My immediate response to today's title is: 'No, I think we get a narrow choice which creates a political apathy amongst the electorate.' To which we might imagine, a little cynically perhaps, that this is exactly what the two mainstream political parties want - a passive, almost inert electorate that will believe what it is told. Yet we can do infinitely better than this. We can accept and introduce new thinking, new ways of politicking and a much more honest way of keeping the electorate reasonably informed.
Much of this political malaise can be attributed to our shifting culture. There was a time when free speech meant exactly that; there was a time when personal views were the right of every citizen to express (though not necessarily enforce upon others); there was a time when our opinions didn't need to be hidden in a dark corner somewhere for fear of recrimination; there was a time when our tolerance for difference (not to be confused with radical or hostile difference) was seen as part of our societal outlook and our even-handed attitude to constructive criticism; and there was a time when that diversity of opinion, sentiment and emotion was seen as being indicative of a healthy and engaged society. None of that, of course, currently exists. Over the last quarter century or so we have allowed, perhaps imperceptibly, the encroachment of those with minority stakes in our society, those with alien cultures that don't resonate with the traditional values of this land and those whose intent is inherently to be at odds with what Britain used to stand for to flourish. And this has been accompanied by a highly vocal domestic community of opinionators who, in the spirit of 'let's all lie down and let this new wave of cultural thinking embrace us all' who have brought about the sub-culture of political correctness that makes any detracting from their point of view something to shout and scream about and protest vehemently that any such thinking should be suppressed, reviled and banished with its perpetrators marginalised and excoriated like lepers. That, however, is not freedom, it is not democracy, it is not how our culture should be being shaped and manipulated by the vocal minority. It's long past the time when the majority need to take up voice and make sure that the country we have inherited from our forebears recovers its sense of proportionality, decency, balance and common sense. This is not a plea to live in the past - that was as flawed as any time - but it is a plea to refresh our cultural and national outlook, not in any nasty way but to recover those key ingredients that make us, as a nation, uniquely British.
Mrs May has reportedly done a deal with the EU on the Brexit 'divorce' bill - a sum of around £50 billion it is said. This won't, so the pundits argue, be revealed officially until after the Conservative conference next month for fear of a leadership challenge being 'unfairly' mounted against her. Maybe the PM is truly naive enough to imagine that those who would plot would wait to see the conference over before making any moves, but even her naïveté cannot surely extend to not seeing the political manoeuvres taking place around her. Talk of new leadership, new political parties and commitments to pushing the Brexit exit we want abound everywhere and her continuing inability to communicate with the electorate only serves to reinforce the view that her time is almost up. Her style, her detachment, arrogance and duplicity do not qualify her to be PM much longer. I am sad to see it developing, for I had originally thought of her as the best of a somewhat mediocre choice but with some potential. That potential has not been realised unfortunately and with Brexit the single most demanding political challenge of our time we need a clearer, more forthright leader at the helm. Thank you, Mrs May, but it's time for you to go.
It is no surprise to read about the cheating that has been going on in certain schools in order to ensure their students achieve the highest examination grades and thereby 'protect' the statistical ranking of their establishment. This is far from educational excellence, it is, simply, cheating. As in many other fields, achieving targets has become the objective rather than the fulfilment of a core purpose. This crazy and simplistic way of trying to measure performance and efficiency has come from that debased culture talked about above and does our country no credit. Back to basics was a mantra used by Margaret Thatcher thirty years ago. It may be old but it is certainly still true. Our institutions need to reassess what their prime purposes really are and get back on track. And let there be no doubt, meeting statistical targets set by faceless bureaucrats is not now, and never has been, their prime purpose.
I'm probably in a distinct minority here, but does anyone else flinch at the vast sums of money being bandied around to secure the services of so called, unique football players ? The closure of the transfer window this weekend has seen a record sum of money being spent on, to me, names I've never heard of and of unknown footballing excellence. Many, no doubt will think of me as arguing high treason here but with so much at stake in our country and our world, that we should be spending these profligate amounts on footballer transfers seems astonishing. Let's get some proportionality back into this over-bloated sports industry where money rules and sport comes way down the list of desirable merits.
And finally, congratulations to the angler who landed a 500 lb tuna off the Pembrokeshire coast. What a huge beast that was, and great credit to him for returning it quickly to the ocean.