Colin Montgomery: No time for common sense in silly season

Firefighters and paramedics help a man rescued from the Grenfell tower inferno. Picture: Getty
Firefighters and paramedics help a man rescued from the Grenfell tower inferno. Picture: Getty
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And finally. Giant killer sharks are menacing the denizens of Port Seton. New mouse-flavoured ice-cream is being lapped up by cool cats this summer. And Edinburgh is gloriously free from roadworks for an entire 24 hours.

Such are the type of headlines we’ve come to expect during what’s fondly known as the “Silly Season” for the news. Although clearly the last one about the roadworks is more at home in “Absurd Season”; in terms of believability, an Edinburgh free from roadworks is up there with the free unicorns promised by Brexiteers of late. Note to Liam Fox: apologies for not being patriotic enough, Foxy, but “la la, we’re not listening” does not really qualify as a serious political strategy in my book.

Will Murray's Wimbledon heroics inspire youngsters to find their inner Andy when they pick up their tennis rackets? Picture: AFP/Getty

Will Murray's Wimbledon heroics inspire youngsters to find their inner Andy when they pick up their tennis rackets? Picture: AFP/Getty

Yet a closer look at some of the more outré utterances from across the UK’s political spectrum over the last few months would seem to suggest that the “Silly Season” has come early this year. I mean who needs the scantily-clad shenanigans of Love Island when you have the naked hypocrisy of politicians, preaching fiscal discipline on one hand and doling out favours on the other. I’m thinking of course about the DUP – and not just because it’s the 12th either.

Much has been written about the rights and wrongs of the ‘arrangement’ between Arlene and Theresa, so I won’t dwell on that. But connected to it – and something I do think is a contender for the “Silly Cup” – is the sheer gall of those at Westminster who persist with the idea that acting in the so-called national interest means denying public servants from the fire service, NHS and the police a pay rise. This is a dunce’s cap in every respect. Before furious political economists write in (if ever such a thing happens), let me explain . . .

The horrors witnessed in Manchester and London around late May/early June weren’t just a sober reminder of the fragility of life in troubled times; they were also a powerful reminder of how the public service ethos – and the heroics it inspires – acts like a glue in our society.

This living expression of our common humanity is hard to monetise. In some senses it should transcend transactional value. But the flipside is that everything has its price, so what should it be?

Well, on one level, all of these brave individuals, from the first responders to the backroom staff, are just “doing their job”. But since when was a pat on the head and the usual bland tributes from politicians enough to recognise that invaluable contribution? Answer: it never has been. And it’s at this point that the Jumbo of public debate makes an entrance, plonks himself down on the rug and starts raiding the peanut jar. Say hello to the elephant in the room that is austerity.

This tired old pachyderm needs no introduction of course – it’s been plodding about for a good seven years now, trumpeting loudly about the need to “live within our means” and “paying down the debt” lest we leave the future generations with unmanageable burden. Indeed, David Cameron broke off from his lucrative public speaking tour to remind us that easing up even just a little on the public finances would be an act of monstrous selfishness.

Except – correct me if I’m wrong as I only have a B in O-grade arithmetic – isn’t private household debt on the up and back at pre-crash levels? In other words, at one level, we’ve already transferred the burden, expecting ordinary punters to keep our consumer economy going in the absence of any serious industrial strategy. Check out the UK’s productivity figures if you don’t believe me.

As I said, I’m no money man – the moth farm that passes for my wallet is proof of that. But unless the idle rich and corporations start splashing out big time, how does giving ordinary people less money to play with (not forgetting all the tax take you’re missing out on) at the end of the month become a viable solution?

Or to put it another way, if you weren’t minded to reward our public service heroes, who haven’t had a decent pay rise in years, on a purely moral basis, then surely it makes sense on an economic basis too?

Maybe they can shake the Magic Money Tree™ like they did for the banks back in 2008. We live in hope.

Game for a set-to but we were no match really

You join us here in a tense final set here at the Centre Court, particularly as a fifth ball in a row has now been confiscated by an angry bloke bent over his prize petunias. Such were the hazards of restaging the 1980 Borg–McEnroe final in a suburban street in East Kilbride (The Glen Clunie Bowl, to give it its formal title).

As a nipper, I loved the tennis. And back in the days when the sun shone for more than a millisecond during the summer – although maybe that’s just nostalgia talking – we’d abandon the footie for a few weeks, dig out the wooden rackets and start belting Slazenger missiles into greenhouses and rockeries.

We didn’t even have a net, just a line in the road, leading to all kinds of angry disputes over line calls (our Hawkeye was a passing kid on a Raleigh, if we were lucky).

Amazing to think back on it now, particularly when for today’s generation, “getting into the tennis” probably means rocking up to a proper court as the very least – if not joining a club and taking lessons.

You’d think, in theory, that taking it a lot more seriously would result in a glut of future Andy and Jamie Murrays traipsing down to the All England Club to show the blazer brigade how it’s down. But, the odd ray of hope like Ms Konta aside we’re still thin on the lawn.

But as Wimbers limbers up, maybe it will inspire a few more street players to break free and find their inner Andy or Johanna on the local tarmac.

It’s been a rubbish summer so far

Nope, I refer not to the mystery climate that sees us shivering while they’re baking down south – at one point I thought we’d entered a wormhole to some God-forsaken “Rain Age”, only to remind myself that this is Scotland in summer.

Rubbish weather aside, we have issues with rubbish of a different sort in Scotland’s capital . . . certainly if Cockburn Street at 2.43pm last Saturday is anything to go by. It was rank awful. Tourists scuffing their way through gutters choked with crap, bins fit to burst. There was even an abandoned fridge – although that may have been an art installation.

Truth is, when your city’s income stream is heavily dependent on tourism in the summer months, it makes no sense to skimp and risk driving away visitors. I hate trash-talking Edinburgh, but it saddens you to see a famous city centre street in such a state.

The infamous “Grace Migliaccio” letter (the tourist who described the Capital as “dirty and hostile”) is still fresh in the memory. Maybe we should drag it out for a re-read from time to time . . .