You'd think, wouldn't you, that this would be a massive story broken by The Sun, which claims to be the champion of 'our boys'. It's a serviceman, the most highly decorated of his era, a man who has shown incredible heroism while serving his country, who wants to put the case against Gordon Brown and New Labour for the shoddy way in which he feels ex-service personnel are treated. It's a case that ticks all of the right boxes, isn't it? Hero stands up for his fellow soldiers. Not only that, but it also dovetails in with the anti-Labour agenda of most of the tabloid press. So it's a win-win, isn't it?
But no. In fact the brave soldier in question has taken his concerns to the BBC instead, to the Today programme on Radio 4.
But surely those who worked themselves into a frenzy over that bloke's bid to build a bungalow - you know, the rather unfortunate episode that led Noel Edmonds to go over the edge while presenting his self-aggrandising "Bonkers Britain" vanity project on Sky One, and which has thankfully been put on the road to being resolved, no thanks to that pathetic trial-by-TV circus - will be coming out in support of this chap. Won't they?
The Sun hasn't got the story on its website yet, curiously enough - even though they've carried stories about this soldier before, to much praise from online readers. I'm sure it's going to be there, but it just doesn't seem to be there yet. More important stories on there right now concern these hot topics of newsworthy interest:
- Gary Lineker's girlfriend in a bikini
- David Walliams having sex with someone
- Jessica Taylor wearing a catsuit
- Zara Phillips has had her handbag stolen
- Kevin Federline looks a bit fat, according to someone.
Ah well, I'm sure they'll get around to it and give it a good show. I don't think the potential problem in this case is that Johnson Beharry is black; it's just that it's a little more of a subtle story than a guy who's got physical injuries - Beharry is talking about post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological problems suffered by service people.
The problem is, these things are quite often dismissed out of hand as not even existing by the tabloids; that somehow, if you're claiming to have 'stress' or even PTSD, you're making it up, or malingering, or trying to get a bit of compo from NuLab. That's why I'm glad that someone as respected and articulate as Beharry is taking up the cause: it might actually get some genuine recognition for these conditions, not just among service personnel but in general. This has got to be a campaign worth backing.
Mind you, you have to bear in mind that according to the Mail's BNP-style definitions, he's not British. I wonder if he'll be described as such when they come to run the story? Come on, James Slack*. I dare you to cover this story, and call Johnson Beharry a British hero. Which of course he is, in more ways than one: not just a brave soldier - whatever you think of the war out there - but also brave to talk about issues like psychological problems in public.
* Sunny Hundal rather wonderfully referred to Slack as 'Slacker' throughout his excellent piece on the Mail's Britishness on CiF this week. I don't know if he did it on purpose, but I loved it.