What should be on display in a museum of Britishness (but undoubtedly won't)

    Last updated at 23:01pm on 12th December 2007

    Gordon Brown has lent his support to a campaign for a museum of British history to celebrate this country's glorious past and the moral leadership it has given the rest of the world. Here, we preview the exhibits which should be put on display...

    Welcome to this audio guide to the Museum of Britishness.

    We hope you will enjoy your tour of Britain as it was, not in dim, distant history but a matter of only 40-odd years ago.

    Please bear in mind that everything you see and hear is 100 per cent factual and can safely be used as the basis for school and college essays.

    Some of our younger visitors, in particular, have accused us of peddling pure make-believe, but be assured: Britishness really was like this.
    As you clear security and pass through the entrance hall, you'll see our main exhibit: a working model of Britain as it was as late as the Sixties.
    We call it a working model because just about everything - and everyone - in the country in those days actually worked.

    There was full employment; public services and utilities did what they were supposed to do; and you did not open the newspaper each morning to read yet another example of mind-boggling incompetence or neglect.
    In Gallery One, you will find a series of tableaux representing institutions which once underpinned the sense of being British, but which over recent decades have been relentlessly, indeed systematically, undermined.
    On your left is an educational system whose first priority was learning and whose teaching of humanities would have made a "museum of history" redundant.
    Spare a glance for the lifelike model of a school teacher disciplining an unruly pupil without fear of prosecution for assault or physical violence from a parent, and the child sitting an exam in which spelling and grammar are of paramount importance.

    Your right is a National Health Service which people trusted utterly, confident they would not be left for days on trolleys in A&E departments, put into humiliating mixed- sex wards, subjected to filth, squalor and lethal hospital-bred superbugs or treated in so- called care homes with a cruelty that even the Dickensian age hardly knew.
    In the glass case a few yards on is a figure many younger visitors may not have seen before.
    This used to be known as a beat bobby, a uniformed police officer who patrolled the streets, day and night, dealing with smallscale crime with a mixture of firmness and common sense, deterring a significant proportion of it by his very presence.
    Compare his low-key rig with the machine-gun-equipped paramilitaries who arrested pathetic Anne Darwin at the airport and you have the whole story.
    In the Gordon Brown Atrium is a nationalised railway system that had its faults and industrial troubles, but was preferable to a gaggle of rip-'em-off private firms and a fare structure even Socrates couldn't understand.
    Over here is a phone service which made do with a single, free directory inquiry service instead of half-a-dozen costly private ones.
    And also a postal service that was the envy of the world. At this time of year would come the familiar story of how a letter addressed only to 'Bill Bloggs, London' was delivered.
    Moving on to the Transport Room, we find one of our most popular slice- of-life displays.
    This is a working model of Heathrow Airport in the days when flying was regarded as a pleasure and plane travel seemed to be improving all the time in speed and comfort.
    The most-visited section shows passengers simply walking to the aircraft, without queuing for two hours at a security barrier, removing their coats and shoes, putting their cosmetics in transparent bags and having their bottled water confiscated.
    So effective is this display that it has been known to reduce some older visitors to tears.
    The views of British streets 40-odd years ago can have the same poignant effect, with graffiti-free walls and buildings, and an absence of speed bumps.
    Particularly affecting is the film footage of city centres on Friday and Saturday nights without a single teenage girl to be seen vomiting into the gutter.
    On to the Duchess of Cornwall Annex, in which you will find exhibits on broadcasting.
    Note the abundance of high-quality drama, documentary and comedy in the slots now monopolised by cheap makeover shows.
    Note also the far more relaxed pace, uncluttered by dumbeddown over- explanation and melodramatic theme music.
    You will see a section devoted to the BBC in the era when it created a collective culture for the nation instead of pandering to multi-culturalism or merely chasing ratings.
    There are also extracts from Japanese reality shows of the early Eighties, where people would torture and humiliate themselves by eating insects or bungee-jumping out of aircraft in exchange for five minutes of fame.
    How we used to mock them, before our present age of TV dross, confident that such human freak shows could never be broadcast here.
    Beyond is the Gallery Of Humanity, dedicated to the British people as they used to be.
    A race with its foibles, but essentially kind, tolerant, self-disciplined and considerate of others.
    We were not given to weeping, shrieking or embracing each other in the Continental manner, nor flying into pathological rages at the slightest provocation.
    Perhaps the most fascinating footage shows British holiday-makers abroad, seated peacefully in the sun rather than rampaging like cohorts of Attila the Hun.
    Thanks to our Sensible-surround process, you can experience the British psyche as it used to be before it was force-fed guilt about its colonial past - as in Tony Blair's "apology" for the 18th-century slave trade - and nervousness lest its traditions and religious festivals should give offence to minorities.
    get a sense of a patriotism without grandiose rhetoric. Our forebears would have found the idea of this museum laughable because Britishness belonged to the present, not the past.
    In one of the audio booths, why not experience the British accent as it was until the late Eighties, before Australian TV soaps destroyed our vowel sounds.
    A young person would say "going home" rather than "gaying ho-yoom".
    Return briefly to the years when everyone except Cockneys pronounced the letter 't'; when people still did "research" rather than "ree-search"; and a cafe customer said "One coffee, please" rather than "Can I get a low-fat grande macchiato?" like a character from Friends.
    That concludes our audio tour.
    Please hand in this headset as you exit.
    Counselling is available for those who have found the experience upsetting. Have a nice day.


    Best of British: Dilligent pupils (left) and a compassionate NHS

    Country's glory: Post delivered in all weathers

    Nostalgia: TV's Dixon of Dock Green
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  2. Excellent article.

    The US could use something simular, I don't think today's kids believe me when I say we played outside long after dark on summer evenings, we feared our teachers as much as our parents, and welfare was a hand up, not a way of life.

    Yup, the "good ol' days".