Tom Richmond: In a league of its own when it comes to foolishness of Government’s own goals on policy

Graeme Bandeira's latest cartoon of Chris Grayling.
Graeme Bandeira's latest cartoon of Chris Grayling.
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LIKE readers to this newspaper, I, too, was tempted to give House of Commons proceedings the red card when MPs started debating the role of sport in the UK this week in order to avoid difficult debates, decisions and divisions on Brexit.

I’m glad I didn’t. There was one speech that summed up why sport is integral to contemporary society, and vice-versa, and that it is slow-moving officialdom which needs to be kicked into touch.

Tom Richmond: Why Brexit is no excuse for the trail of failure that is Chris Grayling

It came from Dr Philip Lee. A lifelong sports fan, he was a respected Justice Minister before quitting over Brexit ­– he’s a Remainer for the record – and believes physical activity, including boxing, could provide criminals with a purpose.

This is what he said: “I embarked straight away on trying to introduce sport into the criminal justice system as much as possible. To say that when I suggested this I encountered some resistance – a degree of inertia at the Ministry of Justice – would be an understatement.

“It took me six months to ​convene my first meeting on sport and its value in the criminal justice system. What was fantastic about that meeting, when it actually took place, were the people who attended.”

Those at the meeting, and supportive, included former Arsenal director David Dein who wants every professional football club twinned with a prison; former armed robber John McAvoy who is now an outstanding indoor rower sponsored by Nike, and Jane Ashworth of StreetGames, which works in the community to try to dissuade people from committing crime in the first place.

Yet the initiative floundered due to a lack of Downing Street support. He lamented: “I just wish that we could use the sporting values of fair play, participation, resilience, hard work and the pursuit of excellence in every aspect of Government policy – in healthcare and education.”

I agree. It is why I have previously argued that the benefits of sport to health, education, social cohesion and justice policies are so profound that the Sports Minister should be in the Cabinet.

Not only did Dr Lee make a compelling case – but he provided a fascinating insight into why this Government is in a league of its own when it comes to own goals for cluelessness.

FURTHER evidence of John Bercow’s idiosyncrasies came when he admonished a Labour MP at PMQs for using 25 words longer than necessary to get their point across. The Speaker’s rebuke took 29 words.

Far more disturbing was Mr Bercow’s impatience when Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright responded to calls for social media platforms to do more to stop online abuse – and lessen risks of self-harm – after the tragic death of teenager Molly Russell.

“Order. Perhaps we can get through the remaining questions without replies that take a minute and a half. Hopeless! Sorry, but hopeless!” he barked.

Out of order. And insensitive.

IN a report about Nissan scrapping production of a new car at its Sunderland report, the BBC quoted Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, telling MPs that a 
no-deal Brexit would be “ruinous for 
our prospects”.

What it did not highlight was the next clause in which he Cabinet minister said: “In order to avoid no-deal, we need to come to an agreement in this House in the weeks ahead.” Hope this helps the BBC.

THE Mayor of Calais has banned Transport Secretary Chris Grayling from visiting the French port for Brexit talks because of general incompetence and arrogance. Can it be extended to Britain? Jean Marc Puissesseau obviously holds the Macavity-like Minister, who also goes by the title ‘Don’t blame me’, in the same contempt as I, and many others, did long before the Brexit ferry contract fiasco.

WHEN MPs like Thirsk and Malton’s Kevin Hollinrake stand up in the Commons, as he did this week, and says “adult social care is putting more pressure on my constituency than any other issue”, when will Ministers act? The latest Green Paper was only due last autumn.

A PRESS release arrived from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on how it is getting rid of the last fax machines as part of an efficiency drive by chief digital information officer Richard Corbridge.

Not one word, however, on when patients can expect to receive future appointments by text message – or email – in order to save on postage costs. But money clearly doesn’t matter – the missive was sent out by a PR and marketing executive from a private consultancy acting on the Trust’s behalf rather than existing press officers on the NHS payroll.

JUST as profligate are the empire-builders at West Yorkshire Combined Authority who are responsible for bus services, transport planning and the like.

It has just advertised for a ‘Lead Communications & Marketing Officer’ who will earn up to £40,005 of taxpayers’ money a year, plus perks like free travel.

Yet, as this is an internal role, the successful applicant won’t be communicating with the hoi polloi. And they will need a degree in gobbledegook.

The job spec says WYCA wants “a highly motivated candidate to manage multi-channel communications and employee engagement initiatives”. Isn’t this what HR do?

A BETTER omen for Theresa May? After coming nearer last than first, the racehorse Brexitmeansbrexit was second at Wolverhampton.

It’s getting closer, but still not in the class of Winston C who was triumphant at Sandown.

tom.richmond@jpimedia.co.uk