Latch on to the affirmative They love it, so shouldn't we?

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The Independent Online
Who said this, of what, where? "The training here is better, and so is the money: £1,300 a month, compared with £900." Answer: Hannes Muller-Ehrenberg, a German junior doctor working in Shrewsbury. She was quoted at the weekend, in a survey which revealed that about 1,000 German doctors are now working in the National Health Service.

Is this another NHS crisis? If we were less fascinated by navel-gazing at our supposed decline, we might alternatively take it as evidence that some things, at least, are right with the place. It is interesting, to say the least, that German hospital doctors, like Japanese car-makers, should be so keen to set up here.

Perhaps it is time for the rubbishing of Britain to stop. In Theatres of Memory, to be published next week, the social historian, Raphael Samuel, even rehabilitates Britain's heritage industry and our so-called museum culture. Shouldn't we, he asks, start asking just why it is all so popular, instead of slamming it? Can millions of National Trust visitors all be wrong? (The first waves of anger from among other cultural critics are already lapping around Samuel's feet.)

This is, as it happens, the centenary year of the Trust, which would be on anybody's list of British Brownie points. This is not because of what it does to cherish lordly mansions, but because of the sheer quantity of landscape and coastline it has preserved, for everybody's benefit. The Trust has never had any fashionable illusions about whether ownership of an asset matters or not.

Outside Britain, where else can you walk, almost at will, along footpaths that are a right held in common? Where else are wild birds less at risk of being shot out of the sky? What country, in fact, has fewer guns of any kind?

Nor are local virtues entirely negative. By international standards, freedom of speech and freedom of learning flourish. For all the reproaches against the tabloid press, we still have the most diverse and vivid newspapers anywhere in the world.

And for all the frustrations of British universities, we have still reached the point at which one in three school-leavers goes on to a degree course, and we have retained (on Lord Dahrendorf's estimate) three of the 10 best universities in the world.

The rest are all in the United States. Hence the famous brain-drain. But we read less about those who later come drifting back. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the Atlantic, or of the Channel.

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