Just what I say: Brian Nicholls

Date: Tuesday 5th December 2017

DESPITE the strong reservations of this column regarding the formation of a town council for Penrith and the accompanying predictions of the problems if the people of the town decided they wanted yet another tier of local government in an already overcrowded sector, I take no pleasure whatsoever in watching those predictions come true.

This is the final paragraph of the article written before the referendum and it read as follows: “A town council for Penrith will fit nicely into this pattern [of too many tiers of local misgovernment] and in the run-up to the elections in May next year those who wish to stand for election will publish their leaflets telling us that they will work their hardest and do their best on behalf of the people of the town and they will really mean it only to find, if they are successful, that they will become prisoners of a system they can neither change or control.” It would seem that events are proving that opinion to be correct.

It is a shame, but this is the nature of democracy at all levels. Well meaning and sometimes passionate individuals who wish to serve their communities genuinely believe that they can do so by standing for election. Regrettably for them and for us all democracy too often ends when the last vote is cast and the result is announced.

Democracy is supposed to be government by the people, but in large and complex societies that government is delegated to elected representatives and, frankly, it clearly doesn’t work.

Democracy mocks us and continually and consistently fails to be what it is supposed to be. The objective used to be to get elected and win power in order to do what you believed would be for the benefit of the majority of the people, but now the objective is to win power in order to do whatever it takes to keep winning power. It is a sorry old state of affairs.

Penrith Town Council was always going to be the inferior by a long way of Eden District Council, and big brother was never going to take much notice of little bro except when the new council agreed with it, of course.

Considering ordinary citizens have no power it is hardly surprising that very few politicians do either. Whether they are MPs or local councillors their only role is to stick their hands up to support the policies of the small groups who have fixed the system to give themselves power which they guard jealously from everyone else getting near it as if it was the crown jewels.

Did anyone ever really believe that the district council, with its immovable self-serving policy of massive housebuilding developments in the town of Penrith, was ever going to amend that policy because the people are against it. In modern democracy politicians listen to the people only once every four or five years, and for the rest of the time we should be neither heard nor seen and definitely not have any opinions on any subject save who should win Strictly Come Dancing or the X Factor.

Democracy, as a whole series of recently resigned Penrith councillors, together with the majority of “ordinary” councillors on Eden District Council have found, certainly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

AMIDST all the people who are celebrating the betrothal of a couple they don’t know, will never meet and are rolling about in the royalist schmaltz surrounding Harry and whatshername’s betrothal, nobody will be happier than Theresa May.

Forget Prince Harry’s relatives or whatshername’s folks or even those sad women who wear silly red, white and blue cardboard hats and rosettes and turn up to every royal event as if they were eccentric aunts who have to stand outside while everyone else gets invited in. Their joy is nothing compared to that of our Prime Minister who now has the nation wallowing in this media-led frenzy of irrelevant distraction instead of grumbling about how bleedin’ useless she is.

I like Harry and though I have met many of his family I have not had that pleasure in his case. I suspect he would be a good guy to have a pint with but even so I do not think that, except us getting into another war or allowing another Brexit referendum, anything deserves to be the entire contents of all major news programs in the way his engagement has.

Even the Americans are getting hysterical about it all, which is strange for a country which spent seven long and bloody years fighting the War of Independence to get rid of the British monarchy.

I haven’t seen anything like it since the time which is famous in my family and among my youngest daughter’s friends when, having watched news bulletin after news bulletin and program after program and yet another one came on the TV, my exasperated response was: “My God, is the Queen Mother still dead?”

Despite my views I wish them great joy and now that I have done so simply ask that I never hear about them and their blasted nuptials again. I don’t want to hear about the ring and I don’t want to hear about what sort of dress she might wear or who her bridesmaids could be. Fat chance with the media looking forward to months and months of easy news stories related to all those aspects of this marriage and hundreds of others besides.

Television and the press are following the script and hailing this match between a top royal and a mixed race, divorced American Catholic as a sign of a 21st Century, totally modern monarchy. Good if it is true, but we have to ask that if this was William, who is heir presumptive to the crown, would the old guard be quite so sanguine.

With so many royals constantly breeding Harry will never get near to succeeding, so as far as the “firm”, as they refer to themselves, is concerned he could have chosen to marry the second daughter of a Mongolian goatherd for all it matters.

MY wife can be as uncompromising over poor service as I am, except that she tends to use the power of the Internet to vent her disapproval and punish the guilty.

We made the mistake of not shopping locally recently and went to a garden centre belonging to a national chain to buy some soil improver which still wasn’t in stock two weeks after we had been assured that it was due “any day now”.

We asked a member of staff in the plant department about some planting time for some plants but drew a complete blank because the member of staff in the plant department didn’t know anything about plants. Why do these national chains not bother to train their staff in the most basic facts about what they are supposed to be selling? I got the distinct impression that anyone working at this entire garden centre actually knew what a plant was.

We did ask if they had any of the soil improver but just drew a blank look. The girl did call someone (“who will know”) on the radio to ask if they had any and if not when would they be getting a delivery. His answer, which came over loud and clear, was “No” and “I don’t know” in a tone of voice which clearly meant, “Don’t know and don’t care and don’t bother me again.”

We did buy an item not related to gardening which triggered a message to my wife a day or two later asking what she thought of her recent shopping experience. She told them. In fact, she gave them both barrels.

They asked for it but I doubt they wanted what they got, yet despite the harsh comments and the naming of incompetent names it is highly unlikely that this company will make any changes, such as giving its plant “specialists” some rudimentary training on matters like the difference between a bedding plant and a toilet seat.

WITHIN only two or three days of the Brexit referendum result, my wife, who is getting a lot of space this week, pronounced her judgement of what she thought it all meant.

She has not wavered from that early evaluation and, as the weeks then months have slipped by, I have come to the conclusion that she is right.

Her view is that what we voted for and what we will end up with is all of the disadvantages of membership of the European Union without any of the advantages.

It is now clear that there is no negotiation taking place and instead the EU tells us what we have to do and after a bit of prevarication which is just for show we agree, while they are making no concessions whatsoever. Even the Irish feel powerful enough to start dictating to us what sort of border we will have with them after Brexit. We are doomed, Captain Mainwaring, doomed.