Putting the sole back in Britain’s streets

The government is to get tough on gum crime, announcing help on Thursday for 15 local authorities to wage a no-holds-barred war on thugs who bring terror to Britain’s streets by disposing of chewing gum inappropriately.

Young people, many wearing hooded tops, are likely to be a target of the get-tough message, “Thanks
for binning your gum when you’re done”. And if that doesn’t work – difficult to imagine, but just supposing – fines for “dropping gum” are to rise to £75.

The councils getting funding from the Chewing Gum Action Group hope to follow the example of Manchester, which has shaken off its “Gumchester” reputation of the 1990s, when gum-toting gangs would brandish “sticks” in city nightclubs. However there was surprise on Thursday at a lack of help for Nottingham, which has acquired a reputation as Britain’s new ““gum capital”.

Ben Bradshaw, the non- gum-slinging minister for environmental quality, and fellow action group members are to be commended for acting so swiftly. Only the previous day the Financial Times reported that CadburySchweppes was considering expanding its UK chewing gum business and would “definitely take advantage”. Experts on gum culture talked of the UK becoming a battleground as Wrigley, a rival gum maker, sought to protect its turf.

Once the gum menace is obliterated, the government has indicated it may turn to the lesser, but still troublesome, problem of people killing other people with firearms.

Trouble at The Office

A letter arrives from a Mr J. Betjeman, a middle-ranking executive at a well-known online retailer.


Come friendly bombs and
fall on Slough!

It isn’t fit for humans now,

Not the kind we need, anyhow,

with language skills.

Amazon wanted operations

Handling calls from several nations

But forgot about British education’s

manifold ills.

We wouldn’t mind a town so naff

If we could only get the staff

But speaking French?

You’re having a laugh!

What, here in Slough?

Nothing would give us greater joy

Than having linguists to employ;

Man or woman, girl or boy,

But show us how!

It’s not as if what we’re

asking’s tough

(Translating Voltaire off the cuff).

Un peu de français is quite enough

To run our show.

Yet few can even say bonjour

It’s getting too much to endure

We don’t foresee a rapid cure

It’s time to go.

We fear for UK plc

When you can pass a GCSE

yet later recall, apparently,

Hardly a word.

It’s not the bald young clerks

we blame

We know they’d like to raise

their game

Languages are a national shame

The thing’s absurd.

So à bientôt, David Brent,

We’ve decided it’s time we went

Closer to Europe – no, not Kent;

We’re heading west.

Britain can try to walk the walk

But Amazon needs to talk the talk

And so we’ll do our work in Cork:

It’s for the best.

Until the pips squeak

President George W. Bush said in Delhi on Thursday the US “is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes” after agreeing a deal to give India access to American nuclear technology and liberalise trade


Costa Rica, which abolished its armed forces in 1949, was said on Thursday to be close to a deal to acquire nuclear weapons in return for shipping a regular tropical fruit basket to the Crawford, Texas ranch owned by President George W. Bush.

The move by the Central American nation follows Mr Bush’s praise for the Indian mango while on a visit to Delhi. The desire of the US president and senior aides to restart supplies – cut off for 17 years in a dispute over pesticides – was said to have been instrumental in sealing a deal to give India access to US nuclear technology.

A source in San José said: “Sure, those Indian mangoes are one hell of a tasty fruit. But we’ve got better stuff to quench the thirst of the leader of the free world when he’s done cutting brush. He’s gonna have to cut a deal.”

Rumours that Thailand wants access to US space technology in return for a supply of mangosteens could not be substantiated.

james.wilson@ft.com

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