Peter Rhodes on driving courses, a republican at the BBC and an unforgettable king

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Amol Rajan
Amol Rajan

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

The BBC journalist Amol Rajan has apologised for "rude and immature" comments he made about the Royal Family a decade ago, including calling the Duke of Edinburgh a “racist buffoon.” And that will probably be the end of the matter. Rajan is a sharp operator, a brilliant interviewer and is the golden boy for his bosses at the achingly-woke BBC. So he's a republican leftie? What's one more among so many in the Establishment?

My only issues with Rajan are his diction, which should be clearer, and his jolly opening to the Today programme (Radio 4). I like my Today introduced with a formal “Good morning” rather than Amol Rajan's chipper “ 'ello.”

The villain, clad all in black, stood with his back to us as he began his speech. When he turned to face us, in a sudden flurry of misshapen limbs and ghastly crutches, it was like watching some giant, malevolent beetle unfolding its wings. This was Shakespeare's wickedest monarch, as portrayed by Antony Sher in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Richard III at Stratford in 1984. And those of us who witnessed it knew in that instant we were seeing a moment of theatre that would live, and be talked about, for ever. Sure enough, when Sher's untimely death was announced a few days ago, the image dominating the obituaries was his unforgettable Richard, “deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time into this breathing world.”

In the years that followed Sher may have delivered bigger and better performances but for pure shock and awe, his Richard was unsurpassed - and probably always will be. In today's sensitive age, any director would be hammered for linking physical deformity to evil. Sher's 1984 monster was a creature of its age, never to be forgotten - and certainly never to be revived.

I have long believed that so-called “driver awareness” courses are little more than a gravy train for private companies and their instructors who tend to be retired coppers or driving instructors. But what happens to this £200 million-a-year industry as technology advances and vehicles are fitted with speed limiters, and therefore unable to speed? Fear not, the latest suggestion from Whitehall is that drivers aged over 70 who jump a red light should not be fined but sent on new “fitness to drive” courses. The gravy train rolls on.

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