A quick scan through the news this week reveals one or two jewels among the dross.
Foxy Ken Livingstone has won his legal bid to have a four-week suspension set aside. You will remember that he drew down upon himself the wrath of the PC multicultural brigade by telling an annoying Jewish reporter who said he was "just doing his job" that he was no better than a concentration-camp guard. The (unelected) Adjudication Panel ruled that he had brought his office into disrespect and suspended him from his job for four weeks, but the High Court has finally ruled that the Panel "misdirected itself" and that the suspension was illegal.
We've little time for Foxy Ken (well, no time, actually) - he's a fairly despicable person. But he's the despicable person who was elected to his position, and the only people who should depose him are those who put him there in the first place. Add to that the fact that concentration-camp guards definitely did attempt to hide behind the defence that they were only following orders, and there wasn't really a case to answer.
So that's good, I suppose.
Also good was the news that a husband who helped his terminally ill wife to commit suicide (well, not helped exactly - it was more like not stopping her and cuddling her until she was gone) has been given a suspended jail sentence so that he was able to walk free. This was a sensible and humane decision by the court, who clearly realised that the poor soul had suffered enough.
And particularly welcome is the news that Aishah Azmi, the Muslim classroom assistant who refused to remove her veil while teaching, has had her claim dismissed by an employment tribunal. She was awarded a paltry £1,100 because her case had not been properly handled, but her claim of religious discrimination was kicked out in short order.
Jolly good thing, too. It's obvious to anyone with enough brains to fill a teaspoon that you can't teach English to little children if they can't see your face, and that you shouldn't try. It was the children who complained in the first place after all. She was seen on television at a press conference, and shrouded head-to-toe in black with a pair of beady eyes peering through a slit she looked as though she'd give most small kids nightmares. To be honest she sounded like a silly little girl (I believe she's only 24) who's bitten off more than she can chew. If she thinks that saying "I can teach perfectly well in my veil" is going to cut any ice in the target-setting, performance-reviewed, Ofsted-ridden, value-added, teach-it-our-way-or-you-don't-teach-at-all education system we have today, she's … er … missing the point by quite a long way. I'm guessing here, but I bet she didn't seek advice from one of the major teaching unions. They might have been a little more realistic and less encouraging than her local Imam.
So, a good week for common sense, you might think. But no. Not really.
Just picking at random, you understand … a virtually unnoticed piece of legislation is wending its way through Parliament right now. It's the "Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups" Bill. It insists that every single person who could conceivably come into contact with a child, whether through work or volunteering, has to be subject to continuous criminal-record vetting. It is calculated that up to a third of the adult working population will be covered, from the plumber who comes to mend a school's leaking radiator to a parent running a football team or a 16-year-old helping schoolchildren to read. It will be an offence, subject to a fine of up to £5,000, for an employer to hire someone to work with children without being vetted, except in the context of private family arrangements.
Of course, those of us with nothing to hide will have nothing to fear …. will we? Except that the vetting is almost as bureaucratically onerous as getting a new passport. There are forms to be filled in, three pieces of identity to be proffered and, in some cases, cheques to be written. You then have to wait several weeks before you are cleared. And for any government department to process applications from a third of the work-force? Yes, I can see that working really well.
One new headmaster last year could not enter his own school for the first couple of weeks of term because his check had not come through. Another man - a father of three and member of the Scottish Parliament - was not allowed to lead the "walking bus" to his son's primary school because he had not been officially cleared. We grown-ups, however public-spirited, are all now assumed guilty until proved innocent.
As a result, adults are no longer offering to help with children. The Girl Guides and Scouts are chronically short of volunteers. The Guides have a waiting list of 50,000 girls and the Scouts have 30,000 boys waiting - some parents are signing their children up at birth. The checks will reveal not just convictions, but also offences of which people were accused but not convicted. This will wreck the lives of adults who have been falsely accused, like Cherie Blair who was investigated by the police for play-slapping a 17-year-old who made rabbit ears above her head, or the vicar who kissed a girl on the forehead when presenting a prize.
All adults are deemed to be perverts unless they can prove that they are not. Most will now avoid contact with other people's children and will refrain from touching them for fear of the action being misconstrued. Just as the ultra-feminist slogan "All men are rapists" tainted the relationship between men and women for a decade, so the assumption that all adults are potential paedophiles will imbue children with fear, parents with paranoia and other adults with excessive caution.
The new law was inspired by the Soham murders, in which school caretaker Ian Huntley killed two young girls. Yet he didn't even work at their school!
And in case you need something to muse on and make you feel really depressed, the BBC have given Jonathan Ross a contract worth £18 million over three years. And Jeremy Paxman earns about £100 a minute for presenting Newsnight. He works a three-day week, and gets £7,500 for each edition of University Challenge.
The GOS could do that. He'd be quite good at it, actually, and he'd be happy to do it for, say, £2,000 a time. Peanuts, really.
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