THE WRONG GOOD FRIDAY

Spanish Inquisition‘God is dead’ Nietzsche infamously proclaimed in 1882. He was issuing a then-provocative statement within the context of a wider discussion; but as a snappy slogan it was inevitably misconstrued by his critics and appropriated by atheists whose righteous conviction in their chosen belief system can often make them as sanctimoniously zealous as the followers of the faiths they decry. Religion, whether worshipping a living God or a dead one, always divides as much as it unites, with rival factions of the same faith having a habit of engaging in never-ending family feuds that can cost hundreds of thousands of lives when elongated over decades and, in some cases, centuries; and then there are the opposing faiths that routinely square up to one another every few years in order to prove whose God is bigger than the other. So many religions, so many Gods, so much unnecessary bloodshed – no wonder so many societies are secular today compared to the past.

A modern multi-faith democracy has to accommodate all of these spiritual ideologies, yet whereas the ultimate judgement as to which religion takes priority over the rest is traditionally in the hands of those following the dominant faith (for they tend to hold all the power), if secularism is their common currency, favouritism can be influenced by other factors. Whilst most would argue the majority of Brits today inhabit a secular world that mainly only acknowledges two Christian festivals – Christmas and Easter – this is still technically a Christian country, albeit one our Christian forefathers would sometimes struggle to recognise as such. To take the changing, diverse nature of the nation’s worship on board, our law-makers have done their best to ensure none of the myriad religions on offer today is discriminated against; however, there can be shades of an Identity Politics approach at play when ring-fencing faiths that aren’t associated with any of the British traditions which are now criminally unfashionable.

The foot-soldiers of the law-makers are dispatched to enforce those laws, and the undeniable existence of two-tier policing is evident in the way ring-fencing a minority at the expense of the majority produces one rule for one and one rule for another. Just as few MPs of recent years have seen active service in the armed forces compared to previous generations of politicians – therefore making it far easier for them to deploy troops when they have no notion of what operating in war-zones really entails – there probably aren’t many honourable members who’ve been policemen or women. I should imagine passing some ill-conceived new law is simple enough if you’re safe in the knowledge that you personally won’t be sent out onto the streets to enforce it; and if you’ve never been in that position, your grasp of the realities of doing so is probably limited to watching one of those ‘Police Camera Action’-type cheapo docs on Channel 5. Moreover, if those making up the rules have none of the inbred loyalty to Christianity that a Christian country implies, they won’t necessarily exhibit sensitivity towards its worshippers in the same way they might with other (more politically beneficial) faiths.

An illegal gathering of individuals outlawed by Covid restrictions – we’ve all seen such gatherings dispersed in an often-OTT manner by the police in online videos shot by those present; this is what we’ve come to expect. Not so in Batley, however. An illegal gathering outside a school there included the likes of Shamima Begum’s lawyer and was organised by an organisation which has apparently received effective sponsorship from the local branch of the teaching union – something that might further explain the silence and absence of support for the teacher now in hiding from the intolerant bigots who believe he didn’t show the followers of their faith the respect they’re not automatically entitled to. An illegal gathering breaking the restrictions the rest of us have to abide by and the incitement of religious hatred – two issues that surely should have led to police wading in and dispersing, no? No, of course not. Contrast this with events on Good Friday when the Met gate-crashed a service at a Polish Catholic church in South London with such brutish and arrogant insensitivity it was a wonder they didn’t declare ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!’

A scenario impossible to imagine being enacted in a mosque – and it would be no more enlightening or laudable a spectacle there than in a synagogue or a Methodist chapel – the interruption during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at Christ the King Polish church in Balham doesn’t require a devotion to the faith in question to send shivers down the spine. On the widely-circulated video, the leader of this glorified Gestapo makes the most of his moment in the spotlight by showing the worshippers who is boss. ‘You are not allowed to meet inside with this many people under law,’ he declares. ‘At this moment in time you need to go home. Failure to comply with this direction to leave and go to your home address ultimately could lead to being fined £200 or, if you fail to give your details, to you being arrested.’ It was like a scene from a movie set in the post-Reformation 16th century, when Catholic practices were outlawed in England and forced to be secretly staged in clandestine priest holes in constant danger of being raided. One might almost imagine we have a fresh network of spies dotted about the country reporting suspected services to the authorities. Perish the thought.

The protestors in Batley were not in the process of commemorating a Muslim Holy day – which may have led to an understandable softly-softly approach by the police; they were denouncing an ‘infidel’ and placing him in fear for his life with their vile rhetoric as they forced the closure of a school. The worshippers at the church in Balham, on the other hand, were celebrating the most solemn day in the Catholic calendar; and the police deliberately brought it to a close halfway through by striding into the church wearing their size-nines and barking their orders at the small congregation from the altar. This was a service that was being streamed online and had, according to reports, complied with the regulations at a time when the coronavirus is declining in the capital; that the police didn’t even have the decency to wait until the service was over would have robbed them of their melodramatic money-shot, one they clearly imagined would emphasise their authority and instil fear into those considering breaking the law. Yet it just made them look even more like an out-of-control private army drunk on its new powers.

As a long-term, prominent immigrant community in the UK, Poles have historically set up home here after fleeing persecution under totalitarian regimes that weren’t exactly tolerant of their faith. That a Polish church in particular should have been singled out for this unedifying treatment seems an especially damning indictment on the way in which two-tier policing is now dispensed in this country as well as highlighting a glaring lack of insight and understanding as to the kind of ghosts such an incident can evoke. Immigrant communities and their descendants carry the scars of their ancestors, packed into the collective suitcase when departing the homeland and then passed down the generations as part of the family silver, helping to forge a shared identity. Worship can often form a key element of this identity, yet one doesn’t have to be a believer at all to find the clumsy actions of the police in Balham a fairly shameful desecration of that worship which would be just as bad were it applied across the board to all forms of worship. That it isn’t being applied this way makes a mockery of both the law and the law enforcers, neither of which are generating the feeling that we’re all in this together. Because we’re clearly not.

© The Editor

THE BABY AND THE BATHWATER

A tried-and-trusted barometer for how far we’ve travelled as a society in living memory – certainly by the compilers of cheap clip shows – is to look at television output from 30-40-50 years ago. Yes, we’ve all seen these delves into the archives, with their awkward examples of antiquated attitudes towards women, ‘ethnic’ groups, gays and so on; such out-of-context samples of the recent past are usually accompanied by interjections from contemporary talking heads reacting in ‘Gogglebox’ fashion. As most of those selected to offer their insightful opinions tend to have been born long after the event, they react in the way people have always reacted to a past they never lived through; one may as well dig up descriptions of the atrocious living and working conditions of the urban poor in the Victorian period and inform someone born in 1995 that children actually used to be sent up chimneys. Yes, times have changed, just as times always do; that’s what happens when day follows night.

Despite having a greater immediacy than cinema in being able to reflect current cultural and societal developments and trends, television drama nevertheless isn’t the news; it usually trails a year or two behind the zeitgeist by virtue of the time it takes from the scriptwriter penning the opening line to an eventual transmission date. In the early-to-mid 1990s, for example, there was a spate of ‘illegal rave’ storylines running through many mainstream TV series of the era, with the standard moralistic plot usually concerning a teenage character dabbling in ecstasy and dicing with death as a consequence. However, by the time most of these shows aired, the rave scene had already relocated to shiny new city centre nightclubs opened by canny promoters and superstar DJs, and what remained of the illegal element was in the process of being crushed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994.

Similarly, many TV dramas – and sitcoms – of the 1970s often feature storylines in which the late 60s ‘counter culture’ still figures prominently when embodied in hippie radicals spouting pseudo-Marxist revolutionary gibberish and using outdated terminology – ‘man’. Therefore, relying upon old telly, certainly drama or comedy, to provide a 21st century generation with an accurate window to a world they never knew can be a tad misleading. Even taking some archetypal variety show of the period and studying the act of a comedian in a dinner jacket spinning the routine mother-in-law/thick Irishmen gags doesn’t take into account the fact this kind of comedy was hardly cutting-edge; it had long been regarded as naff and was regularly parodied by satirists on TV; it was also mercilessly ripped to shreds by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s foul-mouthed alter-egos Derek and Clive on their subversive vinyl outings at the same time as ‘Seaside Special’ was airing. Ee, it’s Alfie Noakes!

By picking and choosing snippets of old-school attitudes or language alien to modern mores simply to fit the agenda of the programme-makers and therefore underlining what a backward, bigoted society we used to be, there’s an inherent dishonesty at play; in falsely claiming this represents a whole picture, we conveniently ignore those segments of popular culture and television of the past that did a better job of giving voice to important issues and the masses affected by them than any equivalent attempt can manage now. Yes, ‘Play for Today’ is rightly remembered as a beacon of this, but it wasn’t operating in isolation; many of the writers, directors, producers and actors who progressed to the single play and gave us some of its most memorable jewels received their apprenticeship on what the BBC used to categorise as ‘continuing dramas’. In the 1960s and 70s, two shows served as especially potent training grounds – ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Z Cars’; today we’d call them soaps, but they were described as continuing dramas back then.

The impact of Tony Warren’s baby on British TV was more or less instant and proved to be incredibly far-reaching; it’s easy to forget just how radical it was when first broadcast and how much it revolutionised television as a whole, not just drama; one could argue there’d have been no ‘Steptoe and Son’ or ‘Till Death Us Do Part’, let alone ‘The Wednesday Play’, without ‘Coronation Street’. Within a year of the arrival of Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker and the rest, the BBC responded with ‘Z Cars’, another groundbreaking series that took the gritty, kitchen-sink vibe of ‘Corrie’ and put it in police uniform. Whereas Salford had been re-imagined as Weatherfield, Kirkby was reborn as Newtown. As close-knit communities were being swept away by the tower block and Brutalist housing schemes, ‘Z Cars’ showed how crime continued to flourish even in the Brave New World Utopias of the 60s. As the series moved on into the 70s, this factor became more pronounced as a greater reliance on location filming exposed just how swiftly those idealistic projects had descended into grubby, decaying eyesores in which crime and poverty were just as depressingly prevalent as they had been in the old slums.

Although a couple of ‘Z Cars’ DVDs were issued around seven or eight years back, giving me the opportunity to see the series with a fresh pair of eyes, great chunks of the show from the 70s are currently (at the time of writing) available on one of those YT channels that have a habit of quickly disappearing. I was able to download all the episodes – just in case – and have been watching them over the past few weeks. As is so often the case with mainstream dramatic output regarded at the time as the formulaic poor relation of the single play, when stood beside the ‘Am. Dram.’-like hospital-based soaps of today, many episodes of ‘Z Cars’ are astonishingly engaging, moving and hard-hitting. The writing and the acting are both of a remarkably high standard for a show that aired before the watershed. The characters are well-drawn, believable, either eminently likeable or effectively loathsome, and the situations are entirely relatable, especially to the audience who would’ve been watching at the time.

As someone who was a regular childhood visitor to an auntie and cousin who resided in one of the worst examples of a 60s high-rise concrete Dystopia, ‘Z Cars’ scenes of feral kids running wild around graffiti-stained estates with broken lifts, broken windows and broken spirits ring very true indeed. Not only do you instantly warm to the regular cast, but you care what happens to those who figure in just the one episode, which is a testament to the writers and the actors. Long scenes enabling characters to breathe and establish their personalities in a way that gradually explains the predicament they’re in means the viewer is slowly reeled into their world rather than emotional investment being achieved by emotional blackmail delivered with the subtlety of Bob Geldof demanding ‘Give us yer feckin’ money’. By mostly avoiding the headline-grabbing blags and gangland murders that Regan & Carter tackled, ‘Z Cars’ deals with the kind of small-scale crime most of us will come into contact with at some point of our lives and therefore highlights the plight of that most overlooked contemporary demographic – the little people.

From a modern perspective, the best way to watch ‘Z Cars’ – and its unfairly-maligned elder sibling, ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ – is not to view it as belonging to the same televisual canon as ‘The Sweeney’ or ‘The Professionals’ simply because cops are involved, but to place it alongside the likes of ‘Play for Today’, which also took time out to seek out the drama in the ordinary life. As we find ourselves at a moment in society’s decline and fall in which me and thee count for so little that they place us under house arrest, hide our faces behind masks and outlaw any public protest against them, it’s worth remembering how what was once the nation’s premier medium used to serve as the stage for our stories. Are we so much better off now than we were then?

© The Editor

THE BLUE TOUCH PAPER

The spectre of the Poll Tax Riots tends to shadow any civil disobedience that spills onto the streets of London to this day, but anyone old enough to have a good memory of events that took place in the capital 30 years ago will know few since have matched them in terms of anarchic ferocity. As ever, context counts for a great deal, and the riots that took place on 31 March 1990 were another chapter in a lengthy sequence that stretched back to the Grosvenor Square shindig of 1968. The ugly collision between police and protestors in the aftermath of an anti-Vietnam War march as demonstrators massed outside the US Embassy came as a shock to the general public at the time; although London in particular has quite a history when it comes to ‘the mob’ – encompassing everything from the Gordon Riots of 1780 to the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 – the immediate post-war period had been relatively quiet when it came to outbreaks of public disorder with a political or ideological bent.

Even though the phrase ‘reading the Riot Act’ refuses to go away, the actual Riot Act itself had been repealed in the UK just the year before the Grosvenor Square incident of 1968, presumably because it was felt society as a whole was less prone to erupt into spontaneous public violence than it had been at the time of the Act’s introduction in 1714. By and large, it was. Yes, there had been serious racial trouble in Notting Hill in 1958 as well as clashes between police and ‘ban the bomb’ demonstrators in Trafalgar Square in 1961, but the kind of widespread anarchy that led to troops shooting dead around 285 members of the public during the Gordon Riots was seen very much as past tense. The Riot Act hadn’t been literally read in England since 1919, and the need to issue a vocal warning to twelve or more who were ‘unlawfully assembled’ was deemed irrelevant to the modern age. Ironically, it was only after the repeal of the Riot Act in 1967 that the kind of civil disorder familiar to 18th century Britain resurfaced.

The upsurge in industrial disputes that came to characterise the 1970s often led to volatile picket-line incidents – with the worst being at the height of the Grunwick Strike in 1977; but there was also football hooliganism, National Front marches, the 1976 ‘race riot’ during the Notting Hill Carnival, and not forgetting the virtually daily battles between the British Army and the citizens of Belfast and Londonderry. Within a decade, the sight of battalions of Bobbies wading in with truncheons and then progressing onto full riot gear with shields became a commonplace image on news broadcasts; the 1980s merely continued the trend, with the inner-city riots of 1981 and the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5 being amongst the most memorably incendiary. Therefore, the Poll Tax Riots appear perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the times. As most of the more serious examples during this period were sparked by grievances centring on social, racial and financial inequality, it was no surprise that rioters spilling out of Trafalgar Square in 1990 smashed the windows of and set ablaze various symbols of the great divide such as car showrooms, wine bars and night-clubs. After all, the Poll Tax itself was seen as the legislative manifestation of this divide.

Even before she became Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher appeared in a party political broadcast during the October 1974 General Election and announced it was her intention to get rid of the rates. As a system of taxation for funding local government, the rates were a levy on property rather than people and were one of those obsessive subjects devoted Tory voters tend to fixate on with an almost autistic intensity. Mrs T took her time, though; the rates weren’t eventually superseded by the Community Charge until she’d been in power for a decade, and the new tax – which was no respecter of social circumstances, with the same fixed rate for everyone, regardless of income – proved to be the first nail in her coffin. Scotland was used as a guinea pig for what became colloquially known as ‘the Poll Tax’ the year before its introduction in England and Wales, further cementing the Tories as the enemies north of the border. There were widespread refusals to pay and by the time the Poll Tax was UK-wide in 1990, an opinion poll revealed 78% were opposed to it. Although the likes of the Miners’ Strike had been an early example of Government and media colluding to generate polarisation that would aid the desired outcome, there was a substantial consensus on the Poll Tax that placed its supporters very much in the minority. When most of a Prime Minister’s Cabinet are amongst the opposition to an unpopular policy, chances are it ain’t gonna work.

Mrs Thatcher was deposed by her own party within eight months of the Poll Tax Riots and her successor as PM John Major announced his intention to scrap the tax in his inaugural speech. Even if the riots of 31 March hadn’t happened, the tax was so universally reviled that it was destined to be put out of its misery, anyway. However, it was telling that, although many who took part in the riots were those that always turn up at a demo with aggro in mind (and continue to do so), the anger directed towards the police that day seemed fairly general amongst all present. The notorious Special Patrol Group had opened eyes at Grunwick in 1977, but when Thatcher had cynically bussed in Met reinforcements to bolster the local constabularies struggling on the picket-lines at Orgreave, it was a disastrous PR exercise for the police that considerably altered the way in which the wider public saw their law enforcers. The view of the police long held by the country’s immigrant communities – that of them being a de facto government private army, which was precisely the concern of Brits that delayed the introduction of a police force for centuries – now became the default setting for many; events this year appear to have solidified such a view of the boys in blue.

There were shades of the Poll Tax Riots back in the summer, which was ironic considering the humiliating and nauseating deference shown by the police towards the BLM protestors, creating an atmosphere that laid bare officers’ political leanings and gave the green light to Antifa to deface and desecrate their surroundings in a famously ‘peaceful protest’. But even if the BLM event couldn’t quite match the Poll Tax Riots in scale (as neither could Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in the same location), the potential for something comparable is certainly in the air – and the police aren’t helping matters. Their blatant favouritism, taking the knee on one cause and putting the boot in on the other, is something they don’t even try and hide anymore. Along with the petty, Jobsworth elements that the pandemic has brought to the fore, and the ‘check your thinking’ cyber division, the image of the police as a Gestapo Woke militia actively avoiding fighting actual crime is stoking as much resentment as the Government’s latest hapless measures to combat Covid-19.

What distinguishes this year’s incidents from 1990 is the polarisation of opinion that owes more to the unholy marriage of media and Government characteristic of the Miners’ Strike than it does to the orthodoxy of opinion on the Poll Tax. Government can play on fears they deliberately engineered to ensure compliance, using crass and immoral threats of overwhelmed hospitals or dying grannies dropping like blue-rinsed bluebottles after a five-second hug from a grandchild; this divide-and-rule tactic is working along Remainer/Leaver lines in that the population is split, but the diminishing trust in our leaders to get us out of this almighty mess is undoubtedly on the rise, and another six months like the last will probably break the patience of even the most law-abiding saints. One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy devotee of Piers Corbyn or David Icke to regard the brutal removal of civil liberties as an outrage that cannot be indefinitely tolerated; and when the people feel powerless, they will grab any semblance of power they can; history has shown us if that means rioting, they’ll do it. It’s probably safe to say we ain’t seen nothing yet.

© The Editor

THE WAY WE LIVE NOW

It’s probably a sign of undeniably strange times that the murder of a British police officer can provoke less public outrage on home soil than the murder of a career criminal on the other side of the Atlantic. Then again, there may be wider reasons why the reaction to the fatal shooting of Sgt Matiu Ratana in Croydon has been fairly muted. After all, the police force seems to go out of its way to alienate itself from the people it allegedly polices with consent, preferring instead to pander to political causes and ideological fads that matter to the few rather than the many. Moreover, the performance of some forces and individual officers during the lockdown – from dispatching drones to shame isolated dog-walkers in the Peak District to informing householders they were breaking the law by sitting in their gardens – did them no favours; and the blatant contrast between their approach to those promoting issues they approve of and those they don’t further detaches them from the public.

When an anti-lockdown protest marched through the centre of London on Saturday, the boys in blue arrived in full riot gear and let rip, reminiscent of the way in which the Gilets jaunes crowds were dealt with in Paris. The protest was breaking the latest hasty regulations regarding gatherings and social distancing – fair enough; but the BLM ones that took place at the height of the actual nationwide lockdown in the summer were flaunting the rules when everybody was supposed to stay indoors. The police responded to those by taking the knee; yesterday, they opted for batons. The difference was striking. ‘This is not acceptable,’ shrieked Sadiq Khan on Twitter. ‘Large gatherings are banned for a reason – you are putting the safety of our city at risk.’ So were BLM, Mr Mayor; but I guess God (or the Met) must be on their side. Oh, well – just write Saturday’s event off as a ‘far-right’ demo and all will be justified.

At the moment, the police are challenging politicians as the public servants most mistrusted by the public, and if the former can no longer be depended upon, then it really is every man for himself. Mind you, put the entire country under house arrest and it’s only fair to expect a few manifestations of madness after a few months. Pubs were already an endangered species before anyone had even heard of Covid-19; forcing them to call time at 10.00pm – clearly the coronavirus only springs into life at that hour – is the latest kiss of death that could well herald the towels staying on the pumps permanently. Pubs are at the forefront of a hospitality industry dying on its arse, yet any opposition to whichever Cromwellian brainwave this useless administration comes up with next – cancel Christmas, anyone? – naturally means the blood of the NHS is on the hands of every traitor to question the wisdom of those without wisdom. Boris blames the public, of course; far be it from the Government to take any responsibility for their catastrophic strategy.

And don’t forget young people – the least vulnerable appear to be more responsible for the mess we’re in than anyone else, going by the way they’re currently incarcerated. In Scotland and some English cities, university campuses have become virtual prisons, with students paying extortionate fees for the privilege of being locked-up 24/7; Wales, meanwhile, has effectively sealed itself off from the rest of the UK. Never mind, though – we’ve got Covid Marshals to keep us safe. Yes, Captain Mainwaring strikes again! As the call goes out for the nation’s officious little Hitler’s to don a silly uniform and goosestep outside your local Asda for the foreseeable, all those sad men with chips on their shoulders because they couldn’t even pass the audition to become Community Support Officers have now found reading ‘Bravo Two Zero’ over and over again has finally paid off. England expects every nonentity to do his duty, so who needs the police, anyway?

And amidst this insanity that one can often only view through a glass darkly, there are human stories of tragic sadness that inflict unnecessary cruelty on those affected. I read one last week, one of many I receive that is already a fully-formed petition requesting my signature. It concerned the mother of a sick child born at the beginning of the lockdown. When the baby was admitted to hospital, coronavirus visiting rules meant only the child’s mother could sit with him, excluding his father from the picture. The mother had no relief from her bedside vigil because no one was allowed to take her place, meaning she was denied a break from the unimaginable strain of being there on her own with a critically ill child who spent part of that time on a ventilator in intensive care. Whilst there, she met other mothers going through the same nightmare – one of whom had spent eight weeks sat beside a ventilator alone, with no partner allowed in to share the dreadful burden.

According to this heartfelt account, the parents present were tested on a weekly basis, meaning the same could be applied to any other visiting family member whose in-person emotional support would undoubtedly be an invaluable alleviator of stress for the lone parent. As she points out, some of those mothers spending the majority of their time in hospital are managing to go home too, where they will obviously be around other people. The risk, therefore, is fairly minimal. Whereas the rules are ridiculously flexible to suit some – and who doesn’t round-up their chums for a good old stag-hunt or grouse-shoot every once in a while? – what most of us would regard as a humane necessity is not being considered. If this business is scheduled to be as long-term as it would appear, surely priorities are in desperate need of re-evaluating. The mother in question’s petition is aimed at Matt Hancock in the hope he and all NHS trusts can change this policy so two people can sit with a sick child at neonatal units and children’s hospitals. Doesn’t sound like such an unreasonable request, does it?

We’ve already heard stories about people with curable illnesses putting themselves in danger because they’re too scared to enter a hospital as well as the postponement of life-saving operations to accommodate the nonexistent Covid avalanche; but this is another consequence of the panic that needs to be addressed – one more symptom of this slapdash make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach that is causing so much avoidable grief. As with some of the more bizarre rules regulating social gatherings, it sometimes feels as if the old British sense of fair play is conspicuously absent, whether how parents confronted by a worst case scenario are being deprived of sensibly decent treatment at one end or how the police and authorities respond to public demonstrations depending on their political stance at the other. Perhaps one should always wear a BLM T-shirt and a rainbow badge for good measure. They seem to have become today’s equivalent of the old ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch in which an American Express card was seen to open all doors. At a time when so many doors appear to have closed, it would be nice to think they won’t stay that way forever – for everyone.

© The Editor

SHUT IT!

The only episode of ‘The Sweeney’ I was allowed to watch when it originally aired was a late entry in the series; the bargaining chip was the inexplicable presence of Morecambe & Wise as guest stars. I suppose maternal permission was influenced by the expectation that Eric and Ernie would help tone down the violence for which the show was notorious in 1978. Unbeknownst to my mother, I’d already seen an episode screened past my normal bedtime whilst staying at my grandparents’ place during a school holiday; there was never any set bedtime there, so I sat in on ‘The Sweeney’ with granddad and grandma and was treated to a full-frontal pair of tits on their little telly as a reward. If there was one element that gave the adventures of Regan and Carter playground plus-points in the 1970s, it was the perennial possibility of naked female flesh. Along with the anticipated car chases and punch-ups, there was always the outside chance of a scene in a strip-club. There’d be no proper swearing beyond the use of ‘bastard’ (pronounced baa-sted) a lot, so a glimpse of bristols was the next best thing.

I don’t know why it was such a big deal when even our house’s tabloid of choice at the time – the Daily Mirror – had its own equivalent of page 3 back then, so it’s not as if you couldn’t catch a snatch of mammaries, anyway; but ‘The Sweeney’ had a special position in the minds of 70s children. It was the Holy Grail of adult TV shows. Everyone at school claimed to watch it regularly, but such claims were no different from pubescent bullshit bragging about sexual encounters. 9.00 was the cut-off point for most when it came to viewing habits; you might be familiar with the show’s theme tune wafting up from the front room as your head reluctantly hit the pillow, but few from my generation saw it during its original run. It was regarded as ‘hard’ TV – far more realistic than ‘Starsky and Hutch’, and routinely featuring unsettling cockney villains with stockings on their faces, robbing banks clutching sawn-off shotguns – just like the headline crimes you heard during the bongs on ‘News at Ten’ before you finally fell asleep.

To a 70s child, ‘The Sweeney’ had a similar mystique as X-rated movies or girlie magazines, a grown-up world you yearned to be part of but knew you frustratingly had to wait for – a wait that felt like an eternity. In the absence of the real thing, your imagination painted a picture so graphic that by the time you were old enough to see the series during its first full run of repeats in the early 80s, half of the entertainment value came from the dated fashions. Reruns continued well into the 90s, passing through numerous postmodern and ‘ironic’ appreciations or condemnations. Then came the spoofs, the parodies, the pastiches and the eventual homage of ‘Life on Mars’; along the way, the series was simultaneously praised as a slice of gritty realism that blew ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ and ‘Z-Cars’ out of the water as well as a misogynistic example of old-school macho attitudes we were well rid of. ‘The Sweeney’ remains all of these things, yet so much more.

After the best part of 20 years without seeing a single episode – though consistent viewings of VHS off-air recordings preserved numerous lines and scenes in memory’s amber for decades – I recently got round to adding ‘The Sweeney’ to my bulging library of archive British TV shows on DVD. I decided to start proper with the movie-length pilot, titled ‘Regan’. Even 46 years on, it’s possible to see the promise of both the lead character and the set-up in this groundbreaking entry in the ‘Armchair Cinema’ anthology series. John Thaw was a familiar face to viewers by 1974, appearing as a guest star in endless programmes as well as managing an early starring role in the mid-60s series about the military police, ‘Redcap’; but in the gruff and grizzled, hard-boiled character of DI Jack Regan, he stumbled upon the role of a lifetime.

Produced by Euston Films, the Thames division established to make drama entirely on film, ‘The Sweeney’ had some of its ground laid by the final two series of ‘Special Branch’ (1973-74) and recruited Dennis Waterman as Regan’s sidekick Sgt Carter, having impressed in an episode of the earlier series. ‘The Sweeney’ would take the approach of ‘Special Branch’ and push the grittiness to a new level for television. Unlike its predecessor, by focusing on the cases of the Flying Squad, Regan & Carter didn’t have to concern themselves with occasional espionage interludes and had free rein to concentrate on ‘blags’ of the kind that were commonplace when most businesses had physical cash delivered to their premises on pay day.

‘The Sweeney’ is far from being crass, one-dimensional action, however. There’s an abundance of wit in the dialogue, and Regan & Carter are well-rounded, wholly believable characters whose banter and buddy-buddy relationship rings true in the context of their situation. The line between copper and criminal was never more blurred than in ‘The Sweeney’, though in his own way DI Regan possesses as strong a moral streak as Sgt Dixon; he’s averse to bribery and would never be in the pocket of a villain. At the time of its original broadcast, a series of high-profile exposés on real-life Met corruption hogged the headlines, so for all its seemingly unflattering portrait of Scotland Yard, ‘The Sweeney’ actually paints the police in an encouragingly positive light. If anything, Regan’s true nemesis is not the blagger, but the ‘fifth-floor bottlers’ at the Yard, forever frustrating his investigations with bureaucratic interference. Regan is more comfortable as the Wild West sheriff than being marooned behind a desk, happier tooled-up with a shooter than pushing a pen, in his element on the street rather than undergoing ‘diversity awareness’ courses.

In many respects, ‘The Sweeney’ is the definitive British TV series of the mid-70s; the landscape that Regan & Carter screech their tyres through is one of a rundown, worn-out country falling to pieces – and Regan himself often appears to mirror the state of the nation. Despite being able to chase villains on foot, he and his second-in-command smoke a breathtaking amount of cigarettes, they drink like borderline alcoholics, and they each bed a different ‘scrubber’ every episode. Men like them probably still exist, but they’re not portrayed on emasculating primetime television anymore. In one episode, Regan’s ex-wife looks despairingly at him and says ‘You’re 35 and you look 45’, and it’s true that all the men in the series whose ages are stated do indeed look at least a decade older by today’s standards, though I guess all those fags, booze and birds took their toll. Interestingly, however, very few of them are obese.

Regan & Carter take no prisoners and no outsiders are exempt from their contempt. They don’t single anyone out for special treatment, failing to distinguish between posh-boys, northerners, Scotsmen, Irishmen, blacks, Arabs, gays, lesbians, prostitutes – all are fair game for piss-taking and disdain, and all have their derogatory nicknames characteristic of the era. Watching it with a 21st century head on is a pointless exercise; one has to enter into the spirit of the times as much as viewing a Hollywood Film Noir from the 1940s; it’s a different world and one with its own surreal rules and regulations. Even something as basic as the bizarre side-partings and fuzzy barnets of the bad guys becomes the norm after a few episodes, as does the slang. One quickly accepts this world as a separate entity from reality – which is ironic considering realism was a key factor that gained the programme such critical and commercial success first time round. Coming to it anew at a moment when the contemporary world seems a more uncertain environment with each passing day, there’s something oddly comforting about the world inhabited by ‘The Sweeney’; it’s rough and it’s ready, but you know where you stand.

© The Editor

AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH

I watched one of those remarkable interviews the other day, the kind that television used to specialise in back when programmes like ‘Panorama’ or ‘World in Action’ presented hard news stories to an audience of millions, the kind that vindicated the work put in by committed and thorough investigate journalists, the kind that used to make such a powerful impact that they would lead to a change in the law, the kind that once you start watching you don’t pause to put the kettle on because your attention is captured wholly for the duration. It was dealing with a relevant story that has affected thousands of lives in this country for decades – thousands of extremely vulnerable lives. Only, it wasn’t on television. It was on YouTube. And it wasn’t an interview conducted by an investigative journalist, but by two comedians. It aired on the Triggernometry channel, hosted by Francis Foster and Konstantin Kisin, and the interviewee was Dr Ella Hill, a Rotherham grooming gang survivor.

The fact the only place this interview could be found was on Triggernometry is either a damning indictment of the cowardice and prejudice of ‘impartial’ MSM news outlets and broadcasters or simply highlights that they are now as redundant as the print medium. This was an interview that should have been screened in a primetime slot on a mainstream TV channel – and would’ve been at one time; but it was never gonna happen in 2020. What Ella Hill’s emotive, moving and frankly horrific testimony offered was an eye-witness account of an appalling scandal that utterly trashes the contemporary narrative on issues of race; and the MSM – along with every other UK institution, corporation and higher education establishment – has invested far too much in this narrative for it to be contradicted by an uncomfortable truth.

This is a story loaded with two key elements that constitute the fundamental foundations of Identity Politics ideology – it has violence against women and it has toxic masculinity; it should have been immediately seized upon by the practitioners of that ideology and promoted as the outrage it is. But it wasn’t treated in the way one might imagine because the toxic males committing the violence against women were Muslims, a demographic ranking high on the Identitarian league tables of Oppressed Minorities; and the women – or girls – were white, and therefore not important. Only those with white skin can be racist, lest we forget, for racism can only be committed by the ‘privileged’ majority. Turns out it wasn’t a Hate Crime after all.

‘Racially and religiously-aggravated rape’ is Ella Hill’s own personal definition of the grooming gang raison d’être, ‘or network-based rape, very often of underage girls.’ She estimates upwards of half-a-million girls have been victims of this particularly repugnant crime over the past forty years, yet how long had it been going on before it broke over-ground? And remember how the MSM reacted when it did – choosing instead to give distracting airtime to frauds and fantasists spouting conspiracy theories of historical Westminster paedophile rings and soft targets like dead or decrepit 70s celebrities? Much easier to deal with than the fact that organised groups of British Muslims of Pakistani origin were sexually abusing what they regarded as subhuman ‘white trash’ and destroying the multicultural myth in the process. Ella Hill herself was sucked into this vile netherworld in her teens by an Asian boyfriend who subjugated her with physical and mental abuse once he began sharing her with the rest of the gang; even when she survived attempted murder at their hands and spent a week in hospital with her injuries, reporting the full story to the police on five separate occasions was met with the response ‘There’s nothing we can do.’

The toxic legacy of the Stephen Lawrence murder has swung the police forces of this country from one extreme to the other rather than having rebalanced the scales; the reprehensible refusal to help a physically, mentally and sexually abused young woman in the interests of preserving racial harmony – and because she was the ‘wrong’ kind of victim – is the natural outcome of this mindset. And by shutting up ‘for the sake of diversity’, it leaves the field clear for the opportunistic Far Right to weaponise the subject, thus placing it further beyond the pale of polite conversation.

In a society in which white people are now being encouraged to believe they are born with the Original Sin of racism, it’s no wonder such an outrage as grooming gangs has been allowed to fester unimpeded by inconveniences like prosecution and imprisonment. Grooming gangs show up Identity Politics as the sham it is, and its most fanatical advocates will not tolerate this. During the interview, Ella Hill admitted she’d been scared to take part in it, not down to fears of revenge attacks by those who abused her, but from the Far Left who hounded her off social media. ‘I get called a Nazi,’ she said. ‘I get called a fascist, I get called a bigot, I get called an enemy of Islam…and’ (perhaps evoking her abusers’ view of her as ‘easy meat’) ‘one of the things that really hurts is being called gammon.’

Of course, what the existence of this particular division of Islam in Britain does by indulging in such gruesome practices is to tarnish the entire ‘Muslim Community’, not to mention highlighting the ridiculousness of pigeonholing millions of people who happen to share the same faith as a one-size-fits-all demographic. If the Identitarian agenda didn’t insist on grouping together disparate individuals on the basis of skin colour, religion, sex, gender and sexual preference then the grooming gangs would’ve been rightly outed as the organised paedophile networks that they are; but because the powers-that-be have bought into the Identity Politics philosophy, all Muslims are therefore affiliated with grooming gangs due to all Muslims belonging in the same box – and over-publicising the scandal would therefore inspire hatred of, and violence against, all Muslims. Whose fault is this, then – The Far Right? Muslims themselves? I don’t think so.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion wrote a tabloid piece about this subject a couple of years back and was forced to resign from Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet as a reward – as well as having to keep a low profile in the face of a hate-fuelled social media campaign against her. Fellow Labour MP Naz Shah described the article as ‘incendiary and irresponsible’ before reiterating the safe narrative that ‘90% of child sexual abusers are white men’. Meanwhile, the official Home Office report into grooming gangs remains suppressed and the police this week announced they were considering dropping terms such as ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and ‘Jihadists’ for fear of causing offence to ‘the Muslim Community’. One would imagine they should be more concerned with the offence caused by the crimes of such criminals.

‘The Black Lives Matter movement is frightening to me,’ said Ella Hill. ‘I was forced to bend the knee, I was forced to kneel down and kiss my perpetrator’s feet…I was forced to literally kneel at his feet as part of the abuse I received…and when I see the footballers kneeling, and when I see leading politicians kneeling, to me I’m seeing them kneeling to my perpetrators – and it breaks my heart.’ Considering the dreadful abuse she suffered and the injustices of that abuse going unpunished, it would be understandable if Dr Ella Hill was hell-bent on revenge; yet, she cites her Christian faith as her salvation and expresses astonishingly charitable forgiveness towards her abusers. Her interview is no easy viewing experience, but her refreshing humanity is genuinely uplifting in a climate that appears to have learnt nothing from decades of blind eyes being turned. It really is worth a watch, and Ella Hill’s beautiful spirit saves it from being an exercise in vicarious misery for the viewer. Hers is a story that needed to be told and one that needs to be heard.

© The Editor

HYSTERICAL CONTEXT

Have you heard? It’s in the stars: Next July we collide with Mars. Well, let’s get a move on with that. Puts me in mind of a 1971 ‘Doctor Who’ story in which the Doc’s Timelord nemesis, The Master, invites an alien invader to Earth; the Nestene Intelligence isn’t Martian, but a species that can bring any inanimate object to life as long as it’s plastic. It animates shop-window dummies and uses them to seize power in advance of the invasion with The Master’s assistance. However, at the moment when The Master is poised to finally welcome the alien invader, the Doctor asks The Master if he thinks that once the Nestene Intelligence sets eyes on him, it will instantly distinguish between him and mankind. After all, he doesn’t exactly look very alien. Obviously, the Doctor’s point registers and the invasion is averted. But The Master was playing with fire and labouring under the misapprehension that his obedience would spare him the fate that awaited everyone else – not unlike those on social media who were aghast when the wild animal in their lap suddenly bit them.

Why were Graham Linehan and JK Rowling so surprised? Hadn’t they shamelessly pandered to the Woke consensus? Hadn’t they tried to do the one thing you cannot do with fanatics – appease and please them? Their PC credentials hadn’t guaranteed them the immunity they naively imagined they would and now they’re paying the price as designated un-persons. Both have become targets for the nastiest disciples of the SJW cult – the trans-terrorists. To be honest, it’s hard to be sympathetic. Comedian Leigh Francis of ‘Keith Lemon’ fame made the same mistake a few days ago, apologising for once making people laugh on his early noughties series ‘Bo’ Selecta!’, in which he parodied every celebrity of the day – of all colours and genders; he clearly doesn’t realise the confession-cum-apology demanded still won’t satisfy those he seeks to forgive him. Forgiveness is not an element of the new religion.

In fact, Leigh Francis’s bumbled pre-emptive strike was actually the least nauseating missive launched online in a week that has seen a wave of collective hysteria sweep through the English-speaking world quicker than you can say coronavirus. The faint hope that a global pandemic would put the brakes on the culture wars was to underestimate the width of the polarisation that now exists between the warring factions. Yes, one can cite a certain stir-craziness courtesy of the lockdown, but it hardly excuses the extremities of behaviour on the streets of cities that have absolutely no connection whatsoever with events in Minneapolis. British Police officers who just a few weeks ago were harassing socially-distanced sunbathers and rooting through shopping bags foolishly imagined that submitting to the lunatics now running the asylum would spare them. But adopting a humiliating pose that implied they were about to ask for their hand in marriage didn’t prevent them from being targeted – or even their bloody horses. Again, you cannot appease or please fanatics.

Dancing at Pride marches and making similarly undignified concessions to Instagram culture does not earn Woke Brownie-points when confronted by a toxic brand of politicised anarchy that originated in the US and now sadly has a foothold here. And it has a foothold because the powers-that-be have done nothing to prevent it. Such is the fear of online ostracism after attaching disproportionate volume to the loudest voices on Twitter that inches have been given and miles have been taken, and this weekend saw the inevitable outcome of this spineless compliance. Inaction has opened the door to those whose only cause is chaos. Like the hooligan armies who used to attend football matches simply because they loved a punch-up and didn’t give two shits about the beautiful game, for the worst offenders in London and Bristol the name of George Floyd is nothing more than a convenient buzz-word to hang their intentions on.

A line was crossed in Bristol yesterday. Pause for a moment and think what happened; even if we are coerced into accepting some vague justification on the part of the perpetrators, what happened was the kind of thing we read about in history books when it comes to the streets of British cities, back when we were supposedly more barbaric than we are today. If it happens today, it happens in other countries in specific circumstances. When it happened in Iraq, it was a spontaneous action by people who had just been liberated from a despot; the manifestation of their unleashed relief was directed towards a symbolic monument to the despised dictator who had the blood of their families on his stone hands. That wasn’t the case yesterday. This was a statue to a long-dead local philanthropist whose fortune was derived from a despised historical trade that, lest we forget, the British led the way in abolishing 200 years ago, at a time when it remained a profitable industry. 200 f***ing years ago.

The disturbingly supine attitude towards this by many people I follow on social media, people I otherwise admire, is either a Leigh Francis-like expression of not wanting to be targeted themselves, or it reflects a short-sighted awareness of what it really represents and what it could lead to. Fine if a mob pulls down a symbol of something few could defend, but what happens if they next select a symbol of something you hold dear? Indeed, once these Taliban tactics have succeeded on the streets of one British city, why should they end in Bristol? Some of England’s grandest and most beautiful stately homes were built on the profits of slavery; are they next on the hit-list? So many triggering and problematic publications line the shelves of the nation’s libraries; surely they should be gathered together in a public space and set alight? Now, that would be an anti-fascist gesture!

Name one prominent figure from the past who couldn’t be considered ‘problematic’ if placed in the narrow context of judging everyone and everything through the prism of contemporary discourse; chances are it can’t be done. Indeed, the fast-moving nature of who is and who isn’t acceptable means even characters elevated to icon status this century can be raised and felled in the blink of an eye. Had a statue of Aung San Suu Kyi been erected at the height of her deification, no doubt it would’ve already been pulled down by now – such was the speed of her seamless transition from heroine to villainess. Defacing and vandalising monuments to Churchill or Lincoln is one thing; but when white rich-kids with daddy issues up their game unchallenged, the stakes change considerably. Of course, the shameless applause of the left’s pseudo-intellectuals is no surprise; the far-left foot-soldiers do the dirty work so they can sit back and vicariously celebrate from the comfort of their gated communities. They can wear the slogan of the moment on a T-shirt and write a column about events as they toast the revolution – just like they did with Uncle Joe and Chairman Mao.

The aim of the far-left, of course, is to ‘smash the system’ and sod the rest of us who are just trying to get on with each other; by being able to engage in criminal damage uninterrupted, the provocation aimed at the far-right is blatant. The far-left wants to convince us the far-right is the threat rather than a bunch of hairy-palmed bedroom saddoes playing at being Nazis online; they want to draw them out of their mothers’ houses to engage in the ‘race war’ they so desperately crave to vindicate their narrative. Reinforcing divisions is a hallmark of this regressive movement; and telling one side they are in a perpetual state of oppression whilst telling the other their whiteness is an original sin that must be cleansed is already in danger of becoming perceived wisdom. But naively imagining the mob won’t eventually come for you just because its actions so far chime with your worldview is to play with the proverbial fire; it’s like stroking a tiger and believing it won’t take your hand off because you make a monthly donation to cat charities. Reaping and sowing, eh?

© The Editor

SUSPICIOUS MINDS

When several 5G masts were attacked during the early pre-lockdown panic, images of pitchfork-carrying retards reverting to primitive superstitions were instantly evoked – y’know, the kind that spot a train in the distance and cry ‘Iron horse! Tis the Devil’s work!’ All the backwoods backwards clichés employed in everything from ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Deliverance’ to ‘The League of Gentlemen’ came to the fore, even though the source of this misguided hysteria was the ultimate contemporary tool, i.e. our very own global Speakers’ Corner. Even without the odious David Icke (and online channels that shamelessly promote him to boost their revenues), cyberspace is hardly short on wild conspiracy theories or fiction presented as fact; but so much internet output is geared towards confirming whatever one already chooses to believe and disbelieve that it’s no real wonder this is the case.

Crackpot writings on the Holocaust or the Moon Landings were once restricted to discredited historians and scientists whose works were in the hands of a tiny minority of pseudo-academic fruitcakes; but, as we have seen over the past 20 years, the spread of information via the 21st century’s superhighway means everything can now reach anybody. While those who propagate insane, nonsensical theories may be as deluded and demented as their hardcore devotees, they have nevertheless cannily tapped in to something that reaches a far wider audience – the destabilising uncertainties of our times, wherein nothing appears to be as it once seemed. Exploiting a climate spiked with cynicism and disillusionment courtesy of successive exposés of actual corruption at the highest levels of society’s institutions – politics, royalty, the church, the police, the press – the conspiracy theorists long ago twigged that when the people believe nothing, they’ll believe anything.

The guilty parties to blame for this situation, for abusing their power and presuming their wealth or status would insulate them from exposure, cannot be surprised at the monster they’ve created. Every politician caught with his hand in the till or his trousers round his ankles, every priest preaching damnation to sinners and then found fiddling with an altar-boy when the service is over, every public health ‘expert’ extolling the merits of social distancing to the masses and then discovered spurning them in private, every police commissioner turning a blind eye to grooming gangs whilst ‘checking the thinking’ of the person behind a tweet questioning the crazed logic of a trans-activist – all plant seeds of despair, despondency, anger and outrage in the minds of the public and tell them nobody holding a position that was once imbued with respect can be trusted anymore. When there are no moral barometers, people seek a truth that reinforces their suspicions, whether it’s true or not. They need something reassuring to cling to.

So, it’s no great leap of the imagination when the world is placed in unprecedented suspended animation that many desperately looking for an answer will fall for any tall story. The more governments try to cover their tracks and withhold as much as they can from their populace, the more they leave themselves open to accusations both wild and legitimate, and China is an obvious target in the current situation. Despite protracted arse-licking on the part of the World Health Organisation and Google employing the kind of censorious approach to associating Covid-19 with China as certain sections of the left adopt whenever anyone dares to criticise elements of Islam, it’s inevitable China’s undoubted culpability in the coronavirus pandemic will not only receive genuine and warranted examination, but will also provoke fantastical theories sold as the truth.

Yet, even when one takes a step back from the more extreme allegations aimed at exposing the causes behind something that has left the people of the world dazed and confused and feeling like they’re not being told everything, the impact of the lockdown has exacerbated the inherent mistrust and dislike of one’s neighbours that is always just below the surface of many, pushing it beyond the pale in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances. For all the doorstep clapping and pots-and-pans-banging that supposedly sums up the ‘we’re all in it together’ coronavirus community, the simultaneous snitching that has evolved from traditional curtain-twitching has played into the hands of police forces loving the new powers to extend their jurisdiction in dealings with the man, woman, child and rough-sleeper in the street, which is hardly the basis for a jolly Blitz Spirit.

And there are also the ‘lockdown fundamentalists’, those who not only call the cops if they catch sight of more than two pedestrians at a time outside their homes, but who have taken it upon themselves to take more direct action. I suspect the same yahoos who regarded 5G masts as evil transmitters of the yellow peril are responsible for the latest guerrilla tactics in the unlikely environs of North Yorkshire. Home-made ‘man-traps’ – gruesome blocks of wood packed with nails – have been discovered in various woodlands in Cleveland that are now routinely used as locations for allocated daily strolls and meanders by householders needing to get out of their houses. These horrible objects have led to warnings for the public to be vigilant when venturing into the likes of Margrove Woods and Guisborough Forest; and police in the region have apparently spoken to an unnamed ‘former parish councillor and retired teacher’ who admitted to being responsible for what was described as a blockade of branches and rocks on a cyclist trail.

I have a feeling the North East probably isn’t unique when it comes to such OTT means of preventing people from making the most of what little outdoor life they can grab. Police have apparently stepped up their patrols of the affected locations, but the initial online police ‘shaming’ of isolated dog-walkers wandering the vast open plains of Derbyshire perhaps didn’t help matters and only served to fuel the fire in the bellies of the easily unhinged. A steady diet of corona-news, whatever the media medium, is not especially healthy even for those of us not prone to hammering nails in blocks of wood and then scattering them in woodlands frequented by more members of the public than usual; but the relentless cycle of doom ‘n’ gloom on a loop becomes for some a disturbingly addictive justification for their antisocial actions.

Personally, I can handle all this stuff in small doses. I haven’t cut myself off completely from news outlets, for it’s helpful to know what’s happening out there – and it’s obviously necessary when it comes to writing one of these posts. But you can have too much of a bad thing. Whatever our individual circumstances, we’re all living with aspects of this on a daily basis even when we’re not checking headlines; and we need a breather – well, many breathers, to be honest. It’s just a bummer if we decide to take a breather by strolling through the woods and end up in A&E, no doubt occupying a bed that could be occupied by someone infected with a certain virus that the lockdown fundamentalists would regard as more deserving. Now, that’s ironic, Alanis.

© The Editor

STANDARDS AT THE DOUBLE

‘We are all in this together’. Hmmm, okay. The resurrection of that fatuous phrase in a coronavirus context, whilst clearly intended to foster a sense of national community as the country struggles against a common enemy, cannot help but evoke its previous airing via George Osborne during his stint as the Austerity Chancellor. It didn’t ring true then, nor does it now. After all, according to the Guardian – which, of course, has no agenda whatsoever – non-white folk are more susceptible to Covid-19. Lest we forget, however, the great levellers of penury and poverty play a far bigger part in one’s vulnerability to infection than skin colour or cherry-picked ‘ethnicity’; but as top Fleet Street journos tend not to reside in cramped rented properties with shared kitchens and bathrooms or one-bedroom council flats without gardens, maybe that truism doesn’t fit the theory.

Anyway, the enforcement of the lockdown is evidently in safe hands as long as the government guidelines remain so flexible and open to interpretation by the police. Lucky enough to live near a park where you can mind your own business? You may be moved on by vigilant officers. Lucky enough to have a garden where you can mind your own business? You may be moved indoors by vigilant officers. It’s all about social distancing, innit. Although…fancy gathering in a close-knit crowd to clap for the NHS in front of TV cameras? Come on down to Westminster Bridge and signal your virtue alongside the men from the Met! It could be worse, though; whereas the public have been videoing and tweeting the worst police misdemeanours, the boys and girls in blue themselves prefer to post hilarious clips of officers engaging in choreographed dance routines, just like ordinary people do – what with us all being in this together.

Double standards aren’t the exclusive property of British police forces, mind. Over in the US, it should be remembered that Mr President’s dependably bonkers grandstanding is only partly his own unique response to the pandemic; he’s also electioneering and hoping his combating of Covid-19 will stand him in good stead come November – though probably not in New York. Anyway, if most of the country has sufficiently recovered from the worst of it, Trump will be more than happy to take the credit and use that as a stick with which to beat his Democratic opponent. And he must be delighted that it appears more and more likely that opponent will be the former Vice-President Joe Biden. Perhaps the most interesting and telling factor in the expected nomination of Sleepy Joe, however, is the manner in which it has laid bare the double standards and blatant hypocrisy of the American left.

The arrogant, narcissistic tunnel-vision of Identity Politics dogma blinds those it infects to the truth of its polling station poison; judging by the appointments to Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet – David Lammy?! FFS – the Labour Party over here has still yet to realise this, and the alienating Woke nature of most Democratic candidates under the age of 50 has perhaps led to the promotion of the pensioners. The withdrawal of another ancient monument in the decrepit shape of Bernie Sanders has seen Democrat hopes of defeating the bad orange man transferred to a character who, were he a Republican, would be regarded as extremely ‘problematic’. Eight separate allegations of ‘intimate misconduct’ on the part of the former Vice-President over the past twelve months – including his undeniably creepy habit of hair-sniffing – should surely have set MeToo bells ringing, no?

Just as the coronavirus has already been politicised and weaponised by the Woke brigade as the latest means of making the British feel rotten and racist – share the shame by clapping for immigrants – America’s radical feminist tub-thumpers are rarely slow to seize upon an allegation of sexual harassment by a powerful white man and declare him instantly guilty in the kangaroo court of public opinion as a means of furthering their cause. Remember all that business with Brett Kavanaugh a couple of years ago? Remember how an allegation of sexual assault from over 30 years before, one with no supporting evidence or corroboration, was sold as a foregone conclusion to block the nomination of a Republican to the US Supreme Court because MeToo and its affiliated protest groups insisted all women pointing the finger should be believed without question? But what if the accused happens to be a Democrat? Washington, we have a problem.

Unlike celebrated victim Christine Blasey Ford – the prime accuser of Kavanaugh – whose hysterical, Oscar-winning appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was promoted by MeToo as proof of the truth, Tara Reade – the woman to have made the most serious allegation against Joe Biden – has been summarily swept under the under-reported carpet by the likes of the ultra-Woke New York Times; her allegations have also been greeted surprisingly sceptically by the usually vociferously vocal instigator and leader of MeToo, Alyssa Milano. If evidence were ever needed as to how much such high profile movements are not necessarily acting in the interests of those they profess to be promoting, look no further. I mean, if sisters aren’t doing it for themselves, who are they doing it for?

Tara Reade is a former staff member of Joe Biden’s Senate office and has previous when it comes to allegations against her former employer. But it’s interesting how deaf the ears of the usual crowd who normally respond so promptly to such accusations have been in her case. Initially, she was dismissed by them as being in cahoots with the Russians – rapidly becoming the default dismissal of the left, it seems; and when Ms Reade approached Time’s Up, a MeToo splinter group allegedly established as a platform for women to air their long-buried tales of sexual harassment by powerful predators, she was similarly fobbed-off.

The aforementioned New York Times, which wasn’t exactly slow in reporting the allegations against Kavanaugh in 2018, eventually – not to say grudgingly – reported the Tara Reade story by pointing to holes in her account, despite them being no more gaping than those it chose not to point to in Christine Blasey Ford’s tearful tale. The NYT has subsequently reacted to accusations of double standards by claiming they gave handsome coverage to Ford’s sob story because, compared to Biden, Brett Kavanaugh was ‘already in the public eye’ – what, unlike a former Vice-President set to run for the top job against Trump, then? The likes of the New York Times made Brett Kavanaugh front-page news in tandem with MeToo because it perfectly fitted their blatant agenda; the allegations against Biden don’t.

Overnight, MeToo guru Alyssa Milano has miraculously been converted to the novel notion of ‘due process’ when a woman now makes an allegation against a powerful white man – sorry, I should have said powerful Democrat. In the wake of her candidate Biden being accused, she’s posted a series of tweets contradicting everything she has supposedly stood for since she grabbed the spotlight with her opportunistic hashtag. ‘There is something to the idea that people are going to weaponise #metoo for political gain’ she tweeted recently; just as well the thought never crossed her mind when she was gunning for Kavanaugh, I guess. But the left’s goalpost-shifting when it comes to the Biden allegations not only underlines its fanatical obsession with ousting Trump at the expense of any principles – see the impeachment trial – but also penetrates the smokescreen of Good Causes and reveals a bunch of people that simply want power. Fancy that.

© The Editor

THE CLAP CLINIC

So, yes, it’s been another strange week-and-a-bit in these strange days. Boris ending up in intensive care; Brenda addressing the nation with her first message outside of the festive season in a long time and even paraphrasing Vera Lynn for that extra Blitz Spirit/Britain Can Make It vibe; Matt Hancock shaming easy target high-earners like footballers whilst conveniently neglecting to bring off-shore Oligarchs off the bench; oh, and Emily Maitlis attempting a ‘Walter Cronkite on Vietnam’ moment by abandoning the threadbare vestiges of BBC impartiality and delivering an impromptu Reith Lecture as a novel new ‘Newsnight’ intro. Yeah, Lockdown Britain is everything Remoaners promised Brexit would deliver – and even weirder.

The mainstream media reporting of events has become so wearingly sensationalistic and speculative that it’s no wonder the reaction of some has been to abandon initial ambitions the lockdown inspired; rather than learning a new language, a musical instrument or starting to write a novel, many have simply slipped into the junk-food/binge-watch routine and steer clear of the daily death-toll roll-call. On the other hand, social media being the maternity ward for the more outré conspiracy theory has unsurprisingly provoked a descent into medieval madness. Burning 5G masts in the baffling belief these objects generate evil is straight out of the dark children’s serial of the 1970s, ‘The Changes’, in which the western world undergoes a violent rejection of its dependability on technology by smashing all machines because they’re ‘wicked’.

Misinformation, or at best the poor communication of information, has also been responsible for the misconception that the humble domestic moggy is possessed by the virus. From what I can gather, misguided advice to keep cats indoors was actually specific to felines living in infected households; their coats when stroked by outsiders would still bear the residue of Covid-19 as much as any surface touched by someone with the plague, so preventing the prospect of the cat coming into contact with strangers was deemed sensible. My own personal worry is the same yahoos that thought 5G masts were spreading sickness may well single out cats for the same reason. Again, this is pure ‘she’s a witch’ mentality it would be nice to think we outgrew centuries ago; amazing how close to the surface such superstition actually is. Yes, the source of this virus does come from animals, but nature’s payback – if that’s what it is – stems from the disgusting trafficking and menu-adding of endangered species so commonplace in the Far East, not next-door’s cat.

When Benjamin Franklin said ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety’, he probably couldn’t foresee the populace of a free and democratic society prepared to accept the severe restrictions of civil liberties currently being imposed upon it. However, I think most people are content to go along with these restrictions for the moment by viewing them as a contract between the state and its citizens, a personal inconvenience done with a greater good in mind; the delicate equilibrium can be maintained as long as both play their part and the sacrifice is regarded as a just one. Reports of some law enforcers exceeding the traditional ‘policing by consent’ foundation stone of the police force in this country are no more helpful in maintaining the equilibrium than those who continue to irresponsibly gather in groups.

Of course, it’s difficult at times like these to discern how widespread the abuse of police powers is when the most OTT examples will naturally be seized upon by the media (both mainstream and social), even if these are not representative. But anyone with half-a-brain is well aware that certain constabularies have a reputation for over-zealousness, and if their officers have been given the green light to wander into public parks and disperse a couple catching a bit of sun that they might not be able to access at their place of house arrest, it’s no great surprise that these individual constables are becoming ever-more officious in their ridiculousness. Threats of roadblocks or demanding to rummage through the contents of shopping bags are undoubtedly overstepping the mark; in the case of the latter, no policeman, policewoman or Community Support Officer has the right to be an authority on such a subjective subject as what is or isn’t ‘essential’ when it comes to the supermarket shelves – even if you’re lucky enough to find some eggs. And not even the emergency legislation rushed through Parliament without question gives the police that right.

The sudden high visibility of the police is either an indication that the PM’s recruitment drive has borne fruit in record time or that they’re relishing throwing their weight around without having to worry about difficult things like catching burglars or solving murders. Maybe if they were always this omnipotent they’d actually act as a deterrent in neighbourhoods plagued by crime. I suspect there won’t be any choreographed clapping rituals for the boys in blue just yet; but maybe not being elevated to the status of secular saints currently occupied by NHS workers helps to keep them in check. I remember when the military briefly received a similar elevation around the time the bodies of dead soldiers were being driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett during the Iraq War; and just as politicians back then would tediously preface each reply on ‘Question Time’ by ‘paying tribute to the wonderful job our armed forces are doing’, they’re at it again now – only with NHS workers.

Whilst the recognition and acknowledgement of those doing a bloody hard job is perfectly laudable, the overnight establishment of the mass clapping does make me a tad uncomfortable – perhaps because the compulsory participation seems just a little reminiscent of the forced tears North Koreans had to publicly shed when Kim Jong-il died. How long before the police are knocking on doors at 8.00, demanding to know why the residents of the house aren’t standing on their doorsteps applauding doctors and nurses? As with the public display of appreciation for the army fifteen years ago, the ring-fencing of any service as beyond criticism can act as a convenient smokescreen to obscure the shambolic state of the institution that employs these heroes and heroines, and how little it pays them for their troubles.

Then again, perhaps clapping for the NHS is only able to fully function as a new national pastime due to the fact all universities are closed; the ritual has the potential to provoke a panicked rush to the nearest safe space, so if this is to continue after the lockdown, maybe a jazz-hands compromise is in order. Recognition of how difficult being on the NHS frontline can be should be a given, anyway, as should free parking in the grounds of hospitals for staff. And the abrupt determination to ensure rough-sleepers have a nightly roof over their heads is something else that didn’t need a pandemic to institute; the fact they were on the streets in such high numbers in the first place should have alerted authorities to an already existing emergency that needed sorting.

Oh, well. That’s the state of play. Herd immunity might have worked as an alternative had it not been rendered impossible due to the poor health of most western nations – especially the special relationship fatties of the US and UK. As it is, we are where we are. The previous post may well have appeared to be dealing with a trivial topic; but it was refreshing for me to do so. I need those moments of light relief because otherwise there’s only the one subject right now.

© The Editor