The Third Leader: Country matters

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The Independent Online

Rural idyllists are once again causing concern. These urban spurners are now moving to the country in such numbers that one almost expects to sight wagon trains beyond Basildon, Bedford and Basingstoke.

It's easy to list the attendant problems: creaking infrastructures, soaring property prices, disadvantaged locals, alienating and alienated incomers destroying the dream they seek. Easy, but not, apparently, showing much power of dissuasion.

The solution? Well, some have suggested shock tactics: compulsory listening to The Archers, for example, or a country citizenship test, in which all migrants would have to demonstrate a sound knowledge of flitching, fletching, thatching, hedging, the lack of happy endings in Thomas Hardy, and how to spell Pam Ayres.

Sad figures who had failed to settle could forlornly stalk our cities, buttonholing passers by with stark tales of ticks, midges, and having to join in. More, too, could surely be made of the delays caused by waiting for cows to pass.

At the same time, though, it would also be useful to stress the essential similarity of urban and rural life, often disguised by different nomenclature (a pond in the country, for example, is known in urban situations as a water feature).

This would be matched by my key feature: encouraging country people to settle in the city, by focusing on the excitements - such as the easy availability of coffee, sharing the pavement with cyclists, and driving a 4x4 - but, above all, on the sheer relief of not having to know what everything is called and whether it means rain if it scratches its left ear or a late harvest if it happens in the third week of February.

Come on!