SENTINEL: Valentine’s Day banality, neck ties, floods, smoking in cars, immigration policy


The Standard’s Sentinel columnist returns for his weekly take on events in Boston and beyond...

*It’s interesting to see the reaction to the most recent of the floods. The Prime Minister’s ‘blank cheque’ to help cope with the devastating impact of the flood is surely welcome to those poor people currently out of their homes. But where was the chequebook on December 5? Did it really take the watery demise of the playing fields of Eton to dig it out? It’s not clear if this Government guarantee would have meant things were done any differently here and Boston clearly had the support of emergency services from far and wide. But what about sandbags? The PM admonished a council this week for charging residents for them, again wielding the chequebook and saying he’d pay for whatever they spent on sandbags. Would the guarantee of Government cash make the borough council change its mind and stock sandbags again Sentinel wonders? The Standard was told that not only would the delivery of sandbags on the day have been impossible but it would have only offered ‘minimal respite’. That does ignore that a- no-one expected them to be dished out to ALL 18,000 homes, just those in the worst affected streets and b- if they only offer ‘minimal respite’ then why is the army dishing them out down south? Still, given that the Government is still hacking remorselessly away at the budget of Boston Borough Council it’ll be nice to see it come good on its promise and ensure our council isn’t left having to find more savings because of the flood. Maybe the cash will mean the authority can be a bit more lenient with those people still having to fork out council tax for inhabitable homes?

*On the point of the coverage of the floods it was interesting to read a piece by Look North weatherman Paul Hudson (you know, the one that flirts with Peter Levy...) on the comparison between the current flood and recent ones in this region. He wrote that ‘up until this weekend the total number of properties affected by floodwater in Somerset in the last few weeks is 40’ - which he goes on to compare to the thousands affected in Yorkshire and the Humber in 2007. From our point of view it is interesting to reflect that in Boston there were 800 homes affected on December 5 - ranging from slight dampness to four feet of water inside. Sentinel has commented before that the sad news of Nelson Mandela almost instantly turned the TV camera attention completely away from our plight. We should never go by some sort of school yard calculus (our flood is worse than your flood ner ner ner) as Somerset’s problems are heartbreaking to see but it’s hard not to succumb to the ‘they care more when it’s down south’ adage sometimes isn’t it?

*Amanda Hunt’s call in this week’s Standard for rules on parents leaving their kids in cars comes in a timely week given the debate on smoking in cars. She wants to see a ban on leaving young children alone for any amount of time. Whether she is right or not is one for the court of public opinion I suspect but Sentinel is sure the issue will stray into the same territory as the smoking debate, namely whether it is worth introducing since it is difficult to enforce. Sentinel happens to agree that parents should not smoke in cars with child passengers. This writer is instinctively wary of ‘banning’ anything too freely but when it comes to this issue it does seem sensible. There are fair and valid reasons against a ban but ‘it’s hard to enforce’ isn’t good enough. There are plently of laws that are tough for our boys in blue to act on (the much-discussed ‘Designated Public Place Order’ town centre drinking rules, speeding, underage alcohol sales etc) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there so people know, in the back of their minds, that they’re in the wrong.

*All power to John Richards. He’s one of Boston’s own and chairman of the laudable Apostrophe Protection Society. Not content with fighting to maintain grammatical standards he’s also turned his attention to the humble neck tie. Sentinel can’t help thinking the world would be a better – and certainly more articulate and well dressed – place with Mr Richards in charge.

*Happy Valentine’s Day from Sentinel. This writer looks forward to the day itself for one reason. Cards on the post mat in the morning? Hardly. More an end to the inane drivel in the email inbox from PR people who want to dress up their nonsense with a Valentine’s Day theme. As usual we’ve had the top 10 celebrities we’d all apparently like to date today - several different times from different agencies. It’s always David Beckham for the ladies and the latest reality TV/soap bimbo for the gents. Apparently. There’s also several agencies that rush to tell you the perfect chat up lines. Yet this year’s ‘services to banality’ winner comes from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Yep, the taxman has seemingly nothing better to do than send this ‘ditty’ out to the nation’s press. ‘Roses are red, violets are blue; if your new love moves in, tell the taxman too’. Sheer poetry. Thank goodness it’s over for another year after today...

*Sentinel noted an interesting moment on BBC Question Time last night. UKIP’s Janice Atkinson was asked if the party still stood by its previous policy of a complete freeze on immigration from its previous manifesto. She responded: “When we’ve got a policy we’ll tell you.” Hmm, I’d have thought there’s a few Boston voters who’d like at least a vague policy on immigration from UKIP really. Not that UKIP is the only party to hold back from an important policy or that manifesto policies count for much these days (hello Lib Dems!). Mind you it’s not like there’s a European election coming up that you’d need policies for or anything...

*Slightly bizarre comment from our council leader last week. He claimed the First World War ‘may seem to many to be an almost forgotten event from history’. Has he not switched the TV on at all? Sentinel reckons we should all be pretty proud of the wonderful writing, broadcast, debate and programming being put out to commemorate the anniversary of the 1914-18 conflict. Not just that but, as a nation, we proudly sport poppies and pause and reflect with two-minute silences. To be fair Coun Bedford does acknowledge that effort and this writer agrees with the sentiment that now the First World War generation have all died we owe it to them to reflect properly on not only the battles but also the big social changes brought about by the war. The conflict was, as anyone who has studied it will know, not a black and white war that is easy to comprehend. If nothing else, let’s hope this year ensures its significance is not forgotten.