Well, I think we can all agree that George Osborne's autumn statement was relatively straightforward. An accurate summary might be: We're Doomed. Or, just as good but somewhat more soft-focus, the Seventies Are Back! (but probably without the disco). Were the budget to be turned into a TV programme, one of those extensively titled offerings from Cutting Edge, say, or indeed either BBC documentary from last night – it would be named, "Money: It's Running Out and We Probably Won't Get More".
And maybe this will happen some day. But, in the meantime, we have another barrel of laughs to enjoy. RBS – Inside the Bank That Ran Out of Money. It's Doom Lite, or Doom circa 2008. Either more bleakness to rub salt into the economic wound, or a reminder that we've survived this far and so why should trifles like minimal growth and the possible collapse of the euro throw us off course? Depending on whether you're a Glass Half Full or Glass Half Empty.
Anyway. It was actually quite good. I think I might even have understood it, though quite how people managed to make substantial money by buying chopped-up bundles of mortgages still mystifies somewhat. And did you know that Fred Goodwin's nickname – "Fred the Shred" – wasn't actually anything to do with Barclays in particular? In fact, he picked it up at Clydesdale Bank because of his habit of shredding staff. Not literally, you understand. But by the time Fred and RBS decided to press ahead and buy ABN Amro, he'd become very good at shredding something else: money, almost literally. Despite the rest of the financial community watching in apparent horror (or at least this is what they say now), RBS persevered with the ill-fated purchase, which saw them drain their cash reserves in exchange for an ailing bank whose books they hadn't bothered checking, and which had recently sold off its only desirable arm in the form of the American investment bank LaSalle. No sooner had they done so than they had to write off £1.5bn worth of sub-prime mortgages. It's no wonder, really, that by the time they were eventually bailed out by the public they were just two hours away from running out of cash. God knows where they found the coppers to pay Fred's pension.
There is, said Adil Ray as he introduced the salaciously titled Exposed: Groomed for Sex, a "new breed of sexual predator" on our street. Not the 80 per cent of sex offenders who are white men, but a much smaller faction: the Muslim Pakistani offenders who make up the 80 per cent found guilty, specifically, of on-street grooming. It's an issue that was recently highlighted – to considerably outrage – by Jack Straw, who possibly didn't demonstrate the best choice of words when he said that Muslim men saw white girls as "easy meat".
At any rate, it seems to be happening. And the stories are horrendous. Ray did well, I think, in negotiating the path between awareness-raising and scare-mongering. Along with victims' interviews and shocking anecdotes, there was plenty of time given over to the overwhelming majority of communities where this has taken place, for which such crimes are a complete anathema. There were the young men who resented the damage to community relations, the imams who were speaking out against them during services.
Still, I have a hunch that this is not quite the niche issue the figures would lead us believe. On a recent visit to the Children's Society– one of the organisations involved in The Independent's Christmas charity appeal – an issue to come up was the relative neglect of grooming as a danger to young people. The problem is, it isn't always obvious what's going on – as one of the interviewees said last night, it's not a straightforward matter of a stranger offering you sweets from a car. It's a far more intricate ritual of friendship-building, trust-gaining – and adults can't necessarily pick up all the cues.Reuse content