Christopher Maume: 'The British National party is right about one thing: the country is filling up'

Related Topics

I am not a fan of the BNP, honest. Nick Griffin, patron saint of the benighted and cross-eyed, is as about as high on my list of People To Hug Before I Die as Melanie Phillips or the Grimes twins are. By way of consolation, they all enjoy exalted placings in the list of People To Hang Before I Die. But the British National Party are right about one thing: the country is filling up. Bill Bryson could have called his love letter to Britain Notes from a Small Island With Too Many People, Especially in London.

The capital must have been hell in the 1930s, at its peak population of 8.5m. Now it's a million down on that – but most of them seem to want to get into all the same places as me at exactly the same time (not to mention catch the same train, shop in the same supermarket and hail the same cab). The museums in South Kensington are a half-term militarised zone; taking the family to the Thames Festival in the summer was to be caught up in a human river running parallel to the watery version, with no chance to fight the tide. Alan Johnson says he doesn't lie awake at night worrying about the prospect of a UK population of 70m; well, he should.

If Johnson is perceived as the bouncer who's rubbish on the door, I have a similar ongoing domestic scandal: Filter and Splat, goldfish acquired as replacements for a dead cat a few months ago, have been recently joined by Tiffany and Ruby, given as a birthday presents to my stepdaughter by friends who should have known better. As a vegetarian who doesn't really believe in pets and disagrees with keeping animals cooped up, I wasn't happy about the fish in the first place, but was persuaded that the tank we were buying was big enough for two of them. In fact, it's big enough for three, according to the manual; but not four. At the expense of family concord, arrangements are being made to rehouse the asylum seekers.

Piscine overcrowding causes stress ("Stress? In fish? For God's sake," my stepdaughter muttered). It makes disease more likely, depletes oxygen levels and ramps up the parasite quotient. Much like human overcrowding. Perhaps with the plight of Splat and Co in mind, there was a family visit to London Aquarium at the weekend (next to an attraction whose name I forget, but it's something like "The London Near-Death Experience", its punter-pulling strategy consisting of dressing up its operatives in ghoul gear and sending them out to scare children and pensioners).

Behind the glass, the aquarium was a mirror image of multicultural Britain, in which by and large we bump along together peacefully: weedy sea dragons sidled by big-bellied seahorses (those are their names – I'm not being rude), wrasses wriggled past rays, leopard sharks shot the breeze with turtles as big as my kitchen table. No stress there, then (and did you know that octopuses have blue blood and three hearts and are more intelligent than the average Premiership footballer?). On the mammalian side of the glass, however, the human factor prevailed, which wasn't good. All those big brains, so little thought.

It's not that the Aquarium people let too many in; I'm sure current consumer-density guidelines are adhered to. But it feels like too many, which I think is a function of the general decline in urban civility and the rise in urban stupidity, all fuelled by population overload. Signs and announcements such as "Flash photography can hurt the fishes' eyes" and "touching the rays is bad for their health" were explicit and unmistakable. But it was an epileptic's nightmare in there and a ray-tickler's dream. How thick are people (they were mostly natives, incidentally)? Outside, on the steps leading up to Westminster Bridge, an entire family, six or seven of them, were spread out across the full width eating lunch while bottlenecks built up above and below. Hand me my Kalashnikov, darling, and look the other way.

The depressing thing about all this is that apart from breeding less and forgetting about medical advances, the human race has no solution. Short of a souped-up swine flu or something similar wiping out a chunk of the world's population, we're all, as they say, doomed. Goodbye self-restraint, hello mass extinction.

John Walsh will return next week

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobThe successful ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Tony and Cherie Blair on the day he was elected  

The intensity of the adulation for Blair ought to concern Labour’s ‘new’ man

Steve Richards
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor