I SEE there’s a proposal to attract great crested newts to a special reserve at Wichelstowe.

More power to it, I say.

For one thing, bringing rare species into communities is a great way to encourage us to think about conservation.

For another, I can’t wait to see the show pond and read the little brochure that’s going to be sent out to newts currently living in other colonies.

Perhaps there should be a little newt pub for them, with a sign outside saying: “Come and get as drunk as a human.”

So who is ready for MPs’ question time?

THE latest foulness at Westminster has left many political commentators fearing that decent people will be put off standing for office.

Potential candidates, according to this line of thought, will be deterred for fear of becoming embroiled in scandal.

Should any decent people considering entering politics be reading this, I hope I can offer some words of reassurance.

I’ll do it in the form of some simple questions, incorporating issues raised with regard to certain politicians, both living and dead, in recent years.

Such issues, it must be stressed, by no means involve all politicians, or even a majority of them.

Having said that, it must also be stressed that any politician who knows or suspects such things are going on and does nothing is just as culpable. Here goes:

  • Do you regard your marriage vows, or any pledge of loyalty made to a partner, to be about as significant and meaningful as, say, a piece of tissue paper repeatedly sneezed into, stuffed into a pocket and forgotten?
  • Do you consort with prostitutes, thereby contributing to the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in society?
  •  If you knew a person who consorted with and thereby exploited prostitutes, could you bear to associate with them, let alone call them a friend or colleague?
  • Are you the sort of person who makes unwanted sexual advances to others?
  • Are you the sort of person whose unwanted advances take startling forms, such as lunging at them?
  • Are you under the impression that such vile behaviour was any more acceptable among decent human beings 10 or 15 years ago than it is now?
  • Do you believe a person in their 20s is not adult enough to realise that befouling the online world with homophobic, misogynist filth is wrong?
  • Do you believe there is nothing morally dubious about making subordinates feel sexually uncomfortable or even threatened?
  • If you knew or suspected a colleague engaged in conduct amounting to sexual bullying or worse, would you be inclined to cheerily continue associating with that colleague?
  • Do you believe the avoidance of party political disadvantage is more important than protecting innocent people from revolting sexual predators?
  • Do you believe losing complaints of sexual degeneracy among multiple opaque layers of administration is a suitable way in which to address the concerns of victims, alleged victims and the public?
  • Have you ever engaged in sexual acts so depraved that even listing them in a newspaper accessible to children would quite possibly be illegal?
  • Can you imagine using your power and influence to enter children’s homes and violently molest the young residents?
  • Can you imagine using your power and influence to ensure that any attempts to bring you to justice for sexual crimes are wrecked, and that you die peacefully in your bed?
  • Do you regard an expense account as a means of ripping off the public for every penny you can lay your hands on?
  • Do you believe that, were you subject to a set of rules saying you could technically rip off the public for every penny you could lay your hands on, that would be a moral excuse for ripping off the public for every penny you could lay your hands on?
  • If you were given the immense honour of laying a wreath to the Fallen on Remembrance Sunday, do you think claiming the relatively small cost of that wreath on expenses would be a fine and dandy way to conduct yourself?

If you answered No to all of these questions, the good news is that you have no reason to fear becoming embroiled in scandal should you go into politics.

The bad news is that you may be obliged to associate with people who would answer Yes to one or more of the questions. Maybe I’m being a bit controversial here, but perhaps it’s certain politicians who are putting decent people off becoming politicians.

Prison? Not when you can get counselling

THE latest instalment in our occasional series, Things People Didn’t Go To Prison For In Swindon, is remarkable even by the usual bewildering standards.

A Woodhall Park man called Richard Kilford tried to film up children’s skirts in supermarkets.

The police realised what had been happening when they discovered the videos as they searched his iPad for indecent images of children.

They also found a packet of little girls’ underwear – for children aged five or six - hidden at his home, along with a latex mask.

Let’s think about that for a moment, assuming we can bear to.

He stalked little girls in public places to make sinister videos, and he had a packet of little girls’ underwear and a latex mask stashed in his home. Richard Kilford walked free from Swindon Crown Court with a suspended sentence, a rehabilitation programme and some other nonsense.

Apparently he’s sought counselling.

Phew, that’s alright, then.