Tom Richmond: Truth and friction in the doublespeak of politics

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott
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I HAVE every sympathy for Gordon Brown, and how the personal privacy of his young family became embroiled in the phone hacking scandal.

No one deserved that, not even a Chancellor and a Prime Minister who left Britain on the brink of bankruptcy because of his financial recklessness.

That said, I think Brown is wrong to blame the “politicised” British press for trying to “destroy pieces of people’s characters” to make political points.

Judging by the plethora of accounts about Brown’s 13 years at the top of the Government, and Tony Blair’s own revelations, it would be helpful if Labour’s ex-leader acknowledged his own divisiveness.

Each and every story exposing the rift between Blair and Brown was denied at the time and dismissed as “media tittle-tattle”.

Yet, judging by these biographies – and Brown’s wife Sarah is the next to go public – the press actually downplayed both the significance of this power struggle, and the former PM’s disrespect for those who dared to articulate a view that he did not share.

It’s hardly being respectful or responsible to deny stories that turn out to be true, is it?

Likewise, Brown’s dismissive language continues to bring out the worst in some politicians.

His right-hand man Ed Balls, the West Yorkshire MP, is a case in point. So, too, George Osborne, the current Chancellor.

Take Osborne’s observation after his holiday to America: “I did meet Mickey Mouse in California, and he seems to be writing the Labour Party's economic policy at the moment.”

Osborne has a point about Labour’s lack of financial credibility, but is there any place for such personal attacks at a time when the public want facts – rather than sneering statements or denials that are plainly worthless?

A BROKEN Society? A Bad Society? A Big Society? A Better Society? A Sick Society? David Cameron is using these phrases so frequently that they’re now losing their meaning and impact.

But I have another gripe. When he belatedly got to grips with the aftermath of the riots, he kept telling the nation about the money that “we” were spending on tackling lawlessness.

He should desist. This is not his Government’s money. It is funding provided by taxpayers. And, by pointing out that it is taxpayers’ money, he may just get the message across that such rioting and violence is counter-productive – because it is local residents who have to ultimately foot the bill.

A BY-PRODUCT of the riots has been the number of looters who have been taken from the police station to the courts rather than being granted bail ad infinitum. Instant justice has its merits – or as one senior West Yorkshire police officer explained to me this week, “justice delayed is justice denied”. I agree.

It’s also been curious to see some judges express surprise and dismay that teenage delinquents have not been accompanied to court by their parents.

Where have they been in recent times? This is not a new phenomenon – it has been happening for years and is indicative of the “broken society”, or whatever soundbite is in vogue today, that is now exercising the mind of the Prime Minister.

But, rather than letting the issue pass once the rioters have been dealt with, what about changing the law so a parent – or legally recognised guardian – is compelled to attend court whenever their offspring appears before magistrates? If they don’t, they should be brought before the courts themselves for neglect of duty as responsible parents.

HAS the law been further relaxed on motorists who use hand-held mobile phones while behind the wheel of their vehicle? During a five-minute walk to the shops the other morning, I counted no less than eight people flouting the law.

I appreciate the police have other priorities at present – but traffic officers have failed to take robust action for many years now.

I HAD the misfortune to visit Leeds City Station on Tuesday – just hours after the latest fare increases were confirmed, and which will be 10 per cent in these parts.

It was just before 6.30pm. There were two counters open at the ticket office, the queue was growing ever longer and then one of these booths started to close without warning.

Is this the type of customer service that passengers can expect in return for even higher fares? I hope not.

GIVEN the public’s underwhelmed response to Nick Clegg’s consultation on Lords reform, the coalition will have to decide shortly whether to embark upon its programme of constitutional change – and risk more divisions.

Yet Baron Sugar of Clapton – who is better known as the presenter of The Apprentice – has highlighted the difficulties with the Lords. “I am the first to admit that I don't understand how one gets new laws through,” he said.

For the record, this is the unelected individual who was Gordon Brown’s business and enterprise tsar.

No wonder a growing number of entrepreneurs now regard Britain as a bad place to do business.

DID you notice this juxtaposition? On the day England’s cricketers were, finally, becoming the best in the world, one Joseph Barton – helped by some primadonnas from Arsenal – was sullying football’s reputation with his antics. If “zero tolerance” is to be applied on the streets of Britain following the riots, why do sports pitches appear exempt?

FINALLY, Theo Walcott, 22, published his autobiography this week. What has the Arsenal and England footballer done of merit? Or won?

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk