Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Quintessence of Parochialism

There was a lot of sound and fury the other day about a report from one of the million or so fuckwit think-tanks that pass for constructive activity in London these days. I can't say I'm surprised: not a day goes by without some half-chewed drivel from "an influential think-tank" filling the spaces in the Westminster Village Parish News. This one just reinforces my long-held opinion that there's nothing so very, very parochial as your Professional Londoner. Even Parisians are more cosmopolitan.

I did get annoyed by the Today Programme's Olympics coverage the day after the opening ceremony. At half-eight the sports bulletin came on as usual. After a couple of minute's raving about the ceremony and a cursory discussion of the day to come the rest of the bulletin was devoted entirely to Tessa Jowell blathering on about how good the London Olympics are going to be. Now, regardless of your views of this metropolitan hand job*, I can't see that this was a good use of the time. It was Friday, we'd had an exciting first day of the final cricket test against South Africa; the championship football season was starting the next day, with the Charity Shield being played on Sunday; and the rugby league was building to an interesting weekend. If the Olympics couldn't fill this slot then any one of the others could have done, far better than the blatherings of "The Minister For The Olympics" (note for foreign readers: we don't have a Minister For The Care of Elderly People).

When Birmingham and Manchester submitted their bids for Olympic glory in the nineties you couldn't move for patronising drivel from the London press. Or, indeed, from the Westminster Village. "The Olympics can only be held in a capital city," they said. Like Sydney. Or Barcelona. Or Munich. Or Atlanta.

Similarly, when it was proposed that the new national football stadium should be outside London. I remember with hilarity one particular moment: the new football stadium was being discussed in The House of Commons and London MPs were decrying the proposal that the stadium should be built just outside Birmingham. The proposed site would have been next to Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre, both of which are excellently served by train services and motorways and have a selection of hotels on site. Glenda Jackson stood up and said that this would be a ridiculous idea because

"Wembley is so much more easily accessible."

Most Englishmen would surely agree. Not.

I was once at a conference in Cambridge, attended by people from all over Britain and Ireland (from Plymouth to Aberdeen, from Cork to Lowestoft), with guests from the States, Germany, Sweden and Australia. At the end of the conference, feedback forms were given out. Nearly all the delegates from London wrote:

"Too far to travel, could next year's venue be more central?"

*The project, not the politician.


Ellis Nadler said...

In my future cabinet, you will have the "Ministry of Silly Blogs" portfolio

Kevin Musgrove said...

That's bought my vote!