THE FAMILY Sheard struggled through a pretty dismal Christmas and New Year. We were all down with 'flu - including our 18-month-old grandson - the weather was foul, the TV schedules varied from bad to execrable, and England's cricketers joined our rugby and soccer players in the top division of sporting jokers.
Then, God bless 'em, BBC radio came up with the biggest laugh of the holiday on New Year's Day when they revealed that the most unpopular Act of Parliament in the past 300 years was New Labour's legislation that made fox hunting illegal.
And what was so funny about this result, voted on by tens of thousands of pretty well-informed listeners to the Radio 4 Today programme, was that it absolutely appalled the programme's makers, who absolutely revel in their role as the Kings and Queens of Political Correctness.
Even funnier, they had shot themselves in the foot for the second year running, proving without doubt that they have absolutely no idea of what the mass of their audience really feels. Although this might be difficult to believe, they are even further out of touch with real-life public opinion than politicians!
The list of unpopular legislation the voters were asked to poll included the much abused European Human Rights Acts, which allows illegal immigrants to stay in this country to commit murder, and the Act of Union, which joined England and Scotland into Great Britain 300 years ago (and is soon likely to be un-joined by the Scottish Parliament).
The Today producers no doubt thought that the Hunting with Dogs Act was there merely to fill out the ballot sheet. If this seems a little extreme, let me remind you of the coverage that the Today programme gave to the huge countryside march three years ago, when a million country folk invaded London to protest about plans to ban hunting: zilch!
The editor of that day's programme, Rod Liddle, who also wrote a column in (of course) The Guardian, simply ignored it: no mention of it was made, no reporters sent out to cover it. Last weekend, Riddle wrote another column in the Sunday Times, sadly, also attacking hunt supporters.
Continuing to demonstrate their contempt of the rural viewpoint, the Today producers last year polled their listeners - who are probably the best informed and best educated audience of any of the British broadcast media - about what new laws they would like to see introduced.
And were horrified when, by an overwhelming majority, they voted in favour of giving the right to householders to kill burglars who broke into their homes - a vote heavily influenced by the case of the lonely Norfolk farmer who shot and killed a fleeing burglar (he claims not intentionally) after his remote farmhouse has been raided half a dozen times.
The Today producers no doubt thought that the Hunting with Dogs Act was there merely to fill out the ballot sheet
After that insult to the chattering classes, BBC Radio spent weeks trying to prove that its very own poll was an anachronism, a one-off aberration (perhaps these tens of thousands of voters had all drunk too much Christmas booze). And this week past, they have gone into denial once again, claiming that the bring-back-hunting vote was a conspiracy organised by the Countryside Alliance.
The alliance was happy to point out that it had, in fact, put a notice on its website asking supporters to vote in favour of hunting. As a campaigning organisation, it said, that was its duty. But it also pointed out something much more sinister in the campaign by its main rival, the League Against Cruel Sports.
That, too, had put a note on its website about the BBC vote. But it has also asked members to write to the BBC demanding that the anti-hunting bill be removed from the ballot - a blatant attempt to deny free speech because, presumably, its organisers feared the way the vote would go.
Having absorbed some of these facts, a reasonable person might conclude that the BBC should make a real attempt to discover the real-life public opinions held my millions of its viewers and listeners outside the M25 and, particularly, those in rural areas.
That, of course, will never happen when the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation - as our embattled troops in the Middle East call it - is in the clutches of a tiny clique of politically correct metropolitans who freely admit to being New Labour supporters. But if they continue to serve up side-splitting comedy at their own expense every New Year's Day, country folk will at least get some tiny recompense for their exorbitant TV licence.
For goodness' sake repeal the Hunting Act. Far more people support hunting than are against it as the turnout at every hunt meet on Boxing Day showed. It is part of out way of life and if you don't like it, then OK we're all entitled to our own opinions. There are many pastimes I don't like but I don't expect those who do to give them up just because of my feelings.
Michael Booth - Bramhope
Once again it was good to see how out of touch the BBC are with those who live and work outside the M25. Those in control no doubt have a second home in the sticks which inflates our house prices, wear green wellies and wax barbours so think they know everything about country life, and yes eggs do come from Tesco's but have to pass through a chicken first!!
Basil Warren - Withypool, Somerset
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