The English countryside’s “hideously white” nature is awkward but undeniable, with ethnic minorities estimated at around 1.4% of the rural population. As The Independent’s Matthew Norman noted regretfully:
“etween town and country, there is a colossal disconnection. As anyone who flits between them cannot fail to appreciate, there are two Englands, unbridged by suburbia and divided by a common language.”
This worries the kind of people who feel worried for a living and get paid to make other people worry. In 1992, the Commission for Racial Equality published a report called Keep Them in Birmingham which unsurprisingly painted “a disturbing picture.” Equally disturbing artworks have since been produced by the likes of the Observer, New Statesman, and Leicester University. The last remarked that:
“[T]he rural was also often referred to as being the embodiment of ‘Englishness’.”
…which evokes the often chortled-at 1924 romanticizing of Stanley Baldwin…
“To me, England is the country, and the country is England.”
True-May committed heresy by saying he likes rural England exactly as it is.
‘Race rows’ are usually followed by ritualized abasements, agreed to by the transgressor in the hope that he may one day retake his place in the hypersensitive host. True-May’s sins are venial as well as venal, down to his “borderline comb-over” hairstyle which—damningly—“bespeaks a buffer.” But even Matthew Norman acknowledges kindly that True-May seems “dim rather than malevolent.” So there may be a comeback, although that will depend on whether he backtracks, what control he retains over the highly lucrative franchise, and whether (or when) a token thespian of color can be shoehorned into a plot.
Yet even bringing in a black character would need to be done with great sensitivity. The Independent’s Tom Peck is mightily afeared:
“Jason Hughes, who plays DS Ben Jones, didn’t help matters yesterday with his response to True-May’s comments, which themselves seemed to stereotype the role a minority actor would play. ‘I don’t think we would all suddenly go: “A black gardener in Midsomer? You can’t have that!” I think we’d all go: “Great, fantastic!”’”
True-May’s career is poised on a plough edge, but so far Matthew Norman doesn’t think he should be sacked, nor do other great thinkers such as the Guardian’s Hugh Muir, however much he detests this “phonetically refined Alf Garnett.”
The Daily Mirror cites a survey which shows that Midsomer is “strikingly unpopular” among minorities—which, to the neurotically inclined, means that the show (and by implication all rural England) is increasingly irrelevant. As Runnymede Trust rent-a-quote Bob Berkeley said almost angrily:
“[T]o claim that the English village is purely white is no longer true and not a reflection of our society….”
What he and all the other Afro-Saxon activists can’t stomach is that that is exactly why so many people love Midsomer. It seems the English should enjoy their killings while they can.
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