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by Paul Embery
Friday, 30
April 2021

Sorry Sir Keir, attacking ‘Tory sleaze’ is a dead end

Voters care more about the issues affecting their everyday lives

It is often said that it was sleaze that did it for the John Major government of 1992-97. But did it really? Scandals such as ‘cash-for-questions’ and ‘back to basics’ unquestionably inflicted damage on the Tory brand during those years. But, in truth, sleaze was only part of the story. The ignominy of Black Wednesday, which saw interest rates ramped up to 15% and helped to destroy the Conservative party’s reputation for economic competence, surely did far more to repel the average voter than revelations about the financial or sexual indiscretions of individual Tory MPs.

That is why Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour party need to be careful. Assuming that media furores such as the current one surrounding the refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat will automatically translate into a shift in their favour in the polls is risky. In the long run — and even accounting for the fact that this particular affair involves the PM himself — these brouhahas tend not to be electorally significant. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Monday, 19
April 2021

The European Super League shames the people’s game

The plan violates the spirit and ethos of the sport

If someone had sat down to devise a plan to unite millions of usually-partisan football fans across Europe, they would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything better. My social media feeds are filled with diehard supporters spitting tacks at the proposal for a breakaway European Super League. These include fans of the six English clubs involved in the caper. They have been joined in their fury by pretty much everyone else involved in the game, from its authorities to high-profile former players and pundits. Even presidents and prime ministers have got in on the act.

These individuals and groups see the proposal for what it is: a cynical and unashamed attempt by billionaire owners to generate ever more colossal sums of wealth for their clubs by creating a closed shop at the top of football. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Thursday, 4
March 2021

Another career sacrificed on the altar of progressive opinion

James Moore's transgression? Upsetting some people on social media

The reputation of yet another public servant bit the dust this week. James Moore, some sort of higher-up within NHS Wales, committed the ultimate sin – a high crime for which the destruction of one’s career is the only appropriate sentence.

His transgression? Upsetting some people on social media. And, these days, nobody in public life can, having crossed such a line, expect to survive the inevitable fall-out.

In a post on his personal Facebook account, Moore complained about the ‘zealotry’ of Welsh nationalists and likened the treatment of those in the principality who do not speak the native tongue to that of black people in apartheid South Africa. It was a clumsy comparison for sure. Stupid even. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 22
January 2021

The Fire Brigades Union has nothing to apologise for

Throughout the pandemic, firefighters have worked for the national interest

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is being lambasted across the media today, accused in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) of acting as an obstacle to the engagement of firefighters in the national response to the pandemic.

As ever, it is crucial to go beyond the headlines and examine the facts.

Last year, as the pandemic began to take hold, FBU leaders reached a tripartite agreement alongside fire and rescue service chiefs and local government employers that would see firefighters pitched into the front line of the response.

The agreement was ground-breaking: established industrial relations processes were streamlined to ensure firefighters could swiftly be mobilised to undertake the most critical work — work that sat well outside of their contractual role and for which many had received only the most basic training. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Tuesday, 29
December 2020

Why the Twitter pitchforks came for me over an NHS statistic

Insecurity over inconvenient facts quickly leads to anger and a mob mentality

I was a eugenicist who was guilty of peddling fascism, apparently. One man stated publicly that he would “personally murder” me if our paths were to cross; another implied I should be hanged from a lamp-post; and a woman “comedian” called for my arrest.

Others joined the bandwagon of rage with various insults and accusations — much of the language too choice to republish here.

So what heinous crime had I committed to provoke such an onslaught? Well — look away now if you are squeamish — I had tweeted, without comment, an official statistic published by NHS England which showed that there had, since the start of the pandemic, been 377 Covid-related hospital deaths involving patients who were under 60 and had no pre-existing condition. I provided within the tweet a link to the relevant data. (I should say that my original tweet didn’t mention the likely small number of additional deaths in non-hospital settings, but this was clarified in a follow-up tweet.) ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 18
December 2020

Two cheers for Liz Truss

She is right to call out identity politics, but it is not exclusively the Left's fault

I doubt that the Equalities minister, Liz Truss, and I would agree on much if we were ever to meet, but credit where it’s due: her speech yesterday challenging some of the sacred precepts of liberalism and taking a well-aimed swipe at its most militant proselytisers was, in this day and age, almost revolutionary.

Truss argued that, while there is a moral and practical case for equality, the agenda is driven too much by identity politics and not enough by factors such as socio-economic status or geographical disparities. The focus on identity, she argued, has meant that those with ‘protected characteristics’ are often looked upon as members of homogenous groups rather than as individuals, while the inattention to social, economic and geographical inequalities means that the challenges facing some of our most disadvantaged fellow citizens are ignored. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Wednesday, 18
November 2020

The real crimes of Grenfell are coming out — and the media is silent

A rigged safety test should be front page news

It was a controversial decision, and the Fire Brigades Union was quite correct to protest about it at the time. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry would be divided into two phases: the first to cover the events of that terrible night, including the actions of responding firefighters; the second, everything that happened in the lead-up to the fire, including the decisions of local government officials and private contractors.

The ordering was back to front, argued the union. It would mean that the inquiry would open in a flurry of publicity, with firefighters the first witnesses to be scrutinised on the stand. Their every decision, every action, every minor mistake — perceived or otherwise — would then be picked over and laid bare before the nation. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Monday, 26
October 2020

Will there ever be another Frank Bough?

The BBC presenter's success would be near impossible today

If Frank Bough had been born half a century later, we almost certainly would never have heard of him. The former TV presenter, whose death at the age of 87 was announced at the weekend, lived the early part of his life in a two-up, two-down terraced house in a working-class area of Stoke-on-Trent, the son of an upholsterer. After winning a scholarship to Oxford, where he read history, Bough completed his national service before forging a career at the BBC.

In an era when a seemingly ready supply of distinguished presenters hailing from genuinely working-class backgrounds trundled off the production line at the Beeb, Bough’s path to the top wasn’t especially unusual. His fellow Grandstand hosts David Coleman and Des Lynam (both of Irish immigrant stock) followed a similar trajectory, as did a number of big-name BBC newsreaders of the time, among them Richard Baker (son of a Willesden plasterer), Angela Rippon (grew up in a Plymouth council house) and John Humphrys (raised in a poor district of Cardiff). ...  Continue reading