Richard Beeching spent most of his career in obscurity as a director of a chemical company. It was for this reason Harold Macmillan commissioned him to report on the state of Britain’s railways. Britain had a choice between investing in roads or rail. Spoilers, it made the wrong choice.
Beeching cut thousands of miles of railway, isolating remote communities from the rest of the country. Beeching, a cold bureaucrat, was unmoved by the effect his cuts would have on people across the country. His plan was nodded through by the Transport Minister at the time, Ernest Marples (owner of a company that manufactured road bridges).
Travelling by train can be a pleasure, but Britain has half as much railway track as Germany. Because of Beeching, train travelers are packed in like sardines. Train travellers have to pay extortionate fares because of the lack of government investment in the railways, a process started with Beeching and continued with successive governments that prioritised the motorist.
Where other European countries have environmentally friendly, cheap train travel, we have dirty and uncomfortable cars or expensive and overcrowded trains. Well done Beeching, well done.
My nomination for worst Briton of all time is a former Conservative Prime Minister – no, not her – Sir Edward Heath.
He resided in 10 Downing Street for only four years between 1970-1974, but the damage caused by his time in office has lasted ten times as long.
Let’s start with the worst accusation of all; since 2015, Heath has been posthumously under investigation regarding allegations of child abuse.
Earlier this year it was revealed that had Heath been alive, he would have been questioned and named a suspect with regard to 26 cases, many against children. While he obviously cannot ever go to trial, the number of allegations is certainly concerning. Alleged sex crimes aside, there are also many political reasons to hate Heath.
He was the PM who finally took us into the European Communities (later the EU) in 1973, in my opinion, possibly the worst decision made by anyone ever. He also presided over the most troublesome period of Anglo-Irish relations with ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1972 & the imposition of direct rule from Westminster. He publically supported the US bombings of North Vietnam in 1972 as President Nixon tried to salvage victory from the jaws of defeat. Industrial relations became so bad in Britain that he was forced to introduce a three day working week during 1974. During his time in office, higher charges were introduced for school meals, spectacles, dentistry, and prescriptions.
Finally, he went to Oxford and was a Burnley fan – need I say more…
Dave Peacock :
Matt Baker may be a strange choice for the worst ever Briton, but to me he is the embodiment of the horrifying reality of mainstream British entertainment.
Baker had reasonably humble beginnings, as the son of a farmer and a newsagent’s owner in a small village in County Durham. From an early age he displayed a gift for physical activities, becoming a Junior British gymnast and sports acrobatics champion before he was 14 years old.
Almost a decade later in 1999, he struck gold and became a Blue Peter presenter. From then on, he made a name for himself by wiggling his way into what can be justifiably termed the most tragic elements of the BBC. From Strictly Come Dancing to the Eurovision Song Contest selection to The One Show, Matt Baker has displayed an uncanny ability to become the headline act in the most atrocious elements of British TV.
As presenter of The One Show, Baker became the leading proponent of a programme dedicated to ceaselessly churning out mindless garbage 30 minutes a day, every day, all year round. A ‘staple of British viewing’, it signifies the depressing reality that, on average, 5 million Brits a day are actually entertained by watching Matt Baker interview Paul O’Grady. But to be fair to him, you literally couldn’t find a better match for the role if you tried.
In short, Matt Baker personifies the rampant British appetite for atrocious TV. As a result, he deserves to be singled out as the most appalling British travesty the world has ever seen.
Before I pay the price for my controversial choice, I may as well preface this with the admission that I know Churchill is often viewed as the most loved Briton from history (poor Attlee). However let’s not allow that rose tinted nostalgia of a simpler time cloud our judgement.
Churchill was a man of racism, bigotry and imperial depravity. This is what is always forgotten when we reflect on his motivations and ambitions. World War II for him was framed with this in mind; the preservation of British hegemony on the world stage and the absence of any competition to challenge it.
Churchill had the gall to call out the attitudes of the Third Reich towards the Slavic People and Jews while viewing much of the native inhabitants of the Global South in the same way. The only difference was he also had that patronising, paternalistic attitude that called for subservient rule rather than outright extermination.
The myth that Churchill was one of the greatest Britons that ever lived is a dangerous one to hold, especially now. For a man we hold as so quintessentially British, underneath he was an insidious and arrogant racist who dreamed of empire more than anything else.
They say never speak ill of the dead. However, when the deceased individual you speak of has the blood of more than 200 slaughtered innocent lives splashed across their history, that particular courtesy should be ignored. I am of course talking about the human pile of excrement that is Dr Harold Shipman one of the most prolific serial killers in history.
I challenge anyone to argue that he shouldn’t be regarded as the foulest, most detestable individual that it has ever been this nation’s misfortune to play host to. Given a post of trust and care and respected by his local community, he subsequently went on to exploit this highly valued position solely to satisfy his sick and depraved mind, which craved the sensation of power found in deciding which of his patients he would permit to live.
Love and money are often cited as the two most common motives for murder, yet Shipman cared for neither. He tore lives away from this earth simply to feel a sense of supremacy over others. He was the perfect description of a Hollywood psychopath, deficient of compassion for anybody but himself and an ever reminder of the twisted creatures human beings can be.