I arrived home this evening having heard the radio (BBC 5 Live) spouting almost non stop about Ken Clarke’s comments regarding rape and sentencing this morning, and also about the Queen’s state visit to Ireland. There was it seemed very little other news – even the prospect of justice regarding the murder of Stephen Lawrence seemed to be a minor issue.
However on arriving home I found the television tuned to Sky News – airing a story which I hadn’t known about at all up to now. It was showing footage of Home Secretary Theresa May at the Police Federation conference, and unflinchingly gave us vivid coverage of her getting what can best be described as “a proper mauling” – delegate after delegate queued up to offer difficult and critical questions, all of which were supported from the platform. The chair introduced a clip from the officer blinded by Raoul Moat, who asked “Am I worth £35,000 ?”, and was asked before she took the podium “Home secretary, can you sleep at night ?”
As she stepped up there was no applause, there was nothing, just a deafening silence, which continued throughout the speech, and after it.
This was huge news, well covered by Sky News.
Coming to the computer a few hours later though it seems that Sky have removed the story almost entirely from their headlines, and the story when it is covered now only contains video of Theresa May’s speech Govt Police Cuts Are ‘Revenge’, Not Reform – the report does contain some description of the anger on display – but it lacks the stark reality which was presented on the earlier broadcast clip.
Undeterred I turned to BBC News where once again I find that the story has slipped down out of the headlines altogether. A quick search found the clip – which was again reduced to only the Home Secretary’s speech. After some exploring I eventually found this – which does cover the story in greater detail Home secretary refuses to back down on police cuts . I think it’s fair to say though that the casual reader would not be likely to find this clip easily.
I have to say that I find it very worrying that the two major television news outlets in the country choose not to report this as a major news item – and in Sky’s case appear to be back pedalling rather quickly.
For a great many years the Conservative party have been seen, and have tried to encourage the view of themselves, as the “party of law and order” – The Police Federation, similarly has been more or less unique in being a Conservative supporting trades union.
That the NUT should pass votes of no confidence in Education Secretary Michael Gove, is newsworthy – but is true to form – one wouldn’t particularly expect anything else (and yes I’m an NUT member) – but for the Police Federation to put Theresa May through the mincer like they did today, is not far short of Hell freezing over.
It’s a highly significant story which should in all usual circumstances be dominating the headlines.
However Ken Clarke has been shooting his daft gob off, and the Queen’s down the brewery knocking back the Guinness.
There is a more nuanced report of the activities at the Police Federation conference here in the Guardian : Police greet Theresa May’s speech with complete silence – I confess that I’d feel more comfortable had this article been in the Telegraph – who could only manage a clip of her speech – complete with the usual rubbish about “the mess that Labour left us” Theresa May: police cuts have to be made . Hopefully they’ll add to this as time passes. Print though does not have the impact of TV pictures – and the ones earlier on Sky really were quite remarkable. Such a shame I can’t find them any more.
So Theresa May comes away relatively unscathed.
On the Sky News channel today, during the televised leaders debate featuring five candidates for the Labour Party Leadership, a question was posed of the candidates ( YouTube – 2 of the 5 Labour Leadership candidates knew that St George’s day is on 23rd April ) which caused a bit of a flurry on Conservative home Only two of Labour’s putative leaders know when St George’s Day is – LeftWatch
The question quite simply was to give the date of St George’s Day – and 3 of the candidates got this wrong,
(For those of you who don’t know, St George is the patron saint of England, with St Andrew, St Patrick and St David being the patron saints of Scotland, Ireland & Wales respectively)
There is a long tradition of wrong-footing politicians with unexpected questions – like how to pronounce Barnoldswick, or Slaithwaite – or indeed what Menzies Campbell’s name really sounds like. Asking candidates who their favourite Spice Girl or Tellytubbie was, proved a novel way of exploring knowledge of current affairs, and more recently quizzes about Bill Shankly and Ferry Cross the Mersey have been used to try and catch unsuspecting political hopefuls out.
So this unexpected question is perhaps also entirely predictable.
Does it matter that they couldn’t answer ?
Well I’d probably have got it right – I had the 4 patron saints’ dates for the UK drilled in to me as a Cub Scout between the ages of 9 and 11. Assisted in no small part by Blue Peter, who never failed to remind us when there was one coming up (I preferred Bleep & Booster myself).
I remembered St. Andrew’s Day because it was my brother’s birthday – and also Winston Churchill’s – as my working class Tory grandmother was very fond of reminding him. 30th November
I remembered St. David’s Day because it was easier to remember because it was on the 1st day of the month – and also because it was more or less in daffodil time - 1st March. My working class Tory Grandmother would also remind me as this was one of the 12 days per year when she said “Rabbits Rabbits Rabbits” to everyone she met.
I found St Patrick’s difficult to remember because that was the other March one. It was also difficult because my racist working class Tory Grandfather claimed every thing was the fault of the bloody Irish (except for the things that were the fault of Arthur Scargill and Joe Gormless), and my working class Tory Grandmother felt it best not to rattle his cage. In later life I’ve remembered it because it’s the only one of the four patron saint’s days that ever gets celebrated by anyone March 17th
St George’s day was a funny one to remember because it’s the Queen’s Birthday on the 21st April, St George’s day, and Shakespeare’s birthday on the 23rd of April and my birthday on the 27th. Or was it the Queen on the 27th, me on the 23rd and St George … – you get the picture . My working class Tory Grandmother also had lost interest by this time as it was Spring, and she was getting ready to provide me with a suitably wonderful birthday present. Usually I could just about work out when it was though.
Having lived in England all my life and as an Englishman, how have we celebrated our patron saint’s day ? Well I can honestly say that except for 3 years I never have. Nor do I remember any body else doing, although I’ve seen a few things on pub black boards promoting Happy Hours & the like in recent times.
Those 3 years were of course when I was part of the Cub Scouts. I was the “sixer” of the Yellow Six, and as most of Yellow Six turned up and paid their subs I got to hold the flag at the St George’s Day Parade. This involved meeting with all the other scout and cub groups in the area, and walking down the middle of a road for about half a mile to a Church of England church (this remember was in a fairly secular area, where such Christians as there were, were far more likely to attend non-conformist churches or “chapels”) , where we then had to sing a few hymns and listen to a vicar. The hymns invariably included “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “I vow to thee my country”, “Stand up Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross”, and “Soldiers of Christ Arise”. All of which to be fair were fairly standard fare from my County Primary School.
As an adult I’ve looked back on those times and felt saddened that as children we were effectively schooled in a para-military fashion – donning uniforms, waving national flags, swearing allegiance to our monarch, and to the established church, with it’s militaristic soldiers of Christ. In truth I can’t say it’s done me much harm. It seems a bit weird though.
So that’s what I associate with St George’s day – jingoism & indoctrination – which are thankfully far less common now. As an atheist who’s spent some time swotting up on Christianity as well, I have to say also that the whole cult of sainthood is one of the weaker aspects of Christianity, which stretches the credibility of the movement as a whole.
So what I’d have liked at least one of the candidates to answer would have been this :
“I’m not interested in St George’s day, because I’m not a Christian, I don’t support an established religion, and I have no wish to prop up the church and it’s non-elected leader the Queen by promoting it”
That would have made news. Sadly it would have also played right into Sky and Adam Boulton’s hands, and have lost Labour votes for many years to come. So maybe it’s better that they didn’t rise to the bait.
It wasn’t that tough a question really I guess – and the candidates I’ve voted for as first and second choice both got it right.
A far easier question actually than predicting when Ash Wednesday falls – something which Sky News’s Kay Burley has found difficult in the past :