Fake tan and white stilettos, Ford Mondeos and mockney accents, brash yuppies and Love Island contestants. It often feels that the only way is Essex-bashing for a country desperate to turn a slice of the south-east into the butt of a national joke.
Ever since the emergence of the “Essex man” stereotype in the 1980s, those of us on the receiving end have found turning the other perma-tanned cheek to be the wisest response. Sometimes, however, there is no choice but to pick up our metaphorical seaxes (those are the cutlass-like “swords” that appear on the noble county flag) and fight for our good name.
Which brings me to Nick Hulme, the chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, who has described the north-east Essex part of his patch as “probably the most homophobic, racist, awful place, in some senses, in the country”.
He is, of course, quite right to stand up for NHS staff who should never be subjected to insults, abuse or prejudice of any kind. But did he really need to slur the population of Essex when, even by his own admission, only a “tiny minority” of patients are guilty of this deplorable behaviour?
It’s nothing new. The Romans, at least, knew a good thing when they saw it and made Colchester the capital of Britain. Since they left, Essex has never really regained the respect it deserves. In modern times this boils down to one thing: snobbery.
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