Weekly Newspaper of the Year 2013 Winner

Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 1st December 2014

SIR John Major is right in one sense when he says that, in his experience, few MPs are the self-serving individuals they are sometimes portrayed as being.

The former Prime Minister believes that politicians have been getting a raw deal from the theatre of late, being unfairly portrayed in several West End plays. It’s this dodgy image that discourages people from voting.

“It is healthy that the theatre does not slavishly support the system, but sometimes I worry that it undermines it unfairly,” said Sir John, who was himself portrayed last year in The Audience, the Peter Morgan play about the Queen’s weekly meetings with Prime Ministers throughout her reign.

But of course the most unflattering theatrical image of MPs is provided by their own kind most Wednesdays at noon, the kick-off time for PM’s Questions, when the House of Commons descends into a febrile scene from hell with insults being yelled across the floor and the normally civilised atmosphere on those green benches polluted by vitriolic exchanges which win no public approval.

I must confess I am partial to the odd bit of knockabout, especially when it’s someone as quick witted as William Hague delivering the one-liners and the clever ripostes.

He’ll be missed when he gives up his seat next May. Parliament contains too little quality debate and too many strident voices drawn from the yob element, and the obsequious backbenchers with their carefully stage-managed questions — the “does the Prime Minister agree with me” types looking to find a few crumbs of favour from the top table.

PM’s Questions plummeted to a new low last week with Ed Miliband once again demonstrating his ineptitude and David Cameron sounding like a used car salesman as he dodged giving an answer to every issue. One of this pair will be in Downing Street after the election. It’s an unedifying and rather alarming choice.

But I guess Wednesdays when MPs are sitting will get like that as the election draws ever nearer. We can forget really important debate amid the jeers and the catcalls as Honourable Members follow the bad example set by the party leaders and especially the pointing, jeering, face-pulling poor man’s comedy routine of Messrs. Osborne and Balls. How can they expect the electors to take any of them seriously?

And then we have the whole show orchestrated by the most ridiculous fool of them all, Speaker Bercow, as pompous a little man as ever held important office.

John Major speaks out for the reputation of the majority of MPs who work hard for their constituents and rarely hit the high spots at set pieces like Questions in the House.

The negativity which surrounds politicians “does not reflect the reality” he maintains. However, the voices of reality, reason and honesty are unlikely to hold sway in the countdown weeks to a general election, the course and result of which has everyone baffled.


WOULD you think twice before approaching a young child in the street who looked lost? Especially if you were also on your own.

It worries me that, while quite rightly there are concerns about abuse, we seem to be creating a world of suspicion by overprotecting the young.

People might want to step in and help a lost and frightened child. But who would blame them if they hesitated, fearing their perfectly innocent approach might be misconstrued as inappropriate?

I find it pretty dispiriting to hear people agreeing with the owners of a theme park which was recently in the news when it banned a man from attending a falconry display because he was on his own. Does it mean that every man and woman who goes to a public event unaccompanied can’t be trusted to behave around children? What kind of image is being projected to kids — an image that suggests all adults, especially single people, are a danger to them.

The facts point to most child abuse being perpetrated by members of the same family or people known to the child. By the rules of that theme park, a grandad on his own would be barred yet a pair of child murderers like the Wests would be waved through the gates without a question asked.

The sad truth is that, by being too protective, a generation of children is being brought up in fear of all adults and not to have trust.


I CONFESS I have never envisaged the Herald as a top shelf job, wrapped in an opaque bag to keep its front page contents from prying four-year-old eyes.

One group of campaigners want newspapers hiding apart from their mastheads in paper shops and supermarkets to prevent children from asking awkward questions. This is one of the silliest campaigns ever, yet some big stores have acceded to the demands.

Kids aren’t interested in newspapers. They head straight for the crisps, canned drinks and sweets. News headlines which refer to bus routes and parking charges are not likely to corrupt your average kid who can barely see over the top of the newsstand anyway.

But hey, a spot on the top shelf at the village newsagents sure would give t’Herald some street cred.


FORGIVE any spelling mistakes in this week’s column. But you see I got well and truly plastered and the simple task of typing on my laptop has turned into a laborious process accompanied by even more grunts than Timothy Spall in the actor’s wonderful portrayal of the artist Mr. Turner in the film of that name.

Plastered and not a tipple in sight. Furthermore it looks like I’m left with a “hangover” that is going to take me from here right through Christmas. Cue more Turneresque grunts of displeasure and frustration.

It was a daft tumble, but it left me with an arm in plaster and now I’m discovering just a fraction of what servicemen so terribly injured in explosions while serving in Afghanistan and other conflicts must have to deal with on a daily basis.

For me a couple of months’ inconvenience having lost the use of the hand I use for writing, for them the rest of their lives and in many cases multiple limbs lost. I know comparison is invidious. My pathetic bleating when a jam sarnie lands upside down on the carpet. Their bravery and suffering beyond what ordinary folk, who haven’t been through it like them, can comprehend. They do deserve our fullest respect.

Meanwhile I’ll try not to be a wimp. Honest.


I’M not a great motor racing fan these days. It’s all too much of a procession — a fast paced one, I’ll grant you — and victory to the driver and team with the best car.

I was a fan as a youngster when the likes of Moss and Fangio diced on the track in cars that would fail every health and safety test these days. The death rate among drivers was huge. They reckoned, in the days of Brough’s Cliff Allison, that if you survived a full year you were doing well.

It’s still a dangerous sport, as recent events in Japan illustrated. But nothing like it used to be when cars were fragile, prone to bursting into flames, and medical arrangements were rudimentary. The drivers were an expendable commodity and it took the fatality involving one of the finest and safest of them all, Jim Clark, to spark the long process towards making Grand Prix racing no longer a death trap in waiting.

But well done to Lewis Hamilton, undoubtedly an outstanding driver, for clinching his second world championship on Sunday. If you were one of the smart ones who backed him to be BBC sports personality of the year a few months back, well done to you. Too late now. He’s a cert.

The best story about Hamilton came when he first broke into Formula 1 and his local Asda store presented him with his very own privileged position parking place. Of all the multi-million pound sponsorships since, it began with a space near the front door of Asda.

Lewis spends most of him time in Monaco nowadays. I wonder, do they have an Asda?

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