At Large

The Nanny State Loses One

A handful of elderly ex-sailors have their parade despite the bureaucrats.

By 10.18.07

Documenting the niggling war of Britain's Nanny-State/Political Correctness establishment on its own country and its traditions, and on sane behavior in general, can be depressing, but at least there is no shortage of material.

Latest news: What do I choose between? An 84-year-old man fined US $150.00 for putting some of his kitchen garbage in a public litter bin when his own garbage would not be collected for ten days, domestic garbage collection having been reduced to once a fortnight? Council snoopers carefully went through the bin and traced the garbage back to him through an address on an envelope extracted from the garbage. He was warned that if he did not pay in 14 days the penalty would double and he could face a fine of up to $5,000 if he took the case to court.

Or the fact Christmas (I'm sorry, "Winterval" as some councils now insist it be called) lights could disappear from the nation's high streets because of the cost of insurance? Because of new regulations, local council officials must use pressure gauges to individually test every bolt holding a cable or light-fitting to a wall, while only fully-insured professionals are allowed to hang out the lights. Workers must now use expensive hydraulic platforms to do the job because ordinary ladders are not deemed safe. The Federation of small businesses has said the country is heading for a "Christmas blackout" and that "the festive season is looking darker and bleaker from year to year." The Local Government Association has agreed many councils will have to forget about Christmas lights.

Or how about the case of the religious man who was suspended from his job at Manchester Airport after he hung a picture of Jesus on his staff room wall? Car park supervisor Gareth Langmead found the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as he was clearing out a desk drawer. Unable to throw the image out, the 40-year-old Catholic hung the picture -- sacred to many devout Catholics -- on the wall of the staff rest room. But his actions earned him a three-day suspension, after a Muslim colleague complained that it had been put up as an act of provocation. Mr. Langmead was escorted off the airport and was suspended while airport management investigated the complaint. He was eventually reinstated after an official investigation found that no provocation had been intended.

It appears this is all going the same way. The constant stream of incidents reported in the press probably every day (most ominously, many of them no longer make the big national papers -- there is no news in them) can be seen as part of the same pseudo-Gramscian culture war, and directed at the same targets.

However, it is sometimes possible to report a win for the good guys.

In the city of Scarborough last year a group of old sailors from the 8th Destroyer Association were denied permission to march through the town, a march that they had made annually for many years. Police told them that this time, in accord with new health and safety regulations, they would need to take out public liability insurance for $2 million, employ two lines of marshals in fluorescent jackets and have an ambulance in attendance.

"We are concerned with the safety of everyone involved in the parade, including those taking part, spectators and our own officers," a police spokesman said. "All event organizers must comply with health and safety regulations both for their own protection and that of the general public.

"The last thing we would want to do is cause upset among a group of people who have given so much for their country, but safety is of paramount importance." Previously, the police had provided motorcycle escorts for the parade.

The chairman of the association, Peter Lee-Hale, asked: "What trouble do they think 80-year-old ex-sailors are going to cause?"

"But worst of all was the hassle of having to deal with officials and then not being told whether we could go ahead until a few days before.

"I'm 73 and one of the younger members. Most of them are in their late 70s and 80s and it is a lot to cope with."

Costs to the small association and bureaucracy and form-filling threatened to put an end to the parade but in this case there was a happy ending: an anonymous benefactor paid for the insurance and ambulance and some jackets for the marshals, and the local motor cycle club, referred to by some as the area's Hell's Angles, turned up on the day to provide an escort for the parade, as did the local sea cadet band. The local coastguard provided an ambulance.

This year, it is pleasant to report, the parade has again been held successfully.

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About the Author

Hal G.P. Colebatch, a lawyer and author, has lectured in International Law and International Relations at Notre Dame University and Edith Cowan University in Western Australia and worked on the staff of two Australian Federal Ministers.