Weekly Newspaper of the Year 2013 Winner

Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 7th February 2017

RIGHT through from the 18th Century and satirist William Hogarth to the present day, cartoonists’ lampooning wit often speaks louder than words. A trenchant drawing can be worth a thousand words.

I spotted a cartoon recently that would have added vigour to one Eden Lakes councillor’s lament about local policing as reported in last Saturday’s Herald.

Neil Hughes suggested that the description of local policing contained in papers prepared by Cumbria Constabulary, and referred to at a police and crime panel meeting, was “not local policing as the public have historically understood it.”

I wonder what Mr. Hughes would have made of this particular newspaper cartoon. Two pyjama-clad children gaze hopefully out of the window on Christmas Eve, and see Father Christmas fly past, his sled pulled by reindeer, sack bulging with toys. One turns to the other and says:”I believe in bobbies on the beat, but I’ve never actually seen one.”

They would not be alone. Data compiled by pollsters Ipsos on behalf of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary last year showed that more than half the residents in some areas have not see a policeman patrolling their streets in the past 12 months. Across the country an average of almost two in five people have not seen a “bobby on the beat” for more than a year. Those figures are far higher in some areas, according to research. Folk are more likely to believe in Santa Claus than real life coppers.

While the Home Office contends that the proportion of officers in front-line roles in England and Wales has increased, and the nature of policing has changed in many regards, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, says cuts have “changed policing as we know it”.

Despite living in one of the busiest towns in the Lake District, I rarely see a fully fledged bobby patrolling the streets these days. The community support officers do their best, with limited powers. But they closed our police station more than 10 years ago and the police have never seemed more remote from the public they serve.

I don’t appreciate being told that folk like me are Dixon of Dock Green fantasists because we lament the loss of visible policing. We don’t all live in some “evening all” fantasy world. We understand we can’t have the local staffing we once had, or the bobbies in every village who knew their patch to such an extent that if Mrs. Bloggs failed to take her milk in then it was worth a knock on the door to check all was well.

But there is genuine concern that we don’t see enough police on the beat and while resources are finite and change is inevitable, it’s not always for the best. Less isn’t more. That’s not Saturday evening Dixon of Dock Green fantasy, that’s fact.

THAT OLD MAGIC

AS a football-mad youngster, there were just two red letter days in the annual calendar.

The first was Christmas morning, when I would unwrap the perfect presents from my parents — a football annual, followed with a bit of luck by a Subbuteo table soccer set.

The second? That was FA Cup final day. Before we had our own telly we used to get invited out to a neighbour’s house to watch the big game. When we got our own TV set it was on from when they showed the teams having breakfast in their hotels right through to the presentation of the trophy and the subsequent victors’ lap of honour.

The magic of the cup. That’s what they always called it. And the weekend was a good time for some of that old magic to rub off against the largely devalued and emasculated competition it’s turned into nowadays.

Two non-league teams in the fifth round. All hail Lincoln City and Sutton United. Yes, and Wolves for their win over Liverpool, Oxford United for defeating a sub-strength Newcastle, Millwall overturning Watford and Wycombe Wanderers taking Spurs to the wire.

I have a theory about the fielding of weakened teams by some of the Premier League’s big beasts. Their foreign managers, coaches and players simply don’t get it. They’ve not been brought up with the magic of the cup. They don’t understand the tradition. Nor can they be expected to, not when it’s never been in their blood. After all, there’s no equivalent of the FA Cup in any other country.

Football these days is all about the Premier League and all about money. To managers from abroad, not steeped in our game’s traditions, the FA Cup carries no passport into the European Champions League and therefore its importance, relative to the multi-million pound Premiership, is merely as some ancillary competition where it’s perfectly reasonable to turn out virtual reserve squads. If they win fine, if not it’s no great drama compared to losing in the league to Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.

Until the FA Cup offers a route into Europe’s main competition you will never get the big clubs to take it seriously. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of those remaining non-league teams actually got to Wembley. That would show ‘em what we old timers mean by the magic of the cup.

As a kid I knew all about the FA Cup and its landmarks and its heroes. That the Wanderers, led by an austere-looking Lord Kinnaird in his knee-length shorts, won the first final in 1872; that Cardiff were the first non-English winners in 1927, always one for the quiz league that; 1953 was known as the Matthews Final after Blackpool’s wing wizard had woven his particular brand of magic; and that in 1946 the referee was from Cumberland, one E. D. Smith, who later became secretary of the Cumberland FA.

Those memorable finals, when Bob Stokoe in pork pie hat, danced on to the pitch in celebration after Sunderland’s win in 1973; Bert Trautmann playing on in goal despite a broken neck to help Manchester City lift the cup in 1956; Bobby Stokes’s winner for Southampton in 1976; Ricky Villa’s dazzling dribble to score for Spurs; and Nat Lofthouse charging Harry Gregg into the back of the net for Bolton, showing no mercy to an immediately post-Munich Man United.

Growing up as a football fan, the FA Cup was every bit as important as winning the First Division championship. For footballers at every club, the chance to take part in a Wembley final was the ultimate career dream.

Five of the Premier League’s top six remain in this season’s competition and no doubt one of them will lift the cup in May. But for me the romance was all about the events of the weekend. It may have been diluted, but it still exists. Still, the FA Cup has the ability to warm the hearts and feed the souls of football devotees in a way the Premier League, for all its greed and manufactured glory designed for television’s megabucks payers, never will.

TRUMP THE PROBLEM

PART of me believes that Theresa May ought to be taking the moral high ground against that disgusting and dangerous new occupant of the White House.

And yet a bigger part of me thinks that Mrs. May is wise to play the pragmatist. For it won’t be our moralising and our placard-waving protesters that will ultimately get rid of Donald Trump, it will be the American people.

In the meantime it’s a good deal safer for this frighteningly volatile world that our Prime Minister and the British government keep channels open with the US. For all we hold our hands up in horror, millions of Americans voted for the monster egotist. That’s democracy, albeit in its most abjectly failed form.

It was intemperate of the normally studied, thoughtful Mrs. May to invite Trump on a state visit so soon. However, the Queen has shaken hands with far worse in her time and will not be fazed. Just as long as Trump doesn’t try holding hands with Her Majesty.

If anyone is going to be able to exercise influence with the Americans it’s Theresa May and her senior ministers. This is a good time for a serious Prime Minister to be in charge of this country, someone who eschews the personality cult of predecessors, opting instead for calm reason.

Her first months in office have been difficult and many pitfalls lie ahead. We need May’s substance over style. One can only hope that Trump learns something from the British Prime Minister whose understated manner is in stark contrast to the man who makes up policy on Twitter. Trump is the American problem. Trouble is, he’s our problem, too. He’s everybody’s problem, and that’s the problem.


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