Stefan Buczacki’s Diary: Remembering George Brown and the real problem with Countryfile


George Brown

They threw away the mould when they made Labour’s former Foreign Secretary George Brown.

I recently came across a faded natural history book in my library with a publication date of 1908. Beneath his name on the title page, the author had indicated his qualifications: MA (Oxon), FLS, Member of the National Trust. Ah, those were the days, when National Trust membership equated to an Oxford degree and fellowship of the Linnean Society. Now, five million folk share the privilege and there is no argument that if we did not have a National Trust to care for so much of our historic heritage, we would have to invent one.

But why does the National Trust of today often feel the need to treat me like a viewer of Blue Peter, its properties masquerading as theme parks with volunteers dressed in faux costumes and talking in strange contrived accents? Far too often the trust confuses education with entertainment; and I do not think its purpose is to entertain.

Stop labelling me

Above all the other irritations that are probably unavoidable with an organisation that has now become so big and bureaucratic, why has it felt necessary for the trust to join the toe-curling vogue for anthropomorphism? Several of the properties I visit regularly have little notices on the antique chairs – “Please do not sit on me; I am very old”. It is like waiting at a bus stop only for the next one along to have its indicator board reading: “Sorry, I am not in service” (I have even seen: “Sorry, I am taking a holiday”). Come on National Trust, you are better than a bus company, so do treat us like adults.

The MP who called me brother

It is said rather frequently that modern politics is bereft of characters. A few members do their best to be distinctive; and Dennis Skinner, thank goodness, is always with us. However, I was fortunate in growing up represented by someone who was unarguably a character. Like Dennis, he was a Derbyshire MP, although one now largely forgotten and from a bit further south in a constituency that in my day was called Belper but today, awful to relate, is largely subsumed into an invention known as Amber Valley (who dreams up these names?).

Yes, they threw away the mould when they made George Brown. I met him several times, attended some of his constituency meetings and recall particularly my birthday in 1964, the day he was appointed first secretary of state by Harold Wilson. To his credit, he kept to a long-standing engagement to address our school sixth form society. I can even remember the question I asked him: what did he think of the use of the referendum in politics? As I am an only child, his response was the first time any one had ever called me brother, but he was non-committal: “Not sure,” he said. “Never have been.”

Lord with a difference

Brown was always called George Brown and stayed so when he was …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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