As pantomime season approaches, it’s pertinent to consider what this distinctly British entertainment says about us. Originating as a kind of “low opera”, British pantomime is a spectacle of song and dance embellished with colourful costumes and cross-dressing, buffoonery and slapstick, in-jokes and topical references, carefully orchestrated chaos and lots of audience participation.
Can we be defined in these terms? Are these really the elements that make up our national character? Is that what we’re all about in Britain? Oh no, it isn’t, you cry. Obviously, I’m obliged to deliver my riposte of ‘Oh yes, it is!’ But, if pushed, I’m prepared to cede a bit of ground on the cross-dressing issue.
Audience participation? We are constantly told that we live in a democratic One Nation, Big Society, All In It Together country, but isn’t our enfranchisement manipulated and constrained by the government and the media in exactly the same way as audience participation is manipulated and constrained by pantomime characters? With all three of our major political parties jostling for position on the same central ground, the choices available to the electorate are increasingly limited. And we’re denied a say on crucial issues like our sovereignty in the context of our membership of the European Union.
As for the buffoonery and orchestrated chaos, you can take your pick from a plethora of blunders, misdeeds and missteps. Our government presides over a corruption of morality, while EU bureaucrats are joined by activists and campaign groups intent on shooting the country in the foot. Two more egregious examples have surfaced in the last few days.
Firstly, anti-GM protesters attempted to “decontaminate” a field of modified wheat in Hertfordshire. Thankfully, police managed to prevent activists ripping up the crops near Rothamsted Park.
And, secondly, anti-fracking campaigners from across Britain delivered a letter to Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to impose an immediate ban on shale gas exploration and development in the UK.
At a time when we can no longer afford the government largesse we’ve become used to, it’s imperative that we sharpen our competitive edge in the global economy. The Luddites among us are putting our businesses at a grave disadvantage, allowing competitors elsewhere to seize the advantage. They seem to be totally unaware of the looming threat to our livelihoods. Everybody shout now: “It’s behind you!”