On my Facebook feed recently, the topic of Britishness came up. This is close to my heart as a remainer where a minority of those eligible to vote voted leave, where Britons abroad and Europeans in the UK were disenfranchised and where our unelected Prime Minister has taken this as some kind of mandate. I’ve nearly stopped fuming. Never mind the crowing of the ‘kippers who now have internal strife of their own.
So to me and my friends, these are the essentials of Britishness:
The soft stuff:
- Fairness. Mostly for us.
- The Stiff Upper Lip. We’re pretty unflappable. Some great examples here on Quora. I may be gone some time.
- We Apologise a lot. Maybe not Canadian levels of apology but getting there.
- Deadpan sarcasm, self-deprecating humour and a healthy dose of xenophobia. The latter is somewhat ironic considering how world-enveloping the British empre was.
- The weather. We love the weather, good, bad or indifferent. We talk about it. A lot.
- Shopping at Marks and Spencer. This is one of our British values and you can’t be a terrorist if you do. Your quinoa will spoil.
- A right-wing government that was progressive on Gay Rights. OK, the blanket pardon vote got complicated but gay marriage was a step forward.
- It’s horribly broken (A monarch? An established church? Unelected upper house?) but to an extent we still maintain the pomp of the “mother of all parliaments“. Some of our parliamentarians are a bit kinky and I await the results of the child abuse inquiry though.
- We kicked off Human Rights legislation which is one of the sticks Brexiters like to flagellate us with. Stupid rights.
- The BBC and the NHS. Two great, envied institutions. Both co-incidentally under attack by the Conservative government who want to give it away to Murdoch and Branson.
- Comdey: Monty Python, Blackadder, Little Britain, The Young Ones, Bottom, Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, Smith & Jones, Fry & Laurie, French & Saunders, Red Dwarf, Spitting Image, Thin Blue Line, IT Crowd, Spaced, Black Book, Green Wing, Douglas Adams, Porridge, Dad’s Army…
- Alcohol: Possibly not a good thing but we do consume a lot of it and sometimes even appear to like it. Craft ale, gin and whisky being notable local products. Let’s say we’re oversocial and leave it at that.
- Technical innvation: Although even ARM has been sold abroad, we used to have a fair few local computer companies: Inmos, BBC, Sinclair,Amstrad, Oric, Jupiter Ace and the game culture (Jeff Minter!) they spawned. We still have the Rasberry Pi.
- Amazing music. Until recently at least. From the Beatles, through Led Zep to Britpop. We re-invaded our colony over the water.
- Great Science Fiction: From HG Wells through Quatermass to Dr. Who (twice) and beyond.
- Food. There’s more to it than fish and chips, which can be very good, and Marmite. Welsh lamb and Scottish beef can be amazingly good. And pork scratchings.
- Apparently we can’t claim architecture. Brutalism like the Barbican, Trellick Tower and Preston Bus Station came out of Corbusier.
- The government who has already demolished council housing concept and replaced it with “housing associations”. As someone who was raised in a council flat and in in a country with a massive housing shortage, that’s a shame. Let’s not talk about grammar schools.
That’s a summary of a Facebook thread that got quite long. So even if I lose free movement in Europe and tariffs are applied to our imports and exports, I think we still have a little to hold on to.