Peter Rhodes on folly-power, a wind of change at the Beeb and why BT deserves a rap

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Andrew Marr
Andrew Marr

Margaret Ferrier, the SNP's train-hopping Covid victim, reminds us once again of a quality that many politicians bring to their craft. It is the blinding, unshakeable belief that rules are for other people.

How does a post-Covid Britain attract tourists, create jobs, teach history and preserve ancient craft skills? The answer could be pure folly. Or rather, follies.

All over the country you'll find follies, usually about 200-300 years old. A particularly grand one popped up in a recent episode of The Yorkshire Vet (C5), dominating a glorious dale. Some were built by incurable romantics with too much money and not enough brains. Others were erected in memory of a beloved child or wife. And some were built in times of hardship and famine as an early form of welfare, providing employment and a steady wage for local artisans.

Follies are things of beauty, enhancing the countryside, lifting the heart and offering undreamed-of views. And they are so much better for the nation's soul than some screeching high-speed railway. A new, post-Brexit folly in every county would enhance our land and bring all sorts of benefits. Let the design competitions begin.

What do you mean, where would the money come from for dozens of follies? The magic money tree, of course. I never used to believe in this mythical plant but having seen how one little virus can unleash billions of pounds of public spending, I'm a believer.

Andrew Marr knows which way the wind is blowing at the BBC. The political pundit declares: “The BBC is in a dangerous place at the moment, and people like me have a special duty to be careful about what they say.” Quite right. As the new Director General Tim Davie makes clear, if you're a BBC celebrity or journalist, you can't be seen promoting private businesses or political causes. There's no mystery to such rules. As Davie puts it: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.” Couldn't be simpler.

BT commissioned the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, to write Something Clicked, a poem singing the praises of BT Broadband during the pandemic. Armitage's lines include: “Why wrestle with glitches and gremlins / Or tussle with gubbins and gismos? / Or idle and churn in the swirling pit of the buffering wheel?” Why, Simon? Because that's the gritty, clunky, frequently useless service that BT provides.

I was moved to respond poetically, so here is my dead-cool urban rap to BT: “Hey, BT. Your email app is totally crap. / But the nation's poet / Don 't seem to know it / And as for Mr Armitage saying the BT service don't have no buffering/ Has he never spoken to BT customers suffering / With dead-slow connections and unworking parts? / Or the screen going blank as the buffering starts? /A flawless system from BT? / It ain't that simple, Simon, see?

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