Lessons from the Savile saga

(First posted October 2012)

Stoke Mandeville hospital is being urged to open one. The BBC’s already started two. There’s another at the Department of Health.

The inquiries into Jimmy Savile’s abuse of children are mushrooming almost as fast as the sickening stories of what the TV showman did to dozens of teenaged girls (and, reportedly, some boys too.)

Still the Labour party wants more: one big, over-arching, independent inquiry into what Ed Miliband rightly called the “horrific allegations.” Putting aside the Labour leader’s knee-jerk inquiry-itis, he – like the BBC and all the others now investigating the past […]

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The Playing Fields Myth

Find me the 2012 Olympic medallist who owes their sporting success to wet afternoons on an English school playing field and I’ll get worked up about selling off school playing fields.

The fact is, like so many stories from inside the Westminster village, the row over school sports fields is a red herring; great for political point scoring,  nothing to do with kids and sport. 

And even less to do with future Olympic triumph. 

Most of our Olympians came up through local clubs not schools. In track-side interviews, still […]

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Going for (Economic) Gold

I never had any doubt that Danny Boyle’s Olympic celebration of proud, multi-cultural, contrarian Britain was spot on.  I loved every minute of the opening ceremony’s anarchic creativity. It even prompted my first ever act of patriotism. Incensed by the cynical tweets of a critical American, I clicked “unfollow” and banished him from my Twitter stream for good.  

I’m a Londoner. Born and bred in a vibrant, diverse city that has hummed with excitement as the medals have come pouring in, of course I’m infected by Olympic fever.

But I wondered whether the glow extended to the rest of […]

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Looking for the “real” UK?

Photo: Andrew Billington

The phone rang about an hour after I’d completed my online order.

The woman on the other end – northern accent, friendly tone – sounded a little anxious. Had I just booked a ticket for a play at the New Vic Theatre?  Yes, I said, I certainly had.

“You do know we’re in Newcastle-Under-Lyme,” she said. I started to laugh. Yes, I knew. In fact I was just planning the train journey when she phoned.  

She sounded relieved. “Oh good, it’s just that we always check when someone with a London address books a […]

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The perfect public library

I have seen a future for the public library – in the centre of Stoke-on-Trent.

I’ll admit, until now I’ve taken no interest in the campaigns to save Britain’s libraries from closure. Supporters say hundreds are threatened because of cuts in local council budgets. 115 disappeared in the last financial year alone. But the library-loving rhetoric is too often couched in romantic middle class memories of a long gone past. Even those who haven’t been in a library for years wax lyrical about the joys of children’s storytime or the day they first “discovered” a particular […]

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