Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 15th November 2016

FIRST the Tories became known as the “nasty party”. Then along came the Corbynistas’ heavy mob to inherit the unflattering soubriquet.

Now, with newspaper headlines branding judges the “enemies of the people,” and winning praise for doing so, I fear we are turning into the “nasty nation”.

Whether people voted for or against Brexit, I’m sure the great majority did so with honesty and integrity. However, the outcome has been an unprecedented atmosphere of unpleasantness and intolerance.

William Rees-Mogg, a politician I generally rather like, defends the right of the Daily Mail to print inflammatory headlines and stories. He says that, whether we agree with their stance or not, it’s important that we have a robust, aggressive press.

Much as I concur with the principle of a press free to comment and criticise, I can’t believe that a ruling by judges that upholds the sovereignty of Parliament, reflecting the fact we have a strong, independent judiciary, calls for a response this vituperative.

Brexit seems to be pitting the 52 per cent. who voted in favour against the 48 per cent. who voted Remain in a war of words that is bringing out the very worst in certain sections of our society, notably social media users with their vile threats.

On both sides of the Atlantic, this seems to be a very bad time for decent, rational debate as against those who can shout and insult loudest.

I don’t believe MPs will block Brexit. But if the Government has plans for negotiations it is keeping them well hidden and even Brexiteers might wish to know what they voted for. The power of argument, not poisonous invective, is needed right now.


ONE TV presenter apparently had to be advised of his channel’s one size fits all poppy policy after appearing wearing with what looked like an advert for Gardeners’ World on his lapel.

I have come across a new one this year. Poppy bling. The customised, bejewelled versions of the simple poppy. A sign that even wearing the poppy has turned into something competitive.

In some parts of the country it’s all got a bit uppity, with supermarkets worrying that by allowing poppy sellers in their stores it might provoke a political correctness problem, while in one Lancashire town poppies were confiscated from a corner shop counter because sellers disputed whose patch it was on.

Jon Snow declined to wear a poppy on air while all around him colleagues, politicians and celebrities were vying to outdo one another with their statement poppies. Now it’s a battle between the Football Association and FIFA over footballers wearing poppy motifs on armbands.

Sadly, after the experience of two world wars, we still have servicemen and women dying and suffering terrible injuries in conflicts and thousands of innocent civilians being killed and forced from their homes. The world is a more dangerous, greedy, less peaceful and tolerant place now than it has ever been.

Whether you choose to wear a poppy or not is a personal thing. It’s your decision what to buy and what to wear. I always feel the strength of the poppy’s message is in its poignant simplicity. Don’t turn it into a competition or a political statement about coming first in the race to demonstrate compassion.


FUNNY how we see one thing and immediately it sets up an association with something quite different.

For example, every time I see one of those Yodel vans delivering parcels in the streets near my home, I start humming an old Frank Ifield song, She Taught Me To Yodel. It’s rubbish, I know. But I can’t help it.

She Taught Me To Yodel was one of the worst records I ever spent hard cash on. All right, a catchy tune. But just one thing — Frank could not yodel. It was a follow up to Ifield’s previous 60s hit, I Remember You-ooo, which also proved the limitations of his yodelling ability.

The lyrics were a classic. Proof that not everything in the “old days” was better. “I went across to Switzerland. Where all the yodellers be. To try to learn to yodel. With my yodel-oh-ee-dee.”

However, my mother liked Frank. A good-looking Aussie charmer, with a nice line in patter and harmless middle of the road songs, he did once spend 17 weeks at the top of the pop charts.

He’s still going strong at 78. Billed as “Australia’s 60s superstar” Ifield is on the entertainment circuit Down Under, giving talks about his life in showbiz and reprising his hits. In fact, he’s currently appearing in Penrith — that’s the Australian Penrith of course.

Yes, every time that Yodel van comes round our way I remember Frank. I wonder, did he ever learn how to yodel? He must have had plenty of practice by now.


IF Frank Ifield was one of my mother’s favourites, Dr. Chris Anderson in TV’s Emergency — Ward 10 was the bees knees of all the heart throbs of the time.

She wasn’t alone. Such was the authenticity of the program, viewers regularly rang in with questions about their health in the belief that the medics were for real.

Dr. Anderson was played by Desmond Carrington, who last month rang down the curtain on a 70-year broadcasting career when presenting the final The Music Goes Round program for the BBC.

Long before Casualty and Holby City, Emergency — Ward 10 was one of the most popular programs on TV. In its heyday it had 26 million viewers. What would Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor give for figures like that?

Set in Oxbridge General Hospital, it began in February, 1957, after a continuity script writer at ATV had suggested the idea to program planners. The likes of Mr. Dawson (Charles Tingwell) and the dishy Dr. Anderson had female viewers swooning. I remember when Ward 10 was on in our house, on a tiny black and white set in the corner, everything stopped while my mother drew up an armchair and watched fixated as the doctors performed their weekly cures with that charming bedside manner.

Desmond Carrington began his broadcasting career, like many other big names of that era, with the British Forces Broadcasting Station in 1945 and was first heard on the BBC the following year. He had presented his weekly music program for nearly 36 years, since it first aired in October, 1981.

I suspect that many of his listeners had no idea that the veteran broadcaster once held the nation’s females in the palm of his hand every week, Tuesdays and Friday, for something like 10 years in those early days of mass popularity TV. Just one tiny twiddle of his stethoscope had middle-aged mothers in a tizz.

So, eat your heart out, Charlie Fairhead.


LIB Dem leader Tim Farron may have been guilty of over-egging it a bit when, after the Witney by-election, he declared that his party was “back in the political “big time” and the result represented a return to three party politics.

While the outcome of the by-election, prompted by the departure of David Cameron, was a foregone conclusion, the Tories shed 17,000 votes as their majority was slashed from 25,000 to 5,700. By contrast, the Lib Dems pushed past Labour into second place, recording an increase from seven per cent. to 30 per. cent in their share of the vote.

Despite Farron’s optimistic assessment, the Lib Dems still have a pitifully small representation of MPs in the Commons and that’s something it will take more than one by-election protest vote to improve upon.

However, I can’t help noticing that, since the by-election, radio and TV has been asking Tim Farron for his opinion a lot more than they did before. I often listen in to PM’s Questions in the House and the speaker, John Bercow, has treated Farron with shameful disrespect in the past. Perhaps Mr. Speaker will start taking the Lib Dems a bit more seriously in future.


IT’S nearly a month since I last saw a newspaper article or television news report about some cretin dressing up as a clown and jumping out and scaring people.

Hopefully, this dim-witted trend — real clowns are about as amusing as a boil on the bottom so these make-believe specimens are even less funny — has had its day.

If people want to waste money hiring clown costumes that’s their business. But the thing got hopelessly out of hand and we had stories of clowns with knives jumping out in front of cars, and clowns following frightened kids to school.

I didn’t liked the clowns when I went to the circus as a youngster. A couple of elderly blokes with fake water buckets and an exploding car never quite did it for me.

What next? One can only watch and wait with grim apprehension for the next Internet-fuelled stupid craze to emerge.