07 March 2009

The Code of the Worcesters

The idea of town-twinning, I presume, is a post-war phenomenon, where the elders of various European cities earnestly developed opportunities for teenagers from one European country to try to have sex with with those of another, in the name of mutual understanding. An attempt to get the younger generations to throw off the prejudices of their elders, created by wartime enmity, by getting to know foreigners as humans rather than cannon fodder. This noble aim of eliminating national stereotypes and name calling has been highly successful, as anyone who has attended an international football match recently will know.

I took part in one of these exercises, but felt sorry for the German teenagers whose reward for entertaining us in Goch was spending a week in Andover, a place guaranteed to inspire feelings of, at best, disappointment in the hearts of overseas visitors. But I can't imagine what feelings would be inspired in the souls of children from the city of Worcester at the exchange prospect they are facing: Gaza City.

The town council has unilaterally decided to twin itself with the beleaguered middle eastern city, presumably out of a sense of solidarity for its helpless citizens. It is a nice example of the pompousness of British local government that somehow they are making a meaningful contribution to the Middle East peace process. I particularly like the way they arrived at this process; according to the Council transcript of the meeting, there were two motions to decide this. The first motion was: "That the City of Worcester twin with Gaza City". This was quickly changed to: "That the City of Worcester invite the Twinning Association to consider a twinning arrangement with Gaza City". I admire the self-importance of the first motion - decision made as performatory utterance - that just by saying Worcester would be twinned with Gaza City, that would make it so. No doubt Secretary of State Clinton and Tony Blair were holding their breath on the outcome of that meeting.

On the other hand maybe there is something comforting about this insight into Town Hall life. In many countries around the world, people enter local government for venal reasons - and local politics is a byword for graft and corruption. If this insight is typical, it would seem the main motivation for taking up office in the UK is a need to feel that your little burgh is making an impact on a larger stage, and you are with it. Self-aggrandisement may not be the most noble quality, but at least it doesn't cost us anything - an important consideration at a time when every penny in the public purse counts.

1 comment:

PW said...

I've always thought that twins should have some natural affinity. Leafy Richmond in south-west London, for instance, has taken the German city of Konstanz as a partner. Konstanz is probably one of the few places in western Europe with an equivalent pro-capita income to Richmond and even beats the London Borough for scenery. A natural twin for Gaza would surely be somewhere like Mitcham or Eltham.