Peter Rhodes on a new TV detective, time-wasters at A&E and the war clouds gathering over Ukraine

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Who controls the gas?
Who controls the gas?

All the best TV detectives have peculiar names. From time to time, as you may recall, I'll spot a couple of words which fit the bill perfectly, giving us unlikely detectives' monikers such as Adverse Camber, Sticker Foxhole, Polgooth St Blazey, Faecal Plume and Hurst Greenshaft.

Driving through Rutland the other day I found myself behind a local community bus which serves one of the county's prettier towns, and added a new TV 'tec name to my list. I can hear the accused now: “Damn it, you've got me bang to rights, Uppingham Hopper.”

Some people use the system. And some people rip the pants out of the system. For example, according to a 2019 BT survey, the average UK citizen dials 999 twice in a lifetime. But just one per cent of the population are responsible for a third of ambulance call-outs. British Red Cross reports this week that fewer than one per cent of English people account for 16 per cent of all A&E admissions.

The Red Cross is a charity and offers a suitably charitable explanation, suggesting that these frequent hospital and ambulance users are vulnerable and feel they have nowhere to go. What, all of them? I wonder what the average frazzled NHS paramedic, doctor or nurse makes of that explanation as the Friday-night regulars pile into A&E for the umpteenth time? Some of these patients, of course, have had a rough deal from society and deserve sympathy. But how many are simply selfish time-wasters occupying valuable ambulances and beds that should be ready for those genuinely in need?

According to Monday's front page of the Daily Telegraph, Russia is forecast to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine early next year. I can't help thinking we should be more concerned about this claim. After all, the item got exactly the same front-page space and headline as a report on Adele's “shuffle-button” spat with Spotify, so it must be important.

Anyway, if the Red Army rolls into Ukraine, how will our friends in the European Union react? No matter how infuriated they are, the harsh fact is that Moscow controls the natural gas and the pipelines that keep western Europe warm in winter. It's like preparing to defend London in 1939 and discovering that Battersea Power Station is wholly owned by the Gestapo.

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