Coffee House

Modern Britain: little islanders who love the Queen and Richard Branson

14 April 2014

3:03 PM

14 April 2014

3:03 PM

Who and what represents Britain today? Our country has changed significantly in the last few decades; but, a batch of YouGov polls published this weekend suggest that traditional notions of what is British remain remarkably unchanged. The public was asked to choose which prominent people they think reflect Britain today. Members of the Royal Family occupy four of the top five positions — the Queen, Prince William, Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge — while fifth spot is represented by the nouveau riche Richard Branson:

David Beckham is the only mega celebrity to have made this list. There are plenty of actors present (Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley), but it’s great to see ‘Britishness’ embodied by a variety of characters from Stephen Hawking, JK Rowling to former Spectator editor Boris Johnson. The only other politicians who feature are Nigel Farage and David Cameron – both of whom appear way down the list.

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We also still love our institutions. When asked what is seen as important to Britishness and being British, the monarchy and United Kingdom are still ranked very highly. Even the beleaguered House of Commons and BBC are seen as important by a significant majority:

What about our individual characteristics? In a separate YouGov poll, English people still appear to be suspicious of foreigners. But they also keep a stiff upper lip between bouts of patriotism and drunken hooliganism:

On this evidence, it would be hard to differentiate the Englishman of 2014 from Basil Fawlty of forty years ago. Both have a great respect for institutions and establishment figures, yet apparently dislike foreigners. Perhaps these attitudes explain the rapid rise of Ukip, the only party who dream of a Britain long ago. But I’m sure that Farage and co will be surprised to see how people feel about our green and pleasant land.

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    When making your “Emigrate, reasons to” list, these YouGov polls provide useful data. Obviously everyone has different criteria. So how about kicking off with,
    -No separation of Church and State

    OK fellow Internet correspondents, now pick up the ball and run with it.
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I notice that I get absolutely no recommendations. Is that the way the Mods indicate their disapproval? Because I`ve seen my recommendation disappear before.
    “God save the Queen” Like for a long, long time.
    How about that?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Britisher pals, you`re living in a dream world, essentially believing your own BS. Britain`s essentially a washed up state where trash culture has become the mainstream culture. Where the pub with its low level conversation has replaced family life and football is junior league patriotism. Where education and learning are belittled as elitism. Where football and the criminal behaviour of football supporters at home and abroad shames Britain, where soaps, trashy TV and tabloid newspapers dominate the social consciousness. Overlay that with public drunkenness, criminality, vandalism, stupid behaviour, smoking and junk food leading to obesity even among children… A seriously unhealthy dumbed-down population made so by corporate greed and political ineptitude.
    Now throw in rampant paedophelia among the rich and famous, politicians, celebrities and opinion leaders that goes right to the very top. What you are currently aware of is only the tip of the iceberg.
    Finally there`s a boiling over resentment of the wrong type of immigrants, where logically that hostility should be directed to those corrupt politicians that imported their own voters. Bottom line, Britain`s social ills are unsolvable and things will only get worse, so do yourselves a favour, “hate it and leave it”. Britain`s social and cultural problems are not your responsibility, so take steps to ensure they are no longer your problem.
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Can`t help noticing the Prince Charles didn`t make the top 20.
    The family values of Henry VIII?

  • pearlsandoysters

    There’s plenty of speculations around Britishness, Englishness, Frenchness, you name it. The national character is a fabulously elastic concept to embrace the diversity of opinions. To compare all sorts of -ness within Europe is fairly amusing

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Many of these headings would make my, “Emigrate, reasons to” list.

    • Cyril Sneer

      And thank goodness for that.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        It must really get up your nose that you can`t comment, “Don`t let the door hit you as you leave”. You`re a good 40 years too late.
        Hate it and leave it. Seek your fortune in the colonies. That`s generic for those two-dimension, ROM rubes that take everything literally.
        Jack, Japan Alps

        • Cyril Sneer

          40 years too late? I’m 39.

          I would consider a move to New Zealand, but alas I have a 7 year old daughter so rather than up sticks and leave I’d much rather fight for her future.

          It’s what responsible people do Jack.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Excuses are like assholes; everybody got one.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Still upper lip”
    Unintended irony.

  • Eyesee

    I wonder why you chose to comment on this? You can’t hide how despairing you are of the ordinary people and the fact they are allowed to have an opinion. Sounds very Big State to me; only people with the right ‘view’ will be acceptable.

    • Raw England

      I noted Sebastian subtly likened English people to Basil Fawlty.

      They just can’t help themselves, can they, these uneducated London Liberal retards.

      • dado_trunking

        That’s a libel, surely.

        • Raw England

          You liked the ‘uneducated’ part, then? : )

    • Makroon

      I also wonder why the Spectator chooses to comment on this.
      A sleazy little New Labour “polling company” with a daily “reality” question designed to give The Times a few cheapo headlines.

      • Kitty MLB

        Oh I was wondering about that, it did have the
        slight of New Labour surrounding the poll.

  • Raw England

    ALL polls are now HUGELY distorted due to the millions and millions of immigrants here.

    Which is why the BBC, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah are in the list.

    • Fergus Pickering

      20 million immigrants? Could you substantiate that?

    • Kitty MLB

      What is pure English, may I ask. We are all ancestors
      of Romans, VIkings etc…The English were not up to
      much untill the Romans invaded, civilized the place.

      • FrankS2

        It’s rude to ask a lady her age, but still I wonder if you can really clam to be the ancestor of any Vikings, let alone Romans!

      • vieuxceps2

        Dear me Kitty,there were no English here when the Romans arrived,onlyBritons and Celts. Nor were there Scots, only Picts.
        The Romans went home to defend Rome and in came the Angles. Saxons and Jutes who under Alfred the Great became the English of England.Then the Normans who integrated eventually and we are now the modern English.
        That all went nicely for the best part of a thousand years,but now we are undergoing a wave of invading settlers who are unlikely to add to the Englishness of our land……

  • Roy

    Defining Britishness over recent times, it has to be said, are cowardly when it comes to standing up for keeping Britain for the British.

  • john

    What a dreadful result. Obviously people are just voting for what they recognize but the list is really discouraging if you think that Britain should be a forward-looking, entrepreneurial democracy.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Forward-looking? Certainly not. I know what forward-looking means. It means the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. I means muslims and bloody windmills. Brrrr!

    • Kitty MLB

      John, as pointed out, the list is somewhat Leftie leaning,
      which is never ultimately productive.

      • glurk

        Viz my hollower than usual morning laugh when I read that the BBC represent us all….all hail the BBC! And now Ive got a headache, I need the Daily Mail!

  • dado_trunking

    How did the following score?
    – ‘the greenest government ever’
    – ‘defender of the faith’
    – democratically elected and represented

    We are informed today that the future Queen Consort ‘survived three more signals, then retired, not out’.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …you mean “We” as in you and the goat?

  • asalord
    • Kitty MLB

      Oh look the cheeful old soul as turned up- and Its Englishness not Britishness my little pickled haggis features.

      • asalord

        “Modern Britain: little islanders who love the Queen and Richard Branson”

        • Kitty MLB

          I can assure, little pickled haggis, I do not
          love him and would not share some Dundee
          fruitcake and English tea with him and another
          thing.Do you want a divorce from the Queen
          also- the corgi’s will be desolate.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            English tea? Oh, you mean the black tea that I purchase in bulk in the Indian quarter of Kuala Lumpur.

            • Cyril Sneer

              No she meant English tea Jack.

              • Jackthesmilingblack

                Black tea is imported from India, Sri Lanka … so it`s not English tea. Obvious surely even to the meanest intelligence.

  • Andy

    The House of Commons and the Common Law are not British inventions: they are English.

  • Tom Tom

    So Sebastian what is so special about Common Law ? I am unclear as to why Judges should have such vast discretion as to be almost arbitrary in their approach.

    Do you agree with Point 19 of the 25 Point Program of 1920 ?
    “We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.”

    Clearly the NSDAP also thought Common Law superior; I should simply like to know why it is so wonderful

  • Kitty MLB

    Yes, indeed the Houses of Parliament represent Englishness, now we need to
    persuade politicians that they represent England as well.
    Why the devil is the BBC on the list, I believe that is somewhat anti- English.
    ‘Stiff upper lip’-I believe those were around in bygone days but Blair decided we
    needed to be more ‘ open with our emotions’. We changed when Princess Diana died.
    How is Cameron on the list and not Jacob Rees- Mogg.
    Mo Farah ? a bunch of celebs? I am glad the brilliant Stephen Hawking is on the list.
    Do we not have any great teachers, inventors and maybe a modern day Shakespeare
    or two. And Andy Murray is Scottish.

  • ohforheavensake

    D’you notice you slid from British in the first polls to English in the last one? You do know that there are the Scots, and the Welsh, and the Northern Irish in the country with you, don’t you? You do know we exist?

    Just thought I’d check.

    • Fergus Pickering

      you exist but there aren’t very many of you. 90% are English. There are a lot of us. And not all of you are nationalist luvvies. Probably less than half.

    • Kitty MLB

      Oh, but you do not want to be known as ‘British’
      do you ? You would have pointed out that you
      have your own identities. There are no pleasing
      In some.

  • Wilky1

    Little Islanders? Surely if only 36% are suspicious of foreigners, that means 64% aren’t!

    Never let reality get in the way of a good bit of spin…

  • dado_trunking

    Let’s not forget that modern Britain is no longer a two party society – it is a five party plus society. Our Parliament does not represent that fact as those parties are not represented according to our socio-political demography, that would only apply in the EU setting.

  • mark tayler

    The English don’t want their country to be colonised by mass immigration!

    • Raw England

      ↑↑ This ↑↑

    • Cyril Sneer

      This.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    England = Britain

    British = English

    Englishness = Britishness

    All interchangeable, all meaning the same.

  • William Clark

    There is a gigantic difference between British and English now. Scotland and Wales are our very near neighbour but not really feel like ‘us’ any more – they are themselves and we are ourselves. Wales and England might be able to make that work, but left-wing Welsh statism could make that too difficult, especially after the Scots block-vote for Labour goes. Scotland though surely must go its won way as soon as possible.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Why not poll the political class about why they despise us so much, rather than poll us to provide more ammunition for those to whom everybody but the English are to be treated as OK?

    And I could do without Richard Branson.

    • In2minds

      Life without Richard Branson and Stephen Fry, now that’s a good idea.

    • perdix

      I suspect politicians don’t think much of people who frequently comment with insults rather than ideas.

    • dmitri the impostor

      ‘What defines Britishness and being British?

      … House of Commons 69%’

      And all the sheeple go: meh.

      And all the sheeple go: meeeehhhhh.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Suspicion of foreigners is relative to what they are doing. If they are moving in all round you and opening shops that might incur a different reaction to being on holiday in the Carpathian Mountains and trying to hire a donkey. When they are running your country’s government from Brussels in cahoots with the likes of Baroness Ashton that might incur a different reaction to sharing a table with Gert Fröbe clones at the Munich Beer Festival.

    And Basil Fawlty was only an Englander to his German guests. We are the English.

    • Kitty MLB

      Yes indeed Colonel, As Chesterton said: We are English, and we have not spoken yet. And Britain is a foreign land.

      • Raw England

        That’s more like it, Kitty.

        • Kitty MLB

          I meant in terms of being controlled by the EU.

  • Kitty MLB

    How would little me describe Us:
    We are quintessentially English.
    eccentricity, dry wit, Queuing, good manners, a sense of humour that the rest of the world does not get, not politically correct ( that is so European ) we are suspicious of
    badly behaved foreigners who might want to do us harm ( but not in general)
    Obsessed with class- No most certainly not , we judge people as individuals,
    it just happens that some labour voters are knuckle- draggers.

    • sarahsmith232

      Oh, Kitty, luvie, where are you getting your knuckle-draggers association from? I’m going to guess that you live in a fairly nice, pleasant, middle-class part of Southern England? If so, then where are you observing these knuckle-draggers? I’m going to guess mainly via your tv screen. But those associations have been designed, they’ve been cherry picked, designed to produce an association with what the Metro lot believe are unacceptable views. Like for e.g ‘immigration needs to be reduced’.
      Did you see the Barking set Question Time a few weeks back? There was a faked, set up plant the BBC had stuck in the audience. He played the part of the East London thicko angry about immigration because he’s got less than them and because he was thick and uneducated. He stormed out in the middle of the show in a really obvious faked, set up ahead of time tantrum. Don’t know whether he was paid or what the deal was but he was a plant, designed to associate anti immigration views with repellent, repulsive BNP voters. But it was faked, he wasn’t real.
      They’ve been at this behaviour for donkeys, it works ’cause it plays into peoples sense of superiority, the middle-classes that haven’t had much contact with the w.class will not have recognised it, they’ll be only too happy to believe he was real ’cause it plays to their sense of middle-class superiority. It’s BBC brainwashing, did you watch it? Did you see through it? Judging by your comment, i’m going to presume not.

      • Kitty MLB

        So its fine for Labour voters to constantly insult and amuse themselves at the expense of middle- class people but admit this
        country has issues with a group of people who Nigel Farage
        called the “underclass” then you get your hands slapped and
        no these neglected people do not live in nice southwest villages,
        but you know, people have lived elsewhere and we travel these days.
        Milipede says,hardworking families- what about hardworking taxpayers.
        And Labour have not represented the traditional working classes for ages.
        And No I do not watch Question Time, or any of these documentaries, or the BBC. In fact I am not really a television
        watching person.

        • sarahsmith232

          I’m sorry, but it was the knuckle-dragger part. Nigel Farage was not insulting people when he talked of an underclass, he meant it mainly in economic terms, he didn’t mean that they are scummy low life’s. He also was saying that it’s they that are experiencing ‘issues’, due to immigration, not that they’re causing issues in society.
          When I wrote that you prob’ live in a nice middle-class area I meant that that will mean that you’ll not be in a position to observe the working-class. So the media will be filling in the blanks for you, but they’re not in the game of ‘educating’, they’re in the propaganda game, espec’ the BBC. If you’re not catching up with political events and society in general via the media then how can be aware of any of it? It can only come via the media.
          The knuckle-dragger comment is not ok luvie, ‘espec’ if it’s not your observed, experienced opinion. Sorry.

  • FrankS2

    It’s hard to make any analysis without knowing how the questions were phrased. Thinking that Richard Branson reflects modern Britain could be an observation made in despair rather than affection, so why view it as a popularity poll? Likewise, the perceived definition of Britishness.
    And who is being asked to describe English people, and exactly what are they being asked? An English person might believe that his fellow countrymen are generally suspicious of foreigners without himself sharing that feeling.

    • sarahsmith232

      Good comment. The thing about these social attitudes surveys is it’s not so much the poll results as the way the analysis of the causes behind the poll results are immediately appropriated by the Metro chattering classes. Their class based herd speak then being repeated so often that they then all start brainwashing themselves with it.
      Like you highlight, the people describing English people as suspicious of foreigners will not be sticking themselves into that category, they’ll be describing people that they see as their inferiors and imagine are a dominant force. This could be just an e.g of plain old class snobbery at work.
      The Left dominated Metro snobs should be ashamed of this poll result, why would people’s v.first association with English national characteristics be something they see as contemptible? Where have people got this from? ‘Course, the answer to that is from those media employed pack of old style class snobs that have been associating Englishness with something to be ashamed of for years, mainly via an institution which the respondents respect and come to understand their worth via – the BBC.
      This, obviously, is only a point of view, it’s up for debate but the insular Metro chatters have zero ability to interpret these poll results in other way than their Dianne Abbott-esque, small minded, idiotic way, they can’t understand that it’s only a point of view, they take their analysis as fact rather than opinion. Then start to reproduce it via the media, then become pathetically, idiotically brainwashed sheep, ala Abbott.

    • Alex

      Agreed; thinking that the House of Commons or the BBC ‘Define Britishness” isn’t the same thing as ‘loving our institutions’. It could very well be said in shame and despair, not in pride.

    • Tom Tom

      Clearly it is a “Britishness” that is very exclusive and no doubt Southern

  • JB

    ‘No civil war’. Erm … what about the English one, 1642-51?

    • Alexsandr

      I’d say the war of the roses qualifies too

      • Colonel Mustard

        + 1688, 1715 and 1745.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          However distasteful, the 20th century Eire saga can perhaps be slid into that category as well.

          • dado_trunking

            … and we all know those water cannons are for Glasgow.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …yes, those smelly bastwards do all need a bath, don’t they?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    …and they forgot about Barraco Barmer.

  • Ricky Strong

    Ask a specific question and you get a specific answer.

    Also interesting how you managed to turn ‘suspicious of foreigners’ into “dislike foreigners”.

    • telemachus

      Given which sentiment I see Cameron is 4% above Farage

      • Kitty MLB

        Ed Milipede doesn’t even make the list.

        • telemachus

          But you can bet your life that when he is replaced by the Charismatic one that the leader of the reasonable party will be up there in the top ten

          • Kitty MLB

            Will that be the day when the 3 horsemen
            of the apocalype will be seen riding across
            the heavens, dear telemachus. You only
            say such utterings because you know
            it makes my hair stand on its ends..

            • Andy

              Least he saves you spending on hair gel and hairspray.

            • Alexandrovich

              …let alone The Fourth.

              • Kitty MLB

                The fourth will be keeping an eye on Telemachus and his
                plotting.

            • Colonel Mustard

              “Shame he reckoned it, sharer-of-rings,
              to follow the flyer-afar with a host,
              a broad-flung band; nor the battle feared he,
              nor deemed he dreadful the (red) dragon’s warring,
              its vigor and valour: ventures desperate
              he had passed a-plenty, and perils of war,
              contest-crash, since, conqueror proud,
              Hrothgar’s hall he had wholly purged,
              and in grapple had killed the kin of Grendel,
              loathsome breed!”

              • Kitty MLB

                Excellent Colonel, The Epic Beowulf. If I am correct, Sir.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Beowulf indeed. We live in topsy-turvy land and those who fancy themselves the heroes and saviours, the champions of the helpless, are in fact the monsters, the “loathsome breed” of night creatures, slitherers and terrorising dragons who merely fly that banner in order to exert their dubious power. And like all such monsters they can be brought low by simple courage and faith.

                  Seamus Heaney’s modern interpretation is slightly different:-

                  “Yet the prince of the rings was too proud
                  to line up with a large army.
                  He had scant regard for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all
                  of its courage or strength, for he had kept going
                  at dangerous times and in tight corners
                  often in the past, after he had purged
                  Hrothgar’s hall, triumphed in Heoret
                  in the fight with Grendel. He outgrappled the monster and his evil kin.”

                • Kitty MLB

                  Thank You. Both interpretations interesting. Yet I must
                  admit to preferring the more powerful and atmospheric earlier
                  interpretation. I do love those type writings I must admit.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Me too. The earlier interpretation flickers like firelight on the rafters of a mead hall and comes the long distance from that shadowy past that still stirs our blood.

            • Jackthesmilingblack

              Think you`ll find it`s Four Horsemen of the Apocalype. But hey, it`s not like it`s the end of the world.

          • paulus

            I was going to say, you must be a close relative of his, but knowing how he treats them I had to rule it out.

          • Colonel Mustard
          • Realpolitik

            Are you genuine? Or are you playing a simple character designed to turn potential labour voters away and encourage us to get out their and vote?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Milipede, Camoron, Bliar, Amadinnerjacket … Examples of the witty word-play of the school yard. Bully. Because when you get right down to it, Britain is a nation of bullies.

          • JackyTreehorn

            Blimey you should see someone about that inferiority complex

            • Jackthesmilingblack

              Personality problems beyond the dreams of analysts.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Aka xenophobia.
      Jack, Japan Alps

      • Ricky Strong

        I don’t believe xenophobia exists. It is a blanket term that has no concise meaning and fails to get to the root of what it purports to represent. I think in most cases (but not all) xenophobia refers to an objection of cultural change brought about by foreign influence. I have no doubt under the term that Red Indians were xenophobic, but they had a right to be adverse to foreign influence would you not agree?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Try using US English; spelling, syntax, common expressions, idioms, slang… Narrow-minded xenophobes just can`t grasp that English is a communication tool, not something you get all precious over.
          Jack, Japan Alps

          • Cyril Sneer

            Jack, you didn’t answer his question, clearly a bit awkward that one.

            I’m sure if you were speaking to a native Indian your liberal label of xenophobe would not be applied. Only for whites eh Jack….

            • Jackthesmilingblack

              Native Americans had every reason to be xenophobic with respect to the foreign invaders. After all they were subject to an on-going programme of genocide where their entire culture was destroyed.
              Thanks for the second bite of the cherry opportunity, Cyril.
              Jack, Japan Alps
              By the way, I`m not Japanese.

              • vieuxceps2

                “I’m not Japanese”-Well, Smiling Black,obviously not. The Nipponese don’ t allow you people to immigrate there do they?

  • Realpolitik

    How on earth is Branson “nouveau riche”?

    Mo Farah? My goodness,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    What is a “still” upper lip?

  • Mark McIntyre

    Never mind Britain – only England matters !
    Alas…
    Oneself would liken the latter to a dog – who allows all too many other people/s to ‘wag its tail’ !

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