Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. America on the edge of a 'fiscal cliff'? No, it's the right peddling scare stories (Guardian)

The economic abyss is a distortion peddled by the US right and Obama's Democrats – just like Britain's left – need to counter the myth, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

2. The BBC can be brilliant - despite its shambolic army of suits and bean-counters (Daily Mail)

The corporation worked much better when it was much smaller, as it should now become again, writes Max Hastings.

3. Obama proves you can win in tough times (Times) (£)

On both sides of the Atlantic, voters want economic toughness and social liberalism, says George Osborne.

4. Police commissioner elections: hardly The Wire, but they still really matter (Guardian)

Not voting for a police and crime commissioner on Thursday means turning your back on the frightened and vulnerable, says Gaby Hinsliff.

5. The downfall of David Petraeus may be a blessing in disguise (Independent)

Obama now has more freedom to exert his will in the military sphere, writes Mary Dejevsky.

6. Let the public run our national broadcaster (Daily Telegraph)

The BBC can weather this storm if we eradicate its culture of moral smugness, says Tessa Jowell.

7. China and US navigate in risky waters (Financial Times)

The narrowing of the power gap between the two countries is already raising tensions, writes Gideon Rachman.

8. Osborne needs to show a little love to the squeezed middle (Daily Telegraph)

Reforming the 40p tax rate would reward those who have borne the brunt of austerity, writes Benedict Brogan.

9. Only when the BBC decides what it is for will it be able to regain trust (Independent)

The failures of Newsnight have nothing to do with budget cuts, writes Dominic Lawson. Even the least well-funded local newspaper would have done better than this.

10. Investigative journalism must live on despite the Newsnight crisis (Guardian)

The world would be a worse place without investigative journalism, but lack of funding is a real danger for this craft, writes David Leigh.

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame