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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 95 - Driven potty by bedlam Britain's sue-mad culture

THAT was it; the last straw, the final spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment, the worm in the root. The nuts and bolts of Britain, I believed, were coming apart, the gibbering and squeaking government was running a burgeoning bedlam and I, as a downright, upstanding, middle-brow, fair-to-average man at the top of a middle-of-the road Edinburgh omnibus, had to do something about it.

It was no time for futile gestures so, once more, at the place where you complain about such matters, I encountered my old friend, the man behind the counter.

"Not you again," he gasped, clutching a defensive, chewed pencil.

Clad in the dignity that suits a man in my position, I told him that I spoke as a law-abiding, careful-driving, non-smoking, eco-conscious citizen devoted to social justice, community arts, free health care for all, further education and skate-boarding rinks for the increasing number of up-and-at-’em over-seventies.

"The climate of opinion," I said, "indicates that outbreaks of rage, developing into periods of fury are sweeping the country with scattered indignation and widespread areas of depression occurring before the end of the month.

"Much of this turbulence is, I believe, caused by occluded fronts of compensation culture coming from all directions, which mean downpours of lolly reaching the gaping wallets of increasing numbers of people."

The man scribbled furiously as I continued.

"I recently read that a prisoner is suing the government for £20,000 because he finds life in Peterhead Prison, Aberdeenshire, boring, that the cells are too small, that prison work is dull and that he has to slop out, conditions which, he claims, have caused him loss of self-esteem and stress - all in breach of the European Convention on human rights."

HE’S stressed," I thundered at the flinching scribbler. "How do you think I feel when I read that the court case could cost up to £500,000 of taxpayers’ cash that could otherwise be used to provide limbo-dancing and high-wire-walking classes for arthritic pensioners? The notetaker shook his head in shock.

"The man also claims that he has to use a Porta Potty instead of a flushing toilet in front of a cell mate. With no wish to be indelicate, I can reveal that on troopships, I, and scores of other well-brought-up servicemen, at such times, had to sit on planks alongside and facing each other in numbers that seemed greater than the Dunkirk evacuation. Did we complain? Of course not.

Some prisoners seem unable to appreciate the bracing, purgatorial, boarding-school-type atmosphere of prisons and are, sadly, too eager to join the growing compensation movement."

"Too true," sighed the counterman.

"You may not believe this," I continued, "but I have read that a female prison worker who claimed she was traumatised by watching a hostage-taking training exercise, and repeatedly told afterwards that it was just an exercise, was awarded a cool £100,000 compensation."

PEOPLE," I continued, "are getting money nowadays for things that once wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow - hurt feelings, blows to pride, bullying, name-calling, jocular remarks.

"You name them; I’ve experienced them all and never a whimper from one of the old brigade, shoulder-to-shoulder and no crying on them."

"Not many like you nowadays sir," said the good fellow, his face aglow with admiration.

"Great scholastic heavens, I was once called a ‘snivelling, little wretch’ by a teacher. Nowadays, I estimate, that character assessment would be worth £10,000 in the courts for contusions to my ego and possible adverse effects on my career prospects.

"Once, a teacher slapped me for above-average cheek. Today, I reckon the blow to my pride would have brought me at least 20,000 smackers with the staff forming a hollow square in the playground and stripping the teacher off her chalk, jotters and job.

"Going courting is all the rage these days and many of us feel litigiously deprived. Who or what can we sue?

"I suggest the government, since living in Britain to-day has put many of us in a state of fear and alarm, leaving us traumatised, with flashbacks, nightmares and a reluctance to watch or listen to the news. I would settle for a modest £200,000 and advise others to do likewise.

"In this potty realm. I cannot stress my advice too much."

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