Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's Be-Nice-To-Muslims week

THERE HAVE been many casualties since NuLabour’s urbanites declared war on the countryside.

The poor unfortunates who find themselves living next to a field of feral gypsies; the villagers who have lost their pub, post office and school; all those whose livelihoods are threatened by bans on country sports; the young and old alike left stranded and isolated by the extinction of public transport links; the small farmers starved into submission by supermarket buyers who think every carrot should be a standard size; the vulnerable and frightened who have been abandoned by a retreating police force; oh, and hang on, here comes John Prescott and his cement mixer, ready to concrete over thousands of acres of previously-protected green space for “affordable” housing. (And “affordable” for who? Why, the government employees of Mr Blah’s Turkey Army, of course.)

Now even the Countryside Agency, the government quango set up to look after rural issues, has turned against the people it is supposed to represent. The reason? Well, it appears that ethnic minorities, city dwellers and the disabled don’t feel “welcome” once they venture out of their urban jungles into the leafy lanes beyond.

As part of a £1.5 million “diversity review” (no, I don’t know what it means either), the agency has concluded that minority groups are keen to enjoy the countryside, but that “a lack of confidence among providers in approaching people from these groups results in a lack of engagement with people who could use their facilities” (and no, I don’t know what that means either).

I suspect that the apparatchiks have been offended by the fact that the brochure for Mrs Miggins’ Olde Fashioned Offal and Chutney Pie Experience (one of our local attractions) doesn’t have any black faces on its cover. Or that very few wheelchair-users ride out with the local hunt. Or that we failed to invite an Islington-dwelling representative of the social services to last year’s Ferret Racing and Witch Ducking Festival.

And don’t forget, it’s not so long ago that a group of ramblers who provided guided walks in the Lake District were threatened with having their funding withdrawn for much the same reason. (Although I can’t imagine that bearded Muslims carrying rucsacks are in great demand at the moment.) And what about the lifeboat service denied Lottery funding because they didn’t save enough disabled people or “ethnics”? What are they supposed to do? Bring back the Press Gang?

“I don’t know what happened, officer. I was having a quiet pint in the Blagger on Benefit when I was hit over the head. When I came to, I was strapped into my wheelchair and floating in the middle of the English Channel …”

The truth of the matter is that the countryside isn’t a particularly welcoming place. It is a working environment, and often a harsh one. Nature raw in tooth and claw. Strangers are sometimes viewed with suspicion, usually because they’ve come to steal a tractor.

When the writers of The League of Gentlemen invented that fearsome “local shop for local people” they weren’t exaggerating: they were playing it down. And if you do embrace the concept of shopping locally to support local business, and then summon up the courage to cross the forbidding threshold, all you’ll find is stale cakes, dusty packets of Bisto and a couple of bottles of Icelandic chardonnay at £9.99 a time.

Sometimes it’s just easier to jump in the 4x4 and go to Tesco. At least the checkout girl won’t have six fingers and a squint. Well, not usually, anyway.

IN THE wake of the London bombings, grief junkies from around the world have been rushing to post pictures of themselves in various states of defiance on a website called's fine as far as it goes, but what about the people who are afraid? Who's looking after the interests of those who have no intention of ever setting foot on public transport again? Or ever going anywhere near London again?With these timid souls in mind, I am about to launch a site called where nervous commuters can post pictures of themselves looking a bit worried, rather timid, or simply scared shitless.It's only fair.

I SUPPOSE that you, like me, have spent the last week being nice to Muslims. It must be a bit unsettling for the poor buggers – dozens of middle-class white people grinning inanely at them instead of completely ignoring them as usual.

But you do feel the need to make some effort, if only to mentally project the message that “It’s OK, we understand that you’re not all fanatical suicide bombers … although actually that bloke over there does look a bit iffy”.

One of the most alarming facts to come to light this week was how easy it seems to assemble a bomb from basic household items like hydrogen peroxide and acetone. Although I would have hoped that the alarm bells might have rung when a bearded Muslim turned up in Boots buying hair bleach and nail varnish remover. And if I was MI5, I’d be popping round to see Barry Scott, star of the Cillit Bang television ads, sharpish.

And all these police raids on Islamic bookshops. If Al Quaeda are that smart, why don’t they open Christian bookshops instead? That would fool the cops. They could even buy Ottakers. That already sounds a bit Arabic.

Just a thought.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who knew we had a Minister for Bees before he appeared on Radio 4 on Monday morning, of anyone who doesn’t know who dies at the end of the latest Harry Potter book, or of anyone who doesn’t think that the Big Brother tryst between the besotted Craig and not-gay-honestly Anthony will end in tears. Probably during a screaming match in the Bigg Market at 2am on a Saturday night before Craig flees back to his hotel and eats 50 paracetomals.


Post a Comment

<< Home