Another one of those nice little English traditions was killed off today at Aintree. The Grand National winner is usually led into the winner’s enclosure by mounted policemen in plumed hats (see photograph). This, we now learn, is incredibly dangerous, and some little pen-pusher with a small mind has banned it.
We have not seen the copious risk-assessment which was presumably filled out to reach this conclusion, so we do not know how many dead and injured there have been in past years. I imagine it was the usual story – someone with power to interfere did so just to show they could.
The Health and Safety Executive will rush to say that it was not their fault, and that they had nothing to do with it. Nor, in this case, was it a pen-pusher from the local authority with a clip-board for a brain, a nasal whine and a drip on the end of his nose. The organisers decided for themselves to abandon the practice on safety grounds.
We know how this works. Large organisations now have to employ health and safety advisers, as well as equalities and diversity people. It has become a kind of tax on doing business, and gives work to the sort of people who would be unemployable in any real job. Once they have ordained that something is dangerous, the company dare not over-rule them. So the little poeple come to have the power.
Once employed, they have to be seen to doing something. The health and safety runts are not there actually to see that everyone is healthy and safe, but to comply with the health and safety regulations. The Health and Safety Executive may not have been directly responsible for banning the mounted policemen, but they certainly set the culture in which everything must be banned if it involves the slightest hazard or risk. Of course, to people of this kind, hazard and risk are interchangeable terms.
Health and Safety were, as it happens, busy today elsewhere in Liverpool, where a small girl fell through a gap between escalators in a store and was seriously injured. It was presumably a Health and Safety failing which allowed this fairly obvious hazard to exist. If they all spent less time on pointless, trivial things, they might spot the more obvious and important ones.
I don’t know that the plumed hat bit was a very ancient tradition – a photograph from the 1970s shows mounted Plods in their ordinary just-got-out-of-a-Panda-car uniform. It added a nice little touch, however.