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Peter Rhodes on a Jag in a ford, the Scottish question and the "wave of hysteria" that never was

By Peter Madeley | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Eleanor Tomlinson in The War of the Worlds

Remember the time when a company would wait for many years before putting "Founded in 1938" or suchlike on its sign? Things change. My eye was caught this week by a firm proudly claiming on its website that its staff have "well over a decade's worth of experience."

The BBC will launch its new adaptation of H G Wells' The War of the Worlds on Sunday. This has prompted the Daily Telegraph and others to recall the "wave of hysteria" in 1938 when Orson Welles' radio adaptation in the United States convinced millions of Yanks that a real invasion from Mars was under way. Many ran into the streets to witness the "space war." Some died of shock or heart attack. Others hurled themselves from high buildings. Or did they? Although the 1938 hysteria has been widely reported since, there's little contemporary evidence that any of it ever happened. A survey suggested that only two per cent of Americans were even listening to The War of the Worlds which, in any case, carried warnings that the contents were fictional. The "wave of hysteria" was an urban myth, an early example of fake news. Small wave, no-one killed.

Meanwhile, I do wish I had H G Wells' time machine to take me back to 2015. I would stride into the bookies' with £100 and stake it all, at 1,000 to one, on a General Election happening just four years from then, between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. As if that could ever happen. Back in 2015 a kindly bookie (supposing such a creature to exist) would probably have refused to take my money.

I have given up counting how many times in this election campaign the SNP have claimed that Scotland voted against leaving the EU in the 2016 Referendum. No, it didn't. The Scots had exactly the same ballot paper as the rest of us with the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" The Scots were never asked whether Scotland alone should stay or leave. With hindsight, to avoid all the bellyaching since, Scotland should have been offered three choices back in 2016: 1) Remain, 2) Leave, 3) Do whatever the bloody Sassenachs do.

In Sweden they call it flyskam, the shame of flying, as induced by the eco-campaigner Greta Thunberg. Flyskam may be a big deal in Sweden but it doesn't appear to have reached Brighton where Caroline Lucas is the Green Party candidate. Lucas admits she flies long-haul to visit relatives in the States but says people should not be "sitting in judgment on each other." Or to put it another way, do as I say, not as I do.

What goes bang-bang-burble-burble-bang-splutter-silence? Forty thousand pounds' worth of Jaguar emerging from the flooded ford at the bottom of our road. A big car does not always guarantee a big brain.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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