The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

ILLTYD HARRINGTON: Where does the buck stop?

    Sir Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions

    Sir Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions

    Published: 18 September, 2014

    MY excited neighbour brought me a hamper that the postman had left. Fluttering, she cried out: “It’s from Fortnum and Mason”. 

    It turned out to be a gift from customer support services at Gatwick Airport. This was occasioned by my journey to the west coast of Ireland to join in a family wedding in Galway. It went well in Ireland; fairy stardust, everything seemed perfect. Aer Lingus seemed interested in us wheelchair passengers. But on return Gatwick support services seemed unaware of us; five wheelchair passengers were marooned, including me, despite them receiving two clear messages about my requirements on the outward journey and the return. 

    At last, the air crew realised that there was no one to meet these five passengers. We fought our case and the proof was on our tickets. One up to us, but it did not improve the situation. Hence the Fortnum’s basket, although Percy the house dog refused to eat the biscuits. 

    To continue this catalogue of mistakes and denial of responsibility, towards the end of June my phone malfunctioned. Like a marathon runner, I chased up the appropriate numbers for its repair. A woman answered from the depths of Northern Ireland and passed me on to a Geordie engineer. A few minutes later, a southern English voice told me “We are aware of your problem, sir. Engineers even now are busily trying to find the fault, which is in the exchange.” By late August, there was still no change. The situation was only resolved by me getting blasphemous. A very handsome young man appeared, as if from the clouds. His name was Tobias. He sorted it out after an hour and a half. 

    Customers arriving at Heathrow are told nothing about delays to long flights. It is not disinformation – there is no information. How often have I heard passengers driven to derangement cry: “Why don’t they tell us what’s going on?” Then there are the inscrutable rail announcements, solemn and worrying about “an incident on the line.

    To continue my adventure behind the bland face of power I have now reread The Life of Jimmy Savile. What strikes me is the initial attitude of the mandarins, who dropped responsibility like hot bricks. One director of news used the old excuse: “I do not recall receiving an email from you.” Jeremy Paxman erupted at this abandonment of responsibility. They sit in sound-proofed offices, and do not share the need for regulated time and accountability. The BBC seems to be staffed by the friends of friends, a middle-class mafia. The furthest it went was having a chairman, Lord Patten, who had been given every job in the establishment, and crashed when he did not accept responsibility for the Savile farce. They may quiver in fear of being dragged in front of parliament’s Lord Chief High Executioner, Mr Keith Vaz, who seems more like a car salesman. Throughout this establishment were the camp followers and moronic foot soldiers, but the interminable public inquiry never seems to resolve. 

    It does seem that the old methods no longer work, although there is a case for reintroducing impeachment. 

    I came across something quite relevant by Sir Keir Starmer, former Director of Public Prosecutions and would-be Labour MP, simplifying the law as far as children were concerned. He said: “I think there should be a mandatory reporting position, a clear direct role that everybody understands; namely that assaults, sexual or otherwise, should be reported to the enforcement authorities.” That is the common sense view.