Why do we let our leaders get away with their decisions for three decades?

Waiting 30 years to release information means that it is too late to hold people to account.

I don't often agree with Paul Dacre, but he's always been right about wanting to halve the 30-year rule. How is it that we should let our leaders get clean away with the consequences of their decisions for three decades?

Today, for example, we have learned that Margaret Thatcher kitted out Number 10 on expenses (but paid for an ironing board), Geoffrey Howe wanted to abandon Liverpool to decline and the secret service pressed the BBC to censor Panorama.

Why should we have waited until now to discover all this, now that those responsible are too old to answer for their actions -- too frail in the case of Howe and Thatcher -- and safely out of power? After all, we've paid for it. We voted for it -- or at least we thought we did. So why shouldn't we know about it? People in their 60s and 70s have the right to know what the governments they supported did with their votes, without having to go to the grave wondering. But of course, this situation suits those in power very nicely indeed.

There is understandably little pressure from within government to open up the freedom of information to extend to anything beyond what local councils spend on school dinners. While bean-counters' decisions can be torn to shreds on the one hand, the big decisions remain safely locked away for 30 years, until it's all been forgotten and history has already been written. Which politician is going to vote for more transparency, more openness, more scrutiny on them during their own lifetimes?

Perhaps, in 2030 or thereabouts, we'll discover the discussions the New Labour cabinet had about the Freedom of Information Act. Maybe we'll all have a jolly old laugh about how it was decided that there was no way of opening up central government's decision making, and how the rights of the voting public were so haughtily dismissed as usual.

The thing is, I'll be 52 by the time I find out what the first government I voted for (in 1997) really got up to behind closed doors. Tony Blair will be 74, if he's still with us (and I hope he is), and even older by the time the really contentious stuff about the Iraq War comes out. It will be too late to hold these people to account for the decisions they made and the things they did.

In the meantime, they have been able to tell their side of the story. They've been able to write history from their point of view, omitting the unpleasant details that might come out and surprise us; they've been able to make money out of presenting their version of events as what really happened. And we can't do anything about it.

The dusty old faces recite the same tired arguments at times like this. Government needs to be secret, in order to preserve the decision-making process. Ministers must know that everything's locked away until they're about to die, in order to sleep soundly in their beds for the intervening time.

And I'm not saying we should broadcast cabinet meetings live -- just that there isn't so long to wait until we find out what really happened. It would serve our democracy better, and let our leaders know that they won't be able to escape scrutiny for the decisions they made and the things they really said. But then, which prime minister would open him or herself up to that? We may have to wait more than 30 years for a change to come.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times