You can just picture what happened at the offices of the Lake District National Park in the run-up to Christmas.
Someone in Human Remains or the pan-diversity inclusion unit (or whatever) was suddenly paralysed with fear they had one more box to tick – and flow chart to update – before year-end so came up with a whiz of an idea. “Let’s say we need to be more ‘inclusive’ and ‘change’ so we don’t lose our ‘relevance’”.
Step-in the park’s chief executive, Richard Leafe (by this point – and with that surname – you may be wondering if we’ve fast-forwarded to April 1; we haven’t) to voice his concerns to a media now so bored by politics, year-end lists and Greta Thunberg that Mr Leafe and his ill-guided minions clearly felt their musings would be lapped-up like the remnants of a bottle of Bailey’s before the recycling men arrived.
They were – but only because they set themselves up to join the latest in a very long line of silly people and daft institutions so desperate to throw themselves on any passing PC bandwagon but, like, so many before them, merely end-up looking slightly pathetic figures ripe for social media ridicule.
The justification appears to have been that should the UNESCO World Heritage site be seen as exclusive to “one group” (what “one group” and since when?) it would lose its relevance and justification for being called a national park and could put its public funding at risk.
I wonder if the good folk at Angkor, the Great Barrier Reef or the Okavango Delta sit around conjuring up ways to make themselves look ridiculous? I suspect not; they’re no doubt busy protecting and preserving the wonderful sites in their charge and not musing about commissioning non-binary routes and gender fluid pathways.
What compounds Mr Leafe’s lily-livered behaviour is a knee-jerk reaction to a government report criticising national parks for not doing enough to make people welcome. He could have responded in a way that addressed genuine concerns but without hurling himself down the nearest woke hole with a default position that just took him straight to the folder marked “diversity”.
I’m not sure about you but if I were a member of the BAME or LGBTQ+ communities – or under-25 or over-70 (just apply as you see fit) – I’d actually find this whole thing pretty farcical and extremely patronising. It seems to merely achieve the very opposite of the thing Mr Leafe clearly feels needs addressing or, at least, his paymasters do. And it’s ended up a bit of a PR cock-up.
I am sure Mr Leafe was well intentioned in his ill-guided protestations but when will he – and others –realise that most people just roll their eyes when they read and hear such nonsense?
The Romans reached the Lake District in 100 AD and people have inhabited the area for 12,000 years. Generations have visited – and will continue to visit – and I bet the overwhelming majority don’t give a fig about gender-neutral toilets or care to be asked “how do you identify?” as they order a scone and pot of tea.