Peter Rhodes on complacent MPs, a lethal weapon at Windsor and the soul-sapping strain of reading the news

Read the last column of the year from Peter Rhodes.

Time to think again about a ban
Time to think again about a ban

On April 30 this year, after a grisly killing involving a crossbow, I wrote about a seaside gift shop which sold these unlicensed and deadly weapons and asked: “Is there a single good reason why a weapon as deadly as a handgun can be bought online, in the high street or, most chillingly of all, alongside the flip-flops and rubber rings of a seaside holiday?”

At about the same time a public petition to Parliament was launched online, urging MPs to “legislate to ensure that safeguards are put in place to reduce the likelihood of these lethal weapons being possessed by those with no legitimate reason to own/use them or where it would likely give rise to concerns for public safety.”

Our beloved MPs thought they knew better. On May 20 Parliament announced, rather pompously and short-sightedly you may think, that: “Crossbows are subject to statutory controls. Legislation is already in place to deal with those who use crossbows as a weapon. The Government has no plans to legislate further at this time.” In other words, everything's fine.

And then, a few days ago, an intruder was arrested in the grounds of Windsor Castle, armed with a crossbow after reportedly texting that he wanted to kill the Queen.

So is everything still fine? Or will some politicians suddenly be making a New Year's Resolution to pull their collective fingers out? They casually ignored the petition to save Her Majesty's subjects from death by crossbow. Will they change their minds if Her Majesty herself was the target?

I have much sympathy for the BBC's chief newsreader Huw Edwards who has spoken frankly about bouts of depression which, over 20 years, have sometimes left him bedridden and unable to do his job.

The wonder is that any presenter can read the news, night after wretched night, without being driven into despair by the endless litany of pestilence, pandemic, famine, climate crisis, torture and war. Planet Earth is going through a rough patch and we rely on people like Huw Edwards to present it factually and without emotion. Sometimes that task can be a nightmare.

The year 2021 must have been an ordeal for him and his colleagues. Let's wish them all a calmer and happier New Year.

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