Photo by Ewan Munro
Britain is an intolerable shithole and you're an idiot if you want to live here. Not my words, but the paraphrased sentiments of the British government, who, it emerged this weekend, are considering placing adverts in Romania and Bulgaria telling people not to move here when current EU immigration controls expire in December.
If the plan comes to fruition, the ads will warn Bulgarians and Romanians that Britain is not the sun-drenched Eden that they surely imagine it to be. There aren't enough palaces to go round and the position of "King" has already been filled. Sorry, guys. Have you considered giving Athens a shot? It's where all the cool kids are going these days and the locals are very welcoming to foreigners.
It's not the first time something like this has happened. In 1972, Idi Amin gave the Asian people living in Uganda 90 days to get the hell out of his country, or, he promised, he'd do really quite nasty things to them. He was a man who generally did follow through on his promises, as the human heads in his freezer attested. On that occasion, Britain had stepped in to offer them asylum, so most of them decided to go there. But where, exactly? Which shitty post-industrial town would offer them a new life worth living?
Would it be sunny Leeds? Cheery Birmingham? Blissful Bradford? Or luscious Luton? Horrified at the prospect of an entire people turning up on their doorstep, one nondescript Midlands town attempted to head them off at the pass, putting this ad in Uganda's Asian newspapers:
Result? Along the "Don't think of pink elephants" principle, Leicester became the destination of choice for a generation of Ugandan Asians. After all, no one was trying to dissuade them from going to Swansea. Swansea was just there, on the maps. Take it or leave it. It was only Leicester, this forbidden city, this Midlands Xanadu, that selfish Brits wanted to keep back for themselves. So they went there. And sure, on reflection the Ugandan Asians probably preferred it to beheading, but in the end I can't imagine either party ended up being too ecstatic about the arrangement.
Skip forward 40 years, and Britain's about to attempt the same dissuading process all over again. Only this time, it's not a city – it's an entire country we're trying to keep the latest lot of immigrant sadsacks out of. In December, Romanians and Bulgarians will have as much right as you or I to live in Britain, apply for jobs, drink in pubs, spend all night in A&E waiting rooms and be buried in British soil.
So, if reports are to be believed, we're getting ready to trash-talk our own country to perform an ornate pantomime on these naïve foreigners. Forget what you saw on The Danny Boyle Show. It's a dump. The weather's bad. There's nothing on TV. You'll hate Sky News. There's Mrs Brown's Boys. We eat our babies. It's the rape capital of the North Sea. Like Kinshasa with Morris dancing.
Yet all they ever hear is: “Don't come to BRITAIN. LAND OF no OPPORTUNITY. THE STREETS ARE not PAVED WITH GOLD. Don't START A NEW LIFE HERE, for god's sakes." So maybe the best way to dissuade people from coming to Britain would be to generate disquieting positive PR for it. Perhaps, the ideal tactic would be to damn Britain with faint praise – faint praise like this.
BRITAIN IS A NATION OF ANIMAL LOVERS
British people report a more profound love of animals and their welfare than any other European nation. An English man called Harry Redknapp once saved a donkey which was parasailing in Spain, and became a national hero because of it.
Conversely, a woman in Britain once became a national hate-figure because she put a cat in a bin. A Facebook group soon sprung up about her called "Death To Mary Bale". On it, a woman called Kristy Williams weighed in to say: “Kill Mary, she's obviously a transgender bender, evil bitch needs to die of cancer slowly.” Tim Heath added thoughtfully: “This woman should be thrown in a pit and stoned to death.” And then someone posted her home address and place of work.
This is the land you are coming to. A land full of animal lovers. The land of Morrissey and Heather McCartney. Come to Britain. By all means. Just remember never to do anything to a pig you wouldn't be happy to tell your mother about.
BRITAIN IS A NATION OF HARD WORKERS
Indeed, British people work longer hours than anyone else in Europe, according to most British people in pubs. According to actual statistics, however, they work somewhere around the third-longest, below the Greeks and the Austrians. Brits need to keep on working harder because real wages for those on the middle and lower rungs of the jobs ladder have stagnated over the past decade, and hence they aren't getting any richer, while those at the top have seen their real incomes double.
This is a nation where we all grind that bit harder so that some people's kids can spend more than you'll earn in a week on a navy cotton polo neck shirt from Jack Wills, to wear with Ladsie and Boysie at a local date-rape hotspot on the Fulham Road, at a free party with buckets of Bombay Sapphire, sponsored by Jack Wills as an elaborate guestlist-only marketing exercise.
That's the nation you are coming to: one in which you work 70 hours a week so that rich people's children can go to parties you're banned from. And you'll get to watch their glamourous lives unfold up close, right before your very eyes, on the other side of a window.
ACCORDING TO THE OECD, BRITAIN IS THE MOST CONNECTED NATION IN EUROPE
If you come to Britain, you will find millions of people celebrating a bold new future on the information superhighway. While you potter around on your 56k dial-up connection in Sofia or Transylvania, Britons use more internet than anyone else in Europe. They do more internet shopping. They're always at it. Looking at websites for "content". "Posting" things. If you're lucky enough to find work at a public toilet in Britain, pretty much all you will see now is people instagramming their bowel movements.
They upload their lives to social networking sites in order to give the impression that they are having more fun than anyone else. Then they seethe at their desks when they get the impression that other people seem to be having more fun than them. That is how it works now: pretending to have fun, plus hating other people for potentially pretending to have more fun. This is what you can expect in your new life: for your uncontrived inner bliss to become a sort of rictus mask of duck-face. What a great game!
BRITONS ARE A TOLERANT BUNCH
Per capita, there are three times as many fat teenagers in Britain as there are in France. Yet our rate of teenage pregnancy is also three times that of France. Clearly, this must mean British teenage boys are very much OK with "cuddly" girls, unless the statisticians have started lumping pregnant women in with the rest of the chubs.
The evidence also suggests that young British males display a relaxed, pro-woman stance towards these bigger-boned younger women (or older children). The girls too, seem to be OK with their sexuality, and very much OK with their weight problems: surely a great burden of social anxiety lifted all round.
Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes