Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Need for This Sound of Silence

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Need for This Sound of Silence

Article excerpt


SATURDAY afternoon, I was off to Upton Park. Come three o'clock, like supporters all over Britain, we all fell silent in memory of Holly and Jessica. The silence was impeccably observed. But at the risk of causing massive offence, can I just ask a simple question: why did we have it at all?

Now, I'm the father of two girls. I don't need any explanation of the agonies endured by those poor children and their families. But there's something about the way that this case has been hyped into a cross between a national tragedy and a media circus that really disturbs me. There's an almost dictatorial sentimentality: "Show that you care, or else!"

I could understand there being a silence at Ipswich, the nearest ground to Soham. It was also perfectly proper for the players of Manchester United to show their respects, given that the two girls were wearing Beckham shirts.

But what was going on everywhere else?

I guarantee that within five miles of every other ground in the country, there are families desperately trying to come to terms with the loss of their own children, through illness, accident or assault. Don't they count? Are we going to have silences every week? Or do the victims have to be pretty little girls whose pictures are splashed all over the papers before anyone pays attention?

What, precisely, does a silence prove? It gives people a hypocritical sense that they're more virtuous for making the gesture. But it doesn't change anything. At Upton Park, it was followed by the reading of the Arsenal team.

Did we all greet the names of Seaman and Cole with sober, quiet respect? Do me a favour. They got booed, same as usual.

Suddenly, it was, "Holly, what Holly? Jessica who?"

People were there to watch a football match, just like you started reading this column expecting it to be about sport. …

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