Rhodes on getting the guilty, missing in action and the side-effects of transplanting a pig's heart

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Coming for you – Michael Gove
Coming for you – Michael Gove

Doctors in the States have transplanted a pig's heart into a man on the verge of death from heart failure. It is a medical landmark and, given the latest advances in anti-rejection treatments, will surely be the first of many inter-species transplants. But what of the side-effects?

From time to time come serious reports that heart-transplant patients have acquired the tastes, emotions and other aspects of the donor's personality. So a pig-heart transplant might give you not only years of extra life but an uncanny ability to sniff out truffles.

“We're coming for you” is Tory big beast Michael Gove's grim warning to the construction industry as he tries to extract money for a fund to replace flammable panelling on leaseholders' apartments. And good luck with that. But over the four years since the Grenfell Tower disaster, how many cladding firms have been taken over, gone bust or simply vanished into that old and slimy corporate labyrinth which, time after time, leaves customers broke and the directors sunning themselves in various tax havens? And how many firms will simply brazen it out, showing that at the time the work was done, the claddings were perfectly legal and were installed by experts, under the supervision of local councils, according to the latest building regulations? “We're coming for you” is a great battle cry. But does anyone know who “you” is?

Our changing language. A Guardian reader in Poland asks why the term “missing in action” is used to describe politicians failing on the job. He points out that, in military terms, “missing in action” refers to soldiers who have done or tried to do their duty. So it's wrong to use it to describe politicians who have simply failed to do what was expected of them.

Fair point. But the term that most irritates me is “survivor,” which once meant somebody who had cheated death but is now applied to anyone who has overcome a mild setback. I write as a survivor of Thatcherism, tonsillitis and colour-blindness.

In the continuing “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign, Kings College London has updated its Rhodes professorship in imperial history by dropping the name of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Naturally, as a Rhodes, I feel under a certain pressure to change my own surname. Colston has a nice ring.

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