Saturday 19 September 2009
Richard Ingrams’s Week: Crazy new restrictions that must be resisted
Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson, now retired, who headed the police investigation into the Soham murders, wrote a newspaper article this week attacking the new regulations affecting all those who work part-time with children. The nation has been gripped by paranoia, he said, instancing what happened to him recently when he took some pictures of his grandson in a village football match.
As he snapped away, Stevenson was approached by one of the game's managers and told he would have to get permission from the parents of all the other children in the photographs if he wanted to keep them. Could anything be more barmy? But the worrying thing about this story, although he didn't see it this way, is that Stevenson meekly complied with the order. "I deleted the photographs," he writes, "never to reach my computer screen."
And Stevenson is not just your ordinary member of the public. He is a very senior retired policeman well used to bossing people about and seeing that his orders are obeyed without question. He ought to have told that busybody in so many words – preferably with four letters – to go away and mind his own business.
When the Government and the civil service are busy introducing all kinds of crazy new restrictions, when even the churches are forbidding worshippers to shake hands in case they catch swine flu, it is up to all of us, but particularly the Stevensons of this world, not only to ignore the regulations but also to be rude to those jobsworths who tried to enforce them.
As Edmund Burke is credited with saying, though he didn't say it, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Be a royal biographer at your peril
The posed photograph of a smiling William Shawcross handing over his lengthy biography of the Queen Mother to his smiling sovereign tells us all we need to know about his book. There won't be any gossip or scandal.
All the same, Shawcross has been at pains to tell us that, although the Queen commissioned him to write this book, he has had complete freedom to say whatever he liked about her mother. Only as a matter of courtesy, he adds, was he invited to submit his manuscript to the Palace prior to publication. We are asked to assume that this was merely a formality and that the Queen would not have dreamed of demanding any changes.
I wonder. Some years ago my cousin Michaela Reid published a fascinating book called Ask Sir James about my grandfather Sir James Reid, who was Queen Victoria's doctor. In it she quoted Sir James's account of the Queen's burial arrangements and the detailed instructions she had left for him about all the things she wanted to be put in her coffin. They included a photograph of John Brown – long rumoured to have been her lover – and a lock of his hair, both of which Sir James put as instructed, into her left hand.
The present Queen made strenuous attempts to have this information cut out of the book but luckily the publishers stuck to their guns. Even Princess Margaret put her oar in, berating the author's husband for daring to be involved in such a disloyal enterprise. For her pains she got one of my mother's famously rude letters and an even ruder one when she was fobbed off with the standard thank-you letter from one of the princesses's courtiers.
I've got a few bones to pick
What's gone wrong with Protestantism? Where is the Reverend Ian Paisley when we need him most? I refer to the arrival in Britain of the relics of Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux, the Carmelite nun who died at the age of only 24 and was later canonised by the Pope in 1925.
All that I have seen by way of protest is an indignant rant by the former Tory MP and atheist Mathew Parris condemning, in the tones of a latter-day Martin Luther, the veneration of this "ludicrous casket of bones" and asking "how can bishops sanction this paganistic nonsense?".
And not only Catholics. He might have mentioned while he was about it the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, as, according to reports, the relics are going to be on show in York Minister. Will Matthew Parris be able to organise, possibly with Ian Paisley's help, some kind of suitable demo in the close? And while on the subject, ought he not also to launch one of his eloquent diatribes against those churchmen – not only Catholic but Orthodox as well – who have prevented the famous gay pop singer Sir Elton John from adopting a 14-month-old Ukrainian boy? In this country the only objection seemed to be to the singer's age – anyone of 62 being considered pretty well senile. But thanks to the influence of the church, Ukrainian law forbids adoption by gay couples regardless of age.
If ever there was a case of paganistic backwardness, worse even than the veneration of bones, this surely is it. For such a flagrant denial of human rights, Ukraine should be denied admission to the EU, possibly even subjected to sanctions.
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