Peter Rhodes on diminishing Auntie, being a global power and handing national treasures over to our kids
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
Last week's item on the Solar Probe made the point that the EU is obliged by treaty to invest in space exploration. I failed to mention the justification for this. It is a phrase which crops up time after time in EU rules. It is all about “strengthening the EU's role as a global actor.” Strange choice of words. Who wants to be a global actor when you can be a global power?
Here's a great idea. The Government is sending the Crown Jewels on a nationwide, hands-on tour of British schools. The kids will be allowed to handle the ancient treasures to help them understand British history. And if some of the orbs, sceptres and crowns get stolen or defaced, well, that's fine because it will be a “new story” in the history of the pieces.
I tell a lie. It's not the Crown Jewels that are being taken from their air-conditioned vaults and handed over to the rough-hewn mercies of unruly kids. It is Britain's collection of ancient documents from the National Archives which are arguably more valuable than jewels. William Shakespeare's will, a letter from Queen Elizabeth I and an account of the Great Fire of London are among items to be removed from the vaults for school pupils to handle. Chairman of the Archives Sir Anthony Seldon says: “We want schoolchildren everywhere to be touching the documents, getting excited.” Asked on Radio 4 about the risks of damage or theft, Sir Anthony gushed: “That would create another new national story.”
Thankfully, some experts are not so keen on kids getting anywhere near these national treasures and are calling for a “kid glove” approach. But here's an idea. Before dispatching Ye Olde Papers to our schools, why not have a trial run with something less valuable? May I suggest Sir Anthony Seldon's personal papers, medical records, title deeds and certificate of knighthood be handed over to a typical Year Ten class? And if his last will and testament comes back with the addition: “Wolves Rule 4 Ever,” well, it's an exciting new story, isn't it?
Anyway, in this age of digital imaging, who needs the original documents? It would be a great national project to give every child entering secondary school a folder containing duplicates of the most important documents from British history, from the Domesday Book and Magna Carta to the Act repealing slavery, a couple of Churchill's speeches and the German surrender of 1945. We have the best history in the world but seem incapable of teaching it to our kids.
Sir David Clementi (no, me neither), chairman of the BBC, warns that if the Corporation loses its licence fees the UK will be “diminished.” The BBC, you may recall, declined to broadcast the Prime Minister's speech as Britain left the EU. Auntie Beeb is perfectly capable of diminishing herself.