Do stop being an idiot, please

A few years ago, I interviewed Nicola Roberts, the best member of Girls Aloud, to talk about her underrated debut solo album Cinderella’s Eyes. She discussed what it was like to be on Popstars: The Rivals, the TV singing competition that predated The X Factor and gave birth to the band. What stood out most to me was how it felt for her to ricochet between two worlds. She was 16 and split her time between TV studios in London, and hanging out at the chippie in her home town of Runcorn. She remembered being taken to a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant where none of the girls could understand the menu. She had to ask the head of Universal Records: “What the fuck’s coriander?”

It doesn’t take much to get me on to Girls Aloud, but I thought of that particular anecdote when I saw the State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission this week. Its findings are a sobering confirmation of what is apparent to anyone whose world is not centred on London or the slim area surrounding it. Social divisions are deeply entrenched in British society, and social mobility, this notion that you can be born “disadvantaged” and step outside of such circumstances given the right opportunities, increasingly looks about as achievable as the UK’s chances of walking away from the EU without self-destructing in the process. Alienation and resentment are growing, and for rural, coastal and formerly industrial areas in particular, the outlook is grim.

Good grief, you’re never going to get anywhere if you keep insisting that class in the UK is an economic matter.

We regard plumbers as working class (rightly or wrongly) and lawyers as very middle class indeed. Provincial plumbers make rather more than provincial lawyers. Coriander or not is a social matter, income an economic one. Not grasping this but then wanting to talk about class in Britain just ain’t ever gonna work.

So, to ask some foreigners

Is this true?

Our universities, the NHS and the BBC: three things that the rest of the world admires about Britain. It is no coincidence that all of them derive their values and ethics from outside the marketplace. If we want to ruin them, the quickest way is to bring in the values of finance and business – of profiteering from students, sweating academics and handing riches to the management.

Is this what is admired? Sorry, these three are?

I’ve lived most of my adult life abroad and I’ve most certainly heard people praise some parts of the university system – and not all of it, not by a long way. The BBC? Meh, other than parts of the World Service in repressive regimes not really. And no one, no one at all, I’ve met has said that they admire the NHS.

But to ask any foreigners who read here?

Something I have directly experienced though is our reputation for honesty. Not that it’s true or anything, but one day, when working in a country without any real rule of law or anything, I sealed a $300,000 deal on a handshake. The seller would be entirely and wholly at risk for the full amount for about two weeks as the export was made, arrived, checked, then paid for. No letter of credit, no bank guarantee. Just my handshake. Because, as everyone knows, when an Englishman gives his word… worked with me for I just couldn’t let the side own if people really do believe that.

But that is my personal experience. Bowler hats and London busses and all that – old maids cycling to communion, warm beer. It just ain’t that trio Chakrabortty is blethering on about.

This will be very amusing indeed

Malia Obama’s boyfriend has been revealed to be a former British public schoolboy who met the former first daughter at Harvard University.

Rory Farquharson, a former head boy at the prestigious Rugby School, was linked to Barack Obama’s eldest daughter after footage emerged appearing to show them kissing during the Harvard v Yale American football game.

Just the idea of the airheads populating American news reporting attempting to pronounce that name. Even I’m not sure how the family actually does it but I would guess something close to “Farson.” There’s an amusing little blog there in clips of people trying to say it…..

Of course

Ferry McFerryface: Sydney insists name for new harbour boat is ‘not a joke’

The original Boaty McBoatface started as a joke, to be sure. But soon enough transcended that.

We can even say it’s silly etc, but then that’s popular culture.

About time we freed up planning permission then, eh?

According to the BBC, these images have been analysed and compared with detailed maps. Every different type of land has been awarded a classification and this permits scientists and environmentalists to obtain a snapshot of changing land use in the UK. Thus, conservationists can observe those areas that may be in danger of being swamped by the urban sprawl. Yet the urban sprawl hardly exists at all.

Actual built-on land in the UK comprises only around 6% of the total. The rest is made up of natural wilderness (35%), farmland (57%) and green urban areas (2.5%).

Not that us informed people didn’t know this already.

One of the greats

Iona Opie
Folklorist renowned for her work on nursery rhymes and children’s games who amassed a library of 20,000 books sold for £500,000

For those who don’t know, she and her husband Peter collected nursery rhymes, childrens’ playground games and so on. One of the surprising conclusions of which is just how permanent culture actually is.

For it isn’t so much that parents teach their children these things. Rather, that the slightly older children teach the slightly younger and so on down the generations. The transmission is happening every two or three years, again and again. And things like Ring a Ring o’ Roses have been doing that since the 1670s or so.

This isn’t Gypsies

Norfolk Police let a gang of travellers go on the rampage because they failed to grasp the “community tensions”, leaving a seaside town in lockdown, a review has found.

Shops, bars and restaurants were forced to close on one of the busiest weekends of the year after 23 motorhomes parked up during Cromer’s August carnival this year.

In total, 37 crimes were reported to police including a rape, threatening behaviour and thefts. One pub landlord was pulled over the counter as some of the travellers demanded money. Meanwhile, an Indian restaurant was “ambushed” as around 40 people stormed in stealing alcohol and upsetting diners.

This is a rather different grouping, isn’t it?

They’ll be after My Fair Lady next

A theatre company has been embroiled in a gentrification row after it announced a series of £55-a-head “immersive” Cockney-themed dinner parties to be held in a traditionally working-class area.

The firm apologised after it released promotional material that showed a cast of tracksuited characters, including a pregnant woman drinking and smoking and a tattooed man striking an aggressive pose, in a pub.

The Cockney’tivity Christmas dinners are scheduled to take place across three weeks in December in an “authentic Hackney boozer” in London’s East End. Attendees will get a three course meal and a “Cockney Christmas story” from the actors.

The company, Zebedee Productions, said it would be a “proper celebration of east London culture” and said many of the people involved had links to the East End. But critics pointed out the entry fee meant that, while local working-class people were being sent up, it was unlikely they would be able to afford to be in on the joke.

“The local people, they just get laughed at, they get joked at and there’s no respect there,” said Joe Ellis, who was born and grew up in the East End.

Josh Clarke, who helped run a campaign to gain asset of community value status for a local pub to save it from closure, said: “These establishments want to keep a certain kind of person out. There’s no one involved in that who said: ‘Let’s respect Cockney culture.’”

The traditional Cockney response to someone managing to get punters to pay £55 pounds for a £10 meal would be along the lines of giggling over that first half and half* and by the time the second was easing down formulating a plan to similarly fleece the mugs.

*Light and lager when I was serving bar out in Stratford, light and bitter by then being for the older crowd.

Perhaps Mr BiS, our expert on these matters, would care to comment?

I think we know this, don’t we?

The north-south divide has been the butt of jokes in Britain for years, but research has shown the Watford Gap, which separates the country, was in fact established centuries ago when the Vikings invaded Britain.

According to the archaeologist Max Adams, who made the discovery while researching his new book, the Northamptonshire-Warwickshire boundary known as the Watford Gap is a geographic and cultural reality that can be traced back to the Viking age.

I think it would be very difficult to argue that this is a new discovery, wouldn’t it?

Joris Luyendijk really doesn’t understand the British

With a liar like Boris Johnson as foreign secretary how can Europe trust Britain?
Joris Luyendijk

Well, part of it is that the Foreign Secretary is a diplomat. You know, one of those employed to lie to foreigners?

But this is more important:

What kind of country would appoint a man such as Boris Johnson to such an important office?

Important? It’s the office which deals with foreigners. How can that be important?


“It’s just old-fashioned racism, unless people can come up with facts that lead to a prosecution. There’s never a link between the arrival of Gypsy and Travellers and criminality. If it was proven, the police would be on everyone’s cases all the time. The police have the power to move people on,” she said.

That’s a, umm, fairly strong statement there, isn’t it?

Owen Jones never does understand simple arguments, does he?

LBC Radio host Owen Jones was commenting on reports about the Queen not planning to relinquish the crown to Prince Charles.

He said: “As a country would it be the end of the world [to elect our head of state]?

“Wouldn’t it enshrine our democracy?”

The simple argument here being President John Prescott.

The man who, memorably, used to be the number 1 Google result for “fuckwit,” something caused by this blog and the subject of a Number 10 complaint to Google. Even, a change in the algorithm to make google bombing more difficult.

At the heart of my objection is something that could be regarded as trivial and yet I feel is important. Who gets to pin the VC or GC on the chest of a hero?

Yes, I would prefer the ever so slightly inbred descendants of minor German dukedoms to a politician. Thank you.

Hmm, no, I don’t think this is how it works

I WILL be the Duchess of Beaufort, says Tracy Ward: Estranged wife of the Duke’s heir reveals couple are still married and talks will go on to negotiate their separation


The Duke of Beaufort’s death this week at the age of 89 has provoked much speculation about who will be the new duchess.
Would she be Tracy Ward, the 58-year-old actress turned environmental campaigner, who’s been estranged from the Duke’s colourful son and heir, the Marquess of Worcester, for the past four years?
Or would she be his mistress, Georgia Powell, 48, the beautiful writer he’s determined to marry?

As far as I know at least this works as with the King. The Duke is dead, long live the Duke. The new Duchess is therefore whoever he is legally married to at that moment.

That is, Ms. Ward is the new Duchess.

Not that it bothers me all that much to be honest. My only connection with that is having poached pheasants off the estate at Badminton. Well, sorta.

At dusk they’ll come out onto the back roads to get a bit of grit for their gizzards. If you were to hit one with a car and then pick it up to take home and eat then that’s poaching. If you hit one with a car and then someone else picks it up to take home and eat that’s roadkill, not poaching.

To eat well you therefore need two cars.

That’s rather your problem, not ours, matey

Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have challenged the retired judge heading the inquiry into the disaster at an impassioned meeting.

Residents met with Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who is heading the panel, on Monday evening in a consultation designed to let them air their views on what they want the investigation to examine.

But the crowd made it clear they have little confidence in the inquiry. One local resident drew applause and cheers as she said: “You do not have our confidence, you do not represent us and you do not look like any of us.”

This is England. That’s rather what the population of England, the English, look like.

Cliches much?

Grandfather, 33, kicked off plane says he was discriminated against because of his facial tattoos


Davi and Kerry-Anne were accompanied by their daughters Skyla and Shelby-Ann, Kerry-Anne’s daughter Keeley Millerchip, her partner Andrew Bostock and their sons Kenzie and Jayden.

Not actually, it appears, a grandfather. But still…..

Bleedin ‘Ell, the Swedish are more British than the British now

A Swedish rail operator has vowed to name one of its trains Trainy McTrainface after a public vote, saying it would bring joy to people disappointed when Britain rejected the name Boaty McBoatface for a polar research ship following a similar poll.

Trainy McTrainface won 49% of the votes in the naming competition, conducted online by train operator MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro, beating choices such as Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

“[This is] news that will be received with joy by many, not just in Sweden,” MTR wrote in a statement.

The train will run between the Swedish capital Stockholm and Gothenburg, the country’s second-biggest city.

Last year, the British government said a new £200m polar research ship would be named after veteran BBC naturalist David Attenborough even though the name “Boaty McBoatface” had topped an online poll.

Although, to be fair, ignoring the wishes of the hoi polloi does have a certain Britishness to it…..

My, isn’t the country changing?

Almost one in three children born in England and Wales have foreign-born mothers, new figures show.

In 2016 28.2 per cent of births were to women who were not born in the UK, an increase from 27.5 per cent the year before, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

Researchers said that the increase was partly due to higher fertility rates among foreign-born women. A larger number of them are also aged 25 to 34, when fertility is highest.

The rate has been rising since 1990, when it hit a low of 11.6 per cent.

There are changes and changes of course. A cousin married an American, the son is being hot housed at Eton for Cambridge. Not sure that’s going to change England all that much. Certain vibrancies however…..

This is definitely a comment upon British workmanship

But which comment?

When a Canadian construction team came across a giant cannonball as they excavated a building site in Quebec, they did what anyone else would do in this age of Snapchat and Instagram.

They moved the 200lb projectile into better view and posed with it for photographs.

It was only later, when an archaeologist was studying the missile, the workers learned of their lucky escape: The cannonball was still live, packed with a charge and gunpowder just as it would have been when fired by British gunners during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

Still ready after 250 years? Ah, the craft, the workmanship.

Or 250 years late in working?

Here is the British upper middle class in all its glory

The BBC has long invested in a brand of childhood made up of sticky-backed plastic and papier mache. The idea is that if television, like culture in general, makes us better people, the business of self-improvement should begin nice and early. But it is also reinvesting in Britishness at the precise moment when the product is starting to look suspect; with the new, forward-thinking CBBC, the kids will be seduced from the American channels, turned homewards and kept where we can see them.

We don’t like our children very much so w’ll let them be brought up by the TV – Yikes, have you seen the price of nannies these days? – but make sure they’re indoctrinated properlyu rather than watching anything by the septics.