Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Ignore the propaganda and spin -- the Tory party hasn't changed (Independent)

Johann Hari attacks David Cameron's claim to have "changed" the Conservative Party. Even if we assume the Tory leader is sincerely committed to a modernising agenda, he will not be able to defy his party's core instincts for long, especially not with a small Commons majority.

2. World economists join UK fiscal fray (Financial Times)

A leader in the FT says that today's letters to the paper from two groups of economists are an embarrassment for the Tories. The government is right to cut public spending no sooner than it currently plans.

3. Clegg's coalition ruling is one more nail in Labour's coffin (Guardian)

Martin Kettle says that, given Nick Clegg's decision to rule out a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and either Labour or the Tories, a hung parliament will almost certainly produce a minority Conservative government.

4. Look further than the fads and fashions of geopolitics (Financial Times)

We should shun the geopolitical seers who offer us grand predictions about the future international order, writes Philip Stephens. We can draw only tentative conclusions from the rise of China, India, Brazil and the rest.

5. Studying history is vital -- there are obvious lessons for Cameron (Daily Telegraph)

Jeff Randall argues that Cameron should learn from Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher that caution and moderation do not win elections.

6. The car in front will probably still be a Toyota (Times)

Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability is unlikely to be damaged permanently by the current crisis, writes Richard Headland. On the ground, the company managed to mobilise its dealers and design new parts with extraordinary speed.

7. Juries show society at its fairest (Independent)

The absence of racial prejudice in jury trials is an extraordinary discovery, says Andreas Whittam Smith. The finding shows that racism in this country, though deeply unpleasant, is superficial.

8. Troubled waters (Times)

A leader in the Times argues that Argentina's attempt to prevent Britain drilling for oil in the Falklands is harming its own interests.

9. The murder of al-Mabhouh is an insult to our intelligence (Daily Telegraph)

The Dubai killing has jeopardised Anglo-Israeli co-operation in the war against terrorism, writes Con Coughlin.

10. Spiritual leader deserves full honour (Independent)

Adrian Hamilton argues that governments should defy China and treat the Dalai Lama as a political leader, rather than merely a religious figurehead.

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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.