FIRSTLY, LET ME SAY IT WAS UNFORGIVEABLE: fourteen days in jail for drunkenly urinating in the street was the least Andrew Banks could expect, let alone that in doing so he desecrated an heroic police constable’s public memorial,.
Second, let me disclaim any relationship to the drunken Essex lout who downed 16 pints yet still managed to drag his boozed-up body into London to join a mob of football thugs and fascists to ‘protect the statues’ from the demolition aims of Black Live Matter protesters.
My name, coincidentally, is the same as his. That, thank the Lord, is where the similarity ends.
The less said about the odious circumstances of his offence the better. But the issues ‘accidentally raised’ by his behaviour deserve thorough examination. During the coronavirus lockdown the (continuing) closure of many public toilets across the UK is having a serious impact which may even lead to a significant secondary public health risk as people have no option but to relieve themselves in the open.
A recent Guardian survey unearthed reports of bushes in city parks stinking of urine, and tales of human excrement in sand dunes as public toilet closures, coupled with the absence of alternatives in bars, restaurants and public buildings, curtailed private activity.
Women, especially pregnant women, people with health conditions or disabilities and elderly men such as me are forced to take extreme measures such as deliberate dehydration or else find they are confined to home.
Even as some public facilities start to reopen, a chaotic picture emerges. Local officials are struggling to balance exponential demand with public safety. Publicly-owned toilet facilities in many areas have ceased to exist or been badly neglected; councillors in areas offering beaches and beauty spots are frustrated by Boris Johnson encouraging people to drive significant distances without offering guidelines on reopening public conveniences.
John Saunders, mayor of Windemere and Bowness in Cumbria, speaks for many when he says, “We are desperate for advice and assistance.” His Lakeland area toilets are used by up to 350,000 visitors each year, but the only government advice the tourists are given is to ‘wash your hands’.
“We’ve had an influx of visitors,” said Saunders, “but there are so many difficulties that for now we only have plans to open the disabled toilets as these are individual cubicles. Health and safety [requires] that cubicles are cleaned after every visit, meaning toilets being closed for 15 minutes every time somebody leaves.
“There’s no way we’re going to satisfy the millions who come in August, especially if more people are staying in the UK for their summer holidays.”
So decry my namesake’s disgraceful behaviour and applaud his punishment by all means, but when you need to join a socially-distanced queue just to get into the supermarket and then have to join a second socially-distanced queue for the loo wouldn’t it be more convenient to have a council convenience within scurrying distance?
It might mean having to pay twenty pence or so to spend a penny in a clean closet, preferably manned during daylight hours. You might even consider spending twice as much on the postage to send a letter to your MP and town or county councillor, dropping a wee hint that your vote is the price they will pay if no action on the B&B (bowel & bladder) front is forthcoming.
‘Bank robbers’ last year,
but now a Muslim mask is a must!
DIDN’T TAKE LONG, DID IT? Only ten months ago A Certain VIP was columnising in The Daily Telegraph about Muslim women who wore veils that made them “look like letter boxes” and who turned up at his MP surgery “looking like a bank robber”.
Shops, businesses and government agencies should be able to “enforce a dress code” that allowed them to see customers’ faces, insisted He Who Must Be Obeyed.
And today? You can’t travel by train, bus or taxi WITHOUT wearing a face mask! Turn up without one and you won’t be allowed to travel. Make a fuss and you will be fined. By order of that same VIP who only last August insisted it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
Talk about losing face: QUICK! A BURKHA FOR BORIS TO HIDE HIS BLUSHES!
Prime Ministers should NOT
make pronouncements behind paywalls
DID YOU SEE THAT BORIS IS PLANNING a commission for racial equalities? asked my occasional fellow columnist Keith Hann the other day. “Should keep you lefties quiet for a while.”
No, I hadn’t, I told him. Why not? Because Keith reads The Telegraph and I don’t. And The Telegraph is the place where government announcements are made before even parliament hears them, thanks to the fact that the Tele has a Prime Minister writing columns for them.
This is a dangerous step down the path to Trumpdom: instead of writing Tweets at dead of night as Donald does, about which Congress gets to hear hours later, Johnson announces a commission of inquiry BEHIND A PAYWALL in a newspaper bought by less than one per cent of the UK electorate.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy called it “making government plans on the back of a fag packet”; I call it undemocratic (and I’m sure The Telegraph wouldn’t appreciate being described as ‘a fag packet’).
It is undemocratic that I and 99 per cent of the electorate should learn such important news only if we are prepared to part with £2.50 at the newsagent’s.
It seems to me a flagrant injustice, although I attach no blame to The Telegraph: they had the good fortune to inherit the kingdom when their £275,000-a-year columnist landed in Number 10.
As an editor in Australia, I pulled the same sort of stunt when I suggested to Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s first wife, Hazel, who was a popular and rather pitied figure among women readers of my (Sydney) Daily Telegraph, that she write a weekly column on life at Kirribilli House.
Now I didn’t get on well with her husband: Michael Parkinson tried to introduce us at a sports dinner with the words ‘D’you know Dave Banks?’ to which a hatchet-faced Hawke replied ‘I know the bludger’ before stalking off with a face like thunder. But I had met Hazel a couple of times and I always felt that we shared a dislike for her husband.
Anyway, she agreed. The first column she wrote was dreary. . . until, that is, her final paragraph, which ended with a summary of their life together. From memory, it read something like “. . . happy, despite the sadness we shared when I lost our first baby”.
Bombshell! No one had ever known, and here was Hazel throwing The Story away in a last paragraph. A phone call to my new columnist in Canberra, a couple more quotes and a quick revision and reordering of priorities and my latest acquisition was all over Page One: ‘Hazel’s sadness over lost baby’.