Peter Rhodes on a grisly museum, a new age of coal and a worker's right to choose

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes

Back to the future?
Back to the future?

Councillors in Cumbria have given the go-ahead for Woodhouse Colliery which will be the first deep coal mine to be sunk in Britain for decades. It is planned to create 500 jobs and deliver three million tons of top-quality coal per year for steel-making. Amid the predictable howls of fury from Extinction Rebellion and other green groups, supporters point out that the Whitehaven area desperately needs jobs.

And in any case, how can Britain build those massive, hi-tech wind turbines to generate clean, green power without using steel? And steel needs coal. Fair point.

So the scene appears to be set for yet another round of demonstrations with the shrill, self-righteous middle classes with their banners, blockades and bizarre dance routines, trying to prevent the working classes from working.

And before you leap in with the argument that in the 21st century nobody should be sent a thousand feet underground to dig out coal, I entirely agree. But over the years I have interviewed many miners and have yet to meet one who did not look back on life in the pit with pride in his calling and affection for his mates. It is no business of those of us who work in suits and ties to impose our values on other folk or tell them how they should feed their families.

We forget what a vast industry coal mining used to be, or what a toll it took on human life. Journalists of my generation covering inquests in industrial areas carried a note to ensure they spelt one key word correctly. Pneumoconiosis.

During a Commons debate, policing minister Kit Malthouse told the story of how, many years ago, Scotland Yard asked German police for some fingerprint samples from a dead British criminal. The Germans responded by amputating the hands and posting them to the Yard. To this day, the hands are on show in the Metropolitan Police’s gruesome crime museum. The Met's very first digital display.

The BBC stands accused of trying to lure “woke” viewers aged 16-34 while ignoring the older audience. As a result, it is claimed, viewing figures are plummeting. Hence this pithy little warning to Auntie from one emailer: “Go woke – go broke.”

I have said some robust things about BT over the past few days, ever since they took me off a perfectly fine email service and connected me to something clunkingly hopeless and seemingly out of the 1980s (is it too much to expect a “Your message has been sent” alert?) . However, my latest bill from BT which arrived a couple of days ago is £60 less than usual, thanks to a new range of free phone calls. What a splendid company.

On a walk, we took a short cut through our local cemetery where a big rubbish bin is provided for faded floral tributes. On top of the withered flowers, a domestic electric fan. Any explanations welcome . . .

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