If I ruled the world: Edwina Currie

Sack spoilt footballers, make southerners travel north, and have more fun
November 14, 2012

If I ruled the world we would have a lot more fun... and nobody would sneer at older people who hold hands and have the occasional cuddle. As long as they pay their taxes and don’t upset the neighbours, I don’t care much who does what with whom; that’s why I am in favour of gay marriage and urge all my friends to tie the knot. But I do get irritated at the idea, much peddled in the media, that life stops at 40.

I’m a baby boomer, one of the generation that changed the world in the 1960s; we are not ready to settle into the rocking chair by the fire just yet. My reforms, however, would start with keeping us healthy, so I would make dog ownership prescribable on the NHS to all over-60s. Never mind the statins (on the way to becoming compulsory, it seems): walking the dog come rain or shine will put a bounce in your step and a twinkle in your eye. It’s quite good for the dog, too, who will love you for ever.

Then I’d insist that all meals should be eaten round a table, everyone together at the same time. Conversation would be halting at first, especially for a younger generation accustomed to grunts and 140 letter tweets. But they’d soon learn. The only exception would be on Saturday nights for Strictly Come Dancing, when sofas and trays would be de rigueur, provided the participants donned sequins and sparkly earrings.

Turning my attention to those youngsters, I perceive a need to change other aspects of their culture. In the wake of the Olympics and Paralympics, we have to get kids more interested in sport of all kinds, and more aware that competitiveness spurs us on to high achievement. So to get them started I’d have a new X Factor-style TV show for young athletes, where they could show off their prowess running, leaping, throwing javelins, performing on the pommel horse, wrestling, weightlifting—the lot! With cash prizes and guaranteed places in national teams for the finalists. The message: that it’s not just singing, dancing, and prancing pooches that we encourage and celebrate. You can be a great runner, you can be British, and you can be a star.

That said, I want some reforms of our national sport, football. I’d like it more like rugby, please. There would be an automatic ban on divers. And for dissing the ref. And for pulling shirts, and dirty tricks in the goalmouth; a penalty is not enough. The game would have to be monitored by modern video and line technology of course, but that should have been adopted years ago as in other sports. The ban would extend to players who moaned about their salaries, as Ashley Cole did: £55,000 per week, I’d remind him, is twice the national average earned in a year. Be grateful—or you’re off.

And finally: we hear a lot about rich and poor, but what about the imbalance between the north and south of this country? Too many Brits know Malaga but not Manchester, love Bali but wouldn’t touch Bournemouth. That’s bad for the economy, but it’s awful when people from a single country don’t know each other or appreciate what unfamiliar parts have to offer. So I’d have compulsory week-long summer holidays in which five million southerners would be obliged to come north and get to know the glorious Peak District, the Lake District, the north Yorkshire moors, and places like Edinburgh and Inverness and Orkney. They’d eat Manx kippers and real fish’n’chips with vinegar and Eccles cakes and Bakewell pudding (not at the same time, of course), and it’d do them a power of good. Then, to right the balance, I’d take five million northerners each year, the stroppier the better, and show them the coast of Devon, the glories of Salisbury and Winchester, and sail them around the Solent. Devon cream teas and Rick Stein fish pie would be on the menu, and I bet they’d never want to come home. After staycations like that we’d get closer to being a truly United Kingdom.

Can I start right away, please?