One of the more curious and largely unnoticed effects of the colonisation of British ‘popular’ culture by US-style glossy celebrity magazines - think ‘Hello’ and ‘OK’ - has been the almost complete demise of a one-time staple of celebrity reporting, the ’soap actor attacked by idiot who thinks Corrie/Eastenders/Emmerdale is real’ story.
Not so long ago, no meaty soap storyline would be complete without the villain of the piece giving an interview to the tabloids detailing the amusing story of how they were accosted by a mad pensioner the week before in Tesco’s and publicly castigated for their character’s misdeeds.
Sadly the ‘mad pensioner assaults soap actor’ stories has almost disappeared appeared from our news stands, although its basic premise - a complete inability to distinguish between fiction and reality - does appear to be making a comeback in the guise of ‘Mad Frankie’ Field’s latest missive (in the Torygraph) in which he seems to be experiencing this very problem, albeit on the strength of having recently read Dickens.
Here is a real test for Gordon Brown in his intent to pass power back to the people.
The Blair Government has resolutely refused to back the simple reform I have been advocating which will give communities the power once again to police their own neighbourhood.
Whoo - a ’simple’ reform that Blair didn’t back? Christ how dumb could it be for the Home Office not to at least try and float it to see how much laughter it generated?
A local community has a right to go into court and ask the magistrates to bring before them an offending yob. The magistrates can issue a warrant, but, even if the whole community is in court demanding action, the magistrate has no power to enforce the warrant in what is deemed a private action.
And the little matter of evidence, Frank?
More to the point who exactly is them in this case - the magistrates or the local community?
This sounds a hell of a lot like mob justice, so much so that one half expects Frank to continue by demanding that the ‘offending yob’ be dragged on a hurdle to the town square and placed in the stocks, where the local
peasants, sorry, community can throw rotting vegetable at them to their hearts content…
…except that they couldn’t - throw rotting vegetables I mean - not these days. Not without getting a fixed penalty notice for littering (and one for not recycling as well, the way things are going).
The law needs to be changed so that magistrates can rule that the request for immediate action is a public matter. The police would then be required to enforce the warrant. The aim would be to bring the perpetrators of the disorder before the court that day.
So the drill is that
a mob of angry peasants, sorry, the local community can ship up at the local magistrates court - would they be allowed torches and pitchforks for the full effect, do you think? - and on the strength of… of what exactly?
What evidence are they expected to present, if any, to justify the issuing of a warrant?
So far as I can tell, the evidential requirement here is at best hearsay and at worst just the assertion that ‘well he’s a yob M’lud’.
Are cries of ‘Burn her! Burn the witch!’ an optional extra? And would communities need to appoint their own ‘Yobfinder General’ or would these be provided by the local council?
Acting swiftly will often nip in the bud actions that, if allowed to fester, will only get worse. Such a reform would also devolve power back to what often are the grandmothers of a district.
Norman Stanley Fletcher. You stand accused of the heinous crime of not giving up your seat on the bus to a pensioner. How do you plead? Guilty or Guilty as hell?
If we’re going to devolve power back to the ‘grandmothers of a district’ why stop with the summary power of arrest - we can always save a few quid by abolishing professional midwifery at the same time.
This one simple reform would also end the intolerable position whereby working-class people on the end of yobbish behaviour have to plead their case for action through middle-class intermediaries, such as youth justice teams.
Frank, its’ got fuck all to do with youth justice teams and everything to do with stuff like due process, the presumption of innocence, evidential requirements, Magna Carta and habeas corpus - trivial things like that!
The rise of yobbish behaviour is the flip-side of the breakdown of families. Who in the community can play the role of the surrogate parent? The only people who can do this are the police.
They ought to have the power, like a football referee, to issue warnings and then, if the warnings are ignored, to impose the restriction on the behaviour there and then. The offender would have the freedom to go to court, but, hopefully, bad behaviour would again be nipped in the bud. This way, most young offenders will be kept out of the criminal justice system.
Oh suppose the upside is that he’s not suggesting that we skip the whole court thing and go back to old style summary justice… a clip round the ear from the local Sergeant.
But again there is this curious little tradition we have in this country - the one which doesn’t permit the police to serve as judge, jury and executioner.
Scratch what I said about Frank losing the plot in Dickens - pretty much most of what he’s suggesting went out of fashion not long after Shakespeare.
The man’s mad, I tell you. Absolutely fucking Dagenham*
*That’s three - or was it four - stops past Barking on the tube, in case you didn’t know.
Still, look ont he bright side. At this rate it won’t be too long before we can celebrate a political first…
…as Frank crosses the floor to become the first Monster Raving Loony Party MP.
If they’ll have him.
Oops, almost forgot. Frank’s tops his piece off with this gem…
We need to move to a leaving certificate that would allow young people to move into work as soon as they have basic skills. These young people should then be able to draw down later the value of the education that currently fails them.
Basic skills for what exactly?
Speaking personally I had as good, if not better literacy and numeracy skills than a fair number of people entering the workforce, today, at 16, pretty much by the time I was seven or eight years old, so would that mean, under Frank’s plan, that I’d have been stuffed up a fucking chimney at the age of eight to earn my keep on a vague promise I could get a bit more education later on?
Curiously enough, there was this thing we had in Britain right through from feudals time right up until the 1960s/70s that used to do a fair old job of getting the young and non-too-academically inclined out of school into gainful employment, something that employer (mainly) used to provide.
As I recall is used to be called ‘learning a trade’ and was something that people - including my dad - did by becoming an ‘apprentice’ - for younger reader’s I should point out that it’s got fuck all to with appearing on the telly with Alan Sugar.
If Frank’s so keen on bringing back a few old ideas, why not take a look at that one - it would pretty well for, oh, several centuries at least.