Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 23rd April 2019

THE threats which have been issued to several of our MPs, via social media, are outrageous, disgusting and, no matter how much they have failed us over Brexit, utterly unwarranted.

But they don’t help themselves, our representatives in Parliament. Like a bunch of schoolkids, there they were waving their order papers in the air at the prospect of their Easter holidays while thousands of people in business and jobs in this country face an uncertain future. For them life is no holiday right now.

And another thing about the behaviour of honourable members — those infernal mobile phones they insist on playing with during debates. One can only guess they are tweeting the latest gossip. Even if they are bored hearing Theresa May repeat for the umpteenth time the words “smooth and orderly” and uncle Jeremy’s soporific performances at question time, or even that dull Scot Mr Blackford making his customary pitch for the good folk north of the Border, surely it’s basic good manners to listen without fiddling with a phone.

In some ways it’s a relief that they’ve gone skiing or to sunnier climes for a couple of weeks. They, like the rest of us, are suffering from Brexit fatigue. The alternative, after all, would be endless repetitive speeches restating entrenched positions over Brexit. MPs are well and truly mired in a bog of their own making. Whatever they choose to do, half their constituents will be upset. It’s easier to defer and delay. It puts off the evil hour when they must decide.

Come October we could all be in the same mess we are now. Did people really think we could walk away from Europe undamaged? For three years the Daily Mail told us the EU leaders were a bunch of dim-witted bureaucratic drunks. We underestimated them. They’ve out-negotiated us at every turn. Britain is a victim of its own arrogance and self-inflicted humiliation. Our MPs can’t agree anything. The EU’s 27 nations agree overnight.

Will MPs make good use of the extension and their time away as the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, suggests they should? Will they come back behaving like sensible adults? I doubt it. Still, they’ve made Nigel Farage the happiest man in all Europe.

IS RORY BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE?

THE Times devoted a double page spread on Saturday to Penrith and Border MP Rory Stewart which suggested he could emerge from the wreckage of the Tory Party as a standard bearer for the middle ground.

Mr Stewart is being talked of as a possible Tory leader. He told his interviewers “there’s only any point someone like me standing for the leadership if I can win”. Unlike many colleagues jockeying for Mrs May’s job, that’s a politically rare straight answer.

But what does the father of two youngsters reveal when he confesses to building “very complicated Lego Ninjago ships and temples?” Not for Rory a simple Lego house. There’s something politically fascinating in this because Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright also recently came out as a Lego-lover.

Lego’s website displays a “grown-ups” button. One enthusiast claims adults are escaping into a world where everything fits together. Cathartic. Controllable. Everything in its place, unlike life.

Could Rory Stewart be searching for a solution to Brexit within his own polymathic approach to the bricks?

IVOR HAD ALL THE BEST JOKES

WELL into his 80s and still working, and still sharp as a tack, Ivor Broadis always had the best jokes in the press box.

I will always remember working alongside Ivor at Carlisle United games. He would invariably begin his Saturday afternoon writing duties with a selection of hilarious jokes, some of them a bit risqué, but never offensive.

England’s last surviving international footballer died at the weekend at the age of 96. He was still writing about football, with his customary wit and insight, when my second spell in the press box came round, although I first got to know him more than 50 years ago when I started my job covering Carlisle and he was a much-respected writer for the North East papers.

I’ll never forget the day the line-up in the cramped old press box at Brunton Park comprised a who’s who of the game — Tim Finney, Albert Stubbins, Len Shackleton, Ivor Broadis and the chap sitting at inside left who rather let the image down.

As a young reporter I used to bump into Ivor several times a week as he sought out material for his daily columns in the Newcastle Journal and Sunday Sun. I soon realised that, when it came to genuine understanding of the game, I could never hope to match his remarkable knowledge.

A Londoner, he guested for Tottenham Hotspur during the war and that’s when someone confused his real name, which was Ivan, for Ivor. The latter name stuck with him for the rest of his life. He served in the RAF, as a navigator, and at the end of the conflict he was posted to Crosby on Eden, near Carlisle.

Broadis was once quoted saying that, until he got to Cumbria, he thought the area was only accessible by dog sled. Whatever his previous thoughts, he was to make his home in Carlisle where fans young and old came to regard him as a football legend.

Ivor played for Carlisle in two spells, and also Newcastle United, Sunderland, Manchester City and Queen of the South. He was player-manager of Carlisle at the age of 23 and, in 1949, he negotiated his own transfer to Sunderland for £18,000. “An incredible amount in those days,” he once said.

He used to have some memorable tales about the time Bill Shankly was manager at Carlisle. Shankly was football mad and he would inveigle Ivor into coming back in the afternoons after training to play one-a-side games in the car park, utilising two chimney pots for goals. Games would often last for hours because Shankly refused to quit until he was winning.

I did see Ivor Broadis play, just the once near the end of his career. But I recall taking part in a charity match, a media XI against a mixed bag of retired players and local celebrities. Our goalie was Border TV’s Eric Wallace, who came attired in a green rollneck sweater and flat cap and played very well as a matter of fact.

I was deputed to mark Ivor, who was in his 50s then and had not played for some considerable time. Class, they say, is permanent. I was the fittest member of our squad, but I never got near him the whole afternoon. I remember a goalkeeper’s clearance spiralling high in the air. As it came down Ivor took it on his thigh, transferred it to his feet in the blink of an eye and despatched a 40-yard pass to his unmarked winger who was so shocked he fell over the ball and let it run out of play. He didn’t get another pass. Ivor did it all himself after that and I came off having run around 10 miles and hardly touched the ball. The old magic was still there.

Ivor was still reporting until relatively recent times, and always worth listening to when it came to his comments on players and tactics. He grew old, but his views on the game remained up to date. He often worked alongside his son, Mike, who predeceased him by just a few weeks.

He enriched football. When so many honours are dished out to the unworthy, it remains a shame that Ivor Broadis never got his just acknowledgement, although he was thrilled to be made a freeman of the city of Carlisle last year. I miss his droll wisdom and his jokes.

ME TOO MAGGIE

MARGARET Thatcher once touched me on the arm. Does this mean I have got a retrospective case for #MeToo for men?

Author Salman Rushdie claims he was “molested” by Mrs T and says the former MP was “touchy–feely”. In a TV interview he said: “You’d sit with her and she’d put her hands all over you.”

I clearly did not possess Rushdie’s animal magnetism with women, but Maggie did touch my arm lightly when I was covering a street walkabout. It was to remind me to stay close as she was about to say something to a questioner that she was sure I would want to report.

All very gentle and tactful. And unlike the ungallant Salman Rushdie, I had intended it to remain my little #MeToo secret. But these days, with just about everyone in public life coming under scrutiny for everything from being slightly tactile to rape, with no balance in between, maybe that tap on the arm meant more than I realised at the time. I’m ready for a full and exhaustive inquiry.