Peter Rhodes on classroom folly, hard times for gropers and the perils of being seen with your heroes

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Sacked – Rebecca Long-Bailey
Sacked – Rebecca Long-Bailey

Air bridges – the moment Britain's public-health policy was handed over to the holiday industry.

And how quickly things changed. Official advice on Friday: Do not travel unless it is absolutely necessary. Official advice on Monday: Do not travel unless you happen to fancy getting totally bladdered in Benidorm.

And before anyone argues that without quarantine-free flying the airline industry would be decimated, so what? A little decimation is long overdue. If the future of our planet matters, we must burn less, consume less and travel less. And the more we fight to return to the gas-guzzling era when up to 9,000 planes crowded into British airspace in a single day, the harder the eventual reckoning will be.

Two good things may come out of this pandemic. One of the little blessings of social distancing is that it cramps the style of those grubby old gropers, often found in offices or colleges, who excuse themselves with: “I'm a very tactile person.” No, you're not, pal. You're a health risk (and a grubby old groper). I'm guessing a lot of women will have enjoyed a break from wandering hands over the past few weeks.

The second benefit is the recommendation from Whitehall that in future all children should face the front in class “to stop coronavirus spreading.” Virus or no virus, kids should face the front anyway. The practice of sitting the poor kids around tables with half of them facing away from the teacher is, and always has been, bonkers.

The wisest comment I heard after the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from Labour's shadow cabinet was this: “If you go on Twitter, you will eventually end up in trouble.” Heed those wise words.

In this case, Long-Bailey re-tweeted an interview with Maxine Peake, the left-wing actor, formerly Twinkle in dinnerladies (BBC1). Peake seemed to state, incorrectly, that US police learned their strangling technique from Israeli secret services. This is a very silly suggestion. US cops were killing suspects long before the state of Israel existed and have no need of outside instruction.

What brought Long-Bailey down was not a political principle but the desire of so many politicians to be seen alongside their heroes. The problem, in today's hyper-judgmental atmosphere, is that the moment you endorse anyone, you endorse them 100 per cent with all their past, present and future failings. From that moment, your destiny and theirs are joined at the hip. “And here's a picture of me with that nice Harvey Weinstein . . .”

If Maxine Peake were ever involved in some terrible scandal, she would inevitably be described as the actor endorsed by Rebecca Long-Bailey. I have some experience of unforeseen embarrassment, having once publicly declared that my favourite version of the rock classic Stairway to Heaven was by a bearded Australian entertainer whom nobody mentions any more.

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