As someone who works with journalists, it’s important to keep across what they are writing about – even if I don’t agree with their views. That’s my main excuse for reading the Daily Mail, which rarely fails to amaze with its combination of fear and fury on behalf of Middle England (if there is such a thing). Fact is though, it’s a good read too and many journalists I know admire the way it chimes with its readers’ views even if they don’t like what it stands for.
None of that really accounts for one of the oddest few lines I’ve read in a newspaper column for a long time however, on a chance reading earlier this week.
Step forward Stephen Glover. In a piece headlined: ‘If only our politicians were on the side of the ordinary people – and not the green fanatics and council jobsworths’ (note the juxtaposition of ‘man in the street’ with two stereotypes hated by The Mail), Glover lets rip at Oxford City Council for issuing him with a food waste bin a year ago.
Yes, that’s right. Not closing his local Sure Start or his library. Or reneging on a promise to build a new school. Or slashing local transport. It’s the poor old ‘slop bucket’ that has become ‘a bridge too far’.
I’ve never been a columnist, but I’ve always thought it must be difficult to find something to be angry about every other day, in a way that most people would find difficult to achieve every six months. If Glover can get angry about a food waste bin, however, I doubt he has such problems. Loosening his tie with a flurry of frustration, he writes:
“Sometimes I find myself devoting a fair bit of intellectual energy to wondering whether, say, a tattered piece of cellophane is recyclable or not.
“I try to ignore the newspaper reports that there are vast warehouses full of unsorted rubbish, and ships laden with the stuff on the high seas to China, where it all ends up in a landfill site as big as the Gobi Desert.
“I attempt to discount stories that recycled paper is sometimes rejected by paper mills because it contains shards of glass or other unsuitable materials.
“We are all in this together, I repeat to myself, as I dutifully drop the right thing into the right bin.”
What? He’s a clever guy; why stress about it? And why worry about whether cellophane is recyclable? Anyway, he goes on to take a dig at the hated local authority ‘jobsworths’, claiming that Newcastle Borough Council in Staffordshire asks residents to sort its waste into nine different bags and boxes for collection. Even if this is true (and going by the council’s website
, I doubt that it is), this overlooks the more important fact that the council is delivering
on its recycling targets and saving local residents money by avoiding landfill charges in the process.
Glover goes on to make a more serious point, well pressed by The Mail, about the ‘broken pledge’ over weekly bin collections. It’s just that he takes a while to get there, and he seems to fail to make the connection that if he used his food waste bin (which he refuses to do), he wouldn’t throw as much out anyway. As a family of four, living in an area where recycling is excellent, we throw away two bin bags a week. With millions of people starving in the world, it seems ridiculous to be getting worked up about being asked to be responsible with leftovers. If Glover spent less time kicking up a stink, he’d find that the ‘slop bucket’ doesn’t smell any worse than the food he throws in the bin (funny that).
He doesn’t seem like he’s for turning on this one though – and the council may as well recycle his slop bucket. It’s a shame that he doesn’t think about the damage he does before writing such a petty piece about the biggest issue facing the developed world today.
And no amount of labeling someone a ‘green fanatic’ or ‘jobsworth’ will change that.