Don’t bore

I’ve been wanting to say: “it’s a little known fact” for a while. A phrase that reminds me of a sketch with the great Peter Cook. It was a show called the Secret Policeman’s Ball with a sketch called “Interesting Facts”. Cook sits on a park bench and talks to a well-dressed John Cleese as he is trying to read a tabloid newspaper. A succession of nonsense is streamed at the disinterested Cleese. Most of the comedy comes from the slow build-up of Cleese’s annoyance.
The parallel I have in mind is the mimicry that LEAVE campaigners are perfecting. Persistently revealing quirky and just plain wrong information to a general public who they think is interested. Having the effect of uniting the park bench bores but annoying the pants off of the rest of us.
The down side of this behaviour is that it could have the impact of turning people off. For those of us who are campaigning, the UK vote in June will be the most important vote for a generation. However, getting back to the normal life where a sizable proportion of people don’t vote at all, this annoyance factor presents a real problem.
Fortunately, the STAY (in the EU) side of the argument has a more positive message. Facts revealed need to be true and relevant to everyday life. The challenge remains to encourage as many people to vote as possible and not to annoy the pants off of the electorate.

Heritage matters

Wandering around sunny Harrow on Sunday lunchtime I was struck by the way suburban high streets look much the same. Generations of planners have allowed the erection of carbon copy shopping centres and trashed the remains of local heritage. Small specialist shops and traditional pubs struggle to maintain a foothold. This is one phenomenon that can’t be blamed on Europe. It’s what short-sighted English councils have done. Market forces have played their part but lack of imagination has played a bigger part.
This week, two high street names are under threat, namely British Home Stores and Austin Reed. Except for concern for those employed and the poor behaviour of their owners I can’t say that I will miss either one. In my opinion, BHS is C&A with electric light fittings and Reed’s shirts are fine but too expensive.
If I am to bring Continental Europe into this article, then it’s on the basis that a modest attempt to protect a town’s heritage does make business sense. It’s not just for places where tourists go but more broadly to improve the everyday experiences of working towns. A cleaner, safer and less homogenised environment would be good for us all. On-line shopping will kill the British high street if it’s not an attractive place to be. It would do no harm to look at Continental Europe and copy good ways of keeping traditional retailers and eateries afloat. There’s positive case for specific tax breaks and protections to keep local heritage and prosperity alive.