Britishness and clones

Following on from my post from a couple of days ago, there is more on proposed citizenship ceremonies at Blood & Treasure.

Meanwhile, Lenin has a look at Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s piece is quite ridiculous. It is under the headline, “The British dream: we must all speak the same language.”

That’s a pretty rubbish dream if you ask me. The Americans have a dream aswell. It’s known as “rags to riches”. The idea is that anybody from any background can aspire to greatness. Boris Johnson’s big idea is to turn us all into clones.

We’ve all got to be as British as Carry On films and scotch eggs and falling over on the beach while trying to change into your swimming trunks with a towel on. We should all feel the same mysterious pang at the sight of the Queen. We do indeed need to inculcate this Britishness, especially into young Muslims, and the problem is how.

Lenin has the right idea:

Johnson hasn’t a chance, of course, since no one is British in the way that he would like them to be. I hate Carry On films, scotch eggs and the beach. I especially hate the fucking Queen.

Except I do like scotch eggs, but that’s not the point.

Back to Boris. Amazingly, he cites that far superior American Dream to back up his idea for a British Dream.

Americans all understand instinctively that they are equal citizens of the greatest country on earth, and they all have an equal chance of rising to the top of that country.

That is the idea of America, the American dream; and we have been comparatively hopeless at communicating any sense of the British dream, or the British idea. So what we must now do is begin the immense task with a few practical steps.

We should teach English, and we should teach in English. We should teach British history. We should think again about the jilbab, with the signals of apartness that it sends out, and we should probably scrap faith schools. We should forbid the imams from preaching sermons in anything but English; because if you want to build a society where everyone feels included, and where everyone shares in the national story, we cannot continue with the multicultural apartheid.

But what about those British people who speak Welsh, or Gaelic, or Scots, or Kernewek? What about those whose primary language is BSL? Shall we force them all to speak English now?

Jamie says:

As an Englishman, I’ll speak any language I damn well please in my own home. In fact, I’m going to start learning Urdu tomorrow. Stubbornness: how British.

Worse still, check out what Boris says before he suggests that everybody should become a robot.

It was not so much the horror of what they said on Newsnight, those Islamic wackos, one of whom, Abu Uzair, announced: “Even if I am British, I don’t follow the values of the UK. I follow the Islamic values. I have no allegiance to the British Queen whatsoever, or to British society.”

No, what was shocking was the unmistakably English accent in which they said it, the voices that marked them as complete products of our primary and secondary systems.

So hang on a minute. We’ve got to get everybody speaking English, to prevent people from having the sorts of views that the person with the “unmistakably English accent” has. So Boris demolished his argument in his own article.


  1. Do you really have no allegiance to British Society? I find that odd. I’ve been given great opportunities by that society and would like to see it do well. Indeed, if the opportunity ever arose I would do my best to help it do well. The point I am making is: given the choice between helping British Society and some other society, I would certainly be more likely to give preference to the British one especially if the needs and circumstances invited no other particular moral preference. That, I suppose, is an allegiance. Are you sure you don’t have it?

    I suppose we are what we are and it is often commendable to think critically and on an individualistic basis (I myself have an often infuriatingly strong individualistic streak). However, there are times when allegiances are necessary and if we have not yet arrived at that time it is likely that we will do over the next decade or so. Arbitrary as they may be, say based upon national boundaries, I believe they do serve a purpose.

  2. Hmm. Thinking about it I suppose it would be pushing it to say that I have no allegiance to British society. But I don’t really go about the place thinking about being British or whatever.

    I suppose to take an everyday example, if I’m watching sport I won’t always support British competitors by default, although I would sometimes support British teams (for instance, in football I support Scotland, in cricket I support England).

    The point I am making is: given the choice between helping British Society and some other society, I would certainly be more likely to give preference to the British one especially if the needs and circumstances invited no other particular moral preference.

    This is interesting. If I were given the choice, I would help whichever society I thought would need the help best. But you say as long as there is no other particular moral preference. In this instance, I probably would help British society first.

    Update: I’ve edited that bit out of the post now.

  3. There is a big gap between being patriotic and British and being jingoistic. There’s nothing wrong with smiling at the Queen of Britain, eating traditional British dishes, or just enjoying being British in a bumblingly jolly way (to those few who can manage it). The discrepancy only comes in when you hold your way of life above all others, and announce that it is best – for anyone but yourself. I love my country because it’s mine, I love being British and I wouldn’t swop it for anything – but the same is not true of most people, which is very right and proper and none of anyone’s business. Home is where the heart is, and no one’s heart is exactly the same. Forcing a culture on someone is simply wrong, unless violation of human rights are involved.

    I don’t know whether it’s because he was born there or has an enormous blind spot, but Boris Johnson seems to think America is a model country. I’m sure he knows it isn’t. If he wants us to be British, then he ought to get his boundries straight, and not even mention That Country. America is traditionally all Britain is not, and in addition it has a tradition of jingoism, rampant rapaciousness, disregard for other cultures and greed. Is this where our Dream will take us?