Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on a great book, an alleged bomb plot and a short answer to the Boris question

A number of readers (well, one) have asked how our budget Xmas presents went. In two words, very well. You may recall that Mrs Rhodes and I agreed on a £20 limit with everything bought from charity shops.

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Michael Gove - faith in Boris

My yuletide haul featured an Old Spice gift set, only a few months past its sell-by date, while her goodies from me included a copy of Dan Mannix's 1951 book, Memoirs of a Sword Swallower, which is one of the most engrossing and gently amusing books I've ever read.

We all think we have a book in us. But it cannot be denied that some occupations (e.g. sword swallower on the US carnival circuit) make a better autobiography than, say, the life and times of a Swiss-roll roller. For pure read-on appeal, consider Mannix's opening lines: “I probably never would have become America's leading fire-eater if Flamo the Great had not happened to explode.” Perfect.

I dare say you are still puzzled that Old Spice comes with a sell-by date. Great mysteries of our age.

Something significant in the war on terror happened last month. An alleged Islamic radical, said to be carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of an RAF base, was arrested in possession of a home-made bomb and an imitation gun. And although the media are restricted in what they can report before and during the trial, I can't help thinking that if this affair involved a member of a right-wing white-supremacist group, the headlines would be bigger.

As clean-air zones are declared in British towns and cities, some crooks are avoiding fines by using cloned number plates to fool CCTV cameras. But what if it's your number they clone? Well, tough luck. It's up to you to prove your car was not the offending vehicle. Some drivers have even been advised to re-register the vehicle with the DVLA at their own expense. With 13,000 clonings reported each year, this is a menace that needs to be tackled by the state. Instead, we see the state letting down the people and serving its own interests above the common good. So what's new?

You can't accuse Tory big beast Michael Gove of wasting words. Confronted with the simple question “Is Boris Johnson a liability?” Gove snaps back: “No.”

Really? And the fact that everything Johnson touches turns to muck doesn't matter?