Sunday, September 07, 2008


Rusty kettles, unflushed turds and rip-off prices. Was Margaret Hodge so wrong with her suggestions that Britain's tourist facilities are not up to scratch?

You can't win, can you? This blog is hardly pro-New Labour, but there are times you can't help but feeling some sympathy. Especially if you see some of the stupidity they're up against. Gordon Brown & Co. are constantly accused of being "in denial". Which is to say that unless they admit that everything's bad and the nation is doomed, the Tories, the Express and the Daily Mail will blame their "inability" to own up to their mess.

But then when they do, they're accused of "talking the country down". Only a few days ago we commented on the Daily Mail's rabid rage at Alistair Darling's confessions of the "worst economic climate in sixty years". Now, the hacks have zeroed in on the new punchbag, Tourism Minister Margaret Hodge, accused of talking down hotels and holidaying facilities in England. Ms Hodge criticised expensive facilites and poor quality service. For the Daily Mail, that became "Tourism minister slams UK" whereas Tory MP Mike Penning called her comments "a stupid set of remarks".
But before going apeshit and doing a voodoo on poor Ms Hodge, hand on heart: was she so wrong? Would any sane-minded human being disagree for example with the Minister's statement that that the London Underground is "dreadful" at rush-hour? And ask any "continental" friend, if you've got any: isn't Britain astonishingly expensive???

Let's just imagine a couple of French tourists deciding to spend a week's holiday in England. Hotel prices are at a rip-off level, including the dingiest vermin-infested shithole in London.

I remember forking out 60 quid ("cash only") at a hotel near Victoria Station for a mini single room that was dirtier than the filthiest pit imaginable. "All rooms have tea and coffee facilities", it boasted. But as no kettle or cups were in sight, I had to ask for them. What I was given was the rustiest kettle you've ever seen; a relic that, if used, no doubt would have given me diahorrea for the next nine months. In protest, I decided to piss in it. Another time, having headed off to the capital to watch Morrissey live, I found a fairly cheap hotel in Earls Court. Checking in I was saluted by an unflushed turd that wouldn't go down which meant I had to ask to switch rooms. It made me wonder if rooms had been cleaned at all.

Back to our French couple. What if they decided to take the bus or the tube for a trip around London? With the single fare at £4, and a one-day travel card (off-peak only) ranging between £6-80 and £15-00 (way higher than other European big cities) how can Ms Hodge be criticised for daring to say England's too expensive for tourists? And what if the two visitors decided to hop on a train and visit other cities such as Birmingham and Manchester? Not having booked well in advance, it could cost them in excess of £120 a piece. How's that for talks of "denial"?

Margaret Hodge was actually being quite balanced. She also praised the country's heritage and the good value-for-money of pub food. But she wouldn't be doing her job is she didn't argue, like she did, that "tourists need to be offered good deals and we have to make attractions better." "Denial" would be anything other than that.

1 comment:

Socialist Sam said...

I once spent a nighmare night at what was officially a 3-STAR hotel in Great Portland Street. An absolute tip. The walls were smudged with blood, the room reeked of sewage, the so-called >breakfast included< was just a pile of stingy overpriced crap and the rudeness was too intense to render.

Give me Northen hospitality any time.