The Third Leader: In praise of scruffiness

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Oh, dear. We, the British, are accused of being cynical, celebrity-obsessed, binge-drinking, junk-eating noisy vandals with the fastest growing appetite for internet pornography in the world. And in addition to all that, when we go abroad, according to another report, we're also rude, mean and scruffy.

Well. Excuse me. I know some politicians and commentators (including, if I recall correctly, this one) have been warning against a certain complacency and lack of self-examination in the nation recently, but really.

It's not that bad, is it? Come on. Of course, it's not. Let us seek some balance. At the very least, it would be pretty tricky to do all that stuff at the same time. And, according to the admonishing Lonely Planet guide, visitors from around the world will feel welcome and at ease here, which is certainly true: only last week, for example, a top Mafia godfather was found to be living just outside Preston. Tony Blair pops in occasionally, too.

I also note that French tourists are judged to be ruder, Germans meaner, Italians louder and Americans scruffier, while Birmingham and Swansea win praise. Running rapidly through other items on the news agenda, English wines are sparkling; the number of sickies taken has fallen, and if you're worried about fortnightly rubbish collections, try Amalfi. Prepare confidently, as well, for another Liverpool triumph in Europe tonight.

Indeed, as we look forward to the accession of a brave new (and, all right, slightly scruffy) leader, and, of course, that always uplifting experience, Big Brother, my only real concern is that Mr John Prescott is currently in the Caribbean.