Let me ask you a question: will you be voting in the Little Sodcombe Parish Council election next week? No, wait - perhaps the question we really should be asking is: do you care enough about your country? Do you care that this once prosperous and pleasant land has become a paradise only for the ruffians and cutpurses who roam its peaks and valleys, preying on the weak and the infirm? Hmm? Do you care that our businesses are failing, our industries are crippled and that the shops that were once stacked high with quality British products are now filled with cheap and flimsy foreign goods? And, good people of Little Sodcombe, do you care - do you really care - about the shameful decision to remove the post box on the corner of Church Lane?
I can see that you're all thinking long and hard. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I tell you this - and I'm not ashamed to admit it - I care! It may not be fashionable in this day and age to stand up for what one believes in. It may not be 'the done thing' to speak out for the values on which our society is founded. But I will say this to you - unless we as a community are prepared to join together and with one voice say 'this is wrong!' then we run the risk of losing everything that we hold dear. Everything!
Now you may say 'What is the point? What can we do?' Ask yourselves this: what would have happened if Churchill had surrendered to this debilitating defeatism when we stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany? Consider, would we be the proud and glorious nation that we are today if Drake had turned tail and run rather than face the Spanish Armada? How well do you know your history, hmm? Did Wellington exasperatedly cry out 'oh what's the point?' on the eve of his epic battle with the French Emperor? No, ladies and gentlemen, he did not! And neither must we! To many this post box may be just an insignificant item of street furniture, but we know it for what it really is. This is a symbol of our country, a totem for our civil rights, a gleaming beacon that will shine throughout history in remembrance of a battle fought and won, of our precious democracy snatched from the jaws of bureaucracy and set upon a pedestal for the benefit of the generations of Sodcomites yet to come. This, my people, will be our Waterloo!
It's no use sticking our heads beneath the sand and denying that this nightmare vision of the future will never come to pass. It is here already. Right now, as I speak, I cannot step outside my front door without running the risk of falling victim to some despicable ne'er-do-well or boozed-up vagabond. The dystopian catastrophe is already writ large in the vista of boarded-up and abandoned shops that pepper our high street, making it necessary for me to drive into Stratford if I want to buy a decent bottle of merlot for a dinner party. Believe this, if you will believe nothing else: if we fail now, if we will not save our precious post box, if we refuse to make our mark in the sand and declare that this is where the tide shall turn, it will mean that I will have to walk all the way down Acacia avenue just to post a letter. The consequences do not bear thinking about.
And let us not fool ourselves into believing that our current Parish Council will step in to save the day. Oh no. The present administration has already shown itself for the toothless, petty congregation of cronies that they are; nothing but a bunch of self-serving parasites who have weaselled their way into high office. Think of their disgraceful refusal to tackle the dog mess on the recreation ground. Observe how they frequently allow the ornamental lawns in the memorial garden to go nearly three days without mowing. And you will recall, I am sure, the shocking debacle of the homemade jam competition at last year's summer fete. It's still only mentioned in hushed voices down at the vicarage.
You would think that our leaders would hang their heads in shame. But they have none. Instead they boast proudly that the grit bin in Market Street has been refilled, and that the notice board outside the school has been repainted, and all the while they do nothing to tackle the dark secret at the heart of our community. I tell you, they care nothing for our heritage. Plans for the removal of our post box were made known to them four months ago, and yet they raised no objection.
You've heard the official line. The excuses! They say that the Post Office has told them that no one ever uses the box. This feeble defence reeks of corruption! Have they been got at? Have they been paid off? It is, of course, not for me to say, but ask yourselves why Councillor McReedy's mail is always delivered on time? And has anyone noticed that Councillor Partridge seems to be unusually well-off for stamps? Judge for yourselves.
People of Little Sodcombe. I have a vision - a dream of a new world in which we do not seek to bury our heritage beneath the concrete car parks and drive-through restaurants of progress. If we let this post box fall then what will be next? Will they come to take our schools, our parks or, God forfend, the telephone box outside the hairdresser's? It is a terrifying prospect, I know, but one that lurks just around the corner. If we permit this travesty then, believe me, it will only be a matter of time before the inevitable decline. Our quiet community will be invaded by foreigners, streaming in from places as remote Naffley, Greater Bumton and Lower Tightly-cum-Podmore on the Wold. And with them they will bring their alien ideas of 'gastropubs', high-speed broadband and mini-markets that stock more than one kind of soap powder. They will not be like us. Some of them will be working class.
From there it's only a few short steps to our once picturesque and welcoming village becoming a wasteland; a barren wilderness of broken windows, abandoned vehicles and packs of wild dogs which roam the streets, picking off the sick and the injured. Imagine that: the nightmare reality of our peaceful lives ripped asunder, the shattered streets littered with burnt out cars, while police gunships fill the night sky with light and sound as they pick off the rampaging hordes of mutant ape-men that swarm across our now hideously despoiled open spaces.
It could happen - but it doesn't have to. All it needs is for us to take a stand. That's why I'm asking for your vote next Thursday. Bleak though this picture of our future is, there is the glimmer of a new dawn on the horizon. Give me your support and I promise I can make a difference! With your help I can turn our fortunes around and rescue this nation from the ravine of despair into which it has blindly stumbled. The post box on Church Lane must be saved! Because we all know what will happen if it isn't. Heaven help us if we should fail.