Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Monday 1st October 2018

RUTH Davidson has ruled herself out of the political power game south of the Border. She wants a life and politics and politicians bear little relation to reality. In short, she’s too good to lead the squabbling Tory party and too good to be Prime Minister.

Now pregnant with her female partner, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party since 2011 is quite unlike any other present British politician. In an era where power rather than knowledge governs who enters the world of politics, Ruth Davidson is unique in getting things done and connecting with people of all party persuasions.

Why would she risk her family life and sense of perspective for the cut-throat scrambling for power that exists in the Westminster bubble? She believes that her personal life, her family and mental health would all suffer were she to enter the national scene. But she’s precisely the sort of person, with the quality of understanding, that we need.

Politics is a mug’s game. There has never been a time when public trust in politicians has been so low. Sensible, successful people don’t enter politics. Most MPs do a good job in their constituencies, but we lack leaders of quality in all the main political parties. And how, with its present reputation, could politics ever hope to attract the best?

Furthermore it’s a dangerous business. The murder of a well-respected MP on the streets of her constituency brought into sharp, frightening focus the fact that there are people out there who hold extreme views, and are prepared to take them further than simply posting vitriolic comments on the internet.

Only this week an MP has requested the kind of security normally associated with Prime Ministers because he fears real harm from lunatics who oppose his views.

It’s a sorry indictment of our politics when someone of the calibre and personality of Ruth Davidson decides it’s not for her, that there are other things in life more valuable than the pursuit of power.

So it’s back to her hill walks, her dog walking and her kickboxing, and Dunfermline Athletic, her favourite football team. She values her sanity too much to want to be PM. Her gain is our loss.


IT’S a Cumbrian eminence of such modest style and proportions that even Alfred Wainwright, who once said his favourite fell was the one he was standing on at the time, was somewhat dismissive of it in his famous Pictorial Guides.

And yet this 1,700ft fell, round back o’ Skidda, as locals say, provided Denis Norden with his greatest cock-up when he and a film crew visited the Lake District in 1996.

Norden, who died last week aged 96, enjoyed a 60-year career in radio and TV. A skilled writer and performer, for many years he teamed up with Frank Muir to give us some of comedy’s wittiest lines. Norden claimed to have invented the phrase “infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me,” as spoken by Kenneth Williams in the guise of a hysterical Julius Caesar in the film Carry On Cleo.

But it was his TV series It’ll Be Alright on the Night, presented by the man in specs with the large clipboard, that really made Norden’s public image. The secret of a programme of bloopers, fluffed lines and misbehaving props was that millions of television viewers laughed with the unfortunate victims rather that at them.

Norden himself had a wry twinkle and a laconic, laid-back delivery that made the show, for all its essential triviality, compelling viewing. It was as much about its presenter and his self-deprecating anecdotes, as it was about actors messing up important speeches and falling scenery. Norden was master of what he termed the “cock-up” and where, at the beginning, people were reluctant to release embarrassing film, soon TV stars regarded it as essential to have their gaffes shown on the programme — and get paid repeat fees for them.

Norden was fascinated to learn that, somewhere in the Lake District, there actually was a Great Cockup. Part of the Uldale fells, largely off the beaten tourist track. He had to see for himself. To host a program from Great Cockup. The fell, unflatteringly described by Wainwright as “functional rather than ornamental, with no obvious summit”, became a TV star in its own right, if only for one night. The fell apparently gets its name from an Old English combination of the words cock (woodcock or black grouse) and hop (secluded}. Its name does, of course, often cause mirth with its slight rudeness.

For Denis Norden a cock-up was a mess-up and there was never a shortage of those in the outtakes from TV programmes. Innocent stuff, but he made us laugh which is no bad legacy, and any time I hear mention of Great Cockup, or its neighbour Little Cockup, I’m reminded of that It’ll be Alright on the Night show filmed on location “back o’ Skiddaw”.


TOURISTS flock in their hundreds of thousands to the Lake District to view the autumn colours, but I confess I’m no fan of this particular time of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

It marks the end of the domestic cricket season, a time to pack away our memories of this golden summer and hunker down for the long, dark days of winter.

I can say it no better than the great cricket writer Neville Cardus who wrote so evocatively, in one of his memorable Manchester Guardian pieces, about the final day of the domestic season, in unseasonably mild weather, at Old Trafford.

“Saturday found us all back in June again. Who in this lovely sunshine could believe that we were at season’s end, that in a day or two the happy companionship in the open air will be over and far away, that Old Trafford will soon stand deserted, a place of forlorn silences. Only the true cricketer knows of the ache that comes to the heart at this time of year.”

To say Neville Cardus was no fan of football is an understatement. He went on to lambast the “barbarous voice” of the newspaper vendor selling copies of the Saturday night sports paper. “I am sorry to say that many people were to be seen looking for Manchester City’s score, even while Makepeace and Sibbles played out an anxious 10 minutes before the close,” he wrote impatiently. “Sometimes I wish football went on throughout the summer; then cricket would always get a crowd pure and undefiled.”

Being one of Cardus’s impure and defiled, I do have football to console me through the winter. But as cricket’s County Championship moved inexorably to a conclusion this week, I felt the usual ache in the heart that comes to me when summer seems a distant, happy memory and it’s time to think about turning on the heating once again. Falling wickets beat falling leaves any day.


NAOMI Osaka? Who is she? Which sport recently found a new, exciting champion whose remarkable achievement was sadly overshadowed?

Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams in the final of the US Open tennis tournament. But in the midst of Serena’s now legendary “meltdown” nobody seemed to give much credit to this outstanding new talent, or even remember her name.

The row has rumbled on ever since Williams stopped playing and yelled “liar” and “thief” at hapless umpire Carlos Ramos. It all began with the umpire calling out her trainer in the stands for coaching during the game and it’s since been seized on as racism, sexism, even the legacy of slavery. And has it set back women’s rights a decade? No, it’s just a tennis match and an extremely rude and unwarranted attack on the integrity of the official.

To me it was all about Serena Williams’s arrogant sense of entitlement. She was the thief, because she stole the glory from Osaka, her better on the day. The outburst had nothing to do with colour or gender.

Furthermore Williams’s claims that men get away with worse infractions doesn’t hold up statistically. Since 1998, 646 men have been fined for racket abuse compared to 99 women while verbal abuse has seen 62 violations handed out to men and just 16 to women.

What she said to the umpire was wrong. What she did to Naomi Osaka, robbing her of the glory of her first ever Open title, was unforgivable. There will be many more titles to be won, but the first is special and it was marred by Serena’s outburst and subsequent lack of contrition.