- Category: Weekly Column
There’s nothing quite as risky as just being alive. I love those signs on pylons which read “Danger of Death.” That’s the problem with being born - we all suffer from a danger of death at some stage or another. Life is full of greater or smaller risks, yet if we don’t take them we risk never leading life to the full. ‘Speculate to accumulate’ is the old City maxim - the more you risk in life, the more you are likely to benefit from it.
Local boy David Hempleman-Adams has taken every risk there is in the book - Everest, the Poles, every ballooning record that exists; right now he’s in an ice-strengthened boat off Svalbard (I am planning to join him in September for a few days in my thermals.) People like David or like British national Chris Norman and the three American off-duty soldiers who wrestled a terrorist gunman on Eurostar to the floor and disarmed him take risks, albeit carefully calculated ones; and we admire them greatly for it.
The Hawker Hunter pilot in the Shoreham Air Show last week took an ultimately tragic risk, and our hearts go out to the friends and families of those who were so sadly killed as a result. I suppose it is right and proper that the Civil Aviation Authority should have some very searching questions to ask about the causes of the tragedy, and some stringent regulation to put in pace to try to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.
Yet I sometimes wonder if we are becoming a bit too risk averse as a nation. Are we giving up too much that is ‘good’ in favour of that which is ‘safe’? Did you see that our friends in the EU are asking us to put up notices on Devon beaches to point out to the unwary that ‘donkey rides can be dangerous’? An entirely risk-free life (if there were such a thing) would also be pretty dull. Thespians traditionally avoid wishing each other ‘Good Luck’ as they go on stage. Instead they say “Break a Leg” in the hope that their pessimism may be proved unnecessary, and actually work as a positive talisman.
Risks are often taken in politics and national life as well. The Labour Party are taking a huge risk with Jeremy Corbyn, but I wonder if a bit of a hard-left shake-up may just do the Labour Party a bit of good? It may help remind them what they are really for. All of politics has become a bit bland - who could truly differentiate between Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg at the last election? Great PR but poor statesmanship. By contrast, like them or hate them, what charisma people like Churchill and Disraeli had, or people like Tony Benn and Michael Foot. The world would certainly be a poorer place without the ‘Beast of Bolsover’, Dennis Skinner.
Good politics depends on robust differences of opinion; a strong opposition differentiated from the Government; clearly expressed if extreme views; vision, drama. These things lift the political debate from the morass of mediocrity from which it has suffered in recent years. So to Jeremy Corbyn, to Health and Safety experts everywhere, to adventurers and daredevils; to the modest heroes in all of our communities; to all of us as we enjoy our summer breaks, I would just say one thing: “Break a Leg.”