Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 8th November 2016

I’M presuming former Home Secretary David Blunkett is no fan of Slade.

“I wish it could be Christmas every day,” goes the world’s most over-played festive season song. Blunkett disagrees. He thinks Christmas, and all its commercial nonsense, should be restricted to December.

No premature Santa grottos, no early stocking of over-priced junk that finishes up in the waste bin come New Year’s Day. If you want to spend a fortune, three weeks in December are perfectly adequate.

Noddy Holder and the boys should be so cheerful. Well, here it comes already and we have only just scraped into November.

Hands up those planning journeys up to and over the Christmas period? Unless it’s utterly essential, you must all be quite mad. I spotted some of the first gloom-laden headlines of Christmas this week. “Travellers face the worst transport chaos ever” they announced as Network Rail foretold major station closures and airports looked forward to potential strikes and staff shortages.

Oh boy, why do we do it? What law is there that says thou shalt only travel to visit friends and relatives at Christmas? Is it forbidden the rest of the year? This myth about the great Christmas getaway. Where did it come from? Who in their right minds thought it was a good idea?

Well, well. Firefighters, security officers, maintenance workers, baggage handlers, all of them planning to scoff their turkey at home on the 25th while frustrated would-be travellers bang their heads on empty check out desks.

It’s not like we aren’t warned. It happens every year. The whole point of strikes is to cause maximum upset to the public. Don’t ever believe a trade union official when they come out with the old chestnut about causing minimum disruption to the public. And what better time to cause maximum anger and distress than at Christmas?

Travel consultant Ian Baldry told one Internet news site: “Passengers will be tearing their hair out. Frayed tempers lie ahead.”

Oh, yes, those frayed tempers. Only TV news teams, shorn of much to report over Christmas, are made happy by the queues in airports, on railway platforms and on the motorways. Lots of angry public to interview. Great quotes. Not much moves, though.

Perhaps the hint could be passed on to families sleeping in airport lounges and railway waiting rooms. You could head off to France and Spain, cross the Atlantic, even visit Aunt Maude in Devon, in February, March, April, in fact almost any other time of the year. And do it in relative comfort.

As for David Blunkett, one can only assume he will be spending his Christmas quietly by the fireside reading a good political autobiography. Ken Clarke’s got one out right now.

Just spare yourselves the pain. Put that Slade CD on, get your feet up, pour a glass of wine, nibble on a turkey leg and think smugly of all the desperate, impatient folk bringing on heart attacks and strokes as they join the inaptly named Christmas rush. Rush is one thing travellers can never achieve at Christmas.


BY and large I try not to be too cynical. To be a glass half full type, hard though it sometimes is to be cheerful at the ways of the world.

However, I’m not very PC. Oh no, not the political correctness thing again. The PC I’m referring to here is public consultation.

Over more than half a century in the reporting game, I’ve seen more public consultation exercises come and go than most readers have had turkey dinners.

They come — and they go. Two things strike me about this form of PC. Public consultation generally tells you two things. First they tell you there’s a plan to do something you are not going to like. Second they tell you they are going to listen to your views, they organise a few meetings, take some stiff questioning — and then they do what they originally thought of anyway.

Sir Neil McKay, chairman of the NHS Success Regime which is overseeing possible bed closures in north, east and west Cumbria, came under fire, according to the Herald’s report of a public meeting in Penrith last week. He wasn’t actually present, but came in for some stern criticism, particularly over how much his services are costing at a time of financial crisis in the NHS.

After a seemingly endless consultation process, no doubt costing a lot of money that could have been spent on staff and services, I suspect we are going to be back more or less where it all started. After all, it’s about making budget savings. Inevitably the final recommendations will be for some closures. The more remote the place, the more susceptible it is to being chopped. If this is part of the Northern Powerhouse, heaven help us. More like the crumbling outhouse!

On Monday the Daily Telegraph screamed more trouble in store for the beleagured NHS when it warned almost half of all authorities are drawing up plans to cut hospital beds and a third propose to close or downgrade accident and emergency departments.

Dr. Sarah Wollaston, the Tory head of the influential Commons health select committee, made “an unprecedented plea” to the Chancellor for a major cash injection to prevent the collapse of the NHS. Health officials have ordered every part of the country to draw up “sustainability and transformation” plans in an attempt to cope with mounting pressures across the NHS.

Truth to tell the NHS can’t keep up with rising demands and increasing public expectations. We’re living longer and there’s never been a Plan B to care for us oldies. What was once the envy of the world has fallen behind countries we’d once have looked upon sniffily as not up to our standard.

Health is too important to be left to politicians. Even pumping money into it is probably not going to work anymore. The NHS’s condition has gone beyond the “serious” and soon it will be in intensive care, with a very poor prognosis.

With all due respect to Sir Neil, he won’t be around when there’s a problem for an elderly person in Alston, or when a mother goes into premature labour in West Cumberland and there’s a road blockage between Whitehaven and Carlisle.

Meanwhile, Sir Neil and the Success Regime declined to comment to the Herald last week. Well, what could they say? Just come to another consultation meeting?


JOSE Mourinho is not one of my favourite people. But for once he has my sympathy.

Stuck in a posh hotel somewhere near Manchester, where he manages United, he says he can’t go out for a walk or visit an art gallery without being pestered by people demanding selfies.

They used to ask politely for an autograph. Now some burly bloke will appear from behind, place his arm across the victim’s shoulders and stick a mobile phone in his face while grinning foolishly.

Jockey Frankie Dettori was on TV the other day after a winning ride when a hulking idiot grabbed him and snapped a photo on his camera phone. Dettori rightly didn’t smile. He was plainly not best pleased at this rude interruption.

I used to say there was nothing worse than folk wandering the streets bumping into other pedestrians while blithely surveying their phones and texting messages.

Well, there is worse. The selfie. A symbol of the bad manners of our time.


I’VE been compared to many things in my time, most of them unfavourable. But never to a 16th Century Pope. That, in the world of deceased comic Frank Carson, is “a cracker.”

An expertly argued letter by a correspondent in Saturday’s Herald compared my “scaremongering” over Brexit to that of Pope Clement VII and the Catholic Church when Henry VIII and Cromwell broke away from the shackles of Rome.

Not having the historical knowledge of the writer, I looked Pope Clement up on Wikipaedia. A darkly, handsome Italian in his youth, as painted by Raphael. Quite keen on the French. Went to seed a bit in middle age and died aged 53 of mushroom poisoning. That’s probably enough for now.

No more rude names from you lot out there. In future, when you write complaining, kindly address me as “Your Holiness”.