Saturday, 27 June 2009

The Wrong Arms of the Laws

I was sorry to learn that the police, when not mowing down passersby with gun or motor car, are expected to catch criminals on a miserly budget . Sad that our police forces are now run by gun- happy accountants. It is an article of faith with me that everything run by accountants breaks down. Including neo-Tory governments like the one we are saddled with.
Crime in Liverpool in my day was sorted by Assistant Chief Constable Bert Balmer and his deputy Jimmy Morris. I would not wish to have been the number cruncher who tried to put them on an inadequate budget. They and the Force they ran in the Fifties were dedicated to 'thief taking' and ready to work round the clock on a diet of chips and draught bass.
I was expressing this view one night as we drove home when the Head Ferret, who was chauffeuring, was stopped by a police car. The driver gestured the Ferret to wind down her window and said: “Don’t worry, you have not committed an offence, but your exhaust is loose.”
Fellow passengers and a mechanic subsequently confirmed there was nothing wrong with the exhaust. I wondered why the policeman had stopped us until the Ferret said: “That poor policeman had a terrible cold. He was sniffing all over me.”
A policeman so ready to break the law to get a breath test conviction makes it very difficult to support Law and Order. Yet can we blame him when the standard of public morality is so low and our rulers live above the law? I read that the new Speaker 'flipped' his second home from his constituency to a £540,000 flat in London and claimed the maximum possible allowances for it, avoided capital gains tax on two property sales and twice hired a chartered accountant to complete his annual tax return. Sportingly, now he is Speaker, he will no longer charge us £20,000 for living in London. Instead he will make do with a rent free set of chambers of unparalleled luxury in the House. No word about his past behaviour in avoiding tax. I recall that the most powerful man in the Government, Lord Mandelson, once failed to declare a loan to parliament or building society on which he did not pay capital gains tax either. The Inland Revenue allowed him to declare his other house as a second home. I know that the Speaker holds a traditional role in parliament but had not realised how many 'traditional' roles were set by Lord Meddlesome.
This profligacy of the privileged is nowhere more blatant than at the BBC, which has admitted spending £47,800 in a year on champagne and £1,000 a month on West End luncheons, five-star hotels and trophy events such as Wimbledon and the Proms, with gourmet buffets and white wine. The top ten executives claimed £145,000 on expenses last year. Most of the money, claimed David Elston, a former chief executive of Channel 5, went on entertaining MPs, who, of course, fix the BBC's license fee. I listened with some amazement when the half a million a year Director General defended the reimbursement of the travel expenses of his entire family when his holiday was interrupted by the Jonathan Ross debacle.
The week that has brought us this further evidence that we have become a Banana Monarchy had other riches in store (literally). The bosses of Notwork Rail have given themselves a bonus of a million pounds FOR DOING WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO. Except they haven't. You cannot "Take the A Train ". It doesn't come in until Z.
Some years ago the Inland Revenue investigated me and told my accountant I was liable for Capital Gains tax on my only house. I sold it and lost £40,000 on the deal. Balked, the Inland Revenue petulantly reduced tax allowances on my income, which they had agreed thirty years earlier. Although I have always been scrupulously honest in tax dealings, I expect any day now a retrospective demand. I cannot pay. No doubt they will retrospectively make me bankrupt.
So nice to live under New Labour in a Just and Equable society, and, even better, one that allows us to abandon the stiff upper lip and explore cowardice as an art form, not to mention Releasing Our Emotions. My much loved district nurse ticked me off for saying “The Brave Don't Cry”. “You SHOULD cry, it is good for you,” she told me. I believe you should always do what the nurse tells you in case of something worse and I have taken to it like a duck to water. I practise it all the time. Although I do say it myself, I am getting quite good at it. The next time I get a headache I am going straight into counselling.
When I think of all those years I wasted pretending to be brave! Discovering cowardice is a joy akin to removing tight corsets or changing from shoes that pinch into slippers. The trick is to admit, in a manly way: “I would like to but frankly I would be scared stiff.”
None of my contemporaries believes me of course. They are so used to that dreadful old British thing about putting a brave face on things they do not realise that in this grave new world cowardice is cool.
Asteroids miss us by a million miles and humanity quakes. A Swine Flu Pandemic and A World of Killer Water wait in the wings with The End of the World. A medical magazine published a report of tentative research to suggest danger in triple injections and British mothers united to ululate on the six o’clock news. The prospect of measles injections terrify.
Those silly friends who fought in several wars and a number of marriages think I really have another secret reason for not wanting to climb mountains. They cannot accept I am so frightened of heights that if I had been born a woman I would not have been able to wear high heels.
Alas, constructive cowardice does limit opportunity. I am forced to say a regretful ‘no’ to tempting offers of hang-gliding, water skiing and wind-surfing. Even arm-wrestling can give you a nasty bruise, and, despite a long career in the mouth-boxing booths of the BBC, competitive name calling is out of the question. I claim my B.Sc. (Bachelor of Supreme Cowardice).
As a tree lover, I wonder how many martyred forests were felled to provide the newsprint which warned us of the threat to the job of the Archangel Gabriel?
Entertainers, world leaders and fans may have paid tribute to Michael Jackson. It must have provided a pleasant alternative to trying to decide whether Iran or Korea will be the first to declare nuclear war on the West; how we are going to prevent international bankruptcy; how do we deal with religious leaders who call for the execution of political protesters against a corrupt regime. Or, my own major concern, how many of our young men will have to die now that Kipling's Great Game has become a political ego booster.
Useful though his death has been to them - and a Pop Expert puts him among the Ten Top Entertainers of all time - I have to say that his talent missed me by a wide margin. To me he will always be the middle aged man with arrested development who dyed his face white. A pathetic Peter Pan who lived in a zoo, dangled his baby out of a top floor window, wasted enough money to fund research for most known diseases or feed millions of starving fellow blacks, and liked to sleep with small boys.
A caterwauler whose legacy to the rest of us was the ability to walk backwards in pale imitation of the Thirties music hall act, Wilson, Kepple and Betty.
A 'father' who also attracted the postmortem headlines about his children: “Uncertain Times Ahead for Jackson Three”.
About his fans: “Fans who paid up to £1,300 for '02' tickets may never receive a refund.”“Cancelled dates will cost London economy millions.”
Rest In Profit loss.