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John Bone's irreverent take on Newmarket's week




There is no pleasure in seeing a familiar face humiliated, if only because in another’s foolishness we see our own frailty. Even Matt Hancock’s adversaries may wince at his shaming.

People may take a pride in the fame of their Member of Parliament. Huntingdon positively glowed when John Major became Prime Minister. But it’s a risky game.

Until very recently, Newmarket and its near neighbours, may have felt a certain reflected glory in their man at Westminster. Even the most dedicated Socialist can have considered that at least we had a certain national notoriety; a worthy opponent.

Matt Hancock MP
Matt Hancock MP

Alas, those days are done. West Suffolk is now associated with hypocrisy and infidelity.

And what a shudder this must have sent through the ranks of all MPs’ spouses. Who knows what their darlings get up to in their offices and at those late sessions?

One last question before I drop the topic. If, as some were quick to say, Matt’s lapses are forgivable, does that generous spirit extend to, let’s imagine, a law lord who lies or dabbles in a little larceny? Exactly what in current morals is unforgivable? The answer probably lies with our self-appointed thought police who proscribe certain words from conversations. These days, what you do doesn’t matter so much as what you say.

To me, the fascinating fact to emerge is that infidelity, once one of the worst sins, is now less grave than other forms of deceit and duplicity.

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It is scarcely surprising that West Suffolk Council is shutting its Newmarket office. This latest blow to town life is part of a process that has left us denuded of almost all statutory presence.

The courts went long ago. The police are stealthily shrinking into the shadows.

Once, the town was given status by having local offices of several Government departments. We had banks but many have left us.

It is little comfort that West Suffolk is temporarily camping out at the Rowley Mile during the pandemic.

It has become quite rare to be able actually to eyeball anyone who wields power over our everyday lives. It’s all online and impersonal. Even courting couples now find one another on a flickering screen.

The lack of a West Suffolk Council presence makes the town council even more important. We can only hope it rises to the need for giving a sense of community rather than an increasingly cold and distant resource offered by West Suffolk.

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It is a minor path in an obscure corner of the country but it is the site of a great victory. Network Rail have finally conceded. The Weatherby Crossing will stay open.

In a world where we are governed by faraway and faceless people, the people of the town, well led by the town council and spirited individual fighters, succeeded. We beat the big, bad bullies. Such threats are commonplace but we have shown we are ready for them.

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I generally dislike those stilted little homilies given by police officers after a successful prosecution. That is a job better done by a judge. Yet I am full of admiration for the Suffolk Constabulary’s David Etchells after a tiresome teenager was sent down for a series of burglaries.

What he said went to the heart of the consequences of crime. “Spring’s four years of criminal activity caused much heartbreak and despair for many people – such burglaries are extremely intrusive and upsetting for the victims and can cause long-term distress.”

Well said, sir. So often it is not the monetary loss that breaks hearts but the loss of a link with a loved-one.

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Footballers’ merits are usually confined to how they score goals, defend well and read the game to exploit opposition weaknesses. Speed and stamina matter, too.

But Mildenhall manager Ricky Cornish applies an extra criterion when judging a potential recruit. Welcoming back goalie Josh Pope, Ricky said: “He’s a great talker.”

It is an interesting way of seeing things. Great players like Harry Kane can lack the gift of the gab. This may not matter much when dealing with the media but it is important on the field and absolutely crucial in the changing room. Words well chosen and well said can lift spirits, stir tired limbs, instil courage, bring calm, silence argument and generally control a team’s mood.

Mood may seem a flimsy thing in a football match but men like Ricky and the chatty Josh know how much it matters.

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A rather blood-curdling new guided tour of Newmarket embraces the settings of Dick Francis novels.

But, after traipsing round the town visiting the sites of the ex-jockey’s crime and racing stories involving drugs, doping, a bomb plot and a shooting the faithful fans will recover with a cream tea. Surely that’s more Agatha Christie than Dick Francis?

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