Andrew Martin: How the PM can escape from reality

Low crime, no curfew... that's Southwold

Share
Related Topics

I write this from a rented house in Southwold, the Suffolk coastal town braced for the arrival of Mr Brown – "that's Mr Brown, the Prime Minister", as I heard one quavery lady explaining to another outside the Sailors' Reading Room. Mr Brown has chosen – or been advised – to take a British seaside holiday, to show solidarity with the impoverished voters. As he walks around this pretty, historic place, relaxing and being photographed by a hundred mobile phones, what lessons might he learn?

He will quickly see why Southwold is called Hampstead-on-Sea. Around now, the City boys are checking in with the caretakers of their second homes, in the town's pubs. "Have we managed to do anything about the crows on the TV aerial, Tom?" I heard a well-spoken man ask. By "we", of course, he meant "you". Might Mr Brown see in this relationship an example of the service economy of which he is proud? Or is it the creation of another servant class? From my researches, the No 1 message that Southwold would like to send Mr Brown is: '"Will you please stop the super rich from buying up our town?"

Mr Brown will note that no 9pm youth curfew is required in Southwold. The invigorating air ensures that people of all ages spontaneously go to bed about then. And there is approximately one crime a week here, although Mr Brown may observe a young boy walking around wringing his hands, moaning, 'Not in Southwold... not in Southwold!' That will be my son, who was the victim of last week's offence. His bag was stolen from the beach, not that a friendly local policewoman could believe it: "Bound to turn up soon!" One local attributed the rarity of such events to the fact that "there's only one road into and out of this place... whereas in London there's nothing but escape roads". (And on that one exit there is a police station.)

There is certainly no 24-hour drinking in Southwold, and knife crime hereabouts is when one of the City boys puts a Sabatier in the dishwasher on the hot setting. (Does the handles no good at all, you know).

According to Pevsner, Southwold has "hardly a building that is a visual nuisance", and indeed the main aspect of public life in the town is the putting forward of tasteful planning applications, which will be stamped "rejected". Mr Brown's reform of the planning laws will fast-track the building of monstrosities. Its chief aim is to allow the building of nuclear power stations rather than obtrusive rear extensions, but it seems to be the prospect of the latter that bothers Southwold more than the threat of another nuclear power station alongside the one down the coast at Sizewell. Even so, nobody swims near Sizewell, and Mr Brown had better not raise the subject. He will also learn that the term "post office" is loaded with tension, since the closure of the one at the next village, Reydon, went down very badly. Southwold's own post office survives. He will see that it is full of jolly people sending jolly postcards, and is cacophonous with merry "Good mornings" or "Good afternoons".

"Mr Brown can't learn anything here," one local told me. "It's completely unreal." I trust the people of Southwold will not begrudge Mr Brown his respite from reality.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz