both threatened with deportation on national security grounds, though only Hosenball was successfully forced to leave the country as a result of the article; Campbell instead suffered life under MI5 surveillance. During the Cold War, the ideological battle-lines were clearly drawn between East and West, but the ideological differences of the 21st century are less geographical and tend to share the same uneasy soil.

A Conservative commentator mainly active online – as are many in these days of increasingly partisan current affairs reporting within the MSM – Darren Grimes is not the most obvious candidate that springs to mind whenever one thinks of libertine radicals; but news was announced yesterday that our proudest bastion of fair-play policing, the Met, is investigating Mr Grimes on the grounds of ‘stirring up racial hatred’. I thought they got down on their knees before those guilty of such an offence? I must be mistaken. Anyway, this accusation stems from an infamous interview Grimes conducted with the reliably cantankerous and combative historian David Starkey at the height of BLM protests during the summer.

Already well-known for his outspoken opinions that perhaps often only seem so because everyone else in the public eye is either coached within an inch of their media lives or is mindful of damaging their career prospects, Starkey delights in provoking hostile responses, though even he may have come to regret some of the things said in the Grimes interview – albeit not as much as a star-struck Grimes may now be for not reining Starkey in a little and failing to challenge him once. Starkey’s punishment was to lose academic posts at Canterbury Christ Church University and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge as well as his publishing contract with HarperCollins, whereas Grimes – who didn’t actually say anything ‘contentious’ during the interview – is now being summoned under caution by the Met to answer for his heinous crimes.

There are far more subtle ways and means of making a valid point about these troubled times than the glib, clumsy approach Starkey chose to take, but it would seem Grimes is more at fault for daring to air the interview warts-and-all. The official Scotland Yard statement reads, ‘On July 4 the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30. The matter is currently being investigated.’ Grimes’ response? ‘At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship,’ he said, ‘I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizen than by investigating this vexatious claim.’

What makes Grimes more vulnerable than he would have been way back when old-school ‘libertines’ invoked the ire of the establishment during the Cold War is that the battle-lines now aren’t between East and West or young and old or even left and right, but between those indoctrinated in the unforgiving segregationist dogma of Identity Politics – which our leading institutions are all completely in thrall to – and those who adhere to the archaic rule of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law. Under normal circumstances, the likes of reactionary posh-boy journo Toby Young would hardly be portrayed as a radical voice, but it’s a measure of how far we’ve moved from genuine fair-play that someone such as Young heads an undoubtedly necessary organisation like the Free Speech Union to intervene on Grimes’ behalf; as Young pointed out, are similar Met investigations being carried out into the Sky News presenter whose interview with rapper Wiley produced several anti-Semitic comments around the same time as the Starkey confrontation that proved so incendiary?

Of course, the establishment has always promoted the interests of the few over the many – usually because the establishment tends to comprise several similar groups sharing the same worldview, usually at odds with that of the many. We merely have a different set of ideological dos and don’ts governing that establishment in 2020 to the ones we had 40 or 50 years ago, and everything from airing common-sense truisms to outright provocation aimed at the establishment’s cherished value system is guaranteed to prompt reprisals in the current climate. It helps the establishment that the divisive polarisation of the culture wars means Darren Grimes will elicit little sympathy or support from those on the other side who, though they may regard themselves as opposed to any form of State censorship, will be extremely flexible if only ‘the enemy’ ever feels the full force of the establishment. But it doesn’t matter where your political allegiances are situated in a scenario such as this; assuming only the Darren Grimes’s of this world are liable for a Met investigation is a naive ostrich approach to what is a worrying and serious threat to free speech in this country. Think they’ll stop at him if they succeed? Dream on – and don’t forget to wear a mask while you do…forever.

© 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


Veteran devotees of my oeuvre may recall a spoof documentary series that once garnered me handsome viewing figures on YouTube; titled ‘Exposure’, it was the beneficiary of a people’s platform now gone, appearing long before Google flexed its monopolising muscles and clamped down on dissent and mischief simply because it can. Satirising the Savile-inspired paedo panic of Operation Yewtree and its very own Matthew Hopkins – i.e. failed police gargoyle Mark Williams-Thomas – the series eventually struggled to encompass the ever-expanding roll-call of opportunistic ‘victims’ coming forward with suspect sob stories. So many compensation claims and imaginative misery memoirs were weighing down the bandwagon by the final episode of ‘Exposure’ that some characters’ sizeable contribution to the hysteria didn’t grab centre stage until after it was all over.

‘Nick’ gains one or two mentions in the later ‘Exposure’ instalments, but he emerged too late to receive the full treatment, despite being the prime mover behind the Dolphin Square and Elm Guest House fables. He was the shady figure whose litany of personal suffering at the grubby hands of establishment abusers knew no bounds – at least according to the testimony documented with slavering relish by Exaro, a deservedly-discredited online outlet with an appetite for lurid sensationalistic scandal that made the News of the World resemble the Financial Times. A few in the know were aware ‘Nick’ was called Carl Beech, but Beech exploited his legal anonymity to the full, safe in the knowledge that the targets of his retrospective allegations wouldn’t be afforded the same courtesy.

Those who had supposedly played pivotal parts in Beech’s lengthy catalogue of abuse included the obligatory Sir Jim, the former Prime Minister Edward Heath, Normandy veteran Lord Bramall, ageing ex-MPs Harvey Proctor, Leon Brittan and Lord Janner, and the former heads of MI5 and MI6 respectively, Sir Michael Hanley and Sir Maurice Oldfield. Indeed, it was remarkable how many household names and prominent figures entered Beech’s childhood orbit; he was apparently never abused by nonentities. But I suppose the scenario is similar to that of the medium whose séances always seem to feature guest appearances from significant historical personalities rather than nondescript agricultural labourers. Beech’s presence at incidents of abuse, torture and murder undertaken by notable public servants was apparently down to his late stepfather, an army major who passed Beech around like the proverbial parcel amongst celebrity sex-offenders at clandestine military bases. Sounds very plausible, doesn’t it.

Most of us who were made aware of Beech’s allegations at the time found them pretty fantastical, to say the least; some even said so and were shot down as ‘paedo apologists’ – though to their tenacious credit, the majority of them tirelessly carried on saying out loud what many were thinking. That their sterling efforts could be so viciously dismissed for fear they might disrupt the narrative speaks volumes, however; such was the climate. After all, Titus Oates could only have provoked the panic he managed during the reign of Charles II because anti-Catholic paranoia was so rampant; and Carl Beech was fortunate to find himself in a culture that enabled his fantasies to expand into evermore audacious areas because it wasn’t just the usual conspiracy theory Icke cultists backing him up; people in positions of power were inexplicably prepared to believe too.

‘Believe’ was the buzzword that fuelled the false allegation industry, endorsed by the police and given the seal of approval by politicians. Keir Starmer in his DPP guise and Tom Watson in his backbench moral crusader mode are as responsible for the climate that facilitated Beech’s flights of fancy as anyone and both should be hung out to dry before either gets anywhere near the leadership of the Labour Party. Watson is at it again right now, this time honing in on anti-Semites in a further bid to bolster his eventual and inevitable bid for Jezza’s office; yet, even if there is an undeniable problem in Labour ranks re this issue, one can never entirely trust Bunter’s motives because of the appalling role he played in the Beech-inspired ‘Popish Plot’ concerning a nonexistent Westminster VIP Paedophile Ring. And it was down to Watson’s tedious persistence that the Metropolitan Police Force then stumbled onto the stage with fishing rods at the ready.

Operation Midland, the Met Inquisition that saw a posse of blundering Bobbies gate-crash the homes of the aged and the ailing in the full glare of the Scotland Yard PR spotlight not only besmirched and blemished the reputations of several public figures; it also caused undue distress to the families and loved ones of those they saw pass away with a stain on their names that was neither warranted nor vindicated. The rightly-notorious ‘credible and true’ response by the police to Carl Beech’s tall tales was a characteristic reaction by those of low IQs who were entrusted to enact the letter of the law as laid out by the far smarter and utterly despicable Starmer, whose hands are probably wrapped in tight black gloves to obscure the blood on them; his Met storm-troopers vos only obeying orders, of course. For two years. At a cost of £2 million to the taxpayer. Without a single arrest.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone so evidently obsessed with paedos in a manner reminiscent of anti-communist witch-finders in McCarthyite America (who couldn’t look under their beds without finding a Red), Carl Beech is himself a paedophile; he was found guilty earlier this year of possessing hundreds of indecent images. Fancy that. And this is someone who at one time used to visit schools on behalf of the NSPCC to lecture kiddies on how to recognise a fiddler; maybe he just walked into the classroom, pointed to himself, and then walked out. Well, he won’t be an ill-advised ambassador for the charity again. As of today, Beech is a convicted fraudster as well as a paedophile, having been found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud following a 10-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court. Northumbria may have made the loathsome Vera Baird its Crime Commissioner, but its police force has at least redeemed the county’s reputation with this thorough investigation into a man who had outfoxed and fooled its cousins in the capital.

The law finally caught up with Carl Beech when he was arrested on the run in Sweden last year, and the verdict in Newcastle was a long time coming; but the damage done by the former NHS manager and school governor will take far longer to repair than it’ll take him to serve the sentence he’ll receive for his crimes. And, lest we forget, this repulsive character is merely the tip of an almighty iceberg, the vast body of which remains submerged with a thousand tragic tales to tell – tales of fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, wives, daughters, sisters and mothers, the real victims of this insidious cancer on contemporary society.

© The Editor


The damage that was done is a very modern kind of damage in that it will never go away now; it can’t when so many have a permanent foot in the parallel universe of cyberspace, where rumours and conspiracy theories are immortal. That Great British bastion of ineptitude, the Metropolitan Police Force (let’s not be nice to them by using their preferred ‘Service’ suffix), has suffered a humiliating admission of failure by paying out an estimated £100,000 in compensation to Lord Bramall and the family of the late Leon Brittan. It’s a small portion of the £2.5 million Operation Midland actually cost. The former head of the British Army is in his 90s now, but at least he has lived to see the Met pay towards his legal fees; the former Home Secretary died with false allegations hovering over his coffin.

Normandy veteran Bramall suffered the indignity of a police raid on his home in 2014, executed by 20 officers exhibiting the tact and sensitivity for which the Met is renowned; and whilst Bramall was last year the ‘beneficiary’ of a public apology from then-Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, his wife died before his name was cleared – another blameless victim of a witch-hunt going to her grave bereft of justice. The third target of the accusations emanating from the odious fantasist still only known as ‘Nick’ was the ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor; Proctor may be financially ruined from refusing to accept compensation accompanied by a gagging order, but he has to be admired for his tenacious determination to clear his name by not shying away from speaking out; his own legal battle against the Met is ongoing.

The shameful sham of Operation Midland, which was activated on the strength of one disturbed individual’s tall tales of Westminster VIP paedophile rings in the 70s and 80s, was the discredited fishing party promoted as ‘credible and true’ during its lifetime. That the accused were all public figures of relatively respectable reputations (certainly in the area under the seedy spotlight) added spice to the tabloid mix, but it was hardly unique at the moment of its inception. There are plenty out there who never qualified as public figures, men whose lives are in tatters thanks to similar accusations that haven’t received the damning critiques Midland inspired from broadsheet columnists, ones that contributed towards its merciful demise.

‘Nick’ is now being investigated for perverting the course of justice, though the willingness of the Met to give credence to his allegations in the first place continues to ask questions of their own credibility. The stealthy politicisation of the police across the country in recent years is naturally more prominent when it comes to the clout of the force policing the capital, despite the eagerness of some provincial forces to give the Met a run for its money; but the way in which the Met publicised the Gospel according to ‘Nick’, as though any doubts surrounding his allegations simply didn’t exist, was a glaring example of how our law enforcers were prepared to overlook inconsistencies in his stories as long as those stories fitted the post-Savile narrative, which they did.

‘Nick’ was portrayed as a classic Victim when there was an abundance of them being given airtime they neither warranted nor deserved without thorough investigation beforehand. The false allegations that wrecked the career of silent movie star Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle almost a century ago remain a stain on his name, so it doesn’t require much foresight to reckon anyone researching the lives and careers of Bramall, Brittan and Proctor a hundred years from now will probably be directed towards ‘child sex abuse allegations’, whichever medium they’ll be using by then.

In the here and now, the fact the Met eventually publicly accepted there were no grounds for suspicion re the aforementioned trio may bring a crumb of comfort to those still alive, but online it’s a different matter altogether. Some of the more fanciful rumours surrounding deceased public figures that have never even reached the Operation Midland level now have a vintage of around a decade, and the number of cyber ghouls desperate to believe the worst of these stories, no matter how ludicrous, hasn’t diminished. No compensation pay-out, however large, can change the sticky constitution of online mud.


Poor old JR Hartley would probably be beside himself. It was announced yesterday that the Yellow Pages will become a solely online service as of January 2019; the final print edition will be delivered to doorsteps in Brighton that very month, coincidentally the same town to first receive the publication way back in 1966. It now follows the Thomson Local to the print graveyard, which disappeared from doorsteps in 2013.

Although the very first UK phone directory appeared as far back as 1880, it only contained residential addresses lucky enough to possess one of the newfangled communication devices – all 248 of them; to discover the telephone number, one had to call the operator. Remarkably, it took almost ninety years before businesses began to be included in the annual GPO book; to distinguish commercial listings from private ones, the new classified section that debuted in the Brighton edition of 1966 had its pages coloured yellow. In 1973, the yellow section arrived as a nationwide separate publication in its own right, and thus an essential addition to the phone-owning British household was born, along with a TV jingle advising viewers to let their fingers do the walking.

If its arrival might appear a tad belated, it’s worth remembering how many homes were still without a telephone in 1973 – giving a neighbour’s number to a relative for emergencies was a common practice at the time; the fact it could take the GPO as long as six months to install one when it could do so due to its absolute monopoly of the industry also played its part. As objects, telephone directories (which even used to be fixtures of phone boxes until vandalism curtailed their presence) had distinctive designs; at one time, the GPO model would feature a pencil drawing of a landmark building relevant to the locality on its cover, eventually replaced by photographs when the publication acquired a glossy facelift in the 80s.

In strictly landline days, the Yellow Pages and traditional telephone directory could appear to be both the most boring books ever to cross the household threshold or an invaluable fountain of information that can now be located with a few cursory clicks. And that’s undoubtedly the reason why the print edition of the Yellow Pages is poised to vanish for good. The 1980s was the last real hurrah for the old-school directories, with the Thomson Local (and its memorable black cat symbol) joining the other two freebies on the eve of deregulation. But in the same way the rapidly ubiquitous status of the mobile rendered the old-fashioned public call box redundant, the telephone directories were gradually usurped by the online search.

Although the now-shrunken Yellow Pages has continued to mysteriously land on the doorstep as though deposited there by Father Christmas, I confess the last few editions I’ve received remain wrapped in the cellophane they were delivered in. Like that sorry tin of Bird’s Custard Powder at the back of the kitchen cupboard, one always feels it’s worth having them in the house, even if they serve no purpose these days other than to collect dust. And that’s all they’ll do from now onwards.

© The Editor


It’s reassuring to know some things never change; they’re part of the fabric of the nation, upholding Great British traditions and hopefully continuing to do so in perpetuity. The shipping forecast, the Proms, the football results on a Saturday teatime, strawberries & cream, leather-on-willow, the proud ineptitude of the Metropolitan Police Force. When it comes to the latter, what a relief it is that this one particular Great British tradition is determined not to blot its impressive copybook of cock-ups and sheer stupidity.

Seven highly-trained elite officers were dispatched to a danger zone last Friday – bravely going where few mere members of the public would dare to venture, yet again putting their lives on the line to ensure we can sleep safely in our beds. No doubt clad in protective armour designed for confronting irate mobs of youths probably armed with acid and knives, ready for any horrors this sickening society could throw at them, the officers stormed the home of a pensioner in Kingston upon Thames and seized her Yorkshire terrier. Where would we be without our oh-so brave boys in blue?

Scotland Yard sent its magnificent seven into battle following a shocking incident involving a traumatised delivery man whose cry for help was deemed so urgent that it was six weeks before the coppers took action. The luckless chap was delivering a parcel to the doorstep of 73-year-old Claudia Settimo-Bovio; Miss Settimo-Bovio requested the package be dumped on the doorstep on account of her 10-year-old little dog Alfie adopting the territorial approach to unfamiliar intruders most dog-owners are grateful for; but as she opened the door to pick up the parcel, the delivery man had yet to exit via the garden gate and Alfie did his duty, determined to chase the stranger off the property. Unfortunately, the delivery man evidently had a fear of dogs – even Yorkshire terriers – and tripped-up, apparently screaming like a little girl as Alfie approached him.

The delivery man was rescued from being mauled to death via the intervention of a neighbour who casually scooped-up the offending beast, thus enabling the victim of this savage assault to escape to the safety of his van. Considering his performance when confronted by a four-legged equivalent of a kitchen mop, perhaps it was no surprise the delivery man went crying to the police, and the Met responded with its usual sensitivity by turning up at Miss Settimo-Bovio’s home at 8.00 in the morning to seize Alfie under Section 5 of the Dangerous Dogs Act. A bewildered Alfie was taken away to kennels – an environment of which he has no previous experience – and his owner cruelly left without her ‘out of control’ canine companion.

This case says so much about where we are now. The fact that the police turned up mob-handed to ‘seize’ a pet dog smaller than most cats; that, thanks to one of the most misused and damaging pieces of legislation ever passed in this country, they have the right to do so in the first place; and that a grown man responds to being confronted with a yapping lap-dog by dialling 999. Following a highly publicised series of dog attacks on babies and children by a media that still possessed considerable clout at the turn of the 90s, the brief moral panic of a tabloid horror story prompted the worst kind of knee-jerk response from government, leading to the ‘court of public opinion’-inspired Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Four particular ‘types’ of dog were the prime target of the Act – the Pit Bull Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa, and the Fila Brasileiro; the poor old Pit Bull has been saddled with the ‘dangerous dog’ tag ever since the early 90s media storm, taking the place of one-time canine villains such as the Rottweiler. Owners of the four identified types (rather than breeds – and it takes a court to identify the types) can only own them if they have a special court exemption; they must also muzzle them and have them on a lead in public, as well as having them microchipped, registered (not unlike the dog licence of old), insured and neutered. Problems often arise from deciding whether or not a particular dog is a type specified in the law; by avoiding naming specific breeds, the Dangerous Dog Act has needlessly placed hundreds of family pets on death row over the last 25 years because of wrong decisions made by courts that aren’t helped by the vagueness of the legislation.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. There are no such things as bad dogs, just bad owners. Dogs are incredibly intelligent, loyal, loving, affectionate and protective animals; give them a home, feed them and walk them, and they’ll be your best friend for life. Dogs can herd sheep, guide the blind, act as live-in helpers for the disabled, sniff out hidden drugs for customs officers, sniff out criminals for coppers, sniff out survivors in the rubble of earthquakes; and they can spell the respectively best and worst words in the English language from a canine perspective: W-A-L-K and B-A-T-H.

Human beings regularly treat dogs appallingly, yet if we show them kindness dogs won’t hold us responsible for the awful actions of one member of our species; if we give them love, they’ll give it back a thousand times over. It doesn’t take much effort to train a dog properly; they’re remarkably fast learners and eager to learn to boot. Badly behaved children are generally a product of badly behaved parents; dogs follow a similar path. Some adults aren’t worthy of their pets and should never be allowed to keep one – just as some parents should have been sterilised before they ever got anywhere near siring their unfortunate offspring. Sadly, the Dangerous Dogs Act has no such clauses and this inadequate law staggers on, making more misery for many responsible dog-owners and resulting in the ridiculous charade that took place at the home of a distraught Claudia Settimo-Bovio last week.

I accept some adults are inexplicably scared of dogs – probably arising from some childhood incident in which a dog frightened or attacked them; and chances are that dog’s owner hadn’t gone to the ‘trouble’ of training it so that the child would see the good in the animal and learn to love the species thereafter. If this fear fails to be addressed and it remains a lifelong one, even a Yorkshire terrier can spark disproportionate panic; but did it really warrant a phone call to the Met? Pathetic response; pathetic police; pathetic law; pathetic country.

© The Editor