Following reports in The Times of 1,384 murders committed in New York during 1985, there has been an unprecedented number of cancellations by British visitors to the United States. American travel companies report a cut of 25 percent to 30 percent in business compared with this time last year. Common reactions are: "It's just not safe over there"; "They all carry guns"; and "Why go somewhere where I have a higher chance of being killed than I have at home."
The fear is perhaps understandable when New York's murder rate of 20.2 per 100,000 population is set against London's rate of 2.2 per 100,000 -- and especially when one considers that more murders are committed in Detroit than in England and Wales (636 versus 616). Instead, it is reported, British vactioners are heading for safer destinations, such as Greece (murder rate 1.7 per 100,000) and Spain (1.1 per 100,000).
Is further proof required of the irrational and unbecoming nature of the number of cancellations by Americans to the United Kingdom?
If not, perhaps we should all avoid Portugal, which at 30.7 per 100,000 population has Europe's highest rate of traffic fatalities -- considerably higher than even New York's homicide rate. With last year's road-death toll being the lowest in 32 years, the UK is now one of the safest places in Europe, if not the world, to take to the roads. In fact, it is twice as safe as the United States.
Let's face it, you are far more in danger from the antics of drivers in France, Greece, Spain and even London, for that matter, than you are from the antics of terrorists. Although they have no political motive and do not aim to kill innocent men, women and children, they are considerably more successful.
So why don't we all stay at home over the vacation with a large stock of Bud, a few good videos and unplug the phone? Do you know that about 20,000 Americans will die because of accidents in the home this year?
For someone like myself who has faced voters on the doorsteps during the recent local legislature elections in the UK and presented a stout defense of the U.S. raid on Libya and of our electorally unpopular involvement, it is distressing to see the reaction of the American traveler. There is a strong feeling of being let down. The American president isn't bowing to terrorists, but some of the public are.
One of the reasons Britain is host to so many U.S. visits -- a record 2.8 million last year -- is the warm welcome they receive. Despite anxiety felt over possible retalitory action being taken as a result of F-111s flying from British bases, there is no fundamental change in attitude toward Americans. How can there be when our cultures are so intertwined. After all, the Mayflower only set sail so that we could watch "Dallas" without subtitles.
So don't let us down. The weather can't be any worse than last year's, we have a Royal Wedding coming up, and the number of murders in London even fell last year. You'll be as safe as you are at home. If you live in Manhattan, you'll be safer -- so come and take the night air without the Valium.
If you're still not convinced, consider how delighted Muammar Qaddafi must be that one of his two principal enemies is inflicting economic harm on the other. Don't give him that satisfaction. The writer is the Conservative member of Parliament for Bradford North.