What nonsense, being proud to be British

However, the pride of Britons in their national identity has fallen to an all-time low, with only one in five young people “very proud” to be British, the British Social Attitudes survey has found.

According to the figures, seen by The Sunday Times, a third of people are very proud to be British, compared with 43 per cent a decade ago.

The young and highly educated are the least likely to feel proud to be British than older people or those with fewer qualifications.

Why would anyone be proud of having pulled the winning lottery ticket in life, that random chance of having been born British? Thankful possibly, grateful perhaps, but proud?

The monarchy, the BBC and pubs are among the most important aspects when it comes to defining Britain, according to a new research.

William Shakespeare, the House of Commons and our weather also top the list of key British associations.

The major feature of being British is that we don’t try to define it. There’s none of this Germanic nonsense where people try to look for the soul of the nation, the blood of the race n’all. No Froggie insistence that it’s all contained in three word phrases, not for us a l’Americain where it’s hand on heart to the flag. We simply are and that’s the end of that.

Think how damn difficult it is to really come up with a definition of Britishness. The best I can do is that we’re the only group of people who are willing to entertain the idea that not all Morris Dancers are entirely and completely mad. Not sure about it mind, but willing to entertain the idea. Or is that the English?



Did this have to happen in Ireland?

This is the moment a suspected Irish bomber blew himself up after it was believed that he forgot about the clocks going forward an hour for British Summer Time.

Police are investigating whether the man, who was allegedly seen running from the scene covered in blood, had injured himself in the blast because he had got his timings wrong when the clocks changed.

Officers suspect the bomber planted an explosive device under a Volvo SUV in the centre of Dublin and that it had either gone off too early, or he had returned to the car to investigate why it had not detonated.


Donetsk to become part of Great Britain

This story was first reported in the Czech media, of all places. I was shown it in the pub last night and did a Google search for it and it was just the one Czech site carrying it. But, given that most of you don’t read Czech all that well, here’s the Telegraph view of it:

Donestk was founded in the 19th century by John Hughes, a Merthyr Tydfil steel worker who had landed a contract from the Tsarist government to provide steel plating for the navy.

Now residents of the city have responded to pro-Russian protests for autonomy from Kiev with an internet vote that rejects Russia’s claims in favour of a turn to the Queen and London.

It calls for the restoration of the original name Hughesovka or Yuzovka and requests London rule.

After the Bolshevik revolution, the city was renamed Stalino and finally called Donetsk in 1961.

A total of 7,000 people had voted by Sunday with 61 per cent voting to secede to Britain and a further 16 per cent voting to make the city an English-speaking autonomous region inside Ukraine.

“We demand a referendum on the return to Yuzovka to its original bosom – a part of Great Britain,” the preamble declared. “Glory to John Hughes and his town. God Save the Queen.”

Hey, if randomly organised referenda do indeed change borders then why not?

And Paul Krugman once asked why British food was so lousy

My brother Phil can’t do anything in the kitchen. I don’t even think he’s been near a kitchen. He takes after our dad. My wife Emma grew up with her dad, who spoiled her and cooked everything. And when I go away he comes round and cooks for her, I think. She does a good spaghetti bolognese. But neither of us are slow-cooking casseroles, or marinading fish for 24 hours like [goalkeeper] Ben Foster, or hanging meat in the garage. When you’re from Lancashire you just stick it in and when it comes out dry you eat it. You don’t bloody marinade. It’s as simple as that.

A particularly twattish way of looking at British tech companies

Why hasn’t Britain created a Google or a Facebook? Why are so few British companies dominating the top of the technology tree. Japan, South Korea and China can all do it, but British firms, even with the help of London’s Tech City, have yet to produce a brand to trouble the titans of Silicon Valley.

That’s not because we don’t have the talent – when Facebook set up its first engineering office outside the US, it chose London because it’s a global magnet. There is no shortage of brilliant young minds, whatever the shortcomings of our education system.

So what’s the problem? Many think that the British disease is an aversion to risk, combined with a lack of ambition: a self-effacing quality that makes us doubt whether our companies can really bestride the world like a Facebook or a Google, a Microsoft or an Oracle.

The consequence is that Britons sell out and move on too soon: £10m may be enough never to work again, but it doesn’t allow you to create a world-class company.


ARM, Skyscanner, Rockstar North, the Candy Crush Saga people……anyone want to add to the list?

This isn’t particularly a problem

English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils in more than one in nine schools, new figures have revealed.

Last year the majority of children in 1,755 primary and secondary schools spoke another language at home following a sharp increase in the number of pupils with foreign born parents.

In more than 200 schools nine in ten pupils do not speak English as their mother tongue, with children speaking as many as 14 different languages.

As long as there are many native languages then English will very quickly become the lingua franca. We are, after all, talking of children of five and six years old: picking up a language at that age is easy enough.

There would only be long term linguistic problems if there a majority language which is not English.  If 90% were all speakers of, say, Urdu, or Bulgarian or summat, then that could indeed be a problem as there wouldn’t be the intense pressure to learn English.

The melting pot really does work with language.


Rolls Royce bribery allegations

I’m not sure about this at all:

The Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption at engine maker Rolls-Royce that could lead to criminal prosecutions.

Sure, I know that bribery is illegal now. Can’t remember the name of the damn fool law but I know that it is.

Britain’s fraud-busting agency has spent more than a year examining claims from a whistleblower over Rolls’ use of middle-men in winning multi-million pound contracts in Indonesia, China and elsewhere, dating back more than 20 years.

Among the claims from whistleblower Dick Taylor, a former employee, was the allegation that the engine maker had handed a $20m (£12.2m) bribe and a blue Rolls–Royce car to Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of the late Indonesian dictator.

It was for his help, it was claimed, in persuading the country’s flag–carrier Garuda to buy Rolls’ Trent 700 engine for Airbus A330 aircraft in 1990.

But I’m also pretty sure that bribery, in foreign of course, was not illegal under UK law back then. Might well have been illegal under Chinese, Indonesian law, but the UK attitude back a while was that that’s just what happens in these sorts of places so as far as we’re concerned, fine.

So, does anyone know whether I’m recalling things correctly?

An interesting point about social housing

Let’s take all of these myths in turn. Britain’s social housing stock remains large, accounting for 18pc of all homes. True, this is down sharply from 32pc in 1981, with around 1.8m homes privatised under the Right to Buy policy. But the experience of other European countries shows that the Government doesn’t need to build and own homes itself to make sure that the needy have accommodation – it is far better to allow the private sector to build enough low-cost lodgings by getting the planning rules right, and for the Government to focus on directly helping those that require assistance. If there is a plentiful supply of property, and thus lower rents, the cost to the taxpayer need not escalate uncontrollably, as it has done in the UK.

ust 17pc of homes in Francois Hollande’s socialist France are social housing, less than in the UK. In Germany, it accounts for just 5pc of homes. Ditto in Italy. In Belgium, it’s 7pc; in Ireland, 8pc; and in Finland, 16pc. Even Sweden, the place where British Leftists used to go on pilgrimage before they pioneered for-profit free schools, only relies on social housing for 17pc of homes, also less than us. Almost wherever one looks in Europe – and the source for these figures is the Dutch ministry of the interior’s housing statistics in the European Union 2010 – one finds that social housing is much less important than it is in the UK.

Only three European economies rely more on social housing than we do: the Netherlands, where it accounts for 32pc of all homes, Austria at 23pc and Denmark at 19pc.

Most interesting, I hadn’t realised all of that.

So Oxford Brookes is the new Cirencester, eh?

Oxford Brookes University gets in a flap over students’ partridge-plucking exploits
Descendants of Clive of India and the man who led the charge at the Peterloo Massacre are among undergraduates who ruffled authorities’ feathers

There does have to be a place where the dimmer children of toffs go to hang out for a few years. Seems it’s changed since I were a lad: used to be Cirencester Ag college, now it’s Oxford Brookes.

How nice to see that while times and fashions change some things remain the same.

This isn’t racism you damn fools

Circulating the light-hearted pictures of a child dressed in a water melon costume on Monday, Lord Sugar wrote: ‘The kid in the middle is upset because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5.’

Jaysus, Mary and Jossph, this isn’t racism you damn fools.

Police contacted the complainant twice, urging her to make a statement at a police station, which she eventually did, and yesterday police confirmed that officers from Merseyside’s Hate Crime Investigation Unit took several days to decide whether a crime had been committed by the Labour peer’s tweet.

However, the remark was in the end classed as a ‘hate incident’ – which means no further action will be taken, although details will be kept on file.

Can we hanbg them all, including the police, for wasting police time?

Jesse Jackson just doesn’t get the British

Britain needs its own plan of affirmative action to stamp out generations of racial injustice and to stop the gap getting even worse, the veteran American civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson has said.

Jackson is touring Britain to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech about racial justice in the US, which inspired people around the world and galvanised opinion to end segregation.

Jackson told the Guardian that successive British governments have failed to stamp out racial discrimination, meaning ethnic minorities have been denied justice.

He dismissed claims that enough people can succeed on their own merit without additional government measures to overcome historical disadvantages. Jackson said Britain needed its own affirmative action plan to overcome disadvantages passed down the generations such as lack of access to capital and being locked out of centres of power.

Look, I’m sorry, but we’ve our own method of dealing with this. It’s called sex.

We’ve integrated generation after generation of immigrants over the millennia and the way we do so has always been the same. People have sex with each other and their children are therefore of mixed background. That whole stew of mixed backgrounds is what becomes the British (or if you prefer, the English). The current inter-marriage (umm, well, these days, not really marriage but having children with) for Afro-Caribbeans in England is something extraordinary like 30%. That is, 30% have their children with someone (or someones) who is not themselves Afro-Caribbean.

It really doesn’t take that many generations of this sort of thing before the entire country is a tiny tad towards the cafe au lait colour and no one notices anything else at all.

And despite all this talk about how the British aren’t really very good at this sex stuff we do seem to have worked out how to use it to get along, as above.

The usual The English must all learn another language piece


But our European neighbours also learn English in large numbers, and soon the only monoglots left will be British. A monolingual society in Britain is no more likely to be successful than those that exist in the Amazon jungle and New Guinea. The upper classes will presumably continue to cultivate languages because elites know how to reproduce themselves (the present cabinet is the most polyglot in recent history). But schools are failing everybody else by not insisting that a far larger proportion of the rising generation acquire a good knowledge of at least one foreign tongue.


The one no one ever seems to have an answer to is, OK, but which foreign language?

And no, from bitter personal experience I will not accept the answer that having learnt some of one then learning some of another is easier. It ain\’t.

So, let\’s work from personal experience here. As a child I learnt a little bit of Italian. Only a bit mind. Then at school some French. Very much schoolboy French but it\’s enough that if I go and actually stay in France then after a couple of weeks I\’m just about able to tell a joke in a pub. This ain\’t fluency by any means.

Then I worked in Russia for a time. Learnt enough Russian to have business meetings in the language but not the social language. I can\’t discuss Dostoyevsky in Russian for example. But then I can\’t do that in English either. Living in Portugal has given me supermarket Portuguese. I can get my meat cut the right way, order bottles of gas etc. But I actually live and work in English so no more than that. And now I\’m in Czech and German. I actually find the former easier (although I\’m told that I speak my few words of it with a terrible Russian accent that doesn\’t go down well) and the latter, well, sorry, I just don\’t get it at all. I can, for example, count in Czech but not in German.

So, to those who insist that I should have learnt a language other than English properly. Which one? Over the past 50 years, which one should I have put the couple of thousand hours of study into? That couple of thousand hours which is necessary (ie, that\’s a full working year) to gain some reasonable level of fluency? I would assume that no one at all thinks I should have tried to learn all six.

Or, more pithily, if the English must learn another language, which fucking one?

Fun in GuardianWorld, innit?

Vicky Pryce, who was jailed for taking speeding points for her ex-husband Chris Huhne, has been stripped of an official honour. In this she joins the ranks of Fred Goodwin, Idi Amin and Kim Philby. Others, like Conrad Black and Jeffrey Archer, have kept theirs. Is the decision right?

Sigh. Black and Archer are peers. We do not have a system which allows someone to be stripped of a peerage. You can execute them and they\’ll still be peers right up to the moment that severed head falls into the basket. You can then prevent anyone inheriting that title.

But you can\’t take away a peerage.

We English really are weird

Shortly before D-Day Trautmann was transferred to France to train new recruits. He fought in several desperate delaying actions across France, and then at Arnhem; by now he had been awarded two Iron Crosses and promoted to corporal.

While regrouping in the German town of Kleve, he was buried alive for three days when the Allies bombed a school where his unit was billeted; most of his comrades were killed.

In the confusion that preceded the fall of the Reich, Trautmann decided to make for Bremen. Briefly held by the Americans, he was finally taken prisoner by a British signals unit whose soldiers greeted him with: “Hello Fritz, would you like a cup of tea?” His lifelong love affair with Britain began at that moment.

Weird, but perhaps not so bad:

“My education only began the day I arrived in England,” Trautmann recalled. “People were so kind and decent, they didn’t see an enemy prisoner, they saw a human being. The British made me what I am … When I visit Germany, they say to me: \’Be honest, you’re English through and through’. And I’m mighty proud so to consider myself. I come back four or five times a year and always think \’Great, I’m home.’”

Hmm, not sure about this

His sons, meanwhile, are princes of Tatler: profligate and ignorant, they inhabit a remote Chelsea pond. Harry is known primarily for inheriting the jocular racism of his grandfather. He once called a fellow soldier \”our little Paki friend\”; and what great-grandson of George VI would be so stupid as to wear a Nazi uniform as fancy dress? William just seems desperately unhappy, an anxious sacrifice too befuddled by his destiny to grasp its needs or meaning. We read of £4,000-a-night hotel suites; of £250,000 dresses; of publicly owned helicopters taking detours to amuse the princes and their friends. Last Saturday the princes attended a wedding; an RAF Sea King appeared and circled the castle. (The Ministry of Defence said there was no detour.) This is not forgivable expenditure. This is the wages of unthinking entitlement and mindless greed.

They\’re actually doing what people rather expect young princes to do aren\’t they? One has gone to war, as his Uncle did, the other flies search and rescue. All rather feudal, that there are princes, that they do this military stuff. But all rather according to the script as well, isn\’t it?

Understanding UK inequality

Britain is a deeply divided country. Inner London is the richest part of the entire European Union, while Cornwall and Wales benefit from the regional aid dispensed by Brussels.

As John B often points out if you took London out of the picture then inequality in hte UK would be entirely normal. For, without London, the UK is an entirely boring Northern European economy. London is part of that Great Global economy and that\’s where a lot of the recorded inequality comes from.

And as I like to point out, if we actually adjusted incomes for costs, most especially house prices in London, then a lot of UK inequality again disappears. Precisely because of this dominance of London consumption inequality is very, very, much lower than income inequality.