Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. A death tax is the fairest one. Yet now no voter will buy it (Guardian)

Peter Wilby argues that a "death tax" is the most socially just and economically efficient means of funding social care. But Britain's obsession with home ownership will make it hard to convince the voters.

2. Private lives should never belong to the public (Times)

The relentless desire for information about politicians' private lives could lead to terrible mistakes, writes David Aaronovitch. Had we known, for instance, that Mo Mowlam was suffering from a malignant brain tumour, she would never have held ministerial office.

3. Britain needs an Afghan exit strategy (Financial Times)

Britain must come up with its own timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, writes Philip Stephens. It is hard to see how an open-ended commitment to keep British troops in there serves the national interest.

4. The brave and honourable spirit of Britain's soldiers will benefit us all (Daily Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Crispin Black writes that the authority and judgement British troops acquire from serving in Afghanistan will benefit us all once they return to civilian life.

5. Almost everything you think you know about the PM is untrue (Independent)

Steve Richards says that Gordon Brown's impressive interview with Piers Morgan has made the contest over personalities a lot more interesting and a little less predictable.

6. Why Mexico is the missing Bric (Financial Times)

Mexico should be one of the world's rising powers, but the country's drug war is blighting its future, writes Gideon Rachman.

7. Shame on those now sneering at the European project (Independent)

Denis MacShane argues that the Greek crisis reflects the weakness of the EU. The Labour MP says the Union's lack of economic authority allowed Greece to continue its clientelist and corrupt distortion of the public finances without any intervention.

8.. Bite the bullet. Kick Greece out of the euro (Times)

Elsewhere, Ruth Lea argues that, for the sake of the eurozone's long-term viability, the EU must evict Greece now.

9. While we brace for the pain of cuts, executive pay soars (Guardian)

The latest round of bonuses lays bare the myth of the trickle-down effect, says Deborah Hargreaves.

10. See evil, hear evil (Times)

A leading article says that the British establishment must come to terms with MI5's collusion in the torture of Binyam Mohamed.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

Photo: André Spicer
Show Hide image

“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.