Chris Grayling’s Waldorf Salad

Hearing Chris Grayling’s defence of his plan to deny legally aided criminal defendants the right to a proper defence I was reminded of an incident in London 30 years ago. It was on January 14th 1983 that an entirely innocent man called Stephen Waldorf was shot and critically injured by armed police as he travelled in the car of a female friend called Sue Stephens. Police were looking for an escaped armed robber  called David Martin who had, it was alleged, once had a relationship with Miss Stephens. Whether he had or not, there was no reason for trigger happy officers to shoot Waldorf. He later received £150,000 compensation although the police officers involved.were acquitted of attempted murder.

What followed was a disgraceful character assassination of both Waldorf and Stephens by the tabloid press. aided by politicians who should have known better. The Tory MP and leading spouter of right wing nonsense at the time, Eldon Griffiths,  who was also parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation, expressed the view that Waldorf and Stephens were not innocent but ‘tainted with criminality.’ This was, to say the least, a novel concept. The implication was that they deserved it.

Chris Grayling has evidently adopted the concept and applied it to his legal aid ‘reforms’ which will remove the right of legally aided defendants to choose a lawyer and allocate them one working for a fixed fee irrespective of the length and complexity of the case.   He has spoken of the ‘challenging and troubled backgrounds’ of defendants and suggested that they are too thick to choose and instruct lawyers. He implies too that these defendants will have done something even if not the actual crime they are accused of. It’s alright, therefore, to deny them a proper defence and bang them up. They are from ‘troubled backgrounds.’, or , to use a phrase from the past, they are ‘tainted with criminality.’

With these words Grayling has shown his contempt for the due process of law and for the presumption of innocence. He clearly does not believe that justice is a public good worth paying for. The Justice Secretary should resign so that his job can be done by someone who does.



Following On From Aggers

As the England players were quick to point out yesterday they won by 247 runs so what’s all the fuss about? The answer is that they might easily not have done and that, had they enforced the follow on, they might have completed the win on Monday. To older cricket watchers the conservatism of many modern captains is puzzling. Back in the day it was rare not to enforce the follow on, the only occasions when you wouldn’t being those where your opponents had made a score that, outside the context of the match was a large total, (400 say in reply to 600), and your bowlers needed a rest.  To bat again when you had a large lead and had not spent a long time bowling the opposition out (New Zealand’s’ first innings at Headingley lasted 43 overs)  was considered contrary to the spirit of cricket.   Nearly forty years ago Geoff Boycott, captaining Yorkshire, incurred much opprobrium for batting again against Oxford University and opting for batting practice rather than going for a win.   At least the students had the satisfaction of getting him out twice for singles figures. Viv Richard’s fury at not being asked to bat again in a County Championship game was hardly defused when the opposing captain said he just wanted to tire them out before the following day’s Nat West Trophy game against the same opponents. As Viv told him (forcefully), the game would be avenged for this disrespectful attitude.

When it comes to enforcing the follow on, or not, New Road has witnessed two of the more bizarre incidents, both against Northamptonshire. In 1979, after a lot of play had been lost to rain, Norman Gifford made an adventurous declaration, 148 runs behind, and was asked to bat again. Gifford had forgotten that, owing to the amount of play lost, the lead required to enforce the follow on was 100 runs rather than 150. Gifford, a rather prickly man despite his avuncular image, virtually accused his opposite number Jim Watts of cheating. Watts drily informed him that it wasn’t his job to tell the opposing captain the rules.

Nine years later it was Phil Neale and Geoff Cook who found themselves at loggerheads. Neale, wishing to enforce the follow on, looked up to the Northants balcony as he walked off the field, caught Cook’s eye and made a batting motion. Minutes later he almost choked on his tea as he saw Northants taking the field and ordered his team out to avoid a fait accompli. As Cook and Neale argued, with Cook claiming he hadn’t seen Neale’s hand signal, 22 players milled around in the outfield. The umpires had to phone Lords for a ruling and half a dozen overs were lost.

By all means bat the Aussies out of the game in the final Test of the Ashes are still at stake but please let’s see more of the follow on. It does add colour to the game!.

Erratic Memories

Yesterday we had a day out in the bit of Oxfordshire that was, until, 1974, part of the Royal County of Berkshire. Our main destination was Wallingford and a trip on the heritage railway to Cholsey. Looking for a venue for a pub lunch I saw the name North Moreton in the Good Beer Guide and was taken back to the summer of 1982.

One of the delights of being at Balliol College Oxford in the summer  was and is playing cricket for the College Second Eleven, the Erratics. The Erratics are a more of a social eleven than a true second eleven and the emphasis is very much on the Social. We used to play a number of away fixtures against village teams in the Oxford area and North Moreton was one of the regular fixtures. .

Memory sometimes plays tricks so it was reassuring to find that the cricket ground and the adjacent pub were pretty much as I remembered them. The score board, though, looked new and incongruously electronic. Back in 1982 its predecessor stood inside the boundary and the local rule was that you could be caught off the roof. We were told the tale of how, a few years earlier, Chris Tavare, playing for St John’s College, was caught off the roof but refused to walk evidently thinking that getting out to a village green trundler was too great an indignity for an Oxford Blue. As this was the time when Tavare was at the peak such as it was, of his Test career, boring the nation rigid in the process  we enjoyed the story, that is we enjoyed it once we had got over our shock at the idea of him playing an attacking stroke. My memory has erased most traces of the game itself but I have an idea I scored a battling 2 which would have been my top score for the Erratics  I doubt that I was asked to bowl. The evening in the pub was most enjoyable.

The great thing about social cricket is that the result is really unimportant. You do your best, you try to win, respect for your opponents demands it, but the setting and the occasion are more important, and the camaraderie more important still. Above all Erratics cricket was and is about us and not about me. That surely applied to the North Moreton team that day who had a whip round and put money behind the bar so that their student guests could enjoy the hospitality.

They were playing cricket at North Moreton yesterday, a mixed children’s game. It is days like this that stick in the memory as you get older and I am sure that long after the fine detail of the day has slipped away they will remember sun and mown grass, and , forgive the cliché, the thwack of bat on ball.  They will remember too what a wonderful thing it is to play cricket, however good you are.

The Demon

It’s Ashes summer again and another opportunity for the Barmy Army to wind up Mitchell Johnson who is the latest in a long line of Australian fast bowlers who have become pantomime villains. In years past the likes of Merv Hughes and Dennis Lillee have fulfilled this role. The original villain was Frederick Robert (F.R.) Spofforth (1853-1926) who played in the very early Tests. In fact it was Spofforth who bowled Australia to victory at The Oval in 1882 a result that prompted the mock obituary in The Times and burning of a bail that gave rise to the Ashes. This was actually a publicity stunt for the campaign to legalise cremation  (evidently a successful one as cremation was finally permitted from 1883) but ever since England and Australia have competed for the Ashes. Chasing 85 to win, admittedly on one of the dodgy pitches that were common at the time, England had reached 53 for 2 when Spofforth was handed the ball. He allegedly said to his captain ‘We can do this thing’ and promptly did. England were bowled out for 77 and lost by 7 runs, prompting the national wailing and breast beating that has been part of most English summers since.

Spofforth bowled fast off cutters, which was a popular way of bowling at the time but was particularly adept at mind games, fixing each incoming batsman with an intimidating glare.  He was a fiery character generally. In that 1882 Test there was bad blood between the teams, largely the result of the gamesmanship of W G Grace. At one point Spofforth burst into the England dressing room and squared up to WG.

Spofforth later settled in Surrey and became a wealthy and successful businessman, importing tea. He is buried in Thames Ditton.


The demon.
Neither magician
nor Mephisto, though you fancy
he could have played
both with his parted hair,
waxed moustache, malevolent glare.

With that fierce gaze he
withered the batsman’s will
and when the cutting, quick ball
had done its work, wrote the epitaph
“bowled Spofforth”

You can see it still, a sepia plate
in a musty book, that chilling stare
which, even from beyond the grave,
always makes children behave.

Copyright Peter Bateman 2006

Champions Of Europe?

Loathe as I am to say anything good about Aston Villa I have to admit that Villa Park before rebuilding was a very impressive ground, with an equally impressive atmosphere.  The most impressive structure was, of course, the Trinity Road stand sacrificed on the altar of money in an unbelievable act of vandalism in2000, The atmosphere came from the Holte End, in its day one of the largest terraced ends of any English football ground.  Villa Park was an intimidating place for visiting teams and for visiting supporters, particularly those of a navy blue or royal blue persuasion. A look at Villa’s home record in the late 1970s illustrates what an advantage the Holte End gave them.

But times change, grounds are rebuilt and the Holte End succumbed to the bulldozer in 1994 to be replaced by a two tier all seater stand with architectural motifs taken from nearby Aston Hall.  The old atmosphere disappeared and the wording ‘Holte End The Twelfth Man’  along the front of the upper tier is, frankly, wishful thinking. I mention Villa Park not because it is the only ground that has lost a special atmosphere but because it is the largest of such grounds that I know well. Real atmosphere is hard to find anywhere in England these days.

This is not the case in Germany as visitors to Borussia Dortmund’s impressive Westfalenstadion can testify, with its vast and vocal home end, with an atmosphere that would make former regulars of the Holte End, Stretford End and son on weep for what they have lost. The Bundesliga has affordable ticket prices, it has terracing, it has (with three exceptions) supporter owned clubs, and it has at least two teams that are better than the best of the Premier League. This is why the Champions’ League Final for 2013 will be between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

A few years ago it was fashionable for Premier League chairmen to sneer at the German model as outdated, rather quaint in fact. All very well having cheap ticket prices, it was said, all very well being owned by the fans but they won’t be able to compete on the pitch in the long term. The only model in town was the public limited company the plc although that has given way to private ownership by foreign billionaires in several cases.  Only Swansea go partly against the grain, being partly owned by a supporters Trust. But even they are a long way from the German position.

Just as German football was mocked so was German industry. With its medium sized companies, the Mittelstand, many of them not publicly quoted and so, we were told by British besserwisser sheltered from the stiff breeze of competition. What they meant by this was  that German business too should be at the mercy of footloose institutional investors, prey to private equity asset strippers or be open to takeover by competitors. This last seems to my simple mind to be the opposite of competition but what do I know?  The point is that over here the plc was the only game in town, regardless of any objective consideration of its suitability while in Germany, they still largely go a different way, one that promotes long term planning over short term tactical advantage. Guess what? They still make things in Germany, still pay their way in the world by exporting high quality manufactured goods.

Now I am not pretending that all is well in the German economy but have a feeling that in the economic Champions’ League we would be more Manchester City than Borussia Dortmund, more Arsenal than Bayern Munich.

Enjoy the match on 25th May.