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Peter Rhodes on superfast broadband, robbers in the cyber-forest and why some politicians don't need to relate to us peasants

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Ken Purchase MP - wise words

MOST interesting question of the election campaign so far was Naga Munchetty asking whether Boris Johnson was "relatable" This assumes that the only politicians fit for high office are PLU, people like us, the sort of diamond geezers you meet down the pub or the harmless pensioners you see on the allotments.

But politics doesn't work like that. The British people admired Attlee and were inspired, at least in the early years, by Blair. But the last prime minister the Brits actually loved was an aristocratic imperialist who would never have dreamed of "relating" to the people, nor they to him. He was the exceedingly non-PLU Winston Churchill.

Never underestimate toff-appeal. The late Ken Purchase, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, once told me how, after the demise of Margaret Thatcher in 1990, he and his comrades feared that the new Tory leader would be Douglas Hurd. They could cope with John Major and his man-of-the-people image, and eventually defeat him. But Gentleman Hurd, educated at Eton and Cambridge and the son of a lord, was seen as a real long-term threat. Why so? "Working-class deference," said Ken Purchase.

Superfast broadband by 2030? That doesn't sound very fast to me.

There are good and bad things to be said for Labour's plan to nationalise BT Openreach. The best thing, as John McDonnell doesn't quite put it, is for peasants out in the sticks to make a living in their home towns and villages without moving to London or commuting vast distances. Superfast broadband turns every remote coastal cottage or bucolic bungalow into a potential work station. A proper national network might drastically reduce the need for travel. Bring on the broadband and scrap HS2.

The bad thing about free broadband for all is that it virtually forces people to get connected - even the 10 per cent of the UK adult population who are not online, and have no wish to be. At what stage does computer ownership stop being voluntary? When the State installs and oversees (and possibly monitors) a free network, why only a bad citizen wouldn't opt in. See where this is leading? Big Brother in every bedroom, whether you want it or not.

And the internet is no place for beginners. It may once have been a harmless market and meeting place but today it's more like a deep, dark forest with robbers hiding behind every tree. A wise and considerate government would think twice about pushing people into it.

Talking of scams, I had three phone calls in a single afternoon from assorted people claiming to be the "authorised energy consultant for your area." Do not argue with them. Just ask the energy consultant how many kilowatt hours make a gigajoule.

There are about 277 kilowatt hours in a gigajoule. I bet you knew that already...

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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