by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 26
August 2021
Spotted
07:00

The British Brit-bashers are at it again

Whatever the problem, some people always find a way to blame Brexit
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

It’s been suggested that England is the only country “where the people feel Schadenfreude towards themselves”. 

I don’t know if that’s generally true of either the English (or the British as a whole), but it’s certainly true of our commentariat. No matter how international a problem might be, you can bet there’ll be someone willing to claim it for Queen and Country. A mess can sprawl over many borders, but we’ll still stick a Union Jack in it.


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For instance, here’s Lionel Barber, ex-editor of the FT, commenting on America’s refusal to extend the evacuation in Kabul:

Strangely there’s no mention of the fact that America’s other allies, including France and Germany, made the same request and received the same refusal. So has the EU been “mugged by reality” too?

Andrew Rawnsley of The Observer was pursuing a similar line over the weekend, presenting the Afghanistan debacle as if it were all about us. He was particularly keen on debunking the idea of the ‘special relationship’ with the United States (another weird obsession of the liberal commentariat). 

It’s not just Afghanistan. The disruption of supply chains is a favourite weapon of British Brit-bashers. Pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets are avidly shared on Twitter (and The Guardian) while hashtags like #BrexitFoodShortages are sent trending. 

It would be foolish to ignore the problems caused by Brexit, yet it’s equally myopic to disregard the global chaos caused by Covid. The US is suffering supply chain problems too (and a substantially higher level of inflation than the UK). Meanwhile German industry, securely ensconced at the heart of the EU, is also experiencing disruption. China has just closed a major port because of a single case of Covid — and we can expect more the same as the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc around the world. 

But even the pandemic itself  — which is, by definition, global — gets the parochial treatment. The “plague island” label was an invention of the Anglophobic New York Times, but our own newspapers — including the Guardian — lapped-up the negative coverage.

Fortunately, we’ve had  better news since the dark days of December 2020. In particular, we’ve had the success of our vaccination programme — which has rather spoilt the Covid-shows-Britain-is-rubbish narrative. Nevertheless, if we can present ourselves in the worst possible light we’ll still do it.

It’s not that this country doesn’t have its problems. Of course, we do. But it really doesn’t help to conceive of them as peculiarly British when they’re not. Indeed, there’s an odd sort of arrogance in believing that they are. 

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

The Guardian is far and away the most dangerous publication in the UK. Its circulation is paltry, yet its influence is enormous and pernicious. The Guardian has an “on-air” wing in the shape of the BBC. It is also required reading for the legions of metropolitan fauxialists who manage practically every quango and institution in the country. Not to mention that it is the go-to news source for the vast majority of the teaching profession.
So although circulation figures are ever dwindling, it informs the worldview of a great many people who influence the agenda and shape the country’s – not to mention our children’s – future. Most Islington-dinner-party tropes began life on the pages of the G and from there become the received wisdom of bien pensant Liberal Left.
The Britain hating, race-baiting, class-envy, history-revisionist, woke, pc leftist clap-trap that so many of us complain about across these pages, is largely down to the Guardian dripping its poison every day, thirstily imbibed by the very people who influence and skew the national discourse.
These people are not at all representative of the country at large – but thanks to Guardian-TV, in the shape of the BBC, their voice becomes much, much louder than it should be.
They are relentlessly negative about this country. But for each of the anecdotal instances that get trumpeted as “proof” of widespread intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc in this country there are a million other instances of just everyday acceptance of people, – regardless of immutable characteristics or lifestyle choices – that are not worthy of anecdote simply because they are so everyday. But that which doesn’t fit the narrative goes unreported.
These people view everything through a miserabilist, catastrophist lens – and almost seem to be willing their dystopian outlook into existence. Presumably so they can console themselves in a sanctimonious circlejerk of “I told you so”
We can argue about what causes this desire in some people to claim we are a nasty, xenophobic, intolerant country – but I hope most honest people would agree that it is not an accurate reflection of this country – at all – and does us no favours at a time when we should be putting the most positive view of Britain to the rest of the world.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paddy Taylor
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Perhaps time for the journalists of the Guardian and New York Times and the readers of those publications go live for a while in some godforsaken, decrepit place where terror really reins. Perhaps they might do well in somewhere like the Congo or Zimbabwe. Or perhaps even China. Or while we’re at it, better still Afghanistan under the Taliban. Then perhaps they might realize just how lucky they have it.
As far as I’m concerned, both the UK and US are easily the most tolerant places in the world. And as for the US, if it’s so bad as our current intelligentsia and CRT followers say, why is it that everybody and their brother and sister will do anything to come and live in the US by illegally crossing the Mexico/US border. Perhaps, all these illegal immigrants are masochists, given that everything must be better in their home countries, or so the intelligentsia would have one think.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johann Strauss
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Just so.
Patriotism has always been a dirty word on the Liberal Left. To show pride in this country is treated as almost akin to joining the BNP. That attitude, skewered so well by Orwell, is the default setting for all writers and (seemingly) most readers at the Guardian.
How many articles do they publish, in any given year, that denigrate the very concept of patriotism? Dozens. They have associated endlessly negative baggage with the idea of ‘British-ness’. I don’t think anyone can honestly deny that.
In their heart of hearts how many Guardian readers were not with Ms Thornberry when she tweeted her sneering white van with cross of St George picture? As though such low-brow, working class patriotism was worthy only of scorn?
It is the idea that any and every culture is to be celebrated, but not British culture – or at least not English culture. One can celebrate the Celtic parts of Britishness (separately) but celebrating Englishness, whatever that might be, is seen as proof of latent racism.
They have infected any debate involving patriotism with a national self-loathing, the idea that patriotism is xenophobic at heart, the idea that British history is something only to apologise for.
The head-banging nationalist, convinced the British Empire was a force of unalloyed good for the world, sits at one end of the spectrum. Afua Hirsch and her Guardian cohort sits at the other end, convinced it was an endless parade of atrocities and depredation. Both seem as monocular and impervious to nuance as the other. Both seemingly obsessed with Empire.
Any sensible person can see that the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes.
I’m very proud to be British. As a student of history I am well aware of terrible things that happened (usually hundreds of years before I was born) but I am still unapologetically proud to be British. This country has had an enormous impact on the world – some of it very good, some bad.
But it is our history. It for the most part happened in our ancestors’ day. Nothing I can do or say will change that history. My pride has no more bearing on it than my guilt would. Nor, for that matter, the Guardian’s disapprobation.
Maybe a patriot SHOULD recognise the faults in his own country, I wouldn’t disagree with that idea. Blind Patriotism, alongside blind hatred (blind anything) is reflexive and unthinking.
But, taking all the good and the bad, there is no need to detoxify the idea of Britishness – or Englishness. Indeed if I suggested the need to detoxify any other nation’s history I’d be accused of xenophobia (at best).
The Guardian line seems to be that anyone who has pride in being English has somehow admitted to something unhealthy and ‘problematic’. Why? If a Frenchman is proud of being French, would they immediately mistrust his motives in the same way? I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t.
If a Tongan speaks of his homeland with tears in his eyes, (they are, on the whole, the most deeply patriotic people I’ve ever met) would they be suspected of xenophobia and a misplaced pride. Again – I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t.
So, what is so different about a British person expressing pride in their nationality? Why does the Left automatically suspect anyone who has pride in being English of some sinister subtext?
Thanks to the Guardian, the BBC and the widespread Leftist takeover of our national institutions – the prevailing attitude is that anyone who shows any pride in Britain’s wartime past is jingoistic and somehow laying claim to glories that belonged to another generation.
Yet many of the same people who push such miserabilist bilge, also waste our time bleating that we should all shoulder the guilt for anything bad done by this country in its imperial history.
Admiration for heroes in the very recent past is backwards looking, yet we’re somehow on the hook for reparations to the colonised 200 years later? It doesn’t seem a consistent position.
Why should the statute of limitations for guilt run so much longer than that of glory?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Agree. Although I would argue that even the most fervent British patriots are more than capable of criticising their country (like I’m allowed to slag off my family but YOU’RE not allowed to). Culturally we seem to be more self critical than other cultures. This has, many times, been shown to be a positive, giving us a natural suspicion of authority which has served us well. It has its downsides too though….

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Thank you 1000X I could not have put It better myself

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

It has often struck me that claims of uniquely British / American racism, intolerance, misogyny etc are based upon high expectations and demands for utopian perfection against which we will NEVER measure up (and if you’re a commie looking to bring down the West – the Anglophonic West specifically – that’s probably the point). If we are 95% tolerant the 5% becomes indicative of a 100% failure. You’re either perfect or you’re evil. It’s only us who is measured this way and I suspect a lot of it is to do with ignorance of history, decades of high living standards, a dearth of real struggles, and long held anger at the collapse of the USSR and the triumph of capitalism in raising living standards for not just millions but billions of people. The far left’s march through our institutions has taken decades but as it exists in a self reinforcing bubble of academia and middle class guilt and angst is it any wonder it eventually reached critical mass?

Alan Birks
Alan Birks
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Absolutely brilliant!

omerozener
omerozener
1 year ago

I moved from Germany to London 1 year ago. I’m utterly surprised about the level of Britain-bashing and EU-praising especially among the younger London people. I lived almost 10 years in the Netherlands and Germany and I couldn’t see the rosy picture of EU some people are praising. All I experienced was highly dysfunctional states where decision making mechanisms are broken, a difficult environment for doing business, and not so welcoming attitude to foreigners. UK has a lot to improve but I just don’t get why some people think EU is so much better than UK.

Last edited 1 year ago by omerozener
Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

I have a theory for why this is. Mainly in 2 areas. Firstly, having long ago discarded all notions of Patriotism for the UK (literally nothing is more disgusting to them, many have lived their entire lives absent of any patriotic feeling), this creates a void which is simply filled with a weird “EU patriotism” instead. And genuinely, I think it’s no different to any other patriotism. Europe becomes a magical imaginary place which triggers pride, adoration and bursts of emotional longing based on little or nothing rational. Secondly, in my experience they tend to be very unworldly and poorly travelled. Of course some exceptions, but in my own circle the strongest EU patriots are (ironically) the most provincial, insular types whose idea of abroad is formed from a weekend in Amsterdam 10 years ago or a few vague ‘holiday’ feelings. They are naive types who imagine if they emigrate to Australia, the sun will shine, all their problems will be gone and they’ll live in a perpetual holiday feeling. Indeed many are still locked in an endless pretence that they’re about to quit this sh*tty country and move to Ireland / Scotland / etc. And yet they’re still here.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

I think a major part of this is that the MSM has very little coverage of EU countries. This is not so surprising now, but it was the case when we were still members, even during the run-up to the Brexit referendum and afterwards, when the Remainers were trying to overturn the result.

Those waxing lyrical about the EU seemed to know next to nothing about the organisation itself and only fractionally more about the member countries, but only those they’ve holidayed in. Their praise and adoration is for a fictionalised EU that only exists in their heads.

Paul Marshall
Paul Marshall
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

Probably because they never lived in the EU

Nile Kingston
Nile Kingston
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

This is what I cannot fathom? Is why so many pro-EU Londoners think that all is rosy in Europe. Are they all blind, deaf and dumb because the reality is quite different on the ground.
No where is perfect but the UK to me is much better overall when dealing in the business environment.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

Almost no British Remainer speaks a foreign language (many claim to be able to but they can’t). So everything in their head about the EU is either imaginary or relayed by a British, ultra-Remainer news source. It is all make-believe and snobbery.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
1 year ago
Reply to  omerozener

The EU is far from perfect but the idea that leaving it would be painless is equally a myth. ‘Getting Brexit done’ is an obsession of the current government. The sensible thing to have done when faced with the pandemic in early 2020, would have been to have negotiated a delay to Brexit until the pandemic was over. There’s no denying that the issue around the pandemic have disrupted manufacturing & supply chains around the world. But it’s equally true that those issues are worse in Britain due to Brexit. The full extent will only be revealed when the rest of the world begins to return to normal

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Many of us suspected that calls for a delay to Brexit were just another excuse to avoid it altogether, making ever more likely the eventual reneging on the result of the referendum altogether. Even so, I could see no reason for delay, and still don’t.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Good article. One caveat. The Delta Variant is not wreaking havoc around the world. The reaction to it is.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
1 year ago

Spot on, Francis.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

This navel-gazing, it’s-all-about-us attitude is one of the worst and most annoying things about Britain. I thought exactly the same thing about the reaction to Biden’s refusal to extend the evacuation deadline. At the end of the day, it was a bit of a pointless request…it was clear that Biden had tied his own hands (with Trump’s help) and that the Taliban weren’t going to budge. The “special relationship” isn’t special but that incident wasn’t any indicator of that. And it wasn’t anything to do with Brexit…we’d be in the exact same situation if we were still a member of the EU. Tying everything back into Brexit is becoming some kind of mental disorder.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I have to disagree. The Taliban had already broken the rules of engagement with Trump, so it was well within Biden’s ambit to cancel the withdrawal or shift the date. More importantly the decision on withdrawal and execution are two separate things. Biden is clearly not in charge of his faculties and whomever is running the US did not have the whit to execute the withdrawal even vaguely professionally.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

That might all be true and logical, but Biden made it clear early on that he was sticking to his plan and kept on repeating that he thought it was the right thing. He was clearly digging himself deeper into his own mess but the realpolitik of it was that any plea from allies was going to fall on deaf ears. Biden wasn’t going back – and especially not at the behest of Johnson, of whom he obviously thinks little.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Somehow I don’t think that Biden is capable of thinking any more. All he can do is read off the teleprompter both for his speeches and his answers to pre-screened questions. When a reporter dares to ask him a question that is different from the one they were supposed to ask, Biden is completely flumoxed and looks like a deer in the headlights.
The truth is that if the US operated at all like the UK, the entire government and the head of the armed forces would have resigned by now, as well they should, given their total and utter incompetence.
And the worst of it is that nobody is going to trust the US ever again, or at least not for a very very long time. The US is simply an unreliable partner. The implications for countries such as Israel (which fortunately has never relied on the US for doing any actual fighting), Taiwan, Ukraine, etc…. is monumental.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johann Strauss
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

At this point, Biden can barely read a teleprompter but he has repeatedly told us what flavors of ice cream he enjoys. The Taliban has been mocking his ‘ice cream licking’ as a show of weakness.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Don’t forget that it was not only Johnson who requested an extension. Biden could not grant an extension, the Taliban had made it clear they would not allow that to happen without retaliation. Biden was in a disagreeable situation, if he granted an extension, would the Taliban and its supporters would retaliate in an attack similar to 9/11? By sticking to the agreement, Biden possibly thought it was the only way to avoid bloodshed, either in the US or Afghanistan.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

During his first month in office, Biden passed over 50 Executive Orders negating Trump’s work. That Biden refused to negate any of the Trump administrations work on Afghanistan puts the onus on Joe for the horrendous withdrawal from the country we are all witnessing.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

There is nothing new under the sun. For example, George Canning describing English upper-class liberal views in 1797:

No – through th’extended globe his feelings run
As broad and general as th’unbounded sun!
No narrow bigot he; – his reason’d view
Thy interests, England, ranks with thine, Peru!
France at our doors, he sees no danger nigh,
But heaves for Turkey’s woes the impartial sigh;
A steady patriot of the world alone,
The friend of every country – but his own.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago

An obsession with rubbishing Britain (and its corollary obsession, expressed in this article, about people who are obsessed with rubbishing Britain) is just an artefact of the chattering classes. Headquartered in Islington, London, with branch offices in university faculties around the country, this very small group is ignored by 99% of the population. They talk to themselves and think they are opinion-leaders. In truth, most peoples’ opinions are not just different. They are completely independent. If you asked 98% of the British population where Islington was, either they would not be able to tell you, or they would say it was a garden somewhere in Wales which was open to the public on weekdays.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

or they would say it was a garden somewhere in Wales which was open to the public on weekdays.
Ha ha. That made my day.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
1 year ago

Global Britain is quite simply a statement of fact, and a statement of intent. It is a fact that the UK lives in a “globalised” world, in a world bound together ever more intimately by travel and media; and it is a statement of intent to live positively in it, but with the crucial proviso that key political decisions about how to live with it, for instance immigration, are subject to political oversight. Both dimensions are sina qua nons of existence in our world, which is why the EU is in such a permanent emergency: it does not enjoy legitimacy. Tony Barber and Philip Stevens knowingly misrepresent “Global Britain” as jingoism, so that they can rejoice in the way that Biden has sh…t on his close ally. What they fail to say is that for decades both of these gentlemen have been arguing in favour of “influence” in Washington DC and in Brussels, in other words in brown-nosing. Given the chance to express an opinion on this stance, the British electorate delivered a damning verdict on June 23, 2016. And as Biden has demonstrated, this posture is not conducive to realistic policy.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Story
G A
G A
1 year ago

In my limited experience it’s less the English and more the aspirational ashamed-to-be-middle class of most countries in the West that hate themselves and, by extension, their country.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  G A

Despite the continuous propaganda against Britain in British newspapers, the majority of people in at least England and Wales are proud of the country. What’s happening in Scotland, I don’t know.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
1 year ago

This is so true. It is not a new phenomena, either. Any other country can celebrate its national day with pride. Try it here and you will be called a fascist, or a jingoist, a xenophobic, a BNP supporter, racist scum and worse!
On The Independent commenting forum, someone wrote “it was all the fault of the the elderly halfwits that voted Leave” ( “it being the food shortages and lack of HGV drivers) and the comment was allowed. I wrote that there was no need for nasty comments, and we should be able to discuss things without resorting to name calling, and my comment was removed. Perhaps the Indy isn’t so Indy after all?

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
1 year ago

What shocked me, particularly in the wake of the Afghanistan debacle, is the sheer seething hatred – as also articulated in this magazine by Roussinos and others – for not only Britain, but for the West in general by the Left.
The Schadenfreude greeting the West’s humiliation at the hands of the Islamofascists defies belief, as do the attempts to portray the Taliban in a more positive light.
The impact of the NATO withdrawal on Afghani women doesn’t even warrant a mention, but appears to be a price worth paying to “liberate” the country from its foreign oppressors.

Last edited 1 year ago by Eddie Johnson
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Just came back from vacationing in Spain, where we talked to three or four Brits who seemingly inadvertently dropped their ‘disdain for Brexit’ and even Britain itself even though that was not the topic at hand. At once, I felt bad for them, their visceral hate, and didn’t really want to know them further nor did I want to understand their knee jerk comments. Clearly, in the minds of some it’s not over.

William Blake
William Blake
1 year ago

The Guardian ? Yes I agree. It is indeed it is the most dangerous publication in the UK and most decidedly a major influence in the BBC.
And yet many people who should know better still buy it. Odd isn’t it.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago

‘It’s been suggested that England is the only country “where the people feel Schadenfreude towards themselves”. ‘

No I’ve observed it everywhere. For the same reason some people are most harsh and critical of their own children and compare them to others.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

What on earth does Shadenfreude mean? I had to look it up.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I presume you never saw a certain episode of the Simpsons.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

I have now, even though I must have seen it at the time as it was season 3. 🙂

Matt B
Matt B
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

An out of date term used only in the media.

David Bell
David Bell
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt B

The Germans may beg to differ.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Despite having borrowed the word Schadenfreude from the Germans, there is in fact an English word to describe the same emotion: epicaricacy.

David Bell
David Bell
1 year ago

For most people their children can do no wrong.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago

It’s certainly true also of the US among the chattering classes (credentialed elites with zero common sense or understanding about anything).

James Finnemore
James Finnemore
1 year ago

Long ago Ronald Searle in Modern Types lampooned a character whose motto was My County Wrong…

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago

I had a paid subscription to the Grauniad for several years on the basis of a) know your enemy and b) I feel that one really should pay for news one consumes.
I had to cancel it though, due to the relentless self-flagellation and general miserable outlook. You feel like opening an artery after just a couple of their editorials.