Why, do you think London is English?

John Cleese, the quintessential English comedian, created an uproar by observing that “London is not really an English city anymore.”

John Cleese embraces Englishness. Good job someone does.

The amount of metaphorical mud flung at Mr Cleese as a result could have made him look like a metaphorical mud wrestler. His eardrums must have been on the verge of bursting from the thunderous din, but the comedian stood firm:

“I suspect I should apologise for my affection for the Englishness of my upbringing, but in some ways I found it calmer, more polite, more humorous, less tabloid, and less money-oriented than the one that is replacing it.”

And oh, by the way, he added: “I note also that London was the UK city that voted most strongly to remain in the EU.”

Mr Cleese’s observation thus includes both cultural and political components, which in this context don’t necessarily belong together. I know Englishmen as impeccable as Mr Cleese who nonetheless voted Remain, and I also know plenty of foreign-born British subjects who are steadfast Leavers – why, I’m one myself.

Yet his cultural observation is absolutely accurate, which is why our globalists find it infuriating. London mayor Sadiq Khan, who at a guess is less devoted to the preservation of Englishness than Mr Cleese, was positively fuming: 

“Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength. We are proudly the English capital, a European city and a global hub.”

The first sentence is ideological twaddle, the second one is true, but none of it contradicts Mr Cleese’s observation. It’s possible for London to be all those things and yet to have lost its indigenous English character, something that justifiably upsets Mr Cleese.

It’s an awful fact in our mayor’s eyes, but a fact nonetheless, that London was founded, developed and over two millennia raised to its global status by predominantly one ethnic group: the white British, especially English.

This group, perhaps more than any other I know, is thoroughly idiosyncratic, and it indeed possesses the traits that have endeared England not only to Mr Cleese, but to most civilised people.

Now this group is in the numeric minority in London, which has ineluctably led to the demise of those idiosyncrasies. White British people make up only 44.9 per cent of London’s population, compared to, say, 93.6 per cent in North East England.

As a result, there exist large tracts of London that don’t even look European, never mind English. But even central London has lost its native character.

My personal observations tally with Mr Cleese’s. Taking the 22 Bus from Parson’s Green to Oxford Circus, one can hardly hear any English spoken at all. Every Romance and Slavic language is there, with a smattering of German, Dutch and Scandinavian.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t run into service personnel who don’t understand English properly and are unfamiliar with essential British realities. For example, at Paul, the French bakery chain, you’ll have a hard time explaining exactly what you need if you don’t speak French.

Also, both walking and driving have a distinctly un-English character to them these days.

The British instinctively tend to walk on the left side of the pavement. Everybody else is heir to the Napoleonic blockade, part of which legacy is perversely walking on the right. Having lived in London for 31 years, I’ve gone native in this respect (and many others).

This creates a rich potential for collisions: approaching a pedestrian walking towards me on a narrow pavement, I move to my left, he moves to his right, and then it’s a matter of who will apologise first. This may be awkward, but at least it’s not life-threatening.

The profusion of foreign drivers in London streets is. A car of mine was written off a few years ago by a Korean gentleman who misread the traffic signals (and was subsequently banned). When I tried to remonstrate with him in a language I regretted later and Penelope deplored even then, I realised that my invective was falling on uncomprehending ears.

When I first started driving in London, having driven in many other places on two continents, I found London motorists to be by far the best, most courteous and decisive. I’m sure that observation still holds true for native London drivers, but alas there aren’t enough of them to make a difference.

“Variety is the spice of life,” wrote William Cowper, while his contemporary Dr Johnson said: “If you are tired of London, you are tired of life.”

If they were both alive today they’d probably agree that, if London is a dish, it’s way over-spiced, to a point where one can indeed get tired of it. One can see how Mr Cleese got a case of veritable exhaustion, which is why he has moved to Nevis (I suspect the tax-sheltering aspects of the island might have had something to do with his decision as well).

And yet a bit of exotic spice makes a city more interesting. Without some of those additives London would be as bland as the North East of England, and who in his right mind would want to live in Newcastle unless born and bred there?

Some people on the Internet wax nostalgic at the sight of old black-and-white photographs of London tube stations, with all the passengers being white, British and wearing identical clothes.

I, as a passionate Anglophile, would have liked to live in a London like that, but neither would I have minded a bit of livening up. Something like a foreign population of 10 per cent would have added delicious spice in just the right amount.

But 55 per cent is no longer spice and it’s no longer diversity. It’s cultural and social vandalism, the devastation of the breeding ground that alone could have produced Fawlty Towers and Monty Python.

The deracination of London (and of the country in general) didn’t happen haphazardly. It’s a result of a systematic policy designed to dilute Britishness to a point where it could be tossed into a European cauldron as just one insignificant ingredient – while making it possible for the likes of Sadiq Khan to become the mayor of the world’s greatest city.

In God’s eyes, erecting “a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” with the subsequent disintegration of language was severe punishment: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

It would never have occurred to the Old Testament writers that a time would come when inflicting a Babel on the world would be done not by God as a way of unleashing his wrath, but by some men as a way of controlling others.

There, after rebuking Mr Cleese for mixing culture and politics I’ve done just that myself. Must be hard to avoid, that.

P.S. If any music lovers among you happen to be in London on 6 June, do attend the recital of my wife, Penelope Blackie. Take my word for it: nowhere in the world will the piano be played so beautifully on that day. For details: penelopeblackie.com

5 thoughts on “Why, do you think London is English?”

  1. Pauline Hanson, Australia’s fiery One Nation political leader, announced back in 2010 that she planned to deregister her United Australia Party, sell her Queensland house and move to the United Kingdom. The announcement was warmly welcomed by Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party. Hanson said in November 2010 that, after a brief stay, she had decided not to move to Britain because it was “overrun with immigrants and refugees.”

  2. I can agree with most of what you say, however I must take issue about London motorists. In my experience, they are the worst I have ever had the misfortune to share the road with. Ignorant, selfish and inconsiderate, but not as bad as the cyclists…

    When I worked in London, I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of the Highway Code, but of course such a publication is worthless when the majority of steerers (they can’t be dignified with the label ‘drivers’) make the rules up as they go along. When the traffic is moving of course.

    1. It’s a damning indictment of London that Mr. Cleese prefers to live in Nevis, a tiny rural island with one road (shared with flocks of goats and chickens), irregular electrical service, and a population that is 95% Afro-Caribbean. But they all walk and drive on the left.

  3. What is it the man said? “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth . . .” and all that. Cleese the revolutionary. Who would have thought it?

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