Poppy wreath claim no matter for reproach

FIRSTLY, in response to the final point made by D Williams of Wickersley (Letters, March 27). If we are not fans of Sarah Champion MP, that is fair enough, and heaven knows, I am no advocate for her. But if she is to be criticised, let it be for good reas

FIRSTLY, in response to the final point made by D Williams of Wickersley (Letters,  March 27). If we are not fans of Sarah Champion MP, that is fair enough, and heaven knows, I am no advocate for her. But if she is to be criticised, let it be for good reason. Claiming the expense of a poppy wreath is not a matter for reproach.

Unless she is atoning for something lying heavily on her conscience I am puzzled as to why she folded so easily over the issue. I think that Mr Williams has allowed the sentiments surrounding Remembrance Day to skew his view of propriety. It has never been suggested to me that I should do anything more than make a donation and wear a poppy on my lapel. How about you? So presumably the placing of a wreath by Ms Champion is a duty that only arises from her status as our representative. If so, isn’t it right and proper that we bear the cost of it?

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Moving on: on Sunday March 22, the remains of King Richard III were received at Leicester Cathedral in readiness for final burial on the following Thursday. For a long time there has been a lively and intriguing debate between those who paint him as the personification of evil (a la Shakespeare) and those who think him a saint who suffered outrageously under vile Tudor propaganda. During his sermon (televised in full on Channel 4), Cardinal Nichols listed Richard’s achievements as king. Included were important legal reforms such as the concept of blind justice, the presumption of innocence, bail (as opposed to incarceration awaiting trial) and a serious attempt to make justice more widely accessible through the introduction of the Court of Requests and the translation of laws into English. Cardinal Nichols then went on to say that Richard had suffered ‘...a fatal seepage of loyalty and support.’ Put like that the link between the two, policy and  popularity, is very striking.

The powerbase of a monarch was founded on the support of influential and privileged landowners; what might these days be called ‘The Establishment’.  Richard’s legal reforms gave the hoi polloi a theoretical equality under the law and thus diluted the advantages enjoyed by the wealthy and powerful. That is no way to exercise power if you expect to keep it.

They say, don’t they, that power corrupts. And so Richard’s failure to be corrupted (supposing for a moment that his fan club is right) offers a complete explanation as to why loyalty and support fell away so disastrously. Whether it is true or not is, of course, no longer of very great importance, but the notion remains of supreme interest in the run up to the elections in May.

Keeping poor Richard’s fate in mind, there is every reason to be curious as to who is helping the candidates (locally and nationally) into office. Who is funding the campaign? Who is providing office accommodation for campaign headquarters?  Who is procuring telecommunications, printing, logistical support? What are their interests and what pressures are they exerting? It would be scurrilous to suggest that the sexual predilections and vested interests of supporters were being deliberately catered for by the Labour council in Rotherham from the end of the 1990s, but clearly something did go wrong leading to the CSE scandal and numerous other decisions complained of regularly in the letters pages of the Advertiser over the years.

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Perhaps it would be useful here to draw a distinction between supporters and backers. For the purposes of argument, let us say that supporters are those who broadly agree with the stated aims of a political candidate and who vote accordingly. Whereas backers see political sponsorship as a form of investment and expect some kind of return. As shown by the story of Richard III, political figures would find it difficult to remain in office without powerful backers and impossible to do so against the wishes of ‘the establishment’. Our civic and national leadership are thus vulnerable to the corrupting influence of powerful cliques who keep themselves well away from the limelight. What’s more, we don’t have to describe them as bad.  Would that it were that simple, but acting in your own interests doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact English law expects it of you. So it is not necessarily bad people who brought the country to its knees in 2008 and Rotherham to its present state of disrepair, but almost certainly  a bad system that has done so.

Nearly done!

None of this is to say that I recant on anything I have said previously. I remain as angry as ever with those who have let us down and cost us so dearly in one way or another. Imagine if the damage done by our bankers had been caused instead by a terrorist organisation. They would be holding parties to celebrate their successes and we would be hunting them to the ends of the earth for the harm they had done.  The media should not get off lightly, either. They have been as keen as the politicos to blame the poorest in society for all our ills. The poor after all are by far the easiest, softest and most risk-free targets. TV companies have quite happily made and broadcast programmes like Benefits Street (Benefit fraud costs a little over £1bn a year) but I doubt they have even considered Tax Dodger Mews. Why do we suppose that might be? (Tax evasion costs the exchequer about £25bn a year)

At the local level, the incumbents on Rotherham Council are hopelessly compromised by past and recent failures which have so far been attributed to misguided political correctness. Instead of avoiding racial tension they have brought us to the brink of disaster (and a very costly repair bill). That will not be easy to forget or forgive.

In the week in which it was announced that Yorkshire is to become a virtually colliery free zone (who’d have ever thought that) I am reminded that it was hot headed trade unionists in the 1970s and 80s who made their movement so easy to demonise. In so doing they inadvertently brought about an ideological retreat so that socialism (that is: an organised concern for the dignity and needs of every member of the community) has become the love that dare not speak its name.

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The abandonment of socialism has left the voter with precious little choice (either ‘get and spend, you deserve it’, or ‘get and spend if you can’) and it has allowed for the shaping of a system that first encourages and then rewards the worst excesses of human weakness. Whoever is voted into office in May you can be sure they will be a mix, in unknown proportions, of saintly intention, human frailty, acute pragmatism and chronic self preservation. Make sure you know as much about them and their sponsors as you can and then watch them like hawks.

Richard Beeley, Maltby