It’s good to have the opportunity to congratulate Facebook instead of criticise it based on its actions or in-actions. They are to make sure that ‘news’ which originates from state-controlled sources, for example Russia Today, is clearly labelled as ‘state-controlled media’. Speculation still rages, and no doubt will continue, over what role, if any, Russian agents played in the election of President Clinton by exploiting Facebook. Facebook, however, says that when the hotly anticipated UK election takes place, they will set up a “dedicated operations centre” to ensure no foreign powers meddle in that election through Facebook.
It was said when Harold Wilson introduced the Race Relations Act in 1965, we were the first country in the world to legislate against the native. Whatever your view on that, it’s difficult to believe that there was ever any intention for that Act to be used to protect those who peddle hate in this country and train, recruit and encourage people to make bombs and engage in terrorism. I’m proud of the freedoms we foster as a nation and am delighted that in order to protect those freedoms for the benefit of all law-abiding people, the Sentencing Council is recommending doubling the minimum prison sentence for those who train, recruit and encourage people to engage in terrorism, to a minimum of 10 years. There will also be longer minimum sentences for those perpetrating such crimes.
I’m proud of my country, it’s history and it’s traditions, warts and all. Of course, our development has been far from perfect and there have been horrors along the way which shame all humanity. On balance, however, we seemed to have got it about right, until I’d say 50 years ago when things began, slowly at first, unseen and almost for perceived good reason, to start changing for the worse. I get a little impatient when hearing abuse hurled at emerging countries. They forget that those countries are making a journey now not dissimilar to what we made centuries ago, but we were not doing it in the world spotlight.
I have written before in the Giuliani mode about knife crime and, in particular, in my beloved London. Now I read that “street rangers” are openly and visibly wearing stab vests in what I have always thought to be the tranquil Norfolk town of King’s Lynn. What is this telling us? What message does this send to the world, to the potential tourists? The street rangers brief is to be helpful to tourists and be on the lookout for anti-social behaviour, but they are kitted out with stab vests, radios and body cameras. It is obviously felt that this is needed and that shames, sickens and saddens me. The street rangers are funded by business leaders which suggests to me there is a real need, as I can’t see businesses wasting money on the project otherwise. There are enough demands on budgets.
It’s part of the same disease as the vile racism in Yeovil last week. Lovely, relaxed, calm, friendly Somerset, like Norfolk, was once quintessential England. I lived in Somerset from the mid-nineties to the mid-noughties and saw change. Now we have the problems of county lines spreading alarmingly. John Major was ridiculed, and one could say was naive and should have seen it coming and presented it differently, for his ‘Back to Basic’ campaign, but he was right. When we see Amazon offering a back to school deal of a backpack and an 8-inch knife for the bargain price of £43.98, we still don’t wake up.
How on earth did we get here? I’ve spent 50 years speaking out on this. This is bad.
In 2018, nearly 4,500 people died from drug poisoning in the UK. 3,000 of them were the direct result of abusing illegal drugs. 637 of those deaths, a 100% increase on 2015, were from cocaine use. It’s cheap, it’s easy to get hold of and has almost taken the place of the usual brandy or port at middle-class, middle-aged dinner parties. The older you are, the greater the potential for cocaine to damage your heart. You might argue that most of these older users have been using drugs for years, indeed they have, and I know many who fit that category, but even more alarming is the fact that there is a huge growth in the use by younger, skilled workers and folk working in the financial sector. Of course, with all illegal drugs, the damage they do is not just to those using them, or potentially those around them. The supply chain is based on threat, fear, intimidation and worse. Now I read in The Times of a new and frightening development in the smuggling chain. Highly sophisticated semi-submersible craft plying from Columbia, where 70% of cocaine on the world market originates, to Mexico. Up to forty feet long, one craft can carry drugs worth £150m and the four-day journey is a living hell for the crew of four - but the payday sees crew queuing up for the trip, as they get £17,500.
Let me repeat myself. I have asked before. How on earth did we get here? I’ve spent 50 years speaking out. This is bad.
As we near Halloween, the hype reaches a new level for something that I simply don’t remember as a kid. A ‘Penny for the Guy’ was in full flow on 31st October and was, as Arthur Dailey would say, “a nice little earner”! We now buy 10m pumpkins and hollow them out to create lanterns and faces of all ilk, often simply throwing away the flesh which then decomposes giving off methane which does more environmental damage than CO2! It doesn’t stop there… we also buy 13 million, largely plastic-based, costumes that are binned after a single wearing. This creates 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste, or, put another way, 83 million single-use plastic bottles!
Now, I’m not familiar with yoga or the legitimate hand movements of any religions, but I like to think I’d not confuse them with the raising of a single middle finger as an offensive gesture! Indeed, the Magistrates in Hastings did just that, despite taking 15 minutes, but one asks how on earth the matter ever got to Court. Hindu Sheila Jacklin has been doing yoga for nearly 30 years on the public beach outside her house. She points to sky, kneels, holds the palms of her hands together pointing upwards towards her chin resembling a praying stance, and conducts a variety of authentic yoga poses. But it appears that due to a dispute over planning consent, the police were called to investigate the Mudra symbolic gestures as offensive “F-you” gestures. You’d think that would be the end of it, but no, it was reported to the CPS. And yes, you guessed it, they decided to prosecute. When it got to Court the prosecutor, Paul Lamb, offered no evidence. He did however ask for an order to stop Mrs Jacklin engaging in her routines outside her house, which was denied. Her neighbours who kicked the whole thing off have gone quiet too – maybe they are on their knees praying!