HOW times change. For years, it was Labour MPs who mocked David Cameron for having a ‘women problem’ – whether it be the all-male front bench for one PMQs and the Tory leader’s patronising remark when he told one opponent, Bridlington-born Angela Eagle, to “calm down dear”.
Yet, despite Labour’s claim to he the party of progress and equality, it is the Tories who now have their second female leader while the Opposition is spending the summer deciding whether the discredited Jeremy Corbyn should be replaced by the uninspiring Owen Smith.
When the aforementioned Ms Eagle dared to resign from the shadow cabinet and stand, somewhat tentatively, for the leadership, the window of her constituency office was smashed and she received so much abuse on social media – even after the killing of Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox was supposed to have brought politics to its senses – that she stepped aside.
Leaving aside Labour’s leadership vacuum, those who care about the party would be wise to heed the words of the respected former Minister Caroline Flint. Not only does the Don Valley MP warn that Labour is unravelling the progress made in Tony Blair’s era to make all echelons of the party more inclusive and representative of contemporary society, but recent appointments – whether it be to the remnants of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet or next May’s metro-mayor candidates – appear to be predominantly male.
Of course, a balance needs to be struck – fundamentally Britain is a meritocracy – but the worry is that talented and able people are being deterred because the tone and conduct of politics, whether it be at Westminster or on social media, has become so unsavoury. Though this is predominantly a problem for Labour at present, the Opposition’s opponents ignore the issues at their peril.
Fate of the Ripper
IT IS very hard to be dispassionate when the subject at hand is Peter Sutcliffe – and the future custodial arrangements for the Yorkshire Ripper, who murdered 13 women, and attempted to kill another seven victims, during a chilling reign of terror which still haunts this region four decades later.
Even though the High Court and Court of Appeal have both ruled that this evil monster, who now goes by the name of Peter Coonan, will never be freed because of his depravity, the decision now is whether Sutcliffe, now 70, should remain at Broadmoor psychiatric hospital or be transferred to a mainstream prison.
With a mental health tribunal ruling that Sutcliffe is well enough to make the move – the mass murderer was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1984 just three years into his life sentence – the matter now rests with Elizabeth Truss, the newly-appointed Justice Secretary.
She will have to take account of a number of factors, not least the fact that it costs approximately six times more to keep inmates at Broadmoor than a prison and the physical practicalities of protecting Sutcliffe from other inmates if there is no reason for him not to be behind bars in a Category A jail.
In an era of mass litigation when convicted criminals do not hesitate to exercise their human rights – the very same rights that they denied to their victims – the public interest demands that Ms Truss considers this case on its merits. Sutcliffe should be treated no differently from any other prisoner ordered to be detained for the rest of their life because of the sheer wickedness of their inhumanity.
Unsung heroes – and the role of coaches
AS Team GB’s gold medal winners bask in the glory of stirring successes at the Rio Olympics, whether it be in the pool, on the water or in the velodrome, they have all spoken with gratitude about the influence of their coaches – the unsung heroes of all sport.
This recognition is particularly poignant as Leeds City Athletics Clubs mourns 92-year-old Arthur Cockcroft. To many in the city, and the rest of Yorkshire for that matter, he was ‘Mr Athletics’ – the ultimate all-rounder whose multi-tasking ranged from overseeing his protégés to acting as official timekeeper and marking out cross country courses at 6am.
With the eyes of the world on Rio as Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis-Hill begins the defence of her heptathlon title, Mr Cockcroft’s passing is a gentle reminder that Britain’s emergence as a sporting superpower is thanks, in no small part, to the cherished coaches, and army of volunteers, who remain the lifeblood of clubs across the land. Long may this be so.