An interesting piece of commentary wafted o’er the air while I was watching a heavy horse display at the Great Yorkshire Show yesterday.

While we watched the two horse dray teams being put through their paces in the main show arena, the commentator waxing lyrical about tact and drivers’ tactics, he suddenly changed tack and proclaimed – not just once – that the scene was just so ‘British’. Indeed the repetition became something of an embarrassing verbal tic that he couldn’t seem to let go.

Now, I don’t think there really is any historical evidence to suggest that it was an ancient Briton who first had the idea of getting a horse to pull a cart, so quite where the British pride came into it in the first place is perhaps something only the commentator could explain. But was really surprised me was the cognitive dissonance involved. This was because only a few minutes earlier, the self-same commentator was telling us how the introduction of the French Percheron and Belgian heavy horse, the Brabant, after World War I had brought competition to the two main British breeds, the Shire and the Clydesdale, before going on to rave about a new team of Canadian Belgians that were an exciting addition to the year’s display.

Exciting (and certainly very large) the Canadian Belgians might have been, but they ended up coming last in the show, which just goes to show that however loud someone shouts, if it’s bollocks, time will usually tell.

The whole British pride in heavy horse theme put me in mind of certain blow-hard Tory politicians who fall over themselves to announce their love of country and other patriotic credentials, but whose policies then lead to a reduction in standards and a general diminution in the eyes of the rest of the world. Bellowing ‘British’ through a loud-hailer doesn’t make something true or better – that is down to proof and the test of time.

There is also a parallel with Boris Johnson’s wiff waff invention boast – nonsense dressed up with a union flag wrapping, rather like bellowing ‘British’ at irregular intervals, doesn’t make for either a sound argument or an edifying spectacle  – even if the declaimer has a posh accent.



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