Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Fifty Things I Love About Britain

Fifty days until the General Election. Fifty days of nothing but ‘why Britain is terrible’. Labour say it’s terrible now they’re in, so put back in the people who made it terrible in the first place. Tories say it was terrible when they were in, so don’t let them back in. UKIP say Britain has been terrible ever since we let any of ‘them’ in and hang up their ‘No blacks, no Polish, no gays’ signs. And the Lib Dems say it’ll be a bit less terrible if we’re a bit in. So, today, only things I love about Britain.

1 – My greatest Briton
…and Earthling, and citizen of the Universe, of them all, my husband, Richard Flowers

2 – Love and marriage
Having the right to marry the person I love, if they want to too, or not to marry at all

3 – That he did want to
…and that we did, after waiting only twenty years (to the day)

That’s all I need, really, but there are forty-seven more, including food, Doctor Who, more food, the Liberal Democrats (the whole bally lot of them), so much food… And that’s all just the other stuff that was at our wedding!

4 – Doctor Who
of course

5 – Being a nation made up of several nations
…all distinct and all having each in common, and being a people that has always been made up of many peoples and still mixing in people from everywhere else

6 – Being a nation where we all have multiple loyalties and identities
…by definition, and not letting people tell us what one thing they think we are

7 – Being always open to change
…whether it’s new people in our streets, new words in our language (often from someone else’s) or newly being comfortable with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and all sorts of other people who no longer have to be like everybody else

8 – My parents
…My Mum, who wasn’t born here but has always put her all into wherever she is, and my Dad, who was born in Glasgow, did some more growing up in Watford, and made a life for his family in Stockport, because we’re lots of different places and all one country too

9 – Inspirational heroes
…The four greatest British heroic myths: King Arthur; Robin Hood; Sherlock Holmes; and World War II

10 – Doubt
…and asking awkward questions

11 – Great big cliffs
…and windmills on hillsides

12 – Great crashing waves
…and nudist beaches when it’s bloody freezing

13 – Picturesque villages
…like Aldbourne, East Hagbourne, South Oxhey, Little Bazeley-by-the-Sea, Summerisle (but I’m more of an Escape From the Country guy, so…)

14 – Thrilling cities
…like London, Manchester, Edinburgh

15 – Stockport Town Hall

16 – The Beatles
…and especially George Harrison who, like me, swung wildly from terribly earnest to taking the piss, but who unlike me played the most gorgeous slide guitar ever heard – plus the movie of Yellow Submarine

17 – Electronic music
…from the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, The Human League, Heaven 17 and Delia Derbyshire

18 – Kate Bush
…and whatever the hell she does

19 – Punk rock
…Especially Tom Robinson and, right now, Ian Dury and the Blockheads and the wish that I could make my lists scan as well as Reasons To Be Cheerful

20 – Dame Shirley Bassey

21 – The Avengers
…Possibly the most British thing ever, and which wasn’t just style and subversion but which mattered – introducing to a mass audience the idea of intelligent, independent women who flung men over their shoulders. A fantasy of Britain where old-fashioned tradition and high-tech, sexually equal modernity went hand in hand (a hugely successful Conservative-Liberal coalition, you might say)

22 – The BBC

23 – Quatermass
…combining British ingenuity and a wish to build rocket ships with sheer naked terror (but doing it anyway)

24 – The Clangers
…encouraging us to love the alien and gently laugh at ourselves

25 – 2000AD
…the comic, not the year, particularly, which turned out a bit samey

26 – Carry On Up the Khyber

27 – Alastair Sim
…in drag


29 – Shakespeare
…A great many of his lines, anyway (and Queen Elizabeth the First, at least according to Blackadder)

30 – The works of JRR Tolkien
…even the ones scribbled on bits of toast and painstakingly reconstituted by his son. Mmm, toast…

31 – Clasping strange new foreign foods to our bosom
…over the centuries, making them our own so we couldn’t imagine life without them, like – the potato – and tea – and chocolate

32 – Chicken Korma

33 – Roast lamb

34 – Scotch eggs

35 – Pies
Pies. More pies. And especially appropriate today, Pieminister pies

36 – Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and Nicola Sturgeon
…and the gladly exercised right to say thanks but no thanks, never have, never will

37 – William Gladstone, David Lloyd-George, Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson
…and the gladly exercised right to say yes, and I will again

38 – Being more or less democratic for quite a long time

39 – Mostly giving up an Empire with less fuss than is usual

40 – The NHS
…which on balance makes me go “Aaargghh!” less than it helps stop me going “Aaargghh!”

41 – Fulfilling the UN target of giving 0.7% of our national wealth in overseas aid and development
…a target set a year before I was born. It’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve finally met it (one of only about half a dozen countries that does), and in the last few weeks set it in law created by the Liberal Democrats

42 – The gap between rich and poor narrowing
…at last, over the last five years, after widening hugely ever since the 1980s

43 – The Rule of Law
…meaning that those in power get frustrated by the law applying to them too

44 – Signing the European Convention on Human Rights
…And not just being part of it, but Winston Churchill commissioning British lawyers to create it, in order to protect and spread our values

45 – Traditional British values
…like creativity, eccentricity, tolerance, generosity, fair play, standing up for the underdog, and universal, indivisible freedom

46 – Not having ID cards
…or being snooped on by the state at will, and the Liberal Democrats constantly being on guard whenever everybody else suddenly thinks that would be a good idea

47 – Making lists instead of doing anything
…making tutting sounds instead of hitting anyone, and grumbling but never giving up

48 – Inventing the train and the Internet
…even when each sometimes goes off the rails

49 – Many of the things we used to have but don’t any more
…like welcoming immigrants, Woolworths, Texan Bars, how Blackpool was in my childhood memories, The Daleks’ Master Plan, Nick Courtney, Conrad Russell and my Grandad

50 – The future
…even more than those I’ve loved and lost, and that there will always be many, many more new wonderful, beautiful, innovative, unpredictable and aggravating but loveable things to put on a list.
And that any list will be quite different for you, or even quite different for me tomorrow (I thought the best way was to write the lot off the top of my head), but still blatantly and brilliantly British.

So in fifty days’ time, why not vote for a Britain that offers more things to love than merely against the bits you don’t?

Here’s Nick Clegg on things he loves about Britain. I applauded him delivering this speech on Sunday and suspect he may have spent a bit more time and thought crafting this version than I did mine, but I agree with most of his, too.

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PS For me, Winston Churchill would be somewhere between numbers 36 and 37 depending on what he believed in at the time, but I still agree with him on what “Makes you proud to be British!”
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