Saturday 4 July 2009
Richard Ingrams’s Week: Political apologies and group spirit – what a sorry affair
David Cameron is following his role model Tony Blair in making meaningless apologies. Blair apologised to the Irish nation for the potato famine of the 1840s while Cameron has now apologised for the Thatcher government's controversial Section 28, which banned local authorities and schools from promoting homosexuality. "I hope you can forgive us," he said with apparent sincerity.
It is not always clear to whom these political apologies are addressed. I suppose Cameron would argue that he was abasing himself before the gay community and it was their forgiveness that he craved. But there is no such community, if by the expression we understand a group of individuals bound together by shared customs and beliefs. There is simply a large number of gays, men and women with widely differing opinions and differing attitudes to their own sexual orientation. For all I know there might even be gays who actually approved of Section 28.
Today's Gay Pride march, which will be attended by the Prime Minister's wife no less, is intended to demonstrate the exact opposite – to show the public (and Mr Cameron and Mrs Brown) that there is a united movement with a common purpose and, in the shape of people like Peter Tatchell, left, self-appointed spokesmen and leaders to articulate the aims and aspirations of this so-called gay community. (Tatchell has announced that he will be marching proudly side by side with Mrs Brown.)
As with Section 28, I imagine there are quite a lot of gays who will disapprove of all this and have no wish to have Mr Tatchell speaking on their behalf. But would they ever dare to raise their heads above the parapet?
I'm only too aware of dementia
Tomorrow marks the start of National Dementia Awareness Week. But so much is written and broadcast nowadays about dementia that it is sometimes quite difficult for someone of advanced years such as myself to remain unaware of the issue. For us and our fellow oldies every week of the year may well be Dementia Awareness Week.
Awareness can strike with alarming frequency, as when you find yourself talking to somebody you know very well and then, in a moment of panic, you realise you cannot remember their name.
Coinciding with the awareness week comes a report to say that those who live on their own are more at risk than those with partners. And this news may only increase the tendency to panic among us senior citizens.
For some time now, I have noticed a growing tendency to talk to myself – partly, it has to be said, to remind me of all those things I am likely to forget or have already forgotten. But more significantly to make observations which I consider interesting or amusing but for which I have no audience and in the knowledge that even if there was an audience they would not be particularly interested to hear what I have to say.
It used to worry me sometimes, particularly if I was walking down the street and I even had the idea of carrying a dummy mobile phone to make it look as if I was talking to somebody on it. But now I find nothing particularly odd or embarrassing about my behaviour and that ought to make it even more worrying. But it doesn't.
Balls can't blame it all on the sunshine
This week's exceptional heatwave has had some freakish consequences, none more freakish than the behaviour of the Children's Secretary Mr Ed Balls.
Undeterred by his boss's disastrous debut on YouTube, Balls has taken to "twittering" on the internet to tell the world how he is coping with temperatures in the 80s.
"Just cooked stir fry," he twitters. "No fish sauce but soy oyster and v good chilli... spoonful of sugar offsets heat v well."
For an ambitious politician Mr Balls starts off with a number of obvious disadvantages – most obvious of all is his name, which is bound to lead to derogatory remarks from those of us with a primitive schoolboy sense of humour.
But Balls' appearance does little to counteract the damage done by the name. To be brutally frank, he looks a bit of a twit. Ought we then to be surprised that being a twit he has taken to twittering?
Childish insults aside, Balls' performance as what used to be called Minister of Education has been pretty lamentable. His latest schools White Paper is little more than a treasury of educational jargon notable for its failure to address the growing crisis in the state school system.
In many schools today little or no attempt is made to maintain even basic levels of discipline, making it difficult, if not impossible, for any teaching to take place.
The Balls solution? In future the parents will be held responsible for the bad behaviour of their children in school and may even be sent to prison.
And you can't blame a daft idea like that on the heatwave.
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