One of the joys of allotment life is that one works alogside people of all political persuasions or none. There are those who see David Cameron as a real gent whilst some see him as an upper class twit. The former Lib Dems are edging towards the latter view having read his two-page spread in today’s Telegraph where he talks of the Tories and Liberals having ‘bonded together’, a report hardly likely to help the beleaguered Nick Clegg. But the comment that seemed to unite everyone in condemnation was the one regarding the police force. The Prime Minister dismisses its concerns about funding by describing the force as just one of ‘every special interest group in the land, from actors to the police’. They must all put up with it!
Before he finally concludes that the police are no more indispensible than actors Mr Cameron should perhaps turn to the front page of another of his press supporters, the Express. Hounded to death is not an unusual headline these days and in this case the story covers Jenny Ward, an 80 year old, who has been constantly targeted by youths who congregated outside her house drinking and causing trouble. Neighbours claim that police have failed to deal with numerous episodes of anti-social behaviour. Thus emboldened, yobs eventually set a deliberate trap by removing a manhole cover. On the night she fell into it, Mrs Ward, whose husband is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, failed to spot that the cover was missing. She was trapped for several hours until her cries for help were heard. She was taken to hospital but never fully recovered.
Victor Granda, 46, had known Mrs Ward for many years. he said that “teenagers were making her life a misery. They were throwing stones at her , shouting at her, taunting her. She swas staying out later and later each night for fear of them”. Mr Cameron may be surprised to know that such behaviour is commonplace in less salubrious areas than his own. If he lived in those areas now ruled by the unruly he might revise his view that the police rae merely a special interest group!
None of which suggests that the police should be left to their own devices for they are failing to offer many communities protection and reassurance. Not my view but that of Sir Denis O’Connpor, the Chief |Inspector of Constabulary, who reported this week. He described the behaviour of yobs as a “disease that has been allowed to fester because police have retreated from the streets”. Which does suggest that what is desperately needed is not cuts but an entirely new approach to the role of the beat bobby. A few weeks ago I wrote of an ex-Met police officer who has emigrated to Canada. He reported that his role there as a policeman on the beat was very different to the one he had in London. His full 8-hour turn was out on the streets and he had vitually no paperwork to consume his time.
Apart from freeing up the mass of bureacracy imposed on British police officers by the last government, Mr Cameron should perhaps give thought to what they are supposed to do with louts in the unlikely event that they make an arrest. His colleague Ken Clarke, an unlikely Justice Minister if ever there was one, seems to believe that they shouldn’t be punished at all which is perhaps another reason for the very low number of arrests made. But a deterrent is needed if many more elderly ladies are not to be hounded to their deaths.
By chance I am currently reading a book written by Steven McLaughlin, who recently served in the army for several years. In ‘Squaddie; a Soldier’s Story’ he describes his basic training for the Marines. “The weeks flew by in a blur of frenetic activity. We were screamed at, pushed around, flogged round the gym, and forced to iron kit and polish boots into the early hours. It was hell on earth and stretched very fibre of my body to breaking point – but at the same time it was deeply satisfying. It was special because it was tough”. For countless years people have suggested that youth camps be created and used for short community punishments. They need not carry a crimnal record and would certainly provide an experience that tormentors of the elderly would not wish to experience again.
Whenever leading politicians have been publicly confronted with an idea of this sort they have dismissed it as an infringement of human rights. Presumably troops have human rights too as do the elderly and vulnerable!
Perhaps what is needed is a Home Secretary who has lived on a difficult estate and who is also tough enough to force the police to get their act together. Clearly what we don’t need is one like Ms May whose self understanding should tell her that she has probably never met a yob in her priviledged life and who is inclined to regard those who need the police as ‘service users’. It is not a service, it is supposed to be a force that strikes fear into the bullies.
Many of our allotment fraternity who have suffered their share of drunken louts suggested, on reading the Telegraph’s lauding of Mr Cameron, that someone should write across the PM’s forehead the words ‘The police are not merely a special interest group’. He would need a big head to accomodate it but given the constant worship of Mr Clegg he will soon be able to manage it. That sounds childish I know, but people are crying enough is enough!
GOOD NEWS FOR DICK FRANCIS FANS!
Some people collect classic reading material, I collect Dick Francis books of which there have been over 40 best sellers. She-who-must-be-obeyed has never had to wrack her brains to decide on my Christmas presents and it has always been a joy to curl up with the latest tale of crime amongst the stables. Sadly Dick died in February of this year.
The good news is that his half-written ‘Crossfire’ has been completed by his son Felix – the books have always been something of a family effort - and will hit the shops shortly. The bad news is that after that the pen of a much loved master writer will be stilled for ever.
MORE HELP NEEDED FOR SMALL CLUBS!
Many small football clubs will today be battling it out in the 2nd Qulaifying round of the F.A.Cup. Wembley is a long way away but the incentive to win is very real for today’s victors will pocket £4000. Such a sum will save many from extinction. In today’s world where almost all sponsorship money is gobbled up by the Premiership millionnaires more and more little clubs are going to the wall despite constant fund-raising on the part of their small band of loyal fans.
Their plight could be eased by redistribution of the cash paid by commercial companies to sponsor the world’s most famous trophy. Would billionnaires like Mr Abramovich really miss the money?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Mars 2. 1972
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. MIRVs were fitted to intercontinental missiles in the 70s. What are they? 2. In which year did the Orient Express complete its last run between Paris and Istanbul?