Meet the Daily Mail’s new guest editor

Picture of David Crosbie and his wife Jean, from BrooksideBack in the 1990s, I was a big fan of the Liverpool-based TV soap Brookside (I got into it just as the body-under-the-patio story was hotting up and got out after the storylines got too sensationalised and silly), and one of the principal characters was David Crosbie, a wannabe Tory gent who was a virtual stereotype of the Tory culture of the mid-1990s: meddlesome and mean-minded and always on one moral crusade or another, yet unable to keep his own nose clean, jumping into bed with what his wife called a “blue-rinse barrage balloon” called Audrey Manners, who fell for his claim to be a Major, and having to fend off the press when his brother-in-law, a Tory MP, committed suicide after a sex scandal.

While he was capable of turning pretty much anything into an excuse for a political speech, the issues that particularly got his goat were the lesbians (Beth Jordache and her succession of girlfriends) and the introduction of wheelie-bins to the Close. Fifteen years later, the Daily Mail have scored a first, getting a fictional character — from a long-dead soap at that — to guest-edit, bringing Bing’s wheelie-bin campaign to the front page:

The Daily Mail today launches the Not In My Front Yard campaign, to spearhead the fightback against wheelie bins.

It comes amid growing fury at the plastic monstrosities blighting our streets and gardens.

All across the country, people find their councils steamrolling through unwanted changes to rubbish collections.

Now the Mail is calling on town halls to let council tax payers choose between wheelie bins, ordinary dustbins or biodegradeable bags.

The Mail does, of course, blame ‘elf-n-safety for the spread of wheelie-bins, but somehow fails to grasp why that matters. I’m the first to admit that health & safety is sometimes enforced much more stringently than it needs to be in this country, but there are very good reasons for these bins. For one thing, they wheel rather than having to be carried; they can also be picked up mechanically by a rubbish truck and the contents emptied without the staff having to touch it. This makes it possible to do the job more quickly and efficiently, but most importantly, it relieves the staff of having to pick up dozens of heavy rubbish bins every day, which is bad for the back. This may come as a surprise to those who no longer have to pick up and push a pen across a page since the introduction of the computer, but surely it means a lot to the poor bin-men. Edward Heathcoat-Amory, Mail columnist and nephew of the Tory MP for Wells in Somerset, gives a few examples of ‘elf-n-safety stupidity even after the wheelie-bins have been introduced, but the fact remains that moving a wheelie-bin to a truck is easier on the back than carrying it and then up-ending it yourself, and you are less likely to get some of the rubbish blown back into your face.

They quote the head of the “Harlow Pensioners Action Association” as saying:

‘The town is simply not built for them - and yet we are all going to get three.

‘In a lot of places there are steps up to buildings and it’s going to be hard for elderly people to push them. Some of my members are only as tall as the wheelie bins - how are they going to move them when they are full?’

The claim about the heights of his members seems like a porky-pie to me. I’m 6ft tall and our wheelie-bins come to only waist height on me (and my legs aren’t that long). I don’t doubt that some elderly people would have difficulty moving them around, but surely they would have difficulty moving a full dustbin, which is round and has no wheels, around as well. Perhaps the residents can club together so that the stronger residents can take turns to put the bins out. However, none of these people has to handle the things more than once or twice a week. The bin-men would otherwise have to pick up several full bins a day.

Apparently, wheelie-bins are a blot on the landscape too, especially in the lovely English countryside:

Art historian Sir Roy Strong said: ‘Hasn’t anybody talked to a designer about these things? They are awful and they’re multiplying like rabbits. It is total thoughtlessness.’

Broadcaster Stefan Buczacki, former presenter of BBC2’s Gardener’s World, has four wheelie bins in his Warwickshire garden.

‘We have a pretty big garden so we can hide them,’ he said. ‘But there are other cottages in our village with these things and they are a blot on our countryside.’

As if dustbins were ever pretty? They are squat plastic things, and people generally do not bother to dust them as they are there to hold rubbish, and they store them out of sight and mind, which means they get ugly and dirty on the outside even if they were made of clean, shiny plastic to start with. They were always meant to be utilitarian, not decorative. Metal dustbins (try getting your Nana to shift one of them) are also noisy, particularly if they have metal lids. Dustbins can also fall over when they are empty, whereupon they roll around and, if left in the road for a bin-man to collect (or as a makeshift traffic cone to stop anyone else taking your parking space), can get in the way of an oncoming car or cyclist. Wheelie-bins are not round, and if they fall over, they can’t roll.

The petty-mindedness of this stupid campaign is mind-boggling. Wheelie-bins are practical, they are easier to move around and don’t have to be lifted up; they look no more ugly than dustbins, and the only thing to dislike is that they are new. We all know that the Mail loves to protect everything British, but there really was never any such thing as the great British dustbin.

(More discussion at MailWatch.)

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