Selling England to the Brits

A Palestinian worker sits on bags of flour at a U.N. food aid distribution center in the Jebaliya Refugee Camp, northern Gaza Strip, July 18, 2007. U.N. officials and Gazan businessmen appealed to Mideast negotiators to open a crucial Gaza trade crossing, warning that the Strip's economy could completely collapse within weeks. At least 68,000 Gazan workers have lost their jobs since mid-June.
AP Photo/Hatem Moussa
The 'for sale' signs are up all over the British countryside. The Cornwall of Daphne Du Maurier, The Yorkshire of The Brontes, The Wales of Dylan Thomas.... each is at risk of becoming a desert. Mad cow disease and then foot-and-mouth disease have taken their toll. Farmers have lost their sheep and cattle, and hundreds are selling up. And tourism isn't providing the cash cow to make up for the dead cows.

And it's not just farmers who've gone bust. Hotels and small businesses in rural parts of our country are at the end of their financial, through no fault of their own. Since September the eleventh, you Americans aren't taking those trips to places like The Lake District, Cheddar Gorge, The New Forest and Stratford Upon Avon. And there aren't enough of us here in Britain to fill the gap you've left. Who wants to take the kids out for a chilly day in the mud? It seems we'd rather take a cheap flight to the Mediterranean sunshine instead. Time for our Government to play the role of the seventh cavalry; step in and save the situation?

Well, not really. You see, our Prime Minister and his colleagues know a lot about the countryside... the trouble is, it's not the British countryside. It's the Italian and French countryside, because that's where they spend their holidays. The British countryside is something they drive through, on their way to the airport. Anyway, our Government has just decided to rebrand it. There'll be mission statements, groovy logos and targets. The strapline has already been announced, "It's your countryside, you're welcome". The object is to get us Brits spending money on tourism, to help the rural folks get back on their own two feet... or four feet if they're cattle or sheep.

It's all so incredibly patronising and has nothing to do with what is actually happening. The object seems to be to turn our rural areas into one big museum; and museums are places of the past. Which will leave the people still living there as mere exhibits.