SOME years ago, having been to interview for the editorship of a group of newspapers in Surrey, I stopped off in London to ‘take afternoon tea’ with the editor of the Mail on Sunday.
He was interested in me assuming a roving role on the paper – maybe interviewing a Hollywood star one week, then jetting into Baghdad or Kabul or some other godforsaken war zone the week after, to report those horrors first-hand.
Exciting, eh? Grown-up journalism! It would certainly have beaten getting on the wick of our local Labour councillors for a living.
Well, the first job in Surrey didn’t pan out because on the salary it paid I’d have had to commute from Staincliffe; that or live in a caravan outside Reigate.
And as excited as I was at the Mail on Sunday prospect, Mrs L was heavily pregnant and she’d only recently ‘escaped’ from 10 years as an advertising manager on a national newspaper.
Me playing at being journalism’s answer to James Bond wasn’t going to ease her backache or get her to the maternity wing if her waters broke.
So our big move ended up being just two miles across town to Bywell Road. Sigh. (It seems the further I try to get away from this borough – Australia, California etc – the harder the bloody rubber band twangs and drags me back. Hey ho).
As it happened, I didn’t need to fly to the sub-continent to find a war because it was shortly coming to us, thanks to Mohammed Siddique Khan and friends, and then the near miss in 2012 of the Birmingham terrorists who mistimed their bomb and gun attack on an EDL rally in Dewsbury.
And as for interviewing superstars? Well, there was that night at the Old Colonial in Mirfield with Corrie’s Les Battersby … all a matter of perspective, I suppose.
The streets of Dewsbury had a little bit of someone else’s bother back in their faces last week in charity collectors for something called ‘Syria Aid’ causing traffic problems by stopping cars and, if not quite demanding money with menaces, then certainly being rather more forthright than we more temperate Brits are used to.
I make a point of never knowingly walking past a well-meaning soul with a collection box – but I’d have told that lot where to stick their tins, if only out of objection at their behaviour.
It’s not the ‘British’ way of doing things. And for some of us, that still matters.
But if you were one of the shoppers who contributed, I trust you gave at least some thought to what you were funding.
We’d all like to think you were buying food, shelter and clothing for a displaced child, of course.
But if those collectors were attached to the only Syria Aid organisation I can find information on, you might think twice – because far from being a registered charity (though they use lots of well-meaning platitudes) they appear to be a fund-raising adjunct of the Sunni Muslim rebels.
If – and I only say ‘if’ – it was that Syria Aid you gave to, you might have being buying bullets, not bread.
But of course at least you would have avoided a potentially ugly confrontation – like Kirklees and the police did by fudging the question of whether they had permits to be collecting – and of course you’d have slept well with your conscience…
HAD I taken that dream job, I might well have found myself crouching alongside gun-toting rebels in Homs, listening to their righteous grievances and watching them burying their innocent children.
And who – journalist or otherwise – could fail to be touched by that plight? Here’s a tenner for your ‘charity’ bucket.
Please make sure it buys bandages and not mortar bombs won’t you…?
Unless of course you’re helicoptered behind the other side’s lines, listening to their horrors, watching their sons and daughters being shot dead in the street. Can you salve both consciences with a donation?
You can try. Our government does, in equal part, sacrificing our own sons and daughters in Afghanistan on a fool’s mission, and giving over £1bn to a nuclear power like Pakistan which itself funds and promotes both al Qaeda and the Taliban through the back door – in order to keep we foolish westerners giving them cash ... to combat fundamentalism!
The bottom line on Syria, like Iraq, Libya, Egypt and the entire Arab spring, like Pakistan and Afghanistan, is that it’s about men and power, and their children are acceptable collateral damage.
Buy bread and bandages? Not when we’re short on bullets. And even then for the men first, sons second, wives and daughters last.
I notice that few of our political class talk publicly about Egypt any longer, where a judge this week handed down the death sentence for 683 political opponents of the state following the same fate for 528 previous men.
(And that would be one way for David Cameron to handle the UKIP problem – if ever he could bring himself to get out of the EU, which he never will!)
The best thing we as a nation can do is keep our noses out and if you really want to help, give to Oxfam, the International Red Cross, or someone you have at least half a chance of trusting to deliver aid, not arms.
Because I suspect that if you gave to these collectors last week, you were picking sides. And maybe, in terms of global Islamic ambitions, the wrong side.
I TRUST and hope that UKIP will win a landslide in the forthcoming European elections, and that Nigel Farage writes a letter to the national media thanking them for all of their help.
Like CamerCleggIband with the Scots, every piece of scaremongering propaganda regarding the doom and gloom involved in separation, ratchets the Nationalists up another couple of points in the polls.
We’re seeing the same effect in our national press where attempts to slur Farage and his more doolally sidekicks are seen straight through by the punters.
God bless we awkward-squad Brits, I say, because it’s about time we gave these patronising political classes a bloody nose.
BREAKING NEWS 1: British crime figures are down 15% year on year and at the lowest level since 1981 according to the Office for National Statistics.
BREAKING NEWS 2: Up to 740,000 crimes went unrecorded by police for a variety of reasons, from officers deciding autonomously that the crime wasn’t a crime, to simply not being arsed. Lies, damned lies and statistics...
WHATEVER faint respect I ever had for former Liberal leader David Steel went out the window this week when he did a veritable Pontius Pilate live on Radio 4 over paedophile Cyril Smith’s abuse of young boys.
They were different times, admittedly, as some of the ancient celebrity sex cases brought to court manage to reveal – but gross sex abuse of children has never been a grey area. Ever.
Why can’t people like David Steel and Paedophile Information Exchange apologist Harriet Harman simply say sorry, they were wrong?