The British dream: we must all speak the same language

Not so long ago, I was standing at the back of an Islington school hall in an ecstasy of paternal pride. The seven-year-old was playing Queen Victoria, spangled with plastic diadems, and though she had only one line, she belted it out in a particularly regal way. She had to pin a medal on the chests of two other kids - it was some kind of educational pageant about the Crimean War - and then she said: "Well done, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole! Without you we could not have won the war!" When the applause had died down, I turned to my neighbour and chuckled sardonically. Hur hur, I said. Mary Seacole, eh? My daughter had briefed me that this "Mary Seacole" was a black nurse who was "just as important as Florence Nightingale", and I wanted to make it clear to my fellow parents that I was not taken in. As far as I could tell, history was being rewritten, for overtly political ends. I mean: Florence Nightingale we all knew. But this "Mary Seacole", I whispered to the Islington mums around me, she's just been invented, hasn't she? It's just political correctness, I said. They want to find a historic British role model for all those black nurses, don't they? Hmmm? My neighbour looked at me with horror, as if to say, shaddap you Right-wing wacko with your numbingly predictable provocations; and so I contented myself with a last cynical snort, and fell silent. It was only when I got home that I was afflicted by a small pang of conscience, and thought that I had better check; and stone me, there was someone called Mary Seacole; and she was indeed black; and she was very distinguished. She was born in 1805, in Kingston, Jamaica, and travelled all over the place, setting up a hotel and becoming skilled in the pathology of cholera. She was in London when she heard about the appalling conditions in the Crimean hospitals, and in spite of the obstructions of the bureaucracy she muscled her way out there and did so much good that after the war a benefit festival was organised in her name by Lord Rokeby and Lord Paget, at which a thousand performers shouted her name. She was briefly so famous that The Times later wondered how England could forget the many services she had done to nursing, and praise only Florence Nightingale. In fact, she seems to have been such a megastar that I find myself facing the grim possibility that it was my own education that was blinkered, and that my children are now receiving a more faithful account of heroism in imperial Britain than I did. And yet even if I was on to something first time round, and there is a slight push in our primary schools to big up the role of Mary Seacole, the real question is whether that is such a bad thing. This school pageant concerned a fascinating period of British history; the seven-year-olds shed an interesting light on that period; and, above all, the whole thing was conducted in English. In other words no one could say that this was a multicultural history lesson. Whatever its deficiencies, the point was that it was inclusive, not divisive. It was multiracial, certainly, but then you would expect that in a part of London where 80 per cent of the population growth is in the immigrant communities, and 29 per cent of the population is already black or Asian. The idea was to find something that united everyone - and that is the very opposite of multiculturalism, and the mad segregation we have had over the past 30 years. Everyone is now banging the drum for Britishness, after some of us started the tattoo two or three weeks ago. The Guardian wants more Britishness, and so does Trevor Phillips of the Campaign for Racial Equality, and so does David Davis, and so do I. 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. 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. We can't give them electro-convulsive therapy to make them primarily loyal to Britain, and not to Islam. We can't brainwash them. 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. It will take time, but if you don't believe it can be done, and you don't think Muslims can be loyal to this country, then go and look at the number of Khans and Alis whose names are inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Read them and weep.

77 thoughts on “The British dream: we must all speak the same language”

  1. don’t see why not Tim, sticking CofE on the front of a school hardly achieves anything. Sure a few wacko parents would complain, but if we always bowed to them, we’d never get anything done…

    good post as ever Boris

  2. how do we assert a britishness? if you were to get up tommorrow morning with this aim in mind, how would you do it?

  3. Boris is absolutly spot on. A multicultural society should be inclusive rather than divisive and this is something we all need to work at. In a very few cases it seems evident that recent immigrants and, perhaps there children, are meeting British society less than half way and it does not seem unreasonable to expect them to work a little harder at become integrated.

    As for single faith schools, it seems clear to me that this is something we can well do without. Nothing could be better calculated to maintain and even widen divisions in this country than to have children growing up with friends and schoolmates exclusively from the religion of their parents. If the price to be paid for this is the loss of CofE schools then it is a price well worth paying.

    I hope I may be excused for providing a link to Polly Toynbee’s Guardian article of this and related topics, I think she is spot on:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/comment/story/0,16141,1534014,00.html

  4. “Mary Seacole was a black nurse.”

    I think you’ll find she was half-Scottish – not that it makes any difference.

    Most of this is reasonable opinion whether one agrees with it or not. But the last paragraph seems decidedly shaky to me:

    “It will take time, but if you don’t believe it can be done, and you don’t think Muslims can be loyal to this country, then go and look at the number of Khans and Alis whose names are inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Read them and weep.”

    What does what surnames appear on the Menin Gate have to do with the current situation? Moreover, this is just sentimentality. It would take a good deal of historical research and, more than that, a real effort of _Verstehen_ to gain any insight into the motives of the young men represented there by those names. It’s stretching things to say that those men were “loyal” to a country most had probably never seen and knew nothing about. Who knows what their motives were? Does Boris know about their backgrounds? For example, were most from warrior castes, taught from the cradle to regard soldiering as the only honourable profession and conflict as the purpose of a man’s life? Or weren’t they? I don’t know their mindset or motives. Boris thinks he does, but all he’s done is to write himself a comfortable myth.

  5. I hate the Conservatives, Boris. But you are cool! If the Tories want to win, they ought to elect you leader. Enjoy your hols.

  6. Well said, yet again. I believe that a colleague of yours recently commented on those who come here but do not integrate. He stated that if they did not like life here, they should leave. Of course, other M.P.s were quick to distance themselves from his comments. Why do M.P.s feel the need to hide from discussion? If you made these comments in open forum, the media would be champing at the bit to call you a racist, right-wing fascist. It’s long been my belief that anyone coming to live here should integrate. I often hear people of asian/middle eastern descent speaking in the language of their ancestors, when clearly they were themselves born in England. I am offended by this, of course. Is our language inferior? We are not saying ‘forget your history’, we are simply requesting that those who settle here integrate fully into our society. Those who are not willing to do so should be encouraged to move to a country more in line with their beliefs and the way that they wish to lead their lives. Boris, you really do have to find more fora in which to voice these views, the views of the majority. Get out there and be heard, and the best of British luck to you.

  7. Boris writes: “We should all feel the same mysterious pang at the sight of the Queen.” Hmmm. This is disturbingly reminiscent of the “bat-squeak of desire” that Alan Clark experienced on ogling Mrs Thatcher: a most mysterious pang indeedy.

    I’ve a suggestion that might take the sting out of the insult to the non-Christian Brits of this country that is constituted by the current blasphemy laws and so forth. A solution diametrically opposite to New Labour’s proposal to extend the blasphemy laws to all faiths: the monotheistic ones in particular it seems (Islam and Judaism, with the Hindu faith bubbling under -Buddhism is, refreshingly, a religion without God and the Dalai Lama is self-evidently a Good Egg).

    Modest Proposal: disestablish the Church of England forthwith (and thereby downsize Madge’s job spec). After all, it was a Church founded not on the Rock of Peter but on the Balls of Henry VIII…

  8. Methinks Michael is splitting hairs. Half-black may as well have been full black, especially in Victorian society. Even now, mixed raced children either embrace a black identity or go bonkers trying to fit into a white society that won’t accept them as one of their own. Segregation is, after all, a two-way street: a sad fact which has tended to get forgotten in the present furore.

  9. I think integration should mean that we are all free to detest the queen and call for the introduction of the guillotine, or to feel those pangs of sentimentality to which Boris is prone.

    Often the people calling for ‘integration’ overlook the diversity that already exists and see only John Major’s land of cricket greens and tea.

    This is why I think an unblinkered look at British history, which means identifying the ‘overlooked’ such as Seacole as well as an honest appraisal of our vainglorious colonial history is important. And of course integration means that the society into which the immigrants are being integrated changes too.

  10. Hi everybody – great refreshing views!

    I think we should dial down on all this multiethnicity thinking. On English soil we should unite and rejoice under the banner of all things British – otherwise go elsewhere mate.

    We must pull together as a nation and go for it flying the British flag in all its glory: Land of Hope and Glory. Hurrah to the Proms!!! It could all radiate from that wonderful musical extravanganza perhaps …

  11. Integration, yes, but I don’t think you need to overly bring language into the equation. Of course those living here should be able to speak English, and I’m sure you’d be hard-pushed to find any children of immigrants, however unintegrated, who couldn’t speak our glorious tongue. Yet forbidding religious services in a foreign tongue seems wrong. Are we really going to forbid a Latin mass, or a Polish one for that matter? Or the chants of an Orthodox service being sung in Russian? Or Hebrew being spoken in the synagogue? Bilingualism seems to me, au contraire, to have only benefits. I quite understand that Boris has in mind imams preaching hatred in mosques in Arabic, but it’s going to be fairly hard to prevent… On the other hand, I’m all with you for getting rid of divisive faith schools. I was sent to a Catholic school – although I’m not a Catholic – and felt I didn’t get to know real England until I went to university. Rather a shame!

  12. I must say that these inter-human distinctions seem pretty trivial to a gorilla. The humans I like best have fat bellies and wear baseball caps. They smell like wart-hogs, which reminds me of home.

    The humans that blow themselves up appear very inconsiderate from an ape perspective. I can understand their desire to proceed to the next world, but have they never heard of cyanide?

  13. Melissa,

    Well said, well spoken. I’m not British, never lived there, only visited a few times (harken from USA naturally), but encouraging a spirit of a single culture of “Britishness”, without excluding facets of other cultures of her people who inhabit the island, not only brings a people together with mutual understanding, it facilitates a humming economy. A humming economy, after all, fixes most if not all other ills in a society. This, I think, is what America understands so well…the money supply and its velocity come first, everything else is semantics.

  14. Gera �� hugsa �essi Englendingar f�lk �xl eini skrifa � Englendingar , e�a �xl �eir vera vandvirkur � annar tungum�l of?

    Oh, sorry you don’t seem to set up for the Icelandic alphabet.

  15. Let’s hope that this move forward in looking at things as they are represents a real break in the logjam of ideology, rather than ideas, which have dominated discussion on the problems of a multi-race and/or multi-cultural society. There is a saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Unfortunately the problem here is that we haven’t even been building something that could be broke as far as these problems are concerned! Instead the field has been ceded to the utopian ideologues who have the mass of the indigenous, however that is interpreted, population tiptoeing around on eggshells whilst I suspect that the attitude of a large number of the non-indigenous population are somewhat perplexed by this self-flagellating attitude. This is not to say that the one, only and true approach is to go back to 1950’s Britain. pace Christopher Hitchens et al, things were pretty dire in many respects then!

    What Boris’ anecdote illustrates is that just because Guardianista ideologues portray British civilisation and history as a sequence of unrelenting prejudice and oppression against everyone else does not mean we have to leap to the opposite view of Imperial immanent charity and concern for the childlike subject peoples. In Britain a rough and warty open society has developed that was resilient to the historicist twins of communism and fascism that were so strong in just about every other European country. The story that needs to be told is that of a country with a basically strong open society. In this society wrongs could become identified and fought against. For example, as opposed to the notion that slavery was invented by Britain and America, we need to show how people, in an open society, came to realize that slavery was wrong ? a rather novel idea at the time and still so in parts of the world ? and campaigned against this. Two little comments perhaps show the Guardianista approach. John Humphreys on the today program talked of a forthcoming item about slavery in the West Indies ?where it all started?. I happened to mention to someone that the UK and USA were the only two nations that had taken any real measures against slavery and was told with a knowing smirk that there are more slaves now than there were in the mid 19th century. I am prepared to believe that this is so but they sure as hell ain?t in the UK or USA, except perhaps in diplomatic households and embassies!

    The open society in the UK has failed to identify the problem for a long time and is now only just doing so. Possibly because of Enoch Powell the debate has tended to be dominated by ideologues of left and right. These have approached the problem by seeing immigrant arrivals as religious and/or racial blocks. On the ground where individuals and families come into contact with each other there may be misunderstandings but my experience, from having children at ?bog standard? state schools in an ethnically mixed area, is that bonds are made. OK so this is not going to suddenly blossom into multi-racial paradise but it needs to be nurtured and developed by step by step policies which address the problems not seeking a Utopian solution to badly misunderstood problems.

    That means, for example, that we do need to look at faith schools. However the instinctive Islington attitude of ?close them all because they are religious and real people are atheists (except of course when they are non-Christian)? is not useful. In what respect if any do faith schools contribute to the problem or the solution? In my experience (I am an atheist) CofE schools do a tolerably good job in genuinely welcoming children from all backgrounds. Maybe they will go but we should learn from them. I suspect the dear old CofE needs to be disestablished and the heir to the throne be allowed to marry a Catholic should he or she find any such suitably foolish to want to tie the knot. Whatever we do we should ask what the problem is and how the action contributes to a solution.

    This involves being able to steer between reaction ? back to the 19th century or whenever ? and revolutionary utopianism ? tear it all down and plan society thus. We use our traditions, not to be stuck for ever at one place, but in order to solve our society?s problems, and in doing so renew, extend, or let gracefully die, those traditions and develop new ones.

    At present I feel that the situation between the mass of the population, including ethnic majorities, and their ideological/community leaders is a little like that of the carer with the bloke in the wheelchair in Little Britain. It is said that some Muslim leaders were affronted when Hazel Blears was sent by the government to meet them because she was a woman. Well sorry chaps but this is one sensitivity you are going to have to learn to live without! Get in practice for next time you may get a gay or a Jew. You can have all the religion you like but within the limits implied by the tolerance of an open society.

    Keep contributing everyone and be rationally critical!

    Could we have some more gentle religious jokes? I rather enjoyed the one about the priest, the rabbi and the iman which I look forward to telling to my friends and acquaintances of all religions and none.

  16. Lobster Blogster said:
    August 6, 2005 05:56 AM | permalink

    Gera �� hugsa �essi Englendingar f�lk �xl eini skrifa � Englendingar , e�a �xl �eir vera vandvirkur � annar tungum�l of?

    Oh, sorry you don’t seem to set up for the Icelandic alphabet”

    I’d complain to Trevor Philips Lobster … BJ’s blog isn’t racially ‘inclusive’ enough! We need more Icelander immigrants to the UK. Especially those big strapping blonde Icelandic birds ! Whoops ! sexism !

  17. Integration is certainly important, but I don’t think we should be too militant about protecting british values. If the values are worthwhile and sound, then we have to have faith that they will be seen to be so, and will survive well. Britain’s strength has always been in the way it learns from foreigners. We gained and maintained our position as the world’s most unlikely superpower for so long, by learning first from successive invaders, and later from our colonies abroad. It was this pragmatism that led to our success. I am a conservative, a monarchist, and a CofE christian; however I was not brought up in any of these three traditions specifically. For the vast majority of my life I had been atheist, and my parents never tried to influence me towards any of those views. I hold these values because I believe they are true, and I gained them in one of the most multicultural environments possible. My immediate circle of four friends are called Bilal, Masud, Charles, and Joshua; guess which backgrounds they reflect??

    Our traditions are strong, great traditions forged through a longer and more diverse history than (I think it’s fair to say) any other country in the world. For as long as we stand for them ourselves; for as long as we know why we stand for them, and are willing to advocate them to others, they will prosper.

    As for abolishing single faith schools… I think it rather depends on whether general religious education is going to be widespread despite it. Atheism is a religion too, and science is not infallible, quite the opposite. True, western atheism has it’s own denominations like any other religion, but nonetheless it is a matter for belief, based on no evidence and chosen simply by arbitrary preferrence. Science will never answer all life’s questions (for those who don’t agree with this, Godel’s Theorem of Incompleteness, a generations old and universally accepted mathematical theorem, proves this when applied to the universe). I would like to see the abolition of single faith schools, but not if it is the first step in the abolition of faith. I would rather see people raised as muslims (though not fundamentalist ones) than atheists, however, as long as people have as much information as possible, this should be their decision.

    Other comments seem to be indicating a desire for the disestablishment of the Church of England… I’m not quite sure what I think of this. In principle I am in favour for reasons of religious equality. However, as far as I can see few people care at all whether the Church of England is established or not, it certainly has little impact on their lives, and so for the sake of tradition I would probably leave things the way they are.

  18. By all means make the understanding of the English language a condition of leave to stay, but NOT at the expense of the immigrants having to surrender their own languages. There is nothing more comforting, when one is feeling down, than being able to retreat into the comfort zone of ones’ Mother tongue, amongst those whom one holds dear. Nostalgia is part of the human condition.

    By all means erase single faith schools from the educational curriculum provided by the State, but NOT at the expense of depriving the various Religions of their right to teach their tenets to their children, in their own time. This must include the CofE schools, or it has no meaning.

    The trouble with the single faih school debate is , if a band of people; of whatever faith; insist on teaching their children at home, or in totally privately run schools,the Government, having already acceded that such practice is within the law, would have no say in the matter, excepting in the insistence of compliance with the examination requirements, thus negating the whole notion of non-religious State education.

    Children of all colours; class and religion; left to their own devices ,will treat all other children equally well, and without a hint of prejudice. The notion of equality does not , of itself , enter into a child’s vocabulary.The prejudice is implanted somewhere further up the age chain, and is passed down until it inevitably reaches the youngest children, then the cycle starts over again.

    Fear of the unknown in animals (including the Human Animal), is normal, and can only be overcome when the ,”Unknown”, becomes the ,”Known”. Get to know your neighbours: perhaps they are not half bad after all.
    There are enough so called “bad” accents in British English without anyone taking exception to a few more.

  19. Oh, just to correct a slight mis-understanding above, I’m not Icelandic but half-English half-German. My father came to Britain as POW being de-mobbed in 1945. After a mix-up over documents he decided to stay.

    He chose not use German in our home because he didn’t believe there would ever be much need for his children to speak it. He was actually following an insular British trend which Boris is trying to revive in his article. How much more confident we could be as a nation (despite genetics, I only ever regard myself as English) if we were all a lot more proficient in foreign languages. The Dutch, the Scandanavians, and many people from further abroad have great linguistics skills and mastery of many tongues. I want their love of language to be the aim for the people I live amongst. Why is limiting ambition so important for Mr Johnson?

    Apologies for having to make a little joke in Icelandic to get my point across. We need dialogue here, not diatribes.

  20. I like JackT’s comments (no relation!). As I am an fallible atheist, usually Labour voting and slightly soggy republican, I see we may have things to talk about. But I think we are part of the same tradition of the open society.

    Atheism has been part of a totalitarian ideology that has killed tens of millions in the last century. The Christian tradition has on the whole contributed to the tolerance we find today in Britain, even taking into account the ghastly things done in its name by ideologues. Can the Marxists say the same? (I’m not blaming Marx for this. He was somewhat deluded, unworhy of being called a philosopher let alone the greatest, but cannot be held responsible for what followed). What are referred to as the Christian right in the USA are mainly people with very conservative values about issues such as homosexuality and abortion. They may not be my idea of companions for a walking holiday and I’m sure I’m not their’s. However, apart from the really crazy fringers in Montana and places, they don’t wish to eliminate sections of the population. If they win elections then that is because they have got their message across better than the others.

    I have always voted Labour but I’m not religious about it. What I would like to see is more discussion in our main parties about the issues initiated by people like Boris J. and others. An open society is about solving problems and you don’t solve problems if they don’t get discussed. We need good people from both the main parties, and none, to debate rationally and critically. Pity we haven’t got a Liberal party any more.

    The United Kingdom has been a fundamentally free, open and democratic society for far longer than the German Democratic Republic ever existed. I would rather suffer under the monarchy in the former than glory in the republic of freedom of the latter.

  21. Great article Boris.

    Not all of the PC agenda is barmy. Black and brown people were written out of history before.
    Even now when you see footage of Monty’s army in N. Africa in the war, you are misled as to the no. of Indians involved.

    Thank God you are leading a rethink on faith schools. I seem to recall Tory policy is to support them. There must be a sensible way forward on this. One answer might be to say that
    in areas where there are large faith minorities only those faith schools which could attract perhaps 25% of their roll from other faiths would continue to be funded as faith schools.

  22. Mary Seacole was masseuse to Queen Alexandra and married to Horatio Nelson’s grandson, and a holder of the Crimean Medal and Legion of Honour. Wildly popular in her own lifetime, there was a four day festival held in her honour in London in 1857. Tens of thousands attended.

    Shame on Boris Johnson (whoever he may be) for assuming that when a black briton’s mentioned in the history lesson it is tokenism

  23. The whole point of integration is that foreigners should have to agree to our terms, not the other way round. This is why only non-C of E faith schools should be banned. The Church of England is (and should remain) the main religion of this country, which is why it should be treated as such. It is the needless bargaining with minority groups (not only where religion is concerned) that continues to erode the whole idea of “Britishness”, which should be tackled. After all, governments are elected by majority, so it’s about time we start to put the majority first.

  24. Jack – you said “I see we may have things to talk about”, well I have just recently set up an online forum for discussion like this, with various friends and so on, so you might like to check it out! Any of the rest of you are welcome there too of course 🙂

    http://general.forumup.com/

    It is still most definitely in it’s infancy, so is very small at the moment, but perhaps you could help with that, thanks!

  25. British MEANS the Church of England. (oh I’ll just put down CofE then) The head of State is the head of the Church. We are one of the few countries on the planet that has it’s own religion. If that is inconvenient to you, tough, it’s not as if British people aren’t allowed to choose otherwise as a British society is a tolerant society. However, as this society is moving inexorably toward state control then the only religious choice here will undoubtedly be the religion of the state.

    Treading the moral path between freedom of choice and big brother is not that easy and often open to critisism. However, multiculturalism does not work in such a small democracy as ours. Being able to do what you want, worship how you want, live how you want and die how you want (taking whomever you want with you) seems like anarchy to me not glorious freedom. You all have to agree on a few basic rules. The christian religions can sit pretty happily side by side in the same street (well, mostly) but a religion that actually encourages it’s followers to distance themselves from ‘infidels’ is never gonna work in a society largely of infidels. Especially when that society is seen to bomb like minded followers.

    So is the answer more state control? passing laws that allow people to be legally starved to death on the NHS? I don’t think so. Introducing little plastic cards? er, no. Agreeing on what it is to be British and signing a form that says you agree to drink Tizer and eat chips? Well obviously not no, but maybe the idea is a step in the right direction. I think Boris may (?) have overlooked that his idea of Britishness stems from his upbringing and if his upbringing is based on anything it is an accepted form of good manners. It’s a code of behaviour that has always been around him, and around me – it’s our culture. And those good manners and even the laws of our country are based on……christian teaching.

  26. British MEANS the Church of England. (oh I’ll just put down CofE then) The head of State is the head of the Church. We are one of the few countries on the planet that has it’s own religion. If that is inconvenient to you, tough, it’s not as if British people aren’t allowed to choose otherwise as a British society is a tolerant society. However, as this society is moving inexorably toward state control then the only religious choice here will undoubtedly be the religion of the state.

    Treading the moral path between freedom of choice and big brother is not that easy and often open to critisism. However, multiculturalism does not work in such a small democracy as ours. Being able to do what you want, worship how you want, live how you want and die how you want (taking whomever you want with you) seems like anarchy to me not glorious freedom. You all have to agree on a few basic rules. The christian religions can sit pretty happily side by side in the same street (well, mostly) but a religion that actually encourages it’s followers to distance themselves from ‘infidels’ is never gonna work in a society largely of infidels. Especially when that society is seen to bomb like minded followers.

    So is the answer more state control? passing laws that allow people to be legally starved to death on the NHS? I don’t think so. Introducing little plastic cards? er, no. Agreeing on what it is to be British and signing a form that says you agree to drink Tizer and eat chips? Well obviously not no, but maybe the idea is a step in the right direction. I think Boris may (?) have overlooked that his idea of Britishness stems from his upbringing and if his upbringing is based on anything it is an accepted form of good manners. It’s a code of behaviour that has always been around him, and around me – it’s our culture. And those good manners and even the laws of our country are based on……christian teaching.

  27. The National Curriculum was in part an attempt on the part of a Conservative government to create a sort of unified British identity, mainly by fawning over Shakespeare. But how many wannabe Islamic funadmentalists went through this system and still came out alienated? That’s not to say it’s fully at fault. But a clear definition of British identity is, by its nature, exclusive. It leaves as many out as it accepts in, and should be more carefully constructed an expression of national identity than waving plastic Union Jacks (made in China) at the Last Night Of The Proms.

    As for the American way of doing things, one shouldn’t be too overawed – there’s many a new American citizen who swears alleigance with their fingers (or toes) crossed. Rupert Murdoch, for example, became a citizen just so he could buy TV stations there. US Citizenship isn’t so much an ideal (the grass always being greener on the other side of the Atlantic) as a practical consideration. (It never harmed Arnold Schwarznegger either.) So it’s not the patriotic paradise some would have you believe.

    The big issue is not whether the big problem is Britishness Vs. Multiculturalism, but who gets to define what is and isn’t British – and why. The lentil-munching Guardian mob seemed to have mucked this one up. But who is to say that the Right will do any better a job?

  28. Agreed: Bryan + Lobster Blogster.

    Not agreed: Melissa (the Proms yeah but wot, no WOMAD?) and jaq (hi, good to see you back).

    Jack – off the fence if you want to avoid a nasty accident. And Mac – reliably humanist as ever, salutations sir.

    I feel Im among (British?)mates on the board. But Melissa, really – none of this BNP Go Elsehere Mate attitude, it does you no credit my dear. You sound like a black cabbie (you know wot I mean, a white black cabbie, apples + pears, Seig Heil, hasn’t the Queen got a luvly smile).

    Well. The comments above on disestablishing the Church of this Green Unpleasant Land did not exactly set the Thames on fire. How British. Where dissent rears its ugly head let us behave with studied disdain and act as if some oik has committed some dreadful faux pas and ignore the blighter. A provocation has its poison drawn if it becomes an Uncomment. ‘For the sake of tradition’ Jack T? Dust off Walter Bagehot and preserve the mystique and majesty of Her Majesty.

    Wot about Chas’ interesting take on non-Xtian religions, given that he might some day become the Head of the C of E? Trouble is he’s too busy hugging trees to be taken seriously as an ecumenical commentator on matters of faith? (Defender of the Faith. And the best form of defence is…)

    Toodle pip chaps. Wage slavery commences in an hour. Back to our desks. Head down, nose clean.

    Monday am.

  29. Happy Monday one and all

    I’m not sure I’m on the fence but I suspect that Kevin B is pretty much dug in behind it.

    To jump up and down from behind your fence shouting “Monarchy is pants” implying a good can come about by the mere absence of a perceived bad doen’t seem constructive.

    There’s an old Jefferson Airplane song that goes something like “Don’t you want somebody to love”. I often feel that they made another “Don’t you want somebody/something to hate” which I missed but others were deeply impressed by.

    I suggest that the point about monarchy vs. republicanism, which religions we tolerate, how religion fits into our educational system etc. should not be “Atheist republican good/bad, religious monarchist bad/good” but to look at what is supporting our open society, what could be improved, what has outlived its usefulness in terms of contributing to a humane society and so on.

    I am an atheist but many of my fellow atheists make me cringe when they say peculiar things about why paganism might be a good idea. I am a republican because I think that where republicanism has been part of ther development of an open society – e.g. USA – then it probably more beneficial than monarchy.

    So viva the republic? – of Mao, Honecker, Stalin, Hussain, Pol Pot…… errm! I’ll stick with Good Queen Liz for now, despite her dysfunctional family!

    In fact the only republic many behind-the-fencers are postively against is that of the USA!

    Talking of old pop songs wasn’t there one by Gary Glitter about “being in my gang”?

    Must be off! More fenceposts to pull up!

  30. Kevin B: Up with the lark as usual, and in rather more sombre mood than of yore. Good Morning and a safe trip to Town is my wish for you.

    May I say how sorry I am at the death of Robin Cook? I was no lover of his politics, but he at least, amongst the many not having integrity, had it in abundance, when he resigned over his Government’s pursuance of the War in Iraq

    While we argue the toss about the Great and the Good, and their chronic inability to sort out the manners of the children at the tea party; the world rolls on, and it really is time for someone to act in an adult and responsible manner.

    The PC brigade has had its experiment, which has so patently failed, it is now time to repeal, or at least revise, the Human Rights Act. Every miscreant, upon being apprehended, screams ” I have rights”, but forgets all too conveniently that we also have responsibilities: in this he is encouraged by the nannies of “Liberty”, and other like minded left wing namby-pamby busybodies. Fairness of action is not merely a one way street!

    The time for empty rhetoric is, or at least should be, finished; trouble is; all the dithering and insecurity felt in getting up the nerve to actually rid the country of the worst offenders,( rogue hate spewing Imams et al), for fear of upsetting a few fundamentalists.

    Until late last week, it would appear that only ineffective measures were available to deal with what can only be described as fomentation of the latent carbuncle which is Fundamentalism. If a person had a potentially deadly cancer, and the surgeons took as much time arguing the operation ethics, the patient would be much more liable not to survive. The same logic applies. Excise the cancer, allow the patient to convalesce.

    At last someone has seen that our existing laws of treason can and should be applied; as similar laws, current in other Countries, are applied. The death penalty for this crime was abolished as late as 1998. It is a pity that the terrorist’s murderous intentions were not abolished too. The death penalty they pronounced, by their actions, was, as we all know, carried out, in its multiplicity.

    I still believe that every right thinking person, of whatever creed or ethnicity, wants to live in peace , and in relative harmony with their fellow citizens. Why should this not be possible?

  31. Here’s an interesting thought. If we require everyone in Britain to speak English, is it entirely unreasonable that other countries do the same. Will this mean an end to the legions of people appearing on TV in “Let’s go and live abroad” shows who can’t be bothered to learn Spanish/French/Greek etc. ?

    I do hope so, they make me ashamed to be English.

  32. I co-advocate your proposal Phil. For a slightly different reason however. As Saint Ambrose said at some time during his 58 years on Earth:-” Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; Si fueris alibi,vivito sicut ubi”, which every schoolboy knows, means,” If you are at Rome, live in the Roman style; if you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere”.

    The minimum requirement should be to have command of enough basics in the language concerned , so as to be able to live without being a burden on the natives. It is no excuse to hear that, ” They are too old to begin learning a new language”, when talking about immigrants of adult standing.

    It would be interesting to know how many other places in the World ,(outside GB), have up to 20 foreign language interpreters, paid out of community charge funds,( and equally, incidentally, NHS funds), to cater for those not willing ,(or refusing), to learn the language.

    The same could be said of average Brits abroad , who mistakenly think that their native language is their passport to international understanding.

    Some are lucky; however, good manners alone should make one at least make the effort to speak in the tongue, however ineptly,of the host nation. The effort is generally much appreciated .

  33. Mac: Yes, yours truly more sombre in mood. Angry perhaps a more accurate description. Oh dear, Angry Middle-aged Man Alert. So much for Savoir Faire, m’dear.

    (Portentous v/o) The Grim Reaper has recently visited London and Niger (Q. How many dead Africans = 1 Brit?), while Rwanda commemorates the Genocide on its soil in the mid-90s. See the new doco Shaking Hands With the Devil, featuring the commander of the UN armed forces who took the collective guilt of the West on his shoulders after the USA + UK sat on their hands and bleated about Bosnia while 800,000 human beings, albeit of ebony hues, were slaughtered in 100 days by fellow humans. A kill rate even the Nazis couldn’t match for all their industrial innvations, even tho’ abetted the know-how of IBM and General Motors (c/o overseas German offices).

    Mac, you know better than to type fatuous cliches like “left wing namby-pamby busybodies. Fairness of action is not merely a one way street!” Per- lease. The Human Rights Act, which enacts the European Convention on Human Rights, is not negotiable as it enshrines certain fundamental rights (‘inalienable’ in American terms)which cannot be conveniently suspended because the government of the day deems it expedient to do so in its bid to entrench a police state. (Do I exaggerate gentle reader? Then I exaggerate.) The Judiciary has consistently stood up to the Home Office and its intellectually-challenged Home Secretary (formerly Blunkett, now Clarke)and is arguably the Real Opposition in this country/federation of countries.

  34. Jack writes loftily: “implying a good can come about by the mere absence of a perceived bad doen’t seem constructive.”

    Well mate, in my book if the Rwanda genocide (a Perceived Bad Thing) had been prevented by the effective deployment of a UN task force had resulted in the Mere Absence of violence, then that negative would de facto be constructive. What precisely is the point you are making?

  35. Kevin: The Human Rights Act is, I believe, open to re-negotiation in certain exceptional circumstances. I perceive these exceptional circumstances to be here with us now. Therefore, as has been mooted by various factions in Parliament , a realignment is due , in order to secure our future as a free and relatively independent Democracy.

    I have not , neither have I ever, said , that the citizen should not be afforded the due rights apposite to a modern ” free” society: rather I say that “rights “, are not totally inalienable; rather they are dependent upon lawful and civilized behaviour. If one knowingly breaks a law, and thereby jeopardises human life, is one not forfeiting some of those “rights”? One has the right to a trial by one’s peers, since innocence is presupposed without proof of guilt, no more; no less.
    On the other hand , one must ask, “Where are the rights of the victims?” It is a question which is seldom, if ever, asked by those who I referred to as Nannies.

    Abrogation of civilized responsibilities by any person, if the niceties in law are observed, should equally negate, or at least weaken, the so called rights of that person: or is your argument so slanted that a criminal is allowed to do what he pleases, without fear of the consequences? In view of Magna Carta,I hardly think that your answer will be positive, because you are , by your own proclamation, a caring , right thinking person, who has deep convictions regarding the sufferings of mankind,( as in Rwanda and Niger).

    A propos Niger: where was France in feeding her ex-colonial territories? I didn’t hear a word from tne Elysees Palace, did you?

  36. Mac: When in doubt have a pop at the French eh?

    Look – we here have to take responsibility for the acts and omissions of Britain. We vote for the government and – wotdyaknow? – they always get in! Pointing the finger at the French is too easy and simply bespeaks a reluctance to take responsibility for our obligations, both from the colonial period and later. The UK, together with the USA, actively thwarted international attempts to intervene in Rwanda and for that we have a heavy moral debt to repay.

    It’s all very well saying the perfidious French aren’t helping the people of Niger (and yes we should respectfully tell them wot we think of that) BUT we have somewhat limited control of the governance of French. Control of our own govt is exercised (at least notionally) through the ballot box: granted that ‘control’ is then pretty tenuous, viz Blair’s arrogant dismissal of the 1000000-strong No Invasion of Iraq march and bigging up of his own vaunted conscience (the Voices! the Voices!), hence we sloganise: Not In Our Name.

    As for fiddling with the HRA, we will be watching that space very carefully indeed.

  37. Loftily? Moi!

    Kevin B does not recognise the difference between a Bad and a perceived Bad. Genocide is always, no ifs and buts, a Bad. Violence by UN intervention to prevent genocide is a lesser evil than the genocide. (It does also run the lesser evil of corruption, sexual abuse etc. by UN forces which sems to be becoming a feature of the percieved Good of the UN).

    Kevin perceives the monarchy as a Bad. A constitutional monarchy with an overwhelming elected component is probably not a Bad. Indeed even with a much smaller elected component it would be a much better thing than the “democratic republics of North Korea, East Germany” etc.. I am racking my brains to think of a monarchy more ghastly than these ‘democratic states’. There must be one! It’s a real stumper! Anyway the French monarchy before the revolution must have been pretty much of a Bad thing. Possibly most monarchies are a Bad thing. But, unlike genocide, monarchy itself it not necessarily a bad thing.

    The point is that the semantics we use are not tick box mechanisms. The reality behind the references is what should concern us when we seek to improve things.

    It’s a favoured tactic of the excitable left and right to set up a set of definitions by which they can ‘prove’ that black is white. For example because the UN has the terms United and Nations in its title then this gets two ticks and must be a good thing. In fact the grotesque spectacle of leaders of some of the rather more barbaric states lecturing the open societies on just about anything betrays the reality of the UN rather more.

    Why do you want to get rid of the monarchy? If it seems that it will improve our open society then you may have an argument. But if, for example, it was done under pressure from the sort of anti-monarchists that democratic republicans have no truck with, then you may well weaken the open society.

    I am quite happy to discuss the abolition of the monarchy with democratic republicans and monarchists. If I were convinced that abolition would be a good thing I certainly would not line up with the totalitarians of left, right and various religions who say the monarchy must be abolished because it is a monarchy. In that case monarchy would be a lesser Evil than giving credibility to reactionaries and utopians. (Well obviously my particular lining up is not exactly going to sway things but a democracy comes into moral peril just as much when its democratic critics have united fronts with its enemies as it does when it carries out undemocratic acts itself).

  38. Hey chaps – soo good to see Mac and KevinB at full force again. My last post was from the south coast where I managed 5 mins on someone elses PC. I went to a superb show and then heard that someone had written in to the local paper complaining about the show because it was the same as last year. See what I mean? This debate we’re having is good and necesarry but when it’s all been thrashed out, if it ever is, someone, somewhere is going to moan. However much we achieve. We’re British!

  39. Here is an argument for keeping the Monarchy:-

    Bush.

    Whatever pros and cons anyone else wishes to argue, in the scheme of things our Monarchy is more permanent than a President would be , since everything is in the place it has been for generations.

    OK : let there be some dysfunctionality in the Royal Family. So what! Nobobody’s perfect; and at least we know what we are likely to get for the forseeable future. Were it not for the more salacious, so called, “newspapers”, we would not have been regaled, again and again, by the marital and extra marital affairs of the Windsors; which seem to have been the cause of the precipitation of much anti-Royalism.
    Think rather of The Royal Family Inc., as an up-market Dallas, and it gives a different slant on things, quite normal, actually.

    I for one do not wish to change the Head of State. With the status quo, one knows what to expect, and it’s relatively cheap.( And Charles isn’t a bad farmer /businessman, to boot.)And then there’s William to look forward to.

  40. Sorry I’m back again so quickly, but I can’t let dear old Kevin off completely, after his complaint that we, (Britain), are not taking our ex-colonial background seriously.
    He cherry picked the sentence tucked away at the end of my post, which, rather than making a statement, was asking a cogent question about National responsibilities.

    A statement does not normally end with a question mark. Here is a statement :-It is now approaching 50 years since independence as achieved by the majority of the then African colonies and protectorates.

    Whilst the colonials were in residence, (some will still falsely accuse the colonists of having looted the riches of the land,whilst doing nothing in return), there were no dictators with inflated egos, who quash all democratic resistance to their despotic regimes, Themselves living in the lap of luxury, enjoying palatial plenty ,whist seeing the field hands starving and being made homeless. There was no ethnic cleansing, people co-existed in relative harmony.The Law prevailed,even if it was an imposed,foreign based law. The chaos we see now ,was not caused by colonialism .

    I would suggest the unprejudiced viewing of a film,”Africa Addio”, made by the Italians, Jacopetti and Prosperi, recording as it does, without comment, what occurred at, and shortly following, the celebrations of the declarations of independence of various Afican States.

    The film was subsequently banned in GB as being too brutal for the so called civilized person to witness. It was later freed from restrictions and is now on show at various Art centres (as well as on Video), to see the roots of Africa’s present troubles being planted.

    I ,too, find it unbelievable that the UN has not undertaken more to alleviate the suffering in so many parts of Africa, whereas it cannot stop making ineffectual noises about parts of Europe ;the Middle East and other trouble spots. However, we are no longer the universal policeman, and we should not try to behave as though we were. “Physician heal thyself”, seems particularly apt here, I think.

  41. Macarnie – I suspect your argument is meant to depend on Bush being a bad president. I don’t think he is but suppose he were. Then the impermanency would be a rather practical good. I think he’s OK but you can have too much of a good thing so it is a key feature of a democracy and open society that the rulers are subject to reselection under a lawful process.

    (pace chad experts, the Florida example showed that a judicial process existed where there was doubt about the validity of the electoral process. It came down in Bush’s favour. If there was feeling that the judge was biased or just wrong then there are further avenues which were not taken up. Eventually power changed hands without tanks on the street or squashed protestors.)

    Suppose Edward VIII had not abdicated. We would have had a man with definite Nazi sympathies as head of state. Whilst I think our own dear Queen is, on balance, very much a Good thing, we cannot always guarantee to be so lucky. The electorate have had two chances to turn out Tony Blair. For those that like that sort of thing there were plenty of anti-war candidates for people to vote for. I have little sympathy with those who say that their vote won’t count because the candidates they want won’t be elected. Imagine a multiverse where we each got exactly the government we wanted in one universe!

    Tea break over! White collar proletarian life calls!

  42. Macarnie – I suspect your argument is meant to depend on Bush being a bad president. I don’t think he is but suppose he were. Then the impermanency would be a rather practical good. I think he’s OK but you can have too much of a good thing so it is a key feature of a democracy and open society that the rulers are subject to reselection under a lawful process.

    (pace chad experts, the Florida example showed that a judicial process existed where there was doubt about the validity of the electoral process. It came down in Bush’s favour. If there was feeling that the judge was biased or just wrong then there are further avenues which were not taken up. Eventually power changed hands without tanks on the street or squashed protestors.)

    Suppose Edward VIII had not abdicated. We would have had a man with definite Nazi sympathies as head of state. Whilst I think our own dear Queen is, on balance, very much a Good thing, we cannot always guarantee to be so lucky. The electorate have had two chances to turn out Tony Blair. For those that like that sort of thing there were plenty of anti-war candidates for people to vote for. I have little sympathy with those who say that their vote won’t count because the candidates they want won’t be elected. Imagine a multiverse where we each got exactly the government we wanted in one universe!

    Tea break over! White collar proletarian life calls!

  43. Macarnie said ?erasing single faith schools… must include the CofE schools, or it has no meaning?.

    Oh yes it does. Retention of CoE schools means we recognise that Britain is still essentially a Christian country, in spirit if not always in practice. Its confirms that our sense of morality has been shaped over a very long time by Christian ethics – if only the good old Ten Commandments.

    It also makes a principled statement by recognising that CoE schools are generally more inclusive than other faith schools.

    There is a big difference between CoE schools (not forgetting other moderate Judeo/Christian denominations) and those of burgeoning minority faiths. The former have been absorbed into British society and are not at odds with prevailing sentiment.

    Despite poor church attendance and claims that Christianity is dying, Britain remains an overwhelmingly Christian country. In the last census 71.7 per cent gave Christianity as their religion. Islam was the second most popular, at 3.1 per cent. Putting this into perspective, this is only four times as many as those claiming to be Jedi.

    I am sick and tired of arrivists, fanatics, emotional blackmailers and vote-grubbing politicians telling us what it wrong with Britain, a uniquely stable country that has done more good in the world that any other since the dawn of mankind.

    And I resent a single penny of my heavily taxed income being spent on institutions and individuals, a disturbing number of whom see their host nation as infidels who must be crushed.

    Play by our rules or shove off. It really is that simple.

  44. Harry Schuhmacher

    and so many others buzzing with vibrant views over this sleepy summer recess time – great to hear from you all! keep coming over to see us

    from us all @ Boris Johnson’s parliamentary office

  45. ‘Play by our rules or shove off. It really is that simple.’

    Ah, Howards Way (BTW u write well for a 3rd Way fence-straddler) – If Only life was that simple-minded. Sounds a bit akin to the Tebbit Cricket Test: England or West Indies? – Christ, I’d go for the West Indies every time despite being a notional whitey Brit (oh all right, bog-trotter really, wot dya expect). To get down to brass tacks: Red Stripe or Newcastle Brown? I rest my case.

    ‘Britain remains an overwhelmingly Christian country.’ Aha you knowledge the abysmally low church attendance in the UK so how on God’s Own Earth (He’s repossessing it) do you back up this arbitrary assertion? Seriously?

    Can we not acknowledge in our heart of hearts that the French(notorious Garlic Eaters and anti-clericists) have actually got it bang on the nose by banning all overt expressions of faith in their secular education system? No crucifixes, veils, crescent moons, God smiting the Ungodly, etc.

    Sounds good to me.

  46. Howard:- At the top of the debate, Timothy Benjamin asked what looked remarkably like a rhetorical question: it was ” If we “scrap” faith schools, do we also scrap C of E schools? ”

    My reaction to that question, rhetorical or not, is to apply even handedness to the answer.
    My point is that if you insist on some, but not all single faith schools closing in favour of multi faith schools, not to include C of E schools would not be fair. Britons has have long had a widespread reputation for being fair, and what counts for one must count for another; otherwise fairness has not been doled out.

    The stats you gave omitted to explain that the majority of Christians; more definitely Anglicans, are only regular Churchgoers in the sense of Christenings; weddings; and of course the odd Funeral. That is of course their choice, and none shall gainsay their right to the continuance of their nominal faith. Other Faiths have other tenets, and should be allowed to practice their religion as they see fit, always providing that practice does not deleteriously affect others.

    Should the contrary be the case, then , the people fomenting hate and sedition should be dealt with , as appropriate , depending upon if foreign , or British born. If foreign born, and don’t like the goods, buy elsewhere, or, in the case of natives of the UK, be jailed for sedition

    Given that Protestantism is the National Religion, in the form of C of E, and will probably remain so: could anyone envisage a form of inquisition, with a latter day Torquemada at its head , cleansing Britain of foreign religions? I can’t: this is after all a tolerant,civilised, country.

  47. You’ll know this anyway, but perhaps you should think about it a bit more today..
    ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’
    This is not a defence of multiculturalism, it is a clarion call for toleration and a condemnation of ‘communitarianism’. Most of us liberal Conseratives believe in human rights – universal human rights. Any minority who claim additional privilege should think carefully about why they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.

  48. Kevin B – At my age I need all the compliments I can get so thanks!

    Now for my education. What are/were ways 1 and 2?

    Happy Wednesday one and all!

  49. There are some practical issues that I think need to be taken into account on the abolition of CofE schools.

    Firstly, to challenege some of the statements in general about the Anglican church in England today:

    More than 1.7 million people go to at least one anglican church service each month (slightly more than the total number of people who claimed to be muslim in the 2001 census). This increases to 2.6 million on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. That’s only for CofE, since that’s what we’re discussing, 40% of the population go to carol services across all denominations.

    Now for schools, the Church of England directly supports more than 4700 schools. One in four primary schools and one in 16 secondary schools in England are Church of England schools, with nearly 1 million pupils. Could the government really afford to take on this burden? In addition, I went to a CofE primary, and I had friends who were muslim and jewish too, some relatively devout ones too. So it’s not as if these schools are divisive, quite the opposite, and they remove from the government a subsatial financial burden.

  50. KevinB, let me treat you to a new pair of specs. You ask how on earth I back up the “arbitrary assertion” that 71.4% of Britons call themselves Christians. It’s documented in the last census, that’s how!

    If you’re asking why this should be so, when church attendance is low, that’s another matter entirely. I guess that most people who think of themselves as Christian in the broad sense do not go to church regularly yet subscribe to its ideals. They may not care for the theology and rituals but they do understand the tenets of Christianity based, if nothing else, on the Ten Commandments, along with lessons of turning the other cheek, the Good Samaritan etc. They may also feel there are forces at work more sublime than Ikea, Big Brother, bling and Bluewater shopping mall. As such, they are happy to call themselves Christians.

    In a country where a vast majority adhere to Christian values, and a considerable majority are avowedly Christians, I can see nothing wrong with continuing (important word) to have some state schools that proudly promote by a name we all understand the concepts of peace, love, understanding and duty on which the religion is based. And all achieved without Kevin’s crucifixes, veils, crescent moons and God smiting the ungodly. Stripping these schools of their code would create a vacuum – and we know what happens in vacuums.

    Macarnie, you say it would “not be fair” to abolish single faith schools while keeping CoE schools. I’m not suggesting abolishing any – just curtailing their growth and keeping a very close eye on those outside the mainstream.

    The mess we’re in now is largely a result of our obsession with being fair at any cost. The latest one, of course, is the proposal to introduce a national Muslim bank holiday (appeasement disguised as fairness?). How fair would that be to every other group that’s been pressing for a new public holiday to celebrate something they believe in? How much resentment would this cause? Why no Seikh / Rasta / Jewish / Jedi bank holiday? Trafalgar / VE day / Abolition of Slavery / Vote for Boris bank holiday …

    Let me make it clear I’m no bible basher nor, Kevin, do I like Tebbit’s cricket test. I just want the views of the majority in this country to prevail – for a change.

  51. Howard : I agree that being fair at any cost is the root cause of many of our domestic troubles, but surely it is better to be fair than brutal? Remember, there is only a one letter difference , between Britishness and Brutishness.

    You say you would not abolish single faith schools: merely keep an eye on their growth. I would hardly think that anyone would want to ground more schools than there are children. Do you suggest a moratorium on Muslim fecundity: a tariff of pregnancy on the grounds of religion:-a rationing of issue, as in China? If so where were you each time the Papacy declared contraception an abomination? Where were you when Je’vah is reported to have ordered the Jews to, ” Go forth and mutiply”, a practice still being carried out in some parts of the Jewish community?

    Is it only the so called protestant work ethic you wish to have prosper, where the majority of families have the magic 1.8 children: both parents work, and indeed lots of them prefer private education anyway.

    I feel as deeply as anyone about this quandary ; this maze of PCness in which we are embroiled: thak gooness we are able to discuss, debate and argue the cogent points without loss of life or limb.
    Long live Britain: perfect or not. J’y suis , et j’y reste.

    Here are a few holidays,since you brought them up, which are observed by the Jewish community. No one works on these days, so one could say that these are real bank holidays.
    Yom Kippur; Hannukah; Tu Bishvat; Purim; Pesach or Passover; and Shavout.

    There is also an Independence Day and a Jerusalem day.
    Some other Jewish holidays , are :- Succot,;11th of Adar; Simchat Torah; Lag B’Omer; plus there are some minor Fast Days. These are inherent in the Jewish religion, and not in the gift of any Government

    Despite your misgivings as to the Government allowing a,“ Bank Holiday”, a day reserved for Muslims, surely it would be mere lip service to do so, since the majority would not celebrate it, or do you know differently.

  52. > You say you would not abolish single faith schools: merely keep an eye on their growth.

    Macarnie, you misunderstand me. Not keep a close eye on their growth but a close eye on what goes on behind their doors. Furthermore I’m suggesting no further increase in (state-funded) faith schools of any kind, which is not the same as no more schools! Do you want madrassas springing up all over Britain masquerading as primary schools? I certainly don’t.

    Abolishing existing faith schools, most of which do a fine job, would be drastic, unpopular and entirely unnecessary. The way towards integration is to remove the trappings of religion from state schools, especially bizarre and divisive dress. In that respect I agree with Kevin – the French have got it right.

  53. Sorry, Macarnie, I overlooked your point about bank holidays. Surely the ones you mention are religious festivals, not state-approved public holidays? I got the distinct impression that the Muslim proposal was for a “proper” bank holiday when everything shuts down.

    Can’t quite see your point about Britishness and Brutishness unless it’s just a clever play on words. Sadly, there is a much wider gap between “United” and “Kingdom”.

    Ah well, roll on Winterval…

  54. Howard : I like your resigned sigh.
    If what you fear were to occur, mine would be amongst the first vote against. I merely brought other creeds’ holidays into the debate to show how little another would change the status quo.
    The British / Brutish connection, ( whilst being meant as a word play), was to remind people that the Empire was not just the bed of roses some seem to think it was . Amritsar, and the so called Indian Mutiny are just two of the examples which spring to mind, of what I would call,” overreaction” by the Raj.

    However, since I was not there , I have only read what happened, and it wasn’t pleasant reading.

    Whilst we are talking about being British,and only human, I should like to say the following:-

    I am not, and have never claimed to be, an extremist, certainly not in the pejorative sense, but I do believe, to my very extremities; that I am glad that I am British. One’s place of birth is , however, accidental; one does not choose one’s place of birth. There exists in all human beings; regardless of ones nationality; an innate; acquired; or perhaps even nurtured; cosy sense of belonging; a familiarity; (in all senses of the word), which gives a certain buzz; plus a desire to keep that comfort zone from deterioration.

    Encroachment on that ” perceived private environment”, by persons suspected as interlopers, triggers an inexplicable, and sometimes violent defence mechanism, which in most cases,( certainly in times of conflict) , will not be denied by logic. The logic of defence is:- First beat off the invader: then there will be time to think normally. The, “Flight or Fight”, mechanism is Mankind’s last direct link to animalism, which Civilisation still seeks to expunge from the human psyche.

    Territoriality, and all that that entails, is a primordial urge, but does not necessarily have to end in mayhem.

    We live in an ever shrinking world, in the material and “Lebensraum” sense; people have higher expectations as to what can be got out of life, and who can blame them for that?

    I do not blame anyone for reaching for rosier horizons, but I object to having to pay for these aspirations, ESPECIALLY when the people concerned are economic,(insread of economic , read benefits), migrants, who often have nothing in the way of skills to offer in exchange for their keep; but nonetheless, take from the communal pot to which they have not contributed. There is no other reason for some of them being here, than to enjoy our state benefits and handouts, (given, I might add, indirectly, even to serving criminals, under the guise of their Human Rights. An example: pornography; supplied to one such criminal, on the grounds of his right to free speech, and all that fcreedom implies). On the other hand, those whose lives are endangered in their home countries deserve to be given Asylum: at least until it is deemed safe to return whence they came.

    I object, BTW, just as strongly, to having to pay for the number of teenage pregnancies, (incidentally, a European record), and resultant births recorded to the indigenous population; even as I object to having to pay for wars in which there can be no winners. Oh ! The joys of being British!

  55. Macarnie –

    Couldn’t agree more. But unfortunately no party is representing these majority views. The Tories have to realise they aren’t going to win any election by trimming to the centre ground on these issues. They need to get these issues into the open and expose Labour’s weaknesses.

    I have a sense we have sold our birthright for a mess of pottage – or perhaps a pizza quickly delivered to our door, which has been the main benefit of unrestrained mass immigration of recent years.

    To elaborate on your theme, we seem to have a crazy system where we import hundreds of thousands of people to do low skill jobs while meanwhile we postively encourage young people born here to lounge around watching daytime TV on benefits.

  56. Mac: The rather wonderful Alexei Sayle once pointed out the advantage of being Jewish in respect of holidays. You just casually mention to your boss that u won’t be in tomorrow cos it’s Simchat Torah or whatever which of course (as any fule kno) requires u to sit in a shed all day with a herring on your head. Boss (assuming s/he is not Jewish)immediately agrees to day of leave. Result!

    Howard has argued cogently in favour of the status quo (rock on the Quo!) but aren’t we getting a bit hung up on Britain = a Christian country? To abrogate moral values as distinctively (and solely) Christian seems to be to be an objectionable type of smug arrogance and ignorance of other traditions (including secular humanism). Read Nietzche.

  57. Kevin B

    What would non-secular humanism be?

    I’m always worried when it seems that an argument depends in part or in full on an enjoinment to “Read X”. You wouldn’t like it if a Christian told you to read the Bible to understand. I haven’t taken all the trouble to become an (admittedly faint hearted) atheist just to be told to refer to a secular god for the answer. What has Nietzche about this matter?

    On reflection I suppose that we might be safer with a secular god. After all we know that Nietzche is definitely dead, whereas reports of God’s may still be greatly exagerated. (S)he might be able to have the last laugh!

    A pleasant Thursday to you all and for traditional wage slaves, tomorrow is Friday! Something to look forward to!

  58. Kevin B

    What would non-secular humanism be?

    I’m always worried when it seems that an argument depends in part or in full on an enjoinment to “Read X”. You wouldn’t like it if a Christian told you to read the Bible to understand. I haven’t taken all the trouble to become an (admittedly faint hearted) atheist just to be told to refer to a secular god for the answer. What has Nietzche to say about this matter?

    On reflection I suppose that we might be safer with a secular god. After all we know that Nietzche is definitely dead, whereas reports of God’s may still be greatly exagerated. (S)he might be able to have the last laugh!

    A pleasant Thursday to you all and for traditional wage slaves, tomorrow is Friday! Something to look forward to!

  59. At the risk of touching on the tasteless, Kevin:
    It’s been a fair old time since someone got hung up about being Christian, history has it as 2005 years ago. So it’s a bit late in the day to be worrying about the nails of religion.

    Religion, take it or leave it, is here to stay, and if anyone objects to what is on offer: they should shop elsewhere until they find something which fits. There is, after all, a veritable panoply from which to choose.
    Even the main religions come in different flavours: in short , there’s something for everyone, if that’s what’s needed. As for me; ditto to what Louis B Mayer famously once said, “Include me out”.

  60. Kevin :- You exhort us to read Nietzsche: If his philosophies had been condensed to but one tome , it might be possible: however life is too short, and therefore perhaps you would like to tell us which of the following you meant we should read. I prefer reading in the original language, because, depending on the skill / art of the translator, one might lose so much in the translation, and we wouldn’t want that now: would we?

    Here is a list of what are considered to be his major works:-

    Die Geburt der Tragoedie; The birth of tragedy
    Unzeitgemaesse Betrachtungen: Untimely meditations
    Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Human: all too human
    Die froehliche Wissenschaft: Originally translated as The gay science, but, in order to be PC, I prefer The happy science.
    Also sprach Zarathustra: Thus spake Zarathustra.
    Jenseits von Gut und Boese: Beyond good and evil.
    Zur Genealogie der Moral: On the genealogy of morals.
    Morgenroete: Daybreak.
    Which would you advise for a start?

  61. Some pretty forthright talk here.

    > Field: we seem to have a crazy system where we import hundreds of thousands of people to do low skill jobs while meanwhile we postively encourage young people born here to lounge around watching daytime TV on benefits.

    Thank God (forgive me, you athiests) the atmosphere has shifted to the point where we can talk about these things without being instantly condemned as racist / reactionary / bigoted.

    (I’m not getting drawn into any more religious arguments except to say terms like “godless society” and “godforsaken place” – pretty powerful imagery – were invented for a reason.)

    One thing that’s missing from so much political thought and debate these days is common sense. In recent surveys of what makes us British, common sense crops up time and again as one of the enduring characteristics of Britishness. It is a precious commodity, yet it seems to play a dwindling role in the way we conduct public affairs. That is why I think so many people admire Boris – he talks a lot of common sense (let’s not forget this is his website!).

    It does not make sense to abolish CoE schools any more than it does to allow, let alone encourage, the growth of state-funded minority faith schools.

    If you had a lodger who refused to conform to house rules, criticised the facilities you provide and the way you ran the house, and refused to pay any rent, common sense dictates that he should go.

    Our wonderful country is like our house, only larger. Why should’t a troublemaker be booted out in exactly the same way? And what would be ‘unfair’ about letting another lodger who does pull his weight and observe the house rules, stay on? It is plain common sense.

    It is not common sense when Gordon Brown slaps a tax on insurance premiums (quite the opposite in fact – how many more will now be driving around uninsured?) or when a council insists on fining a resident

  62. Mac

    Apropos Bozza’s excellent piece on 24 hr drinking I’m reminded of the Pythons’ Philosophers’ Drinking song:

    “There’s nothing Nieztche couldn’t teach ya ’bout the raising of the wrist/ Socrates himself was permanently pissed…”

    I will revert to you in due course with full scholarly references (sadly in translation but my German’s not so much rusty as wholly non-existent). Right now I cannot be arsed, my dears.

    (Incidentally I had the pleasure of recently telling that fine auteur Mr Michael Winner to Calm Down Dear. His withering look was a thing to behold.)

    No wage slavery for me today (that Simchat Torah schtick worked a treat). Huzzah!

  63. Not to be unPC,(again), but I have the notion that Soco himself , in raising the wrist,not only did so to raise the goblet, but took on the persona of a teapot, (wink wink) Even though teapots had not yet insinuated themselves into the collective Greek dining room.

    I would have loved to see that loser, Winner’s face. ( What a drop from lofty director to lowly mouse!)

  64. Nietzche. Rum cove. Went bonkers you know.

    Mac: May I recommend The Portable Nietzsche as a good introduction through chunks. He is one of the most provocative incendiary writers, valuable precisely because it’s unlikely that you will agree with much (indeed any) of what he says but it till makes sense. People sometimes affect to dismiss him as mere fodder for would-be student radicals and the pretentious disaffected.

    More fool them. As Fred might have said, I don’t want to be subversive – I just want to destroy Western Civilization as we know it…

  65. Kevin: I have read some of Fred’s stuff, didn’t like it much . For instance, his ,” What fails to kill me, makes me only stronger”,misused as the Hitler Youth slogan. A mere generalisation, where is the philosophy in that?

    A “lover of wisdom”, he described women as the most dangerous of male playthings.( The opposite might be true, I suspect)

    Some of his stuff might make sense,I suppose, if we lived in a near perfect world. But it’s not for me.

  66. I’m looking to Kevin B for enlightenment and getting none!

    Is being provocative, incendiary a good thing in itself? The BNP seem fairly provocative and incendiary. Perhaps there is no coincidence.

    Being in ‘yer face’ just for the sake of it does seem a feature of would-be student radicals and the pretentious disaffected.

    It is also very noteworthy that ‘provocative’ members of the ‘intelligentsia’ are very selective about who they provoke. The Jerry Springer show was very provocative but the vast majority of Christians, following their founder, turned the other cheek. On the other hand the BBC pulled Greenmantle because it might upset some folk, possibly folk who subscribe less to the values of the ‘ideally to be destroyed’ West and believe in good old fashioned values like killing the kaffir. We await the new comical series “Iman Ali” and “The life of Tariq” with interest.

    That old fraud Anthony Wedgewood Benn once quoted a quip by that other old fraud Mahatma Gandhi, who when asked what he thought about Western civilisation opined that it would be a ‘good idea’. This was at a time when widows were still being burned on their husband’s pyres in India. Gandhi of course was a contributor to the form of Indian independence that saw a million or more people die in partition. He was big on little spinning machines and so on. A measure of just how bad (British) Western civilisation was, is that Gandhi himself said that passive resistance would never have worked against the Japanese.

    So there you have! Provoke away but choose wisely whom you provoke! Sometimes you might get an eye for an eye with interest.

    Kevin, take a break from excitable, bewhiskered German philsophers of the 19th century! They are not good for your blood pressure. I don’t have gurus and prophets so may I recommend Karl Popper’s Open Society and its Enemies for a **critical** read? Apart from anything else it can cure even the most aggravated cases of their need for prophets and gurus. (No, KP is not a guru or a prophet as he was often the first to say. And yes I am aware that he was the original Grumpy Old Man. Argue with his ideas).

    Have a nice weekend everyone!

  67. Jack: Those ‘Old Frauds’ Tony Benn and Gandhi? Well, now who’s being provocative, Mr Cheeky Monkey?

    Blaming Gandhi for the communal violence following independence and partition of India + Pakistan (quite apart from what happened subsequently in Ceylon) – er those events wouldn’t have anything at all to do with the British Empire and its rapid disengagement from the colonies post-WWII would it, heaven forfend? Cheeky. D+ for history.

    Karl Popper was particularly feted for formulating the criterion of falsifiablity in science, ie if the tenets of a theory are not susceptible to falsification by evidence, it ain’t proper science. (Psychoanalysis famously got it in the neck from KP’s followers, although neuroscience has recently become an unexpected – albeit critical – ally of Freud and his theories of the unconscious.)

    Now I’m fully prepared to concede that Marxism, with its theory of dialectical materialism and the historical inevitability of the triumph of the proletariat over capitalism, has in fact been proved laughably wrong post-Soviet Russia’s collapse, despite its hermetic totalising narrative. I won’t bother to trot out the usual Trot excuse that Russia wasn’t actually socialist. Suffice it 2 say Marx was no Marxist.

    The secular faith instituted by Lenin and his chum Stalin is even more toxic than its religious counter-parts. (Howard: please distinguish between dogmatic atheism and open-minded agnosticism.) Let it not be forgotten that, apart from Stalin’s appalling blood-soaked record, it was Communists who betrayed the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil and the student/worker alliance forged during the events of Paris 1968.

    BUT this should not render liberal democrats smugly confident that Pooper’s Open Society is with us cos it very evidently ain’t. The authoritarian spasms of New Labour, so familiar to those of us who groaned through the ghastly Thatcherite 80s but with a Smiley Face this time round (Call Me Tony!). A pox on both their houses.

    Now where was I…

  68. Kevin B

    I try to stimulate rather than provoke.

    You shouldn’t stay up so late old pal!

    It was the dear old empire’s fault for leaving so quickly! That’s a bit patronising isn’t it. I thought Gandhi wanted them to go ASAP. Enlightenment please.

    Neuroscience isn’t my strong point (what is come the cries) but I get the impression that a good deal is philosophical rather than scientific – and none the worse for that but be clear what we are dealing with.

    It’s not clear what the various communist experiments have proved wrong except the general point that utopianism is a dangerous game. The shades of the millions of people who died as a direct result may wish know from the various apologists, including that old fraud Anthony Wedgewood Benn, more exactly what they died for.

    Last time I looked the UK was an open society warts and all. We are curently embroiled in a discussion about whether we can deport people who hate our system, except for the excellent benefits component of course. We recently had an election where the governement might have changed. I didn’t like lots of Mrs T’s policies but I got to vote against her and eventually the conservatives were out. Sometimes Tony Blair makes me cringe but he has got some grasp of the plot. I think that you have to distinguish between freedom and having things just the way you want them.

    I recall the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and finding 1000, 100 then 10 good people (apologies for spelling to Bertie Wooster and anyone else with a prize for Religious Knowledge). Your average trendy member of the ‘intelligentsia’ – e.g. the old fraud AWB – will find a few things wrong with an open society – e.g. litter, Big Brother (the TV show!) and chavs – to prove it evil beyond repair. Turning to the closed societies of left, Islamic and right fascism the same intellect will find a few things ‘nice’ about them – the absence of litter, wonderful tea ceremonies, trains that run on time – to demonstrate their superiority.

    I suggest that the warts of the open societies are qualitatively different from the cancers of closed societies. This is of course no guarantee that an open society will not find its warts turning into cancers if its people are not careful.

    Must go! Old frauds to unmask, axes to grind! And I need to see if my application to be a temporary heart surgeon for a very important upcoming operation has been successful!

  69. I did begin to wonder, for a seemingly interminable minute, Kevin, just where you were, and where was it all going to end. I thought some others held the record for harangues on this blog.
    And then, to vilify this country?s first lady PM, who, incidentally, had more balls than many others of late: shame on you Kevin!!!! Tut tut. ( Maggie was lovely until the megalomania set in, but then, so was Adolf),not that they were in any way comparable.)

    What is it with the Teutonic philosophising that makes everyone wary of having an original thought of their own? Is it the belief that foreign made is best, because it is exotic? Is it because they were all emigres, ending up, as some did, as honoured citizens of English speaking countries.

    The three , quoted universally ad nauseum, ; four, if you want to include Freud, are all of this genre: does it all come down, finally, to their having had an education, unsullied, and unaltered by the envious thoughts of the levellers; of the political Commissariat; anxious as ever to squeeze everyone , regardless of ability or bent, into the funnel of, ” all for one , and one for all”, comprehensive educational institutions, in the name of conservative Socialism?(New Labour),( It’s great how new tags get made up , isn’t it?)

    ” You will all fit the mould, if it kills us”, still seems to be the cry, even though, several MPs, of all parties are lobbying for the return of the Grammar Schools. Would this , in the eyes of the Government,be a retrograde step? Do we hanker for British born philosophers? Another Bertie Russell. ?

    The love of truth is universal, excepting when it gets in the way of a Party Political Broadcast, or an explanation of why we went to war against Iraq.

  70. Having been blessed in spending my childhood in three different countries before the age of 18 countries, language is became more than just a simple communication tool. The deeply digested culture of a country, province, town and even a village may vary to the point of non sensical.

    English must be spoken in English… Finnish is spoken in Finland, Japanese in Japan and even Spainish(…until the Brit-pack take over their villas with new-life endeavours…)in Spain!!!

    Is there any reason for us to be mocked ? I raise my glass to any country who unlike us enjoy local communication successes.

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