The Last Word

Issue 103

By Barry Speker OBE

Writing this piece in advance of our 4th July General Election, I am understandably wary of making detailed predictions.

The polls and the media say a Labour landslide is inevitable and not avoided by inflation coming down to 2%. The Tories are set for the worst result for 200 years – or will last minute jitters pull floating voters back from the brink?

Nigel Farage resisted being at Donald Trump’s side to launch Reform UK as the ‘real official opposition’? Has the Green Party retained any credibility as the principled conscience of climate-friendly politics or become the threatening refuge of hardline deluded extremists and cranks?

When Parliament meets again, proceedings are unlikely to be more cordial or collegiate.

The American election campaign is always a show biz event, utilising the likes of George Clooney and Julia Roberts at fundraisers to help a man in his eighties win re-election to the White House; both sides lining up star personalities to influence the electorate. Recollections that ‘Sinatra backed FDR’! Will Taylor Swift be unwise enough to side with one of the candidates?

This side of the Atlantic, stars tend to stay out of politics unless you count Gary Lineker’s interventions as serious.

Our 80+ year olds do not take key positions in Government other than as wise old heads in the House of Lords. But our 85 year olds can still play a leading role – Sir Ian McKellen starring in an adaptation of King Henry lV Parts 1 and 2 at the Noel Coward Theatre, lost his balance and fell off the stage. He seems to be Presidential material! As Falstaff said: “Discretion may the better part of valour”. The show must go on.

An exhilarating event on the Quayside featured a dramatic light show on the expansive wall of the Baltic. Staged by Newcastle United sponsor SELA, thousands were crammed along the riverside to witness a raucous celebration of the club, the supporters, many legends of the past and the inspiring current manager and squad.

Enormous images of Jackie Milburn, Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer thrilled the assembled throng. It was a great display. What if we actually won a trophy!

Moves to ban books considered to contain controversial material have long existed. There was the memorable furore and long court action about Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Such censorship used to focus on sedition, treason and obscenity.

However, research shows that many books are being removed from public libraries even after a single complaint.

In the UK there is no central authority tracking ‘book challenges’. Public libraries tend to follow guidance from the Chartered Institute of Library Professionals, that books should not be banned unless found to be ‘unlawful’.

It seems that bans are being wokeishly enforced. Examples are Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne, Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs, Three Monsters by David McKee and many more. Grounds cited include racist language and stereotypes and unhealthy attitudes of young people.

There must be concern at books being removed from the shelves based on a single subjective challenge.

Wonderful night at the Tyne Theatre seeing the amazing UOGB – the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. They have been performing for over 40 years and are much in demand around the world. Perhaps a mainly silver audience but their music is of wide appeal and frequently hilarious.

An extremely wide repertoire such as The Harry Lime Theme, Pinball Wizard, Ode to Joy, Life on Mars and Wuthering Heights. A real treat if you check them on YouTube .


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