April Fool Jeremy? Surely not in October!

I find the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 extremely frustrating. He frequently chooses the most interesting of topics to discuss then, it seems to me anyway, allows members of the public with extreme single-minded opinions to have their ‘5 minutes of fame’ without doing the decent thing and hanging up on them!

Despite the above reservations, today I found myself once again listening to his program. Just after the 1 pm news bulletin Jeremy introduced two guest who were certainly not random callers. One was the Mayor of Leighton Buzzard and the other was John Lawson who apparently owns a circus that’s due to perform in the vicinity of Leighton Buzzard in the near future. What followed reminded me of 1970s Monty Python sketches and had me checking my diary to ensure it wasn’t April Fools’ Day.

Lawson’s circus picked this poster to advertise their presence in Leighton Buzzard:


Not an unreasonable image to promote a circus, one would think, given that they presumably have clowns as part of their show. Apparently not everyone thinks that….

A lady had emailed the council asking for the posters on the route between her house and her doctor’s surgery to be taken down as “she could not physically walk or drive passed them” presumably because she suffered from severe ‘coulrophobia’ (fear of clowns). The council had agreed to her request and had ordered the circus to remove the posters. The discussion between the Mayor and circus owner was measured and very cordial. The Mayor tried hard to steer the debate towards what a ‘caring council’ they were for having reacted to the lady’s complaint while the circus owner tried to argue that the decision to order the poster to be taken down was wrong. I’d have been a little less polite if I’d been him but according to some media reports the council have now said that the circus would only be allowed to go ahead in future years if it agreed not to use the posters and I assume Mr Lawson wanted permission to set up his big tent in Leighton Buzzard again next year!

I personally think the council’s decision is ridiculous bordering on absurd. Thankfully I don’t have any phobias but supposing I had an irrational fear (and it’s worth noting here that a phobia is ‘an irrational fear’) of say fairgrounds. Would I be entitled to ask for posters advertising fairgrounds on my route to work or the doctor’s to be taken down? Of course I wouldn’t. In fact if, like the lady who complained about the clowns, I couldn’t drive passed them surely I’d be too ill to hold a driving licence. Has that lady handed in her driving licence to the DVLA? Of course she hasn’t. Let’s hope she doesn’t see a poster of a clown next time she’s on a dual carriageway doing 70 mph.

Dealing with a phobia is, I’m sure, a horrible thing. I’m also sure that getting posters of the things you fear taken down is not a way to get over it. That’s merely controlling your environment to pander to the phobia.

Trafalgar Day

Trafalgar Day

Tomorrow, in case you didn’t know, is Trafalgar Day. 

Generally considered to be the most decisive naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.

Nelson lost 458 men with just over 1,200 injured. The French had 10 ships captured, one ship destroyed, 2,218 dead, 1,155 wounded, 4,000 captured. The Spanish had 11 ships captured, 1,025 dead, 1,383 wounded, 4,000 captured. 3,000 prisoners drowned in the storm after the battle. Staggering isn’t it?

Some governments have suggested making 21st October a public holiday instead of the May Bank Holiday but somehow the idea has never got off the ground. Just because over 200 years have passed I don’t think we should forget what an incredible victory Nelson achieved that day. I have taken my children to his tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral and they have been to HMS Victory twice. I hope, if they have children themselves, they will do the same.

I, for one, regret the lack of celebration that I’m sure tomorrow will bring. If you watch this clip from Pathe News from 1955 you will get some idea of how the world has changed during my lifetime.

If the police are allowed to lie and cheat, we are heading for anarchy

If the police are allowed to lie and cheat, we are heading for anarchy

The author of this article makes some very interesting points that are hard to argue against but I do feel he has misunderstood a very important issue. There is a huge difference between what happened at the gates of Downing Street and the comments the three Police Federation Representatives gave outside Andrew Mitchell’s constituency office. 

If it turns out that police officers lied about what happened when Mr Mitchell was apparently not allowed to cycle through the vehicular gates that protect our nation’s most famous cul-de-sac then I’m sure they will be punished accordingly. In fact the Crown Prosecution Service have announced this week that they now have all the information they require to make a decision on criminal charges, or otherwise, for those involved. Whatever happened that night and however rude Mr Mitchell was it cannot be judged right by anyone if false reports have been filed and, worse still, then been leaked to the newspapers. 

The meeting between Mr Mitchell and the three Police Federation Representatives however is, in my opinion, an entirely different affair. They were not really there as police officers: they were there representing police officers. Please don’t misinterpret my distinction here. I don’t think what they did was right: I just think it is radically different from what happened in Downing Street. If what I’ve read is true, it seems they gave a totally misleading account of the meeting they had with the MP. I agree that puts their integrity in doubt but I can’t equate that to what happened in Westminster.

As for their respective police forces punishing them, let me try and give an analogy. If a train drivers’ union leader were to mislead everyone about the dialogue at a meeting with, let’s say, a group representing train passengers would he later be punished by the transport company who employ him? I’m sure he wouldn’t. He might be sacked by the union though.

Whether you agree with my analogy or not, it seems wholly wrong to me that after the Independent Police Complaints Commission had declined to lead the enquiry into these events, their deputy head should speak out effectively criticising the result. If they decided to leave the investigation to the police they shouldn’t, in my opinion, comment at all on the end product.

I do agree with the author of this article in his assessment of the damage the whole affair has had on the reputation of the police. It does look, to an outsider anyway, that certain elements of the police (possibly encouraged by their ‘union’ the Police Federation) took the Andrew Mitchell incident as an opportunity to ‘beat up’ a government that they were very angry with. If that’s true it is an abuse of power and morally wrong.