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Home > Culture and Society

True Brit: The Great Smell of Brutishness

26 January 2007

On the matter of national pride we must turn, once again, to the Testament of Bill (Hicks). From the book of Rant In E-Minor, chapter 14:

'I was over in Australia, and got asked, "Are you proud to be an American?" 'I dunno, I didn't have a lot to do with it. My parents fucked there, that's about all. I was in the spirit realm at that time, trying to tell them, "Fuck in Paris! Fuck in Paris!" but they couldn't hear me, 'cause I didn't have a mouth. They fucked here.'

The 'crisis' of 'national identity' that manifested itself *again* this week - in calls for 'British values' to be taught in schools - is not one of Britishness but one of Englishness. The Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish, after all, seem pretty sure of their identities: the Scots in hating the English, the Welsh in being hated by the English and the Irish in being invaded by the English.

But no, say our overlords, it's not Englishness (whatever that is), it's Britishness (whatever that is) we must foster. Too strong a sense of Englishness (or Scottishness, Welshness or Irishness) leads to all kinds of terrible places like independence and English parliaments and the remaining limbs being amputated from what's left of the Empire. And we can't have that - some of our leaders would have to get proper jobs. No, it's unite - rather than divide - and conquer. Except, thanks to devolution, the 'British values' will only be taught in English schools.

Here's how Education Secretary Alan Johnson defined 'Britishness' on Radio 4 yesterday:

'Er, well, I think first of all. it. it. er. it involves the values we hold very dear in Britain which is free speech, which is tolerance, which is respect for the rule of law.'

What could be more British than knuckle-chewing inarticulacy? Or the tolerance demonstrated by our reality television shows. Or our free speech that bans unauthorised protest around Parliament. Or our respect for the rule of law that torpedoes investigations into corrupt Saudi arms deals.

As luck would have it, copies of the proposed 'British values' test for school children have been leaked. See how you get on.


1) You are travelling on public transport. One of the passengers attacks another. Do you:

a. get off?

b. hide behind your copy of 'Heat' magazine?

c. get out your camera phone?

2) An old lady drops a 20 note in the street and you pick it up. Do you:

a. buy Stella Artois?

b. buy a pair of jeans that display the thong garrotting your

c. buy a train ticket to Branscombe Beach?

3) A story on the evening news concerns a child who was abused and then murdered. Do you think:

a. 'I wonder what's happening on Hollyoaks?'

b. 'You know, I don't think Natasha Kaplinsky is wearing a bra.'?

c. 'It's not a dog or a cat so who gives a shit?'

4) Britain's most famous export is:

a. cluster bombs

b. the Pilgrim Fathers

c. Gary Glitter

5) When I grow up I want to be:

a. a buy-to-let landlord

b. a call centre worker

c. Vernon Kay

Yep, you pass.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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