As someone who has occasionally dabbled in parish politics, I know what a tricky task it can be. Dark, rainy nights spent leafletting, endless glasses of warm white wine, interminable fundraisers in freezing sports halls, endemic halitosis, petty power struggles and a seemingly infinite number of very dull conversations about traffic management.
Most of the time, the inner workings of such things draw very little attention in the wider world. But that all changed last week when a fractious Zoom meeting between members of Handforth Parish Council in Cheshire went viral.
Posted online on Thursday by a Labour activist, it racked up views faster than Kim Kardashian in a thong.
By Friday morning, the two main players – fractious chairman Brian Tolver and his cool-headed nemesis Jackie Weaver (pictured) – had become internet sensations, watched by more than four million people
By Friday morning, the two main players – fractious chairman Brian Tolver and his cool-headed nemesis Jackie Weaver – had become internet sensations, watched by more than four million people.
For those who haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a detour. In essence, it involves several fully grown men shouting like lunatics at an exasperated middle-aged woman as she tries to impose some sort of order on proceedings. Wearily, she tries her best to get them to calm down, only to be subjected to a series of spittle-flicked rants.
‘You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver, no authority at all!’ intones Tolver, glaring into the camera in the dyspeptic manner of Emperor Palpatine attempting to crush Luke Skywalker using only the power of his mind. But the Force is strong in Jackie, and she fights back. With a few clicks of her trusty mouse, Tolver is silenced, banished to the limbo of the virtual waiting room.
This immediately enrages one of his sidekicks, a man called Aled Brewerton. ‘She’s kicked him out! She’s kicked him out!’ he squeals, jumping up from his sofa
This immediately enrages one of his sidekicks, a man called Aled Brewerton. ‘She’s kicked him out! She’s kicked him out!’ he squeals, jumping up from his sofa. Calmly and gently, Jackie suggests that, with Tolver out of the picture, the remaining councillors might want to elect a temporary chairman so the meeting can get down to business.
‘No!’ screams Brewerton, coming back into view, his voice quivering with rage. ‘They can’t because I’m vice-chairman so I take charge! Read the standing orders!’ he yells at Jackie. ‘Read them and understand them!’
Click, click. Once again, Jackie lets her fingers do the talking: Brewerton and another councillor, Barry Burkhill, are also banished to the virtual naughty step.
Needless to say, Jackie has become a bit of a heroine. There is something about the calm, grown-up way in which she handles this trio of man-babies that is truly inspiring.
She represents every woman who has ever had to deal with the impotent fury of petty men.
Women such as Jackie are the sanity and the backbone of this country. They may not be as glamorous or as well groomed as the ones who sit on boards or bear fancy titles or hold the ears of Ministers. But in some ways that makes them all the more impressive. Because they do what they do not out of ambition or desire for recognition (just as well, really, since rarely is any forthcoming), but out of a genuine sense of moral duty.
Make no mistake: it’s not the Brian Tolvers or Aled Brewertons of this world who get things done. They’re not the ones who get the lock fixed on the disabled toilets in the Town Hall, or who make sure Mrs Featherington gets a lift to her hospital appointment. Oh no, such petty irrelevancies are not for them. They’re far too busy wafting around on an over-inflated balloon of their own pomposity, reminding everyone how important and in-charge they are.
The Jackies of this world, meantime, just quietly get on with it. Fixing, sorting, smoothing the path for everyone else, driven by nothing more than common sense and a genuine desire to help.
They deserve a big thank you from all of us. And at the very least an apology from Messrs Tolver and Brewerton.
A lot of Hoo-ha over lemon drizzle
Forget the row over Prince Harry’s role in the military, or Captain Tom being branded a ‘white supremacist cult’ by some half-deranged Church of England clergyman – the real controversy of the week was cake.
Specifically, whether Ralph Fiennes, in the role of amateur archaeologist Basil Brown in The Dig, would have been found enjoying a slice of the lemon drizzle variety in 1939.
For according to aficionados, it wasn’t until fully 28 years after the excavation of Sutton Hoo that the first recipe for it appeared in the Jewish Chronicle. And yet I swear I can remember seeing it as a child in my grandmother’s ancient copy of Mrs Beeton’s, which was first published in 1861.
Have I just imagined that? Can any readers enlighten me?
An actress friend calls in a panic about the rollout of vaccines for the over-50s. ‘Why?’ I ask. ‘What are you worried about – you’re not 50 for a few years yet.’ Silence on the other end of the line – and the penny drops. ‘Ah,’ I say. And THAT, dear friends, is why you should never lie about your age.
Chris Whitty standing by calmly while being harassed by an over-excited teenager perfectly encapsulated the challenges of dealing with a pandemic in the age of social media. In other words, a bunch of ill-informed children throwing tantrums while the grown-ups do their best to get on with it.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has dramatically stepped down to spend more time with his billions.
He intends to focus on his space project, Blue Origin, which costs him £1 billion a year (a drop in the ocean for Bezos, who once became £8 billion richer in a day).
Meanwhile, Elon Musk set fire to another £160 million when a second test flight of his Starship rocket (which he hopes will transport people to Mars by 2026) exploded. What is it, I wonder, about nerds with intergalactic egos who spend all their time and money shooting large cylindrical objects into space?
I’m afraid the game is almost up for Sir Keir Starmer. If there’s one thing the British voter can’t stomach, it’s a fake, and last week has proven that Sir Keir has about as much authenticity as one of those Prada handbags you buy on the beach in Spain. Boris may have his flaws, but at least what you see is what you get.
BEANS…THE NEW AVOCADOS
Like most mums, I’m occasionally guilty of shoving a plate of baked beans in front of my kids in place of the lovingly home-cooked meal I (obviously) normally provide.
Turns out, I wasn’t just being a lazy you-know-what, I was feeding them a superfood – or at least that’s what Jojo de Noronha, head of Heinz’s Northern Europe division, claims. She wants to make beans ‘the new avocado… a health and wellness food that is recognised as good for your body’. If I know kids, that’s one sure-fire way of making sure they never touch them again.
Like most mums, I’m occasionally guilty of shoving a plate of baked beans in front of my kids in place of the lovingly home-cooked meal I (obviously) normally provide
A friend of mine who works in the Civil Service tells me that specifying one’s preferred pronouns – as in ‘she/her’ – at the end of office emails is now official ‘best practice’. That’s also increasingly true in the publishing industry. I can’t tell you how depressed this makes me. It’s not that I want to deny trans people the right to self-expression, I just don’t see why it has to be imposed on the rest of us.
Very sad about Captain Tom dying. He was clearly a lovely man, who captured the heart of the nation at a very difficult time. But his death is not, as many have claimed, a tragedy. He passed away at a great age, surrounded by his family, having lived a rich and adventurous life. In my book, that is something to celebrate.