August 20th, 2013


The People vs. Britain

I'm still on a borrowed laptop - and therefore have limited time to post (see yesterday's entry for the reasons). The rural craftsmen of Wellow did their best with my own machine, and managed to jury-rig a solution that "might last 10 minutes, might last a year", but said I really needed a new hard drive - something I will attend to on my return to Bristol. In the event the jury-mast snapped after about 25 minutes, within their predicted range but rather too near the lower end for comfort.

So I watched TV last night instead of going on the internet. This gave me the chance to notice a journalistic phenomenon that we might call Mockingjay Syndrome. After Diana was killed in 1997 (or maybe even before that), some bright spark decided to coin for her the phrase "the People's Princess", a sobriquet that stuck despite its being inapplicable in pretty much every way imaginable. The Mockingjays soon picked up the tune, and since then there has been a continual stream of programmes called "The People's X" - where X might be anything (lottery, novel, scone). Just last night, for example, there was a programme about the British Empire Medal called "The People's Medal".

But in recent years, the Mockingjays have heard a new song, which goes like this: "X Britain". I think David Cameron started it by referring to "Broken Britain" in opposition, but now this tic is almost universal. Last night, for example, the terrestial channels featured "Fightback Britain" at 8.30, after which you had a choice between "Unbuilt Britain" on BBC4 or "Benefits Britain" on BBC 2. Am I alone in feeling this is all a bit much? Almost any programme made in Britain about a domestic subject is going to be about "Britain" by default: shoehorning it into every programme title feels a bit childish, like including "Britain, Europe, the World, the Universe" in your postal address.

On the other hand, if you can't beat them... I've decided that if I ever start a fitness club, I'm going to call it "Fit for Purpose".

(Its motto? "It's gym life, but not as you know it.")