Review of The Papers

I find myself this week reiterating a favourite remark of my father’s which he frequently passed on perusing the morning newspaper:

We are not well led.

There is something very puzzling to me about the events that took place in Salisbury on March 4th, and the rapid response of Her Majesty’s Government.  Bear in mind that the environs of a park bench in the centre of the town are a crime scene, at which the attempted murder of two individuals has taken place.  We should expect due process.  First, the scene needs to be sealed, to allow the police to gather and collate evidence.  It may be that the trail of evidence leads the police to a suspect, or suspects, in the crime.  If the evidence is believed sufficient that there is a case to be answered, it is laid before the Crown Prosecution, and the suspect, or suspects, are charged and placed under arrest.  There is however, at this point, a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.  The case is tried in a court of law.  It is vital that any evidence gathered be presented and made available to the defence, otherwise, as we have seen recently in various cases of alleged rape, the case will collapse.

Due process takes time.  The Law is generally in no hurry.  It might be said that justice delayed is justice denied, to which the lawyers might reasonably reply, “Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?”

I think that was essentially the point Mr Corbyn was making last week when he was severely criticised for being unpatriotic.  His critics even used the “A” word.  He was appeasing Mr Putin.  The Foreign Secretary went out of his way to liken Russia’s imminent hosting of the World Cup with Nazi Germany’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 1936, an attempt by a corrupt regime to gain legitimacy and prestige on the world stage.  Considering the terrible price Russia paid standing up to the Nazis, this was certainly a provocative remark.  I think it was Baroness Shami Chakrabarti who said that invoking the spectre of the Fuhrer seldom enhances any current political debate.  There have been calls to boycott the World Cup.  Following the arrest of 90 English football fans in Amsterdam on Thursday for alleged loutish behaviour, I can’t help wondering whether Mr Putin might be perfectly happy not to host that particular fan base.  Football has a problem over which the FA and FIFA are in denial.  Frankly I’m glad Scotland’s not going to Russia.  Even so, I’m not a fan of sporting boycotts.  I suppose the English-speaking world might have boycotted the Berlin Olympics, but wasn’t Jesse Owens’ performance on track and field a better response to any claims of racial superiority?  And we would not have witnessed one of the most perfect races ever run, that of Jack Lovelock in the 1500 metres.  Harold Abrahams, who was Jewish, provided the commentary on that race for the BBC.

According to to-day’s Telegraph, President Trump is poised to expel more than twenty Russian diplomats from the United States.  This show of solidarity may encourage Mrs May, but the Telegraph also reports that Trump’s appointment of “uncompromising” Mr Bolton and “tub-thumping” Mr Pompeo, described as being “stuck in a neo-conservative time warp”, stokes fears of a UK-US split.  A neo-conservative time warp was brought into sharp relief at the weekend with the mass rallies in the US (and elsewhere) of young people demonstrating against the US gun laws, or lack of them.  I was pondering the US’ slavish devotion to the Second Amendment on Sunday morning, appropriately enough, seated in the rear pew of Dunblane Cathedral.  The NRA’s latest suggestion to counter the wave of mass shootings in US schools and colleges is to arm the teachers.  When you think of the great strain our teachers are already under, that must be one of the most fantastically stupid suggestions ever to be put forward, even in the USA.  Put a teacher into a disadvantaged school in a disadvantaged area full of disadvantage children and he will struggle to maintain discipline.  Now overburden him with reams of bureaucracy, useless initiatives, “strategic plans” with endless tick boxes and impossible goals.  Stress him to the max.  And now, give him a gun.

We are not well led.

Did you see the terrific spat between the two ladies reviewing the papers on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning?  One was making the point that Cambridge Analytica might have influenced the Brexit referendum result and the other was saying there was no evidence to this effect.  You might suppose that a debate involves listening to an argument and then, unless the argument persuades you, replying with a counterargument.  No no no.  What you do is talk over the argument so that the argument cannot be heard.  I switched off and instead tuned into Paddy O’Connell’s Broadcasting House on Radio 4.  Mr O’Connell is unfailingly polite.  The BBC had received complaints that Welsh schoolchildren had been interviewed about their views on Brexit (they all turned out to be Remainers) and the substance of the complaint was that their views were “childish” and not challenged.  In response, Broadcasting House “aimed low” and interviewed toddlers about Brexit.  Hilarious.

Next week I think I’ll tune back into Broadcasting House.

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