My retirement and the new meaning of legacy

  • 4 August 2020
  • From the section England
Image caption Me as the first picture? You might think it's about legacy, but I couldn't possibly comment

Breaking news

It always makes me cringe. My skin creeps when a journalist allows themselves to become the story rather than the storyteller.

"Absolutely right", I muttered to myself, when I read the Sunday Times interview with the distinguished BBC Television News presenter George Alagiah last weekend. He told us that he doesn't believe he should be talking about his own opinions while he is a newsreader.

Take note, some of our lesser journalistic mortals who seem to view their broadcasting roles as useful adjuncts to their social media profiles.

Oh dear! Have I just expressed an opinion? Perhaps I can take a liberty just this once, now that I am about to stand down from our own news output.

In a flagrant breach of my self-imposed protocol, I "went public" last week with news of my impending retirement. How else was I to explain why Midlands Today is running a series of reports reflecting on some of the groundbreaking events I have witnessed over my 45 years in the BBC?

Read full article My retirement and the new meaning of legacy

Midlands glimpses the new abnormal

  • 10 July 2020
  • From the section England
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (centre)
Image caption Chancellor Rishi Sunak visited the Worcester Bosch factory on Thursday

'The health or welfare of the people should be the supreme law'

It is two months since Boris Johnson quoted his hero, the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero, to fend-off initial demands for an early easing of the lockdown to limit the economic damage.

Paradoxically, it is just as transmission rates are deemed low enough for him to change his tune to the more upbeat "enjoy summer safely" message, that the grim financial cost of that 13-week standstill is becoming painfully clear.

Read full article Midlands glimpses the new abnormal

Two metres or not two metres? That is the question

  • 19 June 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Non essential shops across the country reopened on Monday, with long queues outside many of these in Birmingham

"It's a big moment for the country," declares the Health Secretary Matt Hancock as the coronavirus alert level is downgraded to level three, implying that the social distancing rules may soon be eased.

I surprise myself sometimes. "Retail therapy" usually seems like a contradiction in terms. "Shopping for shopping's sake", I've always called it.

Read full article Two metres or not two metres? That is the question

George Floyd protests reveal double standards

  • 5 June 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protest in Birmingham over George Floyd's death in police custody

Minneapolis to the Midlands is not a million miles

It's just a few miles short of 4,000 in fact, no more than a stone's throw considering how fast the shock and anger over George Floyd's death in police custody have swept around the world. Some of the strongest reactions have come in areas like ours which are home to diverse communities including those of African-Caribbean heritage.

The enduring rage, the sense of burning injustice, rekindles yet again the often toxic arguments surrounding racial discrimination and double standards in the treatment of white people and black people.

Read full article George Floyd protests reveal double standards

Why Midlands car industry is in a state

  • 27 May 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright Jaguar Land Rover
Image caption About 1,700 staff members have returned to work at Jaguar Land Rover's Solihull plant

'The state is back!'

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady is not alone in seeing the years of economic rebuilding that will follow the pandemic as an opportunity to re-establish the role of the public sector and, with it, that of the the trade unions she represents.

The logic goes like this. If the government is to pump-in billions to rescue strategic industries, what might the taxpayer demand in return?

Read full article Why Midlands car industry is in a state

Chancellor promises double-digit unemployment

  • 20 May 2020
  • From the section England
Rishi Sunak Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rishi Sunak warns of a recession on a scale we have not seen before

Politician to keep promise: Shock!

It comes to something when we know the one big promise we can trust a top politician to keep is a recession "on a scale we have not seen before" and "double-digit unemployment".

Read full article Chancellor promises double-digit unemployment

When a global crisis becomes a regional issue

  • 12 May 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Did you hear the one about local garden centres?

"We shall monitor it locally and regionally"

It wasn't the most headline-grabbing part of Boris Johnson's latest televised broadcast to the nation. But as the BBC's political editor in one of the English regions worst hit by the pandemic, this was the moment when my ears pricked up.

Just days earlier I had jokingly talked on one of our radio programmes about the possibility of "un-lockdown" being implemented differently in different areas, depending on how those all-important numbers worked out.

Read full article When a global crisis becomes a regional issue

Councils want ministers to match words with action

  • 5 May 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption What was David Cameron in the middle of saying here?

"We'll do whatever it takes"

It sounds like brave talk. It's meant to. But there may also be an element of "weasel words" about the expression. It's what successive generations of politicians say when they face an enormous problem and they're not immediately sure what they can do to fix it: "Whatever....!"

I recall it's what Tony Blair said when MG Rover collapsed smack in the middle of the 2005 general election, threatening to derail his party's campaign in those key Midlands marginals.

Read full article Councils want ministers to match words with action

Why the standstill will speed everything up

  • 28 April 2020
  • From the section England
Image caption Are the changes we are seeing to our lives set to last beyond the pandemic?

Future imperfect: Should we be afraid?

Beware journalists who conjure-up an alarming headline and then put a question mark at the end of it. The answer is almost invariably 'No'!

Read full article Why the standstill will speed everything up

Midlanders learning to live with the lockdown

  • 21 April 2020
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lockdownland, where uncertainty goes hand in hand with a brand new language

Another country

Sometimes these days, I feel as though I have emigrated.

I find myself in a new country. Let's call it Lockdownland.

Read full article Midlanders learning to live with the lockdown