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Time to raise a glass, be merry and stick together...

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 22, 2012

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If ever there was a weekend to be jolly, this is it. Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, we've got a high-day-and-holiday ahead of us, and all should be good with the world…

Can you hear a "but" coming up? Well, yes. And no…

Because I am one of those old fashioned souls who really does think Christmas should be something special – not because I am religious in any way, but because I have some deep inherited feeling in my bones that we should mark, or defy in some way, the very depths of winter.

The ancients were doing it long before events in the Middle East gave us a religion 2,000 years ago – and I reckon that until global warming allows us to grow date palms in December we'll carry on lighting our darkest days with attempted joy.

Christmas is one thing that should bring us all together. You can't escape it in this country unless you happen to be stranded on the Isle of Rockall.

And that's where my "but" comes in. The little niggle that's bothered me this week – and I'll bet many Westcountry folk will feel the same way…

On the theme of "we're all in just about everything together", you'd think our leading broadcaster would know and understand this better than anyone else.

But no… As I write this, the rain is falling hard and flood warnings have been issued all across the South West and Wales. And yet the Today programme on Radio Four has just seen fit, not only to lead with the story about the corporation's recent mishandlings and ineptitudes, but go on to give the subject over 20 minutes of air-time.

Major world disasters don't get that. And the fact that so many British citizens were/are facing grief and misery right here on our own national doorstep seemed to escape the bubble-dwellers altogether.

We all, to some extent, live in a bubble. That's how life is. But when you are charged with representing an entire nation you'd better know how to cast asunder the shackles of your own tiny existence.

Which the BBC at a national level constantly fails to do – alongside that other great all-embracing institution, central government. Yes, I know MPs represent constituencies – but if I'm wrong why else do we use the phrase "Westminster Village"?

I am sorry to be crude about this – but what I see on the high altar of our national media is a bunch of people with well paid jobs sticking their heads firmly up their own backsides.

It's as if they're saying: "Look, we are the important ones – what we do is paramount and vital. So it stands to reason that we have to cover anything and everything that happens here in central London in great detail.

"You folk out there in the sticks are just little people. You don't make momentous decisions like we do. So if you are suffering something as down to earth and ordinary as a flood – check out our local radio service or whatever. But stay tuned to us to hear about the really important stuff – involving us, and our bosses."

They also seem to like such issues because someone can be blamed and hung out to dry. Who can John Humphrys harangue for heavy rain?

So much for the London media bubble… When I do talks or meet groups on behalf of this newspaper, people often ask me why they should bother with the regional media nowadays when they can get information on Twitter and on local radio and TV.

The answer is simple: we create, on a daily basis, the only real collective, comprehensive assembly of thoughts and ideas which is orchestrated in a way that actually stands up for this region.

People ask me what this newspaper's politics are and I answer the question in this way: we do not sway right or left – we do not back one political party. But we do, unashamedly, stick up for – and give voice to – country people.

This peninsula is mainly rural and in the ten years I've been writing opinion columns here I have seen an erosion of power when it comes to folk who live out in the sticks.

Here's an example: since I've been writing this very article an email has arrived from an organisation called the Rural Services Network, headlined: "Countryside hit hardest as government cuts council funding".

Let's raise a glass, be merry, and stick together this Christmas. And let's do it all next year, and the one after that…

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