Take me to your leader

Gordon Brown's personality, the shabby treatment of dear old Sir John and close encounters of the fo

There was great excitement here last week when we made the front page of the Sun:


Soldiers report new sightings of craft


Our excitement lasted only until the next day's Shropshire Star quoted the manager of the Tern Hill Hall Hotel near Market Drayton. Guests there had let off 40 or 50 Chinese wedding lanterns minutes before the soldiers saw their UFOs. He could only suppose some had drifted towards the barracks.

If that is the explanation, our armed forces could do with more training in aircraft recognition.

But I now suspect there was more to it.


All through the Blair years I held two opinions about Gordon Brown.

The first was that he was worth several of Tony Blair. He was the hard-working scholarship boy: Blair was the glib student who skimped his homework but always managed to talk his way out of trouble.

It therefore followed that Brown deserved a turn as prime minister.

The second opinion was that what Andrew Roth once called his “mixture of Presbyterian doom and self-satisfied righteousness” would soon make him deeply unpopular.

Which, of course, meant that he did not deserve a turn at all.

Politics has nothing to do with fairness - at least with fairness to those who make their living from it. As John Major will confirm, once the public and press decide you are not up to the job, it does not matter how fundamentally decent you are. You are finished.

Because of their association with the Spiked website and LM magazine, people like Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow are controversial figures. They are suspected of being part of a gang funded by Big Oil or Serbian nationalists.

Or both.

It happens that I once wrote a couple of articles for Spiked and never received a penny. For me this puts an end to those rumours. But if, by any chance, it was the result of an oversight, a cheque sent c/o the New Statesman will find me.

Whatever you think of Furedi and Bristow, they were right a couple of weeks ago when they wrote in the NS
that “British society no longer trusts adults to interact with children”. As they argued, the culture of vetting is damaging relationships between the generations, and children are living diminished lives as a result.

And I was interested in the person asked to write a short reply defending the Act in the interests of balance. Martin Narey is the chief executive of Barnardo’s.

Now there’s a name with a bit of previous. Dr Barnardo was long a revered figure, but he had the unfortunate habit of kidnapping working-class kids off the street in order to reform them.

More than one parent went to court in an attempt to secure the return of children who had been sent overseas. Strangely, they always turned out to have been adopted by wealthy, eccentric figures who had made it a condition of the arrangement that their identities would not be revealed.

One mother, a Mrs Gossage, fought him all the way to the House of Lords and won. But she never saw her son Henry again.

So be careful where you take your views on childcare from.


Just now I returned from the village to find an alien seated at my kitchen table. It held the morning’s newspapers in its tentacles and was studying them intently.

“Shall I take you to my leader?” I asked.

It shook its heads. “I don’t think I’ll bother.”

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England