The English

The closed nature of the British Establishment

This is really very amusing indeed. Nesrine Malik:

The old boys’ club. We don’t hear about it as much as we used to, do we? The phrase seems a little dusty, a bit of a throwback. Harrovians, Etonians, Wykehamists and other privately educated politicians may constitute 80% of Britain’s prime ministers so far; but they increasingly sit cheek by jowl in parliament with others who did not go to fee-paying schools, are not male, not white – and not only did not go to Oxbridge, but are not university educated at all.

And yet here we are, riffling through the seedy dealings of a small connected group of people at the top.

John Harris:

From the disgraced former party chair to the Richard Sharp investigation, government failure stems from a network of private schools and elite universities

Now, the subject of this ire is Nadhim Zahawi.

When he was eleven years old, during Saddam Hussein’s early years in power, he and his family fled to the UK.[15] Zahawi was educated at Holland Park School,[1][16] before moving to Ibstock Place School and then at King’s College School, an independent school in Wimbledon, London, followed by University College London, where he earned a BSc degree in chemical engineering in 1988.[1][17]

Not the traditional definition of the early years of the British Establishment.

The critics of that establishment:

Harris was raised in Wilmslow in north Cheshire; his father was a university lecturer in nuclear engineering,[1] and his mother a teacher who was the daughter of a nuclear research chemist. He became fixated by pop music at an early age.

He attended the comprehensive Wilmslow County High School (at the same time as members of the band Doves[2]), then went to Loreto College, Manchester, a Roman Catholic sixth form college sited between the University of Manchester and Old Trafford.[3] He applied to study Modern History at Keble College, Oxford, but was rejected, and claimed his membership of left-wing organisations had not won him many favours with such a traditional and conservative college.[3] He spent three years studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at another Oxford college, Queen’s, between 1989 and 1992.

That’s more traditional, isn’t it?


Malik was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and was raised in Kenya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.[2][3] She attended The American University in Cairo and the University of Khartoum as an undergraduate, and completed her post-graduate study at the University of London.[3][4]

Alongside her career as a journalist, Malik spent ten years in emerging markets private equity.

That’s another outsider making it in.

And yes, being a regular columnist – not just the occasional column, but on contract for a long piece a week – at a major newspaper like The Guardian does make you part of the British Establishment. The description has no meaning at all if those in such positions are not part of it.

We’ve the Oxbridge son of scientists – most haute bourgeois that is – now posing as a yokel from Frome, the immigrant Arab via banking to media stardom both complaining bitterly about the Kurdish refugee who went to Holland Park Comprehensive and still succeeded.

That all three are indeed part of the Establishment seems to indicate that it’s a fairly porous thing. Given the people involved we’d hesitate to call it a meritocracy but it’s definitely porous.

And yet the actual complaint being made is that it’s restricted in membership, that Establishment. Which is to laugh, no?

Which is as it has been historically. A Wide Boy on the make has always been able to get ahead in England. We never actually did have that blocking off of the ascension of the heights that so afflicted many other European countries.

Jeez, does no one recall Widmerpool?

These people are insane

Manchester is to introduce a “tourist tax” for people making overnight stays in the city.

Some 74 hotels and guesthouses have signed up to the scheme, which will see people pay an extra £1 per night.

It’s Manchester for fuck’s sake.

You charge the toll at the exits to the place.


Ladies-in-waiting had to familiarise themselves with curtsying, and Campbell-Preston would be expected to curtsy on seeing the Queen Mother in the morning, at lunch and on saying goodbye or goodnight. There were, however, exceptions. Early in her waiting life, while awaiting the arrival of German royalty, she asked the Queen Mother if she should curtsy to them. She retorted: “Curtsy? Of course not. They’re Germans.”

Clearly, he’s right

Mr Bell, the outgoing chief executive of Visit Cornwall, is under fire for bemoaning “f***ing emmets” – an antiquated term meaning ‘ants’ – during an interview offering his thoughts on the future of the county’s tourism industry.

“In my mind, visitors fall into five unofficial categories,” Mr Bell said. “At one level you have friends, then you have guests, then you have tourists, then you have bloody tourists, then you have f***ing emmets. You can quote me on that.

A county and more the other side of the Tamar we call them “grockles”. Same problem.

Only solution we’ve ever come up with tho’ is to reassure ourselves that at least they’ve not Welsh.

Well, quite

Steven Barrett is a commercial barrister who grew up in Birkenhead, the son of an electrician. “It sounds ridiculous to my upper-middle-class friends but I always have Kellogg’s cereal and Fairy Liquid in this house, because growing up, those were two things we could not afford,” he said.

Barrett, who mentors young people for the SMF and chairs the legal social mobility charity BVL, said he believed he would have earned more if he came from a different background, and felt success relied on changing his accent and appearance. “I tell my mentees I’ve been ‘posh washed’,” he said. “I became posh performatively. There are these endless controlling rules which seem to be there to expose the person who is being performatively posh but isn’t genuine – there’s a cat-and-mouse game where you’re constantly worrying you’re going to be exposed.”

As someone or other explained – Orwell? – about eating asparagus. They could be shooting it at each other with miniature cannons. The point is not to find the best way of eating asparagus, it’s to have a way that they know about and you don’t. It is, specifically, to have a marker of U and non-U.

But then any and every sector, section and slice of every society ever does exactly the same thing. Because that’s how sector, section and slice are determined by those observing.


Telegraph used to get these sorts of things right:

Floella Benjamin among Order of Merit winners as late Queen’s final awards list is revealed

You don’t win the OM. You’re appointed to it.

Blimey, things have come to a pretty pass

When the British aren’t allowed to make jokes about Dagoes any more:

Great British Bake Off has been criticised as culturally insensitive over its “Mexican Week”, which features hosts wearing sombreros.

The Channel 4 programme’s last episode featured presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas in sombreros and sarapes (colourful cloaks), making puns about not being able to make even “Juan” joke about Mexico.

Viewers have criticised the British television staple for this portrayal of Mexicans in the episode, which also featured Fielding and Lucas playing the maracas.

Dr Gabriela Ramos, associate Professor of Latin American History at Cambridge, said that while she did not wish to make a scandal out of the show it showed a “problem of education”.

She added it indicated “a lack of interest and poor information in this country about other parts and people of the world”.

True, taking the piss out of those poor folk who didn’t win that lottery ticket in life could be seen as insensitive. But then taking the piss out of foreigners is something we’ve been doing to many a century now. It’s part of our culture to do so.

On the basic grounds that we take the piss our of any- and every- thing. As here – taking the piss oout of not being able to think up any jokes to use to take the piss out of Johnny Foreigner.

This subject of cultural sensitivity – why are we insensitive to hte English being able to protray our own culture? Taking the piss out of absolutely everything.

Well, no, we industrialised early

An Italian chef says:

“There have always been beautiful British ingredients but, after the war, the country was hungry and poor so American-style convenience food came in. Meanwhile, in Italy, people were starving and fell back on traditional recipes. In Italy, we pass recipes down from generation to generation and in the UK, that historical chain is broken. So now you have your TV dinners, which are a disaster.”

Quite possibly an entire century out in that. As an economist writes:

Maybe the first question is how English cooking got to be so bad

in the first place. A good guess is that the country’s early

industrialization and urbanization was the culprit. Millions of

people moved rapidly off the land and away from access to traditional

ingredients. Worse, they did so at a time when the technology of

urban food supply was still primitive: Victorian London already had

well over a million people, but most of its food came in by horse-

drawn barge. And so ordinary people, and even the middle classes,

were forced into a cuisine based on canned goods (mushy peas!),

preserved meats (hence those pies), and root vegetables that didn’t

need refrigeration (e.g. potatoes, which explain the chips).

But why did the food stay so bad after refrigerated railroad cars

and ships, frozen foods (better than canned, anyway), and eventually

air-freight deliveries of fresh fish and vegetables had become

available? Now we’re talking about economics–and about the limits

of conventional economic theory. For the answer is surely that by

the time it became possible for urban Britons to eat decently, they

no longer knew the difference.

I’m not insisting that Krugman is wholly and totally correct here but would insist that here’s something to it. British food was famously bad before the war too – G. Orwell talks about that at some length.

Idiot – How about English? Or British?

Who are we? What is the name that we call ourselves? Mixed people are the fastest-growing minority group in Britain. And yet we are stifled by a lack of language to describe ourselves. I first realised this in my early 20s, reckoning with the past. As a Welsh-French-Scottish-American-Indian-Mauritian, when I was growing up I had no word that defined me apart from “mixed”, which felt less than ideal: it conjured up the image of two scoops of ice-cream melting in a bowl.

How about English? Or British? Which are not “racial” definitions in the slightest.

For example, me. I look, sound, act, am therefore, about as English as it is possible to be. Between the pair of my father and myself we qualified – ignoring such things as aptitude or skill – to play rugby for any of the four home nations, soccer for any of the five. My accent seems to be the English of the 1980s, my attitudes those of the 1780s. Step back a little more and there is Hugenot, Peruvian (definitely, whether that includes mestizo is dependent upon how racy that particular lady was and she was, indeed, very racy) and on. Like vast numbers of others there’s also that mix of Celt, Saxon, Norman and Viking in there.

Yet I am English – and while I don’t particularly like the term, British. The defining influences which make me what I am are of that country – thus that’s what I am.

So, why’s that not good enough for you, Honey?

Well, yes, OK, but the British…..

A mountain rescue team has been called up to Britain’s highest mountain to save a dog that refused to go any further.

Maggie, a 35kg Turkish Akbash dog, was unable to continue the descent from Ben Nevis with her owners because her paws were in pain.

The three women walking with the dog had tried carrying her down the 4,413ft mountain but were forced to admit defeat around the halfway mark.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue came to the dog’s rescue on Saturday night, despite already facing multiple callouts for other emergencies.

As the old saw goes, if it had been a kid it would have had to do it itself. Character building you know.

This is a common claim

Be interesting to know whether there’s anything to it or not.

Tom Daley has blamed “colonialism” for homophobic laws in place across the Commonwealth.

The Olympic diving champion stars in a new BBC documentary in which he visits “the most homophobic countries in the Commonwealth”, examining the claim that the British Empire left a legacy of anti-LGBT legal codes in post-colonial nations.

Daley has stated that one interview in the documentary, which will air on BBC One on Tuesday, opened his eyes to “where that homophobia stemmed from in the first place, and it is a legacy of colonialism”.

China never was colonised – nor Ethiopia, nor really Thailand. So, homophobia better or worse in those places?

And if we’re limiting ourselves to British colonies, is it worse in Nigeria than, say, Senegal? Or even, to equalise religious influences, Northern Nigeria and Senegal?

Heck, we could even talk about Arab and Mulsim colonialism if we wanted to.

But that initial contention. How much of whatever homophobia there is out there is a result of colonialism? And what’s the proof? We’ve a large enough data set to be able to glean some information, no?

So, taking the piss is now transphobia, eh?

Good luck with that idea with the English:

A carnival has apologised for a float featuring men dressed as female Olympians following complaints that it was “transphobic”.
However, one of the carnival floats this year has prompted outrage as it was adorned with signs which said “of course we are female – we sit down to pee!” and another which said the float operators were part of the “Olympics 2024 women’s 100m final”. It was an apparent mocking of transgender athletes being allowed to compete in women’s sports.

Donna Landy, a transgender comedian who attended the carnival, said: “When I caught up with the float and read the sign my heart sank, it was clearly mocking trans athletes in sport and by extension all trans people.”

Mocking? Sure, but then folk are allowed to do that. And they will too. Folk will mock everything and do too.

The Home Guard

From the Frank Williams obituary:

“There were one or two episodes where it’s clear it’s a serious business,” he said. “And the last episode [Never Too Old, broadcast on Remembrance Sunday, 1977] is quite moving. They all drink a toast to the Home Guard and you get this sense these funny old men would have died for their country if they had to.”

As someone once put in the comments here. Those tens of thousands of old men knew, absolutely, that if the invasion came they’d die as a result. Yet they all still turned up in church halls the country over.


But touting the “return” of imperial units to shops is just disastrously retrograde. The logistical burden it would place on supermarkets could lead to increased prices at a time when many household budgets are already stretched thin, while polls show that younger generations are increasingly happy with metric measures. By kindling this debate, Johnson and the Conservative party have certainly keyed in to an emotive and overlooked aspect of our history. But the return of imperial measures is simply unfathomable.

It is optional. It gives us that thing that market choice always does give us – greater utility. Those that don’t care don’t care, those that do, either way, get to have their preference seen to. Utility is always personally defined, so now more people get to have their utility increased – we are richer as a result.

Simply the freedom to use one or the other, Imperial or metric, is wealth enhancing.

Now, there is still that place for weights and measures and all that. A claim that 1 kg does mean that it has to be 1 kg, that of a lb that it is a lb. There’s still that role for defining what kg, lb, fathom and furlong actually are. But who should use what, why and when, that’s not in fact something that needs to be determined by the state in the first place.

Err, Yes?

The Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah has said he suspects the British empire is “still important in Britain” and may well have played a part in the Brexit vote.

The author, 73, born in Zanzibar, told the audience at the Hay festival that he believes there was a sense of “we can go alone, because we’ve done it before” among voters in the 2016 referendum.

Even if such views may no longer be expressed through “flag waving” or “s

houting”, Gurnah said he thought that subconscious imperial attitudes affect the way many in Britain think.

Nations do have a culture, a shared set of assumptions about the world. Said assumptions are influenced by history. So the surprise here is what?

Only a small thought

But has Aaronovich ever considered the one little fact:

In a 180-page screed written to accompany his massacre he alluded to his belief that something called “The Great Replacement” was taking place, in which American whites were being supplanted by people of other colours and ethnicities. This, he believed, had to be resisted.

I won’t name him and in any case he was just the latest in a bloody line of white men who, in various countries over the last decade, have murdered the innocent in the name of stopping this non-existent threat to the white race.

He’s saying this in a country where 14% of the population is foreign born. That is a hell of a change and it’s a recent one. And, well, whadda ya mean no one’s allowed to muse on it?

To counter Polly’s argument

The need for an elected president has become urgent

Polly wants the monarchy gone. So, who should – OK, more importantly, who would the President be? Given that power would still reside with the PM it would be a kicked upstairs job for the second raters. John Prescott. He would have been Blair’s appointment/candidate.

We both need and will have someone to pin the VC on folk. And even Chuck’s a better choice for that than anyone who would get elected.