Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

21 October 2007

The country is proud: which country, Gordon?

The English rugby team did indeed do us proud last night: what a valiant effort! With the rub of the green, the result could so well have gone in their favour. And what an achievement to get to the final in the first place!

Cringe of the night: mugshot of GB [Gordon Brown to you] hypocritically sporting red tie on white shirt, and then placing himself smugly at the centre of proceedings at the end of the game shaking the hands of all the England team. Pleased, though, that Johnny Wilkinson didn’t pause to chat with him and so let him seize the photo opportunity he was so evidently after!

GB’s remarks after the match also got the proverbial hackles up, too:

“England’s performance at this World Cup, and in the final against South Africa, was an inspiration to millions in our country.

“Their victories against France and Australia will live long in our memory and the country is extremely proud of their extraordinary achievements over the past few weeks”.

When you say ‘their’ victory was an inspiration to ‘our country’, which country are you talking about, Gordon? England or Britain? And when you say ‘the country is proud’, is that England or Britain? The man can’t bring himself to utter the ‘E’ word even when praising its sportsmen! Why can’t he say their achievements were an inspiration to millions in England and the UK as a whole, which is probably true: some Scottish and Welsh people will undoubtedly have admired England’s performance in the last three matches? And why can’t he say ‘England is proud’, or even ‘England and the whole of Britain is proud’?

Instead, he has to go and wrap the whole thing up in the ambiguity of ‘our / the country’, which also marked his recent speech to the Labour Party conference (see previous post on that). GB just can’t bring himself to say anything that makes it embarrassingly obvious that most English people don’t feel he’s qualified to represent or speak on behalf of England. ‘What gives you the right to say “England is proud”?’, we might say. Well, on one level, he is qualified as he’s the prime minister of the UK, which includes England. But, in my view, if he can’t even bring himself to say ‘England and the whole of Britain are proud’, then this gives the lie to the spurious unity of ‘our / the country’ he so ambiguously refers to.

So if the people of England resent him being our appointed representative at the Rugby World Cup final, and even he has difficulty in speaking (in) the name of England, perhaps we should have a prime minister of England who can do the job for us?

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