Alex Jones is paid how much?

IS THAT the sound of me swallowing my words and chewing the cud of what I wrote yesterday? Not exactly – but I did address the matter of the big reveal before the figures were released, after which all I could think was: “Alex Jones gets paid how much?”

Money rarely brings out the best in us, and my point about this being an act of malicious meddling on the government’s part still stands – even if the salaries are an eye-watering distraction.

Proof of the malice involved can be seen splashed across almost every newspaper this morning, as just about the lot of them give the BBC a kicking. Partly this is due to the disparity in pay between male and female presenters, and this gender pay gap is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the BBC and must be resolved. Yet beyond that, the government organised this spot of pay ‘transparency’ as a hostile act against the BBC, knowing exactly what the reaction would be – and delighting in the damage caused.

But still, Alex Jones is paid £450,000 for simpering away onTthe One Show. A friend’s comment on the blog yesterday ran as follows: “In general you are right, but I object very strongly to Jeremy Vine getting paid at all.”

Nicely put – and isn’t that the problem with this reveal? We can all go hunting for those we like and dislike. A cool £600,000 or so for John Hymphrys presenting the Today programme seems excessive, while around half that for Eddie Mair doesn’t seem so bad – but only because Mair is, to me, a true radio star.

£2.2 million for Chris Evans is beyond comprehension, as is the man himself if you ask me, but there you go. As for Derek Thompson earning up to £400,000 for playing Charlie in a hospital drama, well the drinks are going to be on him at the next Casualty party. How is one actor worth so much while other and better actors are not? It’s a mystery.

All of this is interesting to the public while not being of genuine public interest: it doesn’t get us anywhere apart from envy corner, and anyway don’t Ant and Dec earn £3 million a year from ITV?

On the same day that these high BBC salaries were revealed, it was reported that back pay for those who provide overnight care for vulnerable elderly people could be as high as £400 million ­– further proof that the jobs that really matter are paid the least.

BBC pay reveal is malicious meddling…

DO I care what the BBC’s star performers are paid? Not much – all of them are paid mountains more than most of us. Anyway, this enforced revelation is a government-sponsored bit of sabotage.

Originally, David Cameron insisted that the Corporation should have to reveal the pay of on-air talent paid more than £450,000 – “As I said to Sam, does anybody even get out of the four-poster for less than that?”

Theresa May, back in the days when she was a new broom and her bristles had yet to sag, insisted that this figure be dropped to £150,000 – bringing in many more of the familiar faces who pass on the news or entertain us on the BBC.

Later today, the BBC’s annual report will reveal the annual salaries of the presenters who earn above that level – said to be around 100.

The BBC-phobic newspapers are loving this, with the Daily Mail trampling its steel-capped Hush Puppies all over the story – “Pay panic at the BBC” and “Meltdown as dossier names 100 staff on more than the PM”.

I don’t expect that Paul Dacre of the Mail will be putting his payslip on the front page either. And this whole anti-Beeb exercise has come about because Call Me Moneybags Dave caved into pressure from the Mail for such a revelation. And all because the Mail loves nothing better than hating the BBC (witness some hysterical wetting of the Mail Y-fronts about having a female Doctor Who).

According to a quick Google, Dacre was reported to have taken home £1.5 million in 2016, just in case you were wondering.

What exercised the insanely irritable Dacre is that the Prime Minister earns £143,462 a year. And in curtain-twitching Mail-land, that ‘proves’ that BBC presenters are paid too much. No, it doesn’t. It suggests that the prime minister isn’t paid nearly enough. Not that I think Theresa should get a pay rise. The No 10 job is relatively poorly paid for PR reasons: no PM would dare ask for more. Anyway, ex-prime ministers usually go on to earn a packet on the speaking circuit. The last one was privately loaded and the present one is married to money. Few of them go short.

This BBC pay reveal has been introduced in the name of transparency, and yet many windows will still be netted. We will know how much the likes of Fiona Bruce, Graham Norton, Gary Lineker, John Humphrys and Laura Kuenssberg earn, but we won’t know how much their competitors earn at ITV, Channel 4 or Sky.

The picture is further muddied because some BBC faces are employed through third-party production companies, and their salaries won’t be revealed.

You might think that rival broadcasters would welcome this spot of BBC bashing, but Channel 4 and Channel 5 – ah, the unexplored Button Called Five – have criticised the idea. ITV’s programmes chief, Kevin Lygo, called the proposal a “mean-spirited, nosey way of looking at things” – and that sounds about right to me.

Salary comparisons only bring out the worst in us, with wallet envy guaranteed. People who like a certain broadcaster will probably say, “Oh, well – he’s worth it.” While those who dislike a broadcaster will complain that they shouldn’t possibly be paid such a fortune – with the much put-upon Kuenssberg being a likely target here.

This isn’t transparency but malicious meddling. The only place where transparency will throw a shaming light is on the different wages paid to men and woman doing the same or similar jobs, with only a third of those paid above £150,000 being women.

Sadly, the BBC bashers behind this pay reveal will not be happy until the Corporation has been dragged out of existence.

 

The Italian who arrived in the smallest car…

THIS guest appears a little eccentric. He is smallish, black-bearded and Italian. His English is good, but he talks quickly and his conversation rushes out on an exasperated sigh.

All sorts arrive and then go, blending to a blur, but I think this guest will stay in the mind longer than some.

He is from close to Naples. “Near to Mount Vesuvius,” he says, wiping his forehead.

He is hot and tired, but who can blame him. He pulls his tiny white car in from the road, then bustles back in and reverses, so that he is facing the right way to leave. The front of the car is bashed in a bit.

“A crazy driver in France,” he says, holding an imaginary steering  in a crazy driver mime. “Pulled right out in front of me. But maybe I was a bit distracted, too.”

That car was sound enough to drive, and drive it he has. All the way from Naples to the Orkneys. In a Fiat 600 – a car with an engine fit for a lawnmower.

He has just come from the Lakes and drove up Honister Pass to visit the slate mine. “I like it very much,” he says. “My car less so.”

Hadrian’s Wall – he had a look at that too. “I nearly drove all the way to what’s it called? Ah, Newcastle.”

He removes two bags from the car boot, looks at one as if wondering why it is there, shakes his head and puts it back in.

My wife overhears the rapid burst of conversation, words flying out in an overheated rush, and goes to sit in the garden.

Our Italian guest talks as I show him the room, and talks as I back down the stairs. Then he goes for a shower and I join my wife in the garden.

A little later, he wanders into the kitchen where I am cooking. He tells me that he teaches Spanish. “I speak six languages,” he says. The others are Russian, English, French and German – and fast Italian, too.

He tells me he lived in Russia for two years. “But I came back because of mother,” he says.

When he leaves our house in his minuscule white car with the dented front, he will head for the Channel Tunnel, then drive through France. He has always wanted to see the Palaeolithic cave paintings at Lascaux, but these are not exactly on his way home. “South west France,” he says with a sigh. “But I have a friend in Turin and he may be able to help me.”

He mocks up a phone with his hand. I can’t see how Turin helps but decide not to ask.

Later I Google ‘Naples to York’ and discover that his journey home ­– not including ancient cave paintings – is 1,483 miles. His two-week holiday from school will have seen him drive those 3,000 miles – plus another 1,000 or so for the Orkney excursion.

Amusingly, the ‘Naples to York’ inquiry brings up the route… “Head south on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi towards Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi…” I give up after that.

Has anyone ever driven so far in such a small car in their school holiday? No way of telling.

Now it is morning and I can hear our guest in the shower. I shall stop typing now and brace myself for the whirlwind.

Post-breakfast footnote:

V has now gone, whirling on his way. Over breakfast he was chatty, passionate, said he loved his job and hated the politics of his country, and wondered in despair why Britain was leaving the EU. “You belong in Europe,” he said. “You are an important country.” Then he got back into that tiny car and buzzed off on his way.

 

In praise of song and York Cemetery…

IT’S hot and we are walking to York Cemetery – the best place in York. Oh, others will champion the Minster or wherever, but those places can look after themselves. The cemetery needs its supporters.

Two warm miles take us to Micklegate Bar, where we climb the steps to the Bar walls. From there we follow a lofty clockwise loop, pausing to admire houses too expensive for our pocket. “No gardens,” says my wife, who needs somewhere to stretch her green fingers.

Dropping down, we walk behind the Barbican and reach York Cemetery. We are here for a choir concert in the restored chapel, a star building loved by those in the know, but arrive early enough to walk around some of the 24 acres. It’s huge and beautiful, this place, a garden just the right side of rampant. In high summer, everything is bursting and many of the graves are lost in greenery.

York Cemetery was opened in 1837 to compete with parish churchyards full to bursting and with no space for further burials. That’s why some churchyards in the city are higher than the street, as soil had to be imported to raise the level and create further accommodation.

The York Health of Towns Association met on June 10, 1847, and heard of woeful overcrowding in the city. Freshly dug graves were said to fill with “loathsome mire” while fragments of human remains rose to the surface. In a moment of memorable horror, the meeting heard how a hungry dog had discovered a human leg bone “and bore it away in triumph to his lair, where he doubtless would feast on the putrefying remnants of mortality”.

You cannot visit a graveyard without being reminded of rotting flesh, but mostly you are reminded of lives lived and lost; long lives, short lives and those in between, but all gone.

The gruesome episode of the dog is recalled in the late Hugh Murray’s book This Garden of Death, which offers the fullest possible history of what is now a Grade II listed landscape and one of only two privately owned Victorian cemeteries in the UK.

The council ordered other graveyards to shut in 1854. York Cemetery expanded to its present size in the 1940s, but business fell away in the 1960s and the cemetery went into liquidation in 1979. The graveyard became overgrown and the beautiful chapel suffered at the hands of vandals and was so derelict the roof fell in.

In the 1980s, the York Cemetery Trust was formed and became the new owners, working with the help of the Friends of York Cemetery, a charity registered in 1988. The chapel has since been splendidly restored, and that’s where we’re heading to see Soon Amore sing after our stroll.

We sit on a bench facing the high wall at the perimeter of the original Victorian cemetery, at a point where many of the graves commemorate young people, and drain the water bottle. I love this place for its beauty, its sense of being barely contained – and for its stories, for a cemetery is a repository of stories.

The middle of my three Rounder Brothers novels – known only to the dedicated few – was inspired by the cemetery, and a character borrows a name from a gravestone. I spot again that name: Moses Moody chiselled in stone, but re-chipped for my purposes to Moses Mundy.

The book is called Felicity’s Gate, named after an entrance now shut, and at the launch held in the chapel, Felicity introduced herself to me – which was a pleasant surprise: I had no idea the woman who christened a gate, and then my crime novel, still lived here at that time.

Anyway, off we wander, going to the top of the cemetery, where you could be in the middle of nowhere, and where the sunshine dapples between the trees. We pass the young orchard where fruit trees can be planted in remembrance – and what better way to be remembered than by an apple? – and then we slowly walk to the chapel for a concert that is lovely and eclectic, with music from Sting’s Fields Of Gold and Elbow’s One Day Like This, to Old Man River, alongside Polish river music by Henryk Gorecki and poetry readings.

After the concert, and after a chat, we retrace our route around the Bar walls to Micklegate, where we drop down and wait for our bus beside the Bar Convent.

All human life seems to congregate at that bus stop. Last week after seeing Baby Driver at City Screen, a woman speaking to her husband revealed much about their lives. We left knowing an awful lot about them, whereas they left knowing nothing about us.

This time the company includes a very lively little girl who is nosily indignant about the lies told by the electronic timetable. She can’t understand how five minutes can last so long, drop to four, and then return to five. It can take years to master bus time, a time conundrum worthy of Jodi Whittaker in her new role as Doctor Who.

Propped against the convent wall, a man sways and talks to himself. All human life and all that.

Are more roads always the answer?

ROADS – we all need them, but do we need more of them all the time? I ask this question as a man who spends more time on the road than he would like, and as someone who lives close to the York outer ring road.

My old newspaper is running a campaign called Dual Them, which is calling for the A1237 stretch of ring road to be turned into a dual carriageway, along with the A64 east of York – which is a notorious Yorkshire bottleneck.

The financial politics of this are a little complicated, in that the outer ring-road is the responsibility of City of York Council, while the government looks after the A64; or doesn’t look after it, if you’re one of the grumbling petrol-heads.

The Press campaign is being masterminded by the estimable Mike Laycock, a man for whom the label veteran can be safely used, even though he is still known for dashing around like Billy Whizz from the Beano.

I confess to having mixed feelings about this campaign – although not about Mike, who was a good colleague for years.

At present, the suggestion is that the roundabouts on the outer ring road could be improved to speed up traffic. This sounds sensible unless you are one of the people who like to groan and grumble in the comments section below stories on The Press website. In which case, it will likely as not be a cause uncontained apoplexy. But then those people run on apoplexy in much the way that my car runs on unleaded.

This story has also been picked up by the newspaper I now write for occasionally, the Yorkshire Post. A statistic jumped out at me from the Post’s news report, in which it said that senior councillors had approved a £32.4m plan to “reduce rush-hour journeys by up to 20 per cent on York’s outer ring road, which often grinds to a half during busy periods”.

Such figures should always be treated with caution, as they are often floated by those who are convinced that whatever they propose will provide the necessary solution. Saying that traffic will be reduced by 20 per cent sounds like a stab in the dark to me. Do we know that or is it a guess?

An educated guess, perhaps – but one swayed by petrol fumes.

Our attitudes to building new roads or expanding existing ones will depend on various personal factors. I now drive quite a lot, so traffic is a problem – especially around the Leeds ring road, or yesterday as race-day traffic brought the A64 to a halt as I was setting off to work.

Then there is the location, location question. As we live close to the A1237, the prospect of noise and chaos for months on end, followed by even more cars, is not enticing.

I confess to double-standards here. I drive a fair bit, but still feel drawn to greener solutions. And the green lobby will tell you that building more roads only leads to more traffic, and hence more jams.

That sounds about right to me, but then I am not a van driver fuming in a daily jam on the ring road.

Still, I worry that the ‘build more roads’ lobby tends to be heard more than any suggested greener solution. As a country, we tend to believe that laying down more Tarmac will keep up us moving forward.

Councillor Ian Gillies, who has the transport brief in York, said in the Post story: “This is a really significant investment which will make journeys easier and quicker on the ring road, as well as preparing us for the ultimate goal of dualling.”

Will it really, Ian – or will it just lead to a different sort of traffic jam in the future? When Ian, a very cheerful Tory councillor, was the Lord Mayor I met him at a do, and he said to me: “I always read your column – then throw it across the room.”

Political differences, you see. Well, you can’t throw a blog across the room.

More roads, good or bad? It seems to be the endlessly unresolved question of the age. And I am still suspicious of all that Tarmac laying, even if one of my squash partners does that for a living.

Farewell to Peter Capaldi… and who’s the new Who?

PETER Capaldi has been a great Doctor Who, and I say that as a man who shouldn’t care less but finds that he still does.

To those who unkindly point out that Doctor Who is essentially a children’s programme, I say: go and bury your head in a wormhole. That’s a hypothetical connection between widely separately regions of space-time, by the way, rather than a hole made by a worm. But if I take one more step towards theoretical physics, I will trip over something. A worm, possibly.

Anyway, Doctor Who. I have watched every episode since the autumn of 1963 – and I didn’t even have to Google that date, although I then did, just to make sure, Google being the safety net we can no longer do without.

Capaldi has been my favourite Doctor of the lot, supplanting Tom Baker and the all-too-fleeting Christopher Eccleston. Not forgetting David Tennant, who is many people’s favourite, and the lanky, larksome Matt Smith.

Capaldi’s Doctor is about to regenerate, although we will have to wait until Christmas Day to see the transformation. We will, however, know the identity of the new Doctor in a day. Trailers aired during the tennis yesterday announced that the 13th Time Lord will be revealed tomorrow afternoon. Shot in 13 different locations, the trailer ended with the words: “Meet the 13th Doctor after the Wimbledon men’s final, Sunday16th July.”

Before rolling the speculation die into that time-warp, let’s stop to praise Capaldi. Known mostly for playing the splendidly sweary Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, Capaldi was a surprising choice to some, and yet he has pushed every last weary atom of his being into the role, or so it seems to my sometimes last weary atoms.

There have been nice silly touches, such as the electric guitar, and at times Capaldi has suggested a sprite of mischief, but often he has seemed to carry a great weight, as if to say: “This living for ever lark is not as much fun as you might imagine.”

As the last series moved to its end, Capaldi’s performance grew deeper and darker, as the story pushed him towards regeneration – a step he struggled against, as the transformation grew closer. This was no easy face-swap, but a painful rebirth, almost as if he was having to give birth to his next self.

Steven Moffat wrote up a storming last series for Capaldi, and he will hand over to new series writer Chris ‘Broadchurch’ Chibnall at the end of the Christmas special.

Moffat played with dark themes, while introducing fun ideas and making passing contemporary references (I seem to recall a Trump reference in there somewhere).

Various rumours have swirled around the plughole of time about who will take over from Capaldi. My favourite whisper is that there could be a gender jump, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of the fine and very human comedy Fleabag) taking over. My least favourite rumour is that it’s that bloke off Death in Paradise. Kris Marshall, that’s the one. Capaldi announced his departure from the Tardis at the same time Marshall said he was leaving that Caribbean island. Perhaps he was tired of stumbling over bodies and then gathering all the suspects together for the Agatha Christie-style whodunit denouement. Anyway, people added two and two together and made Who.

But if it is Kris Marshall, I will still watch, because I always do.

Let’s not leave the shores of time without addressing Bill Potts, the Doctor’s latest companion. Pearl Mackie was fantastic in the role – funny, bolshie and able to stick up for herself, and act on her own. Bill died and it was the Doctor’s fault. Then she was resurrected – or was that all a trick, a wishful illusion? I do hope Bill makes it. Or maybe she could be the new Doctor.

We will know after the last ball has been struck tomorrow on centre court. Or maybe Roger Federer will get the role, as he wins everything else – although, thinking about it, Roger is more of a James Bond man.

 

Happy to join the Konta craze…

ANDY Murray limped out of Wimbledon on my laptop. I was meant to be writing at the time, but kept flipping onto the BBC website to check up on Andy.

His departure leaves all British hopes resting on Jo Konta, and the papers have got themselves into a Jo-Jo-ing frenzy this morning, as exemplified by the Sun’s: “Give us hope Johanna.” The same newspaper, you may recall, claimed credit for Andy’s earlier success after asking readers to rub his hip on a front-page photograph.

Now it’s all about Jo. Konta is certainly thrilling to watch – and here’s hoping that she can beat Venus Williams this afternoon.

All the patriotic frenzy stirred up by this fantastic 26-year-old woman is understandable, if a little silly – as such flurries so often are. Konta grew up in Australia and arrived in Britain at the age of 14. Now the Australians want her back, with the Australian High Commissioner trying to reclaim the British number one as an Aussie. This leads the Telegraph to declare: “Hands off Konta!”

Konta declares herself to be British, and that should settle the argument. But really, she is a child of the world, growing up in Australia with Hungarian parents. Are the Hungarians wanting a piece of her, too?

She’s ours for now, but belongs to everyone in a sense. Mostly she is a woman of great skill and unshakeable determination and dedication. And if she wins, of if she loses, she will be doing so as herself – as well as cheering up her adopted country, with its shabby habit of sports-mad patriotism. Remember that Murray is either Scottish or British depending on how well he has been playing?

Interestingly, today’s Express joins the flag-waving fray, declaring at the top of its front page: “Murray out, now come on Konta!” Below this there is a massive headline reading: “Britain’s wide open to illegal migrants.” Ah, the usual double standards, then. The ‘right sort’ of migrants are proclaimed as proud Brits, as British as our (partly German royal family) – while the ‘wrong sort’ are proclaimed a threat and a menace.

There is strength in coming from everywhere, and a country has strength in attracting people from everywhere, or such is my idealistic belief.

As for Konta, here’s wishing her the best of luck, but I won’t be laying my hand on parts of her body as that isn’t seemly.

TV thoughts: The Loch, Poldark, The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo…

SOMETIMES I stick with a TV drama and wonder why. It is possible to measure a life by laying out the things you shouldn’t have bothered watching.

This thought arose while wondering why I was still bothering to watch The Loch (ITV, Sunday). This crime drama wants to be too many things, but mostly it wants to be Broadchurch; they all want to be Broadchurch.

Whereas Broadchurch dwelt on a single crime and examined the emotional repercussions in the community, The Loch throws just about everything at the screen, from a fake Loch Ness monster to a heartless man anchored in the cold depths.

The cast is strong, but the acting is all over the place, and it’s hard to focus on what is going on, as all you see in the bad acting. This leaves you wondering: “Well, he/she is normally OK and was quite good in that other thing. What’s going on here?”

I’ll stick with this week’s final episode, as I’d like to know how it winds up, and the optimist in me hopes that they might have taken up extra acting classes before Sunday.

But I suspect that I will end up saying, as Donald Trump Jnr has about that meeting with a Russian lawyer to dig the dirt on Hillary Clinton: “It was a nothing.”

The strange thing is, Sunday is a rich pasture for television. The Loch may be poor, but over on BBC1 there is the camp tempest that is Poldark and on Channel 4 the outstanding The Handmaid’s Tale. My wife dislikes the Cornish romper and won’t watch the Margaret Atwood adaptation due to being uncomfortable with the subject matter and the nastiness done to women.

“It’s a feminist parable,” I said, to no little effect. I catch up with that later instead.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a something for sure. This is the best drama of 2017: superbly acted by everyone but especially Elizabeth Moss as June/Offred. I haven’t read the novel, but this is a first-rate adaptation which takes its time and plays its hand with sharp intelligence and multi-layered storytelling.

For the unconverted one who shares the Samsung TV, it’s a dystopian lecture on the role of women, here reduced to enslaved baby-carriers, and on the illusions of freedom. Whereas Poldark is a handsome scowl dressed in a flapping shirt; or sometimes no shirt at all. It is silly and capricious, but I can’t help liking it.

The other treat of the season is Fargo (Channel 4), the third series to have been inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name. What I love about this are the hopeless characters caught in a web of their own inadequacy and the unstoppable slide of events. Fargo also looks and sounds like nothing else, having its own palette, with every scene framed like a painting.

Two Brits deserve acting honours amid the Minnesota ice and show: Ewan McGregor for playing a tragically mismatched pair of brothers, although – spoiler alert – two has now become one. And David Thewlis for turning stomachs as the revolting VM Barga, a doleful businessman with rotten teeth, an eating disorder – and a general humanity disorder.

Last night, we watched the tennis and then Into The Dark (BBC1), a new crime series (another one; but I can’t resist them). Mark Billingham told me about this adaptation when I interviewed him for the Yorkshire Post this time last year. My Anna Buring plays a pregnant detective who returns to her home patch when an old schoolfriend’s husband is charged with murdering a teenage girl. Soon the past and the present are doing an arm-wrestle. It’s promising and done well although the music shouts for attention too often. But I’ll be back, as Arnie said.

Yvette Cooper is right to condemn the vitriol directed at Laura Kuenssberg…

LABOUR MP Yvette Cooper says that she is sick to death of the vitriol directed at Laura Kuenssberg from within her party. And as if to prove her point, bucket loads of internet bile are then poured on her own head.

If you flick through the Man On Ledge archives – and that filing cabinet is in danger of toppling over the edge – you will find that I stuck up for the BBC’s political editor as long ago as June 2016.

No surprise, then, that I think Cooper is right. In a speech to the Fabian Society, Cooper said of Kuenssberg: “It is her job to ask difficult questions. It is her job to be sceptical about everything we say. Nothing justifies the personal vitriol, or the misogyny.”

My theory is that this is partly down to timing: the Beeb’s indefatigable political editor got the job around the same time that Jeremy Corbyn got his, and her tough questions were misinterpreted as bias.

Now it is true that if you Google “Kuenssberg bias” you will uncover plenty of alleged evidence of her being unkind to Jeremy – alongside blasts from Tory supporters who complain of her lack of fairness towards Theresa May (“Kuenssberg needs sacking with her lefty bias” – according to one of many anti-Beeb tweets highlighted by the Daily Express on May 3).

Should you wish to read up on the opposite case, just pop over to the left-wing Canary website, where your thirst for evidence of Kuenssberg’s anti-Labour bias will be slaked in an instant.

To recap for the haters on either side of the divide, Kuenssberg’s job is not to make friends in politics, but to report on politics. In doing so, she must find a narrative – a way to tell the story of the day. This will involve some degree of interpretation. And it is this that lands her in trouble.

Grumblers of all political persuasion say that she should “just stick to the facts” – yet the line between fact and opinion is thin and ever-moving in such a non-stop job.

And surely it is disgraceful that supporters of the Labour Party, which is rooted in equality, should spill such hatred on a woman doing that job. Kuenssberg is exposed to far more hostility than any man in that role ever has been.

Cooper also spoke against Labour supporters who carried placards of Theresa May’s severed head – “Maybe it was meant as a joke. It isn’t funny.”

Mrs Maybe did not escape unlashed, however. Cooper criticised the prime minister for failing to speak out against Donald Trump at the G20 summit, saying that Trump’s Twitter outbursts were not “harmless rants from a sad man in his bedroom” but represented the “bully pulpit of the most powerful man on the planet, broadcast direct to millions of people, echoed and amplified by the Brietbarts, the cheerleaders, the echo chambers”.

Bang on cue, the ‘bully pulpit’ from her own side put out a picture on Twitter of Cooper in a first-class carriage on a train – as if this was meant to somehow portray her as a class traitor. This sort of nastiness and cynicism threatens to rot the heart out of politics.

When Labour launched its manifesto in Bradford, Kuenssberg and other political editors were booed by party supporters. Corbyn pointed out that they were only doing their job, adding: “Journalists and journalism, and free journalism and a free press, are intrinsic to a democracy and a free society.”

Good words – and Jeremy Corbyn should remind his most ardent supporters that pouring bile on a political editor for doing her job is not how a decent party should behave.

Thoughts of a cyclist who drives to work…

MILITANT cyclists sometimes have pious stickers on their bicycles reading: “One less car on the road.” Perhaps I should have one on my car that says: “One more car on the road – sorry about that.”

You see, I never intended to be someone who drives a longish way to work. The cycle commute was more my thing. Now I drive 20 miles to Howden for my shifts at the Press Association, and a little further than that during term time to Leeds Trinity University, which is close to Leeds Bradford Airport.

Sometimes there are compensations in driving. After a dramatic journey last week, I posted something on Facebook. This is reproduced below as it appeared:

“Weird weather report. Walked to the distant car park in Howden in heavy rain. Sun shone, a rainbow formed a smudgy arc, and the air felt like a hundred other people breathed it first. The car was baking. Set off in a thunderstorm, then everything quietened for a while. The sky looked like a bruise. The fields of wheat glowed. The wind turbines barely turned. All rather scenic. By Elvington the road was a river more or less. Some drivers pulled over but those of made of sterner, stupider stuff carried on. Dry at home, the house hot and dark.”

Looking back, I’d edit out that “more or less”, but never mind.

The drama is of a different order the next evening. It is 9pm when the late shift ends. The weather has its back to the day. A nothing night. Warm, cloudy, dull.

Ten minutes into the journey, there is a straight mile before North Duffield where you can hit 60mph. The 40mph sign for the village comes into view. Beyond that there is second sign that flashes. I try to avoid a flashing after a speeding ticket in Leeds last year.

I slow to 40mph. My head is full of nothing much, other than wondering how I became the sort of man who drives a longish way to work. Fleetwood Mac are on the CD player. I know, hopelessly MOR and all that, but I spotted the ‘best of’ in the CD rack and remembered the days when I was the sort of student who sat around listening to Rumours.

Just before the village, a deer appears at the side of the road. It is quite large and reddish in colour. The animal looks at me, at the car, then does the dash. My hunk of commuting metal is doing 40mph. The deer is made of flesh and blood – and something else, ancient daring perhaps. It springs forward and dashes over the road.

My heart thumps. That would have been a big bang and a bigger mess. A few years ago, a friend bought a book on cooking roadkill and tried a few recipes. He would have been impressed if I’d turned up with that deer for his pot. Not that I would have known what to do.

I drive home nervy but glad the deer escaped. If you must drive to work, the commute between York and Howden is pleasant, taking in country lanes, but I’d still rather cycle, although not 20 miles there and 20 miles back.

Unusually this week there are four shifts, four commutes. A lot of there are back in that car. Not ideal, but necessary. You do what you do. Or to borrow from that TV scriptwriter’s cliché of the moment: “It is what it is.”

More often to be found on that CD player is We All Want The Same Things by Craig Finn. It came out a couple of months ago and is the third solo album from the Hold Steady singer.

Here’s a recommendation from a man who doesn’t usually listen to Fleetwood Mac – buy the Finn album, it’s great. Finn coins a lyric in the “it is what it is” mould. The words run: “The one thing that I’ve heard about love is that it hits when it hits.”

It hits when it hits… five short words that say much.

I pull the car into the drive. It hits when it hits could be a car and deer scenario, too. But here I am, home in one piece.