Britain: where did it all go wrong?

Quentin Letts

Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts has published a list of the “50 people who buggered up Britain”, complaining about various aspects of modern life and the way things have changed. Some of the targets would be on any list: Dr Beeching, who cut the railways, for example. But others are less obvious. Read part 1 of list here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

For example, the Letts list includes, Maurice Gatsonides, the inventor of the speed camera, and Frank Blackmore, who introduced mini roundabouts. He also targets Tony Greig, who is associated with the commercialisation of cricket, and Graham Kendrick, who is apparently a prolific writer of modern hymns. This rather peculiar assortment set me thinking: where have I come across all these things in one place before? Something nagged at the back of my mind – what was it?

The answer comes back to me: it is John Major’s famous speech extolling the virtues of “warm beer, long sleepy afternoons watching cricket on the village green, and old maids cycling to Evensong”. His famous caricature of olde Englande.

And sure enough, looking through the list to find the names of prime ministers that Quentin Letts dislikes, John Major’s name is not there! All the others since 1964, that is Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, are present and correct. Only John Major receives Quentin Letts’ benediction.

But what’s it got to do with this blog? Not because of Sir Edward Heath, who is denounced for his treatment of Enoch Powell, not for his pro-Europeanism, but because of Geoffrey Rippon. He is named as the man responsible for the decline of the British fishing industry as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy, for the fact that it has declined from nearly 50,000 jobs to many fewer today.

A few more facts might help. The peak of employment in the fishing industry was indeed nearly 50,000, but back in 1948. It had declined by half to 22,000 when Britain came to join the EEC in 1973, and has declined by half again to about 11,000 now. Joining the EEC has not led to the decline in employment in the fishing industry: it was falling anyway due to technological advances. Geoffrey Rippon can’t be blamed for that.

I guess that many people might add another malign influence on British life, namely the corrosive influence on public attitudes towards Europe resulting from the poisonous diet of lies and untruths in the newspapers. Much acclaim for this, of course, would go to the Daily Mail, but regrettably this is something that Quentin Letts is far too modest to mention.

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