Andy Richardson: Why #BeKind should be a way of life
On February 15, the TV presenter Caroline Flack was found dead in her own home.
An argument with her boyfriend had begun a sequence of events that made the ex-Love Island and X Factor host feel her life was no longer worth living.
The hounding from the media was more than she could cope with. The playing out in the national press of her trauma was too distressing. She had intended to dispute the charges, asserting that any injuries to her partner were accidental.
Initially, the Crown Prosecution Service decided a caution was the sensible way to proceed. However, the Metropolitan Police sought an assault charge, prompting Flack to take her own life. Their appeal, urging prosecution, was the final straw.
While Flack was culpable for the row with her boyfriend, she had no history of assault or violence. There was nothing to besmirch an otherwise good character. Her mother, Chris, targeted understandable anger towards those in authority who might have taken a different course. Was the intended prosecution really, really worth the price?
Flack’s death sparked a wave of #BeKind messages via social media. Her passing was as unnecessary as it was tragic. It ought to teach us lessons about the way we treat others, about the effects our actions can have on mental health and that none of us is able to withstand a torrent of poisonous and unfair invective. #BeKind ought not to be a hashtag, it ought to be a way of life.
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Which brings us to Dominic Cummings. Few believe his trip to Barnard Castle was an eyesight test. From Conservatives to Liberals to Labour voters, his disregard of rules he helped write sparked outrage. Just like the Greek sojourn of Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, it demonstrated a characteristic that most people know to be true: there is one rule for the elite, another for the rest.
An inquiry has been requested into why Cummings was not prosecuted when many others were. We already know the answer to that. And his paymaster, Boris Johnson, has already thrown around him the protective shield that he failed to throw around care homes. Cummings did what the rest of us weren’t allowed to do. It’s that simple.
Hounding him now, however, serves no further purpose. Though it won’t be forgotten, it’s time to let sleeping dogs lie.
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