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Rural TV show could do a lot worse than this guest presenter

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 09, 2013

Very few national figures go out of their way on a regular basis to speak up for the countryside. Prince Charles has been doing so for years

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The future king has been given a new job in television – long live the future king…

That, after much thought, is what I ended up thinking having been told that Prince Charles is to edit the 25th-anniversary edition of Countryfile.

When an editor asked me to write a piece about this fact, I said I'd oblige without realising how long and hard I'd have to ponder over my approach to the subject.

At first I thought I didn't particularly care either way. Then a quick Google search revealed that the British media has, as usual, been just a little bit sniffy and snide about the idea of Prince Charles becoming a TV executive, albeit temporarily.

For many years now, when the heir to our throne does just about anything, we get tree-hugging references and quips about his more outspoken or unusual points-of-view. Several papers this week imagined His Royal Highness teaching Countryfile presenter Adam Henson about talking to plants in a bid to make them feel better and more productive.

Henson has already been quoted as saying there's no way he could operate his Cotswold farm – 30 miles from Prince Charles' organic Highgrove estate – without the help of the odd chemical spray or two.

Never mind. Having a little cynical chortle over the Prince's passions has become one of those national pastimes – like loathing Manchester United unless you actually support Man U, or referring to Michael Fish if the weather goes unexpectedly wrong, or expecting Mayor Boris to make a blunder, or knowing it will rain on any given Bank Holiday…

We like our default positions. They make us feel comfortable. And the nation's stance of not taking Prince Charles too seriously has become just another of those knee-jerk reactions.

In some Westcountry areas this is also peppered with the extra spice of discontent – not everyone here is a fan of Duchy of Cornwall estates. Not, at any rate, if my email inbox is anything to go by.

But, having said all this, I reckon we could do far worse than have this particular individual as one of our national icons – and I also think it fine for him be editing the celebratory 25th birthday edition of Countryfile.

For a start, Prince Charles will not be able to do any worse than the programme's regular producers have since it was moved to its more popular Sunday night slot. If I had a fiver for everyone who's complained to me about the programme's "dumbing-down" I could afford a lifetime's supply of Duchy Originals.

Yes, it does feature Tom Heap's serious and excellent (but all too brief) forays into rural issues – and dear old John Craven is, and always has been, a man worth watching. Added to that Farmer Henson is popular everywhere he goes and does a really good job of putting across farming to a wider public – albeit in his own rather cute-rare-breed-ish kind of way.

Talking of popularity, no one seems to actually dislike Matt Baker who has become the nation's answer to "That Nice Boy Next Door". But…

I am beginning to weary of Smiley Matt's constant bouncy bid to please. He seems to be saying: "Look everyone – I can go anywhere and present anything and because I'm so nice and cheerful and smiley. And that will do."

Then we get to the person who, in my opinion, is Britain's worst TV presenter. I won't go on about Julia Bradbury – I've complained in these pages about her ridiculous, mind-withering, platitudinous delivery many times before. But I will just say this: last time I wrote about her, many readers emailed or tweeted to agree with me – and a word used more than any other was "bossy".

To me (and many others) Ms Bradbury has a kind of steel-fisted bossiness only thinly disguised by one of the worst senses of humour you will see on TV – like one of those upbeat public school mistresses who's just slightly eccentric under the smiles. But then something far, far darker seems to be lurking just under that…

So I'm wondering how she will get away with bossing about our Heir to the Throne. Somehow, I can't see the relationship working.

Back to my main theme… we should have a moratorium when it comes to the national stance on Prince Charles. He's one of the good guys. You can't, believe me, say that about many multi-millionaires. Just because he comes out with what cleverer-than-thou London media types deem to be old-fashioned arguments, so what? Many in the Westcountry would agree, for example, with his thoughts on modernist architectural carbuncles, and so on…

And, whether we do or not, at least most readers of this newspaper will know that very few national figures go out of their way on a regular basis to speak up for the countryside. Prince Charles has been doing so for years.

We might not concur with all he says, but I reckon HRH is better qualified to head-up an edition of Countryfile than 99 out of every 100 politicians or London-based media-commentators. Better qualified, I'd say, than the programme's regular bosses.

Countryfile: A Royal Appointment is on BBC One on Sunday at 7.00pm

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