JOHN HUMPHRYS (pictured): War of the Astroturf that sums up Boris Johnson's dilemma over lockdown

JOHN HUMPHRYS (pictured): Warfare of the Astroturf that sums up Boris Johnson’s dilemma over lockdown


The Battle of the Astroturf is not going to declare a outstanding place within the historical past books. Not like Hastings or Trafalgar, the destiny of our nation didn’t dangle within the steadiness. The casualties had been restricted, the heroes unsung.

However it mustn’t go totally unnoticed — particularly by Boris Johnson. Certainly, he may do properly to pay a go to to the battlefield earlier than he guidelines on the post-Covid future awaiting us.

For 20 years the Astroturf pitch has been a massively standard function of my native park — simply as they’re in cities and cities throughout the land. 

By no means a day glided by with out fathers taking their small sons for a kick round or teams of kids establishing impromptu matches. At weekends there have been teaching periods for kids and extra formal matches for the older ones.

It was the proper social melting pot, too. It introduced collectively poor youngsters from the tower blocks and wealthy youngsters from the prep faculties.

Covid modified all the things.

The native council’s first response was to lock the park gates. So individuals simply climbed over them. The council caved in and opened the gates however locked the Astro as a substitute. Some rebellious youngsters risked life and limb by climbing the 10ft fence however marshals threw them out. So that they squeezed below the fence to get again in once more.

The marshals got here again, threw them out once more and blocked any gaps. Mother and father obtained indignant and the marshals retreated — solely to come back again the subsequent day with contractors who strengthened the fence with robust metal wire.

After which the mysterious ‘man with the bolt cutters’ arrived. Nobody ever noticed him however, evening after evening, he would minimize an ideal sq. — simply large enough for agile children to crawl by way of.

For 20 years the Astroturf pitch (stock image) has been a massively popular feature of local park as well as in towns and cities across the land

For 20 years the Astroturf pitch (inventory picture) has been a massively standard function of native park in addition to in cities and cities throughout the land

You want stand for less than 5 minutes watching the kids on the Astro to get the message that that is precisely what they want on this wretched lockdown. They can not use the grass as a result of it has been both frozen or a mud bathtub. And if enjoying soccer is so dangerous why permit professionals to do it?

As I write, Mr Johnson is pondering how a lot freedom he’s ready to permit us when this section of lockdown involves an finish. He guarantees to observe ‘the information not the dates’. However he ought to heed the Astro Military in addition to his smart-Alec PR individuals with their tiresome, clever-clever phrases.

The lesson he ought to take away is straightforward. There’s a delicate steadiness in a rustic like ours between consent and coercion.

We like to think about ourselves as a free nation — and so we’re, in comparison with an authoritarian regime like China’s. But there are limits.

Council's locked the gates to the Astro after Covid hit (above) but some rebellious teenagers risked life and limb by climbing the 10ft fences before marshals threw them out

Council’s locked the gates to the Astro after Covid hit (above) however some rebellious youngsters risked life and limb by climbing the 10ft fences earlier than marshals threw them out

In a completely ‘free’ society we would be able to do no matter we selected and authorities would allow us to get on with it. Consider America’s Wild West within the nineteenth century when the gunslingers and outlaws made their very own legal guidelines. It didn’t final lengthy. In a contemporary free society we elect governments to make the legal guidelines for us. However they want our consent and Covid has proven how unpredictable that may be.

When the primary lockdown was introduced many predicted the general public would insurgent. Lock us up in our houses for weeks or months on finish? No method! Shut the pubs? You are kidding! Cease us hugging our dying dad and mom? Unthinkable!

However we went together with it. Certainly, the polls recommended we wished even stricter guidelines and we gave Johnson a bashing for not having acted quickly sufficient.

On this complicated dance between coercion and consent we, the general public, anticipate the Authorities to steer. However we might be fickle companions. We reserve the precise to alter the tune once we detect that officialdom is overstepping the mark.

Boris Johnson (pictured) is currently pondering how much freedom he is prepared to allow us when this phase of lockdown comes to an end

Boris Johnson (pictured) is presently pondering how a lot freedom he’s ready to permit us when this section of lockdown involves an finish

Therefore the declaration of conflict over the Astro. Therefore the rebel on a neighborhood bus final week over a buddy’s younger daughter, knowledgeable childminder, who was taking the toddlers in her care out for the day. The little boy had pulled her face masks out of her pocket and misplaced it on the street, however the bus driver had taken pity and allowed her aboard. However when a police squad carried out a random spot examine, she was hauled off and interrogated, her particulars taken down and threats of fines issued, whereas the opposite passengers hollered at them to cease being so heavy-handed.

Boris Johnson has a troublesome judgment to make this weekend. He is aware of he obtained it incorrect within the early levels of the pandemic. And if he would not, he want solely have a look at one single determine: 120,000 useless.

Now, it appears, he’s shifting in the wrong way by downplaying expectations that we’re about to be let out to go on vacation and customarily resume life as we knew it. He may take some consolation from a few examples from our current historical past the place we, the general public, have defied expectations.

Bear in mind the rows over CCTV cameras just a few many years in the past? They had been condemned as outrageous invasions of our privateness — straight from the pages of Orwell’s 1984. We might not stroll down the Excessive Avenue with out being snooped on.

No matter occurred to all that outrage? Now we usually tend to get cross if criminals escape justice as a result of they weren’t caught on digital camera.

And what about smoking? In the event you’d informed any common he would sooner or later be banned from having fun with a pint and a puff in his native he’d have mentioned you had been mad. It was one in all his few pleasures, dammit! No authorities would dare. And anyway the pubs would exit of enterprise.

Effectively they did not — or no less than not for that motive — and I’m wondering if there’s a soul left on the market now who yearns for the nice previous days once we choked within the filth of a smoke-filled bar.

It was a basic case of presidency persisting with coercive measures within the face of highly effective opposition and profitable the argument. As with the imposition of seat belts. And breathalysers. And so forth…I went into the park earlier than settling down to put in writing this column because the solar was rising this morning. And, sure, the phantom cutter had paid his nocturnal go to.

A brand new gap had appeared within the fence. The battle of the Astro continues.

And the Johnson dilemma stays.

Not at all times such a welcome within the Valleys

Final week Keith Hann had job, pulling in £102,000 a 12 months. Right this moment he is out of labor —with no person guilty however himself.

Mr Hann was director of company affairs on the Iceland grocery store chain — a job that requires a reasonably excessive degree of sensitivity to the employees. Not in his case although.

He made a stream of anti-Welsh feedback on his weblog — regardless that the corporate’s headquarters is in Wales they usually make use of hundreds of Welsh staff, lots of whom converse Welsh.

Mr Hann doesn’t approve. He known as the language ‘gibberish’ and a ‘useless language that sounds uncannily like somebody clearing his throat’.

Understandably he was handed his P45 faster than a Welshman can say ‘iechyd da’. However I really feel the tiniest twinge of sympathy — regardless that I’m Welsh.

The very fact is Wales is 2 international locations: the Welsh-speaking bit and the English-speaking bit, together with Cardiff the place I used to be born. And, I am ashamed to say, we regarded those that lived within the Valleys as socially inferior.

We had been far ruder about them than even Mr Hann. They felt the identical about us.

I keep in mind my sister Anne coming house sooner or later and saying that she had a brand new boyfriend. He got here from the Valleys.

My father was appalled.

I dare not repeat what he known as him however it was not respectful.

Then she informed Dad he was a rugby participant. Not simply any previous rugby participant. He was one of many Williams household of Taffs Effectively — by a mile the best rugby household on the planet.

I swear my proud father bowed his head.

The ‘Taffs’ could have been ridiculed in Cardiff, however on the rugby discipline there was at all times just one actual enemy.

The English.

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