THERESA MAY has proven to be a statesmanlike Home Secretary of the highest order. The longest holder of this ‘great office of state’ since the late 1800s, not one MP criticised her handling of the Hillsborough inquiry and inquest when she delivered a humbling statement to Parliament on Wednesday. Without her, families of the 96 Liverpool fans killed in Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster might not yet have justice.
As the fallout from the inquest jury’s unlawful killing verdict continues, and the litigation mounts against the embattled South Yorkshire constabulary, Mrs May’s political dexterity will continue to be tested by continuing pressure to reconcile past injustices and controversies without hindering the ability of today’s rank-and-file officers – many of whom were not even born at the time of the Battle of Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike or Hillsborough five years later – to perform their day-to-day duties.
Judging by the critical tone of the comments made in Parliament when no MP expressed confidence in South Yorkshire Police’s current leadership, the cumulative effect of all those scandals that continue to be so corrosive and damaging that the crisis-hit constabulary will not be able to start winning back the confidence of the public unless the management culture of this leaderless force changes for the better. The need for a clean break from the past could not be more urgent.
At the end a traumatic week which saw Chief Constable David Crompton suspended over his response to the inquest, and Acting Chief Constable Dawn Copley asking to step aside 24 hours later, Mrs May – and the crime commissioner elected next Thursday – need to act swiftly so South Yorkshire’s current officers can perform their duties without being haunted by Hillsborough, Orgreave and all those questions that have been left unanswered for a quarter of a century.
Paying the penalty: banks must stop ageism policies
TO WRITE off all elderly people as technophobes is disrespectful, given the number of pensioners who have embraced new technology with alacrity. Yet there are still a significant number of senior citizens who have struggled to come to terms with the computer age as they come under relentless pressure to undertake their banking, and other transactions, online.
The numbers are significant. Age UK’s hard-hitting report on the subject reveals that 4.5 million over-65s are currently ‘digitally excluded’ and becoming the unwitting victims of ageism because many banks, and building societies, choose to overlook those who do not have computer skills, are rightly fearful of online fraud or have inadequate broadband access because of the remoteness of their home.
They should not be victimised, or penalised financially, because they like to receive a monthly bank statement by post. Quite the opposite. The financial institutions that deserve to prosper in the current climate of consumerism are those which go out of their way to help the elderly, individuals who traditionally place a premium on loyalty and sound, while reaching out to tech-savvy customers. It cannot be right that the most advantageous financial offers are often available to online clients only.
Furthermore, this report is another salutary reminder about the importance of local banks – and why any further closures will leave the elderly paying an even greater penalty.
Wheel of fortune: A restorative day for cycling
IF ever there is event to get British cycling back on track after a scandal-hit week of discrimination allegations and negative headlines, it is the Tour de Yorkshire which began yesterday. The tens of thousands of spectators who provided the warmest of welcomes on the coldest of days did not let down the sport – or that force of nature Sir Gary Verity.
Cycling’s broad appeal is exemplified by the calibre of riders competing here. There’s Lizzie Armitstead, the current world champion who is banking on home town support when the women’s race starts in Otley today. There’s Dame Sarah Storey, one of this country’s most decorated Paralympians. And there was Sir Bradley Wiggins, still the sport’s talisman. Unfortunately the opening stage proved too great a test and he dropped out on the long road to Settle.
Having come so far in such a short space of time, British Cycling needs to maintain the positive momentum. If not, its leaders won’t just have to answer to Sir Gary. They’ll have to explain themselves to all those cities, towns and villages that have taken cycling to their hearts.