Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Cuts and tax divide Labour, but could sink the Tories too (Guardian)

Martin Kettle says the election could really open up if voters fear George Osborne is planning cuts of anything like £75bn a year.

2. Can Apple's Jesus Tablet deliver a miracle? (Times)

Antonia Senior says that publishers struggling to find new sources of revenue view Apple's tablet computer as a potential saviour.

3. Only the US has muscle to make banks behave (Independent)

James Moore praises Barack Obama's plan to break up the banks and says that a US president alone has the tools to haul them into line.

4. Cross of Goldman (Times)

But a leader in the Times argues that Obama's plan will contribute little to financial stability and will also make it more difficult for banks to turn a profit.

5. The age of the killer robot is no longer a sci-fi fantasy (Independent)

Johann Hari warns of the rise of military robots, with the US now using 12,000 as part of its force.

6. The prince charms us, but he hasn't moved us (Times)

The former Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull says that Prince William may have received a warm welcome to Sydney, but the desire for a republic remains.

7. Death by chocolate (Guardian)

Andrew Martin says that the sale of Cadbury to Kraft marks the regrettable death of the Quaker model of capitalism.

8. Flaky thinking from those who scream foul over Cadbury (Daily Telegraph)

But Jeff Randall argues that the outcry over the US takeover is driven by crude political imperatives.

9. Don't be surprised if a protest movement flowers in Britain (Independent)

Andreas Whittam Smith predicts that hostility towards the political class could lead to the creation of a new protest party in Britain.

10. We can turn Haiti around (Guardian)

Kofi Annan says the lesson to learn from the Haitian tragedy is that fragile states require concerted and sustained support.

 

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Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.