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Alex B Cann column: 'From a fundraising hero to a demolished spa building'

What a sad end to an inspirational story.

This week, I watched "Captain Tom : What Happened Next?" on Channel 5, a 90 minute documentary which explores the story of Captain Sir Tom Moore. During lockdown, he became an unlikely national superhero, and captured our hearts by walking laps of his garden. His only previous brush with fame was winning a Blankety Blank cheque book and pen on an episode hosted by Sir Terry Wogan. 

As the nation stayed at home in 2020, and the streets were deserted, we were looking for uplifting stories, during a bleak time of excess deaths, toilet roll panic buying, government approved walks around the block, and Downing Street parties. It's hard to believe we're coming up on four years since lockdown began. Suitcases of wine, rows about face masks in the supermarket, debates about whether a Scotch egg constitutes a substantial meal...it feels like the worst fever dream now.

The legacy of Captain Sir Tom Moore is hopefully intact, regardless of what has happened since he walked laps of his garden and raised almost £39 million for NHS charities. As LBC breakfast presenter Nick Ferrari says: "He will be remembered as a man who stepped up when he was required. He did his service for the country. He was a blemish-free, blameless hero who enhanced our lives at a time when we needed it most".

So how have we ended up with a demolished spa building and an ongoing Charity Commission investigation into the Captain Tom Foundation? The interview that Moore's daughter agreed to do with Piers Morgan raised more questions than it answered, and certainly wasn't the line in the sand that Hannah Ingram-Moore hoped it would be. 

I'd forgotten how much this story captured the nation's collective heart, as the documentary reminded us of the number one single with Michael Ball, 100,000 birthday cards sent for his 100th birthday, a Great Western Railway train named after him, and of course the knighthood in July 2020 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Some of the opprobrium directed towards Hannah Ingram-Moore and her husband has included death threats, and clearly that is unacceptable. However, you can't help being left with a bitter taste in your mouth after watching this show, with figures mentioned including £800,000 pocketed from the sales of books written by the war hero and not donated to charity, as I'm sure most who bought them assumed it would be. 

I remember thinking at the time that many others were doing great things in lockdown, and for whatever reason they didn't break through to the same extent. And I think there's an element of the age old British tradition of building people up, then joyfully knocking them down. Having said that, it's just a real pity that something that started  as a story to warm the cockles of all but the stoniest heart has ended up with a demolished spa building and ongoing Charity Commission investigation, the results of which are yet to be published.

Elsewhere, The Apprentice has returned to BBC1, and is reassuringly the same. I didn't watch much hyped show The Traitors, which is the reason it got bumped into February, but this clearly gave Lord Sugar extra time to hone some killer jokes for the boardroom, which candidates dutifully titter at. The one about Mary Poppins and the spoonful of sugar was particularly toe-curling. I'd be fired for sarcastically smirking, I suspect. The best part of Episode One was the premature clapping, as the boys' team momentarily thought they'd won the task, only to realise they'd actually lost some of Lord Sugar's money.

I hope they tone down the interviews this time round, as I found them unbearably nasty last time. The whole of LinkedIn feels like an embellishment of talent at times, but these candidates really get their CVs ripped to pieces, like a piece of meat devoured by the tigers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We have a cheesecake task to look forward to in Episode Two. Let us hope all the candidates now know what a "tbsp" is. It feels a bit mean to laugh at them, as there's clearly a degree of skilful editing involved to make them look as daft as possible. But I imagine in some cases, it's pretty easy.

And one more TV plea...can we all give rolling news a swerve for a bit? Sky News covering a helicopter landing at Buckingham Palace for a good chunk of time on Tuesday afternoon, without any details of who was on board, was plunging new lows of space-filling desperation. Enough, please.


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