Magazine article The Spectator

They Love to Hate Us

Magazine article The Spectator

They Love to Hate Us

Article excerpt

We are going through one of those horrible and debilitating periods in our history when we are convinced that everybody hates us. Racked with grief, we may even begin to hate ourselves - and thus climb into bed at night praying that we might wake up as Turks. Or Irishmen.

It is partly the Eurovision Song Contest. For years we have foisted jaunty, sub-American pop pap on our European neighbours and watched as they lapped it all up, imitated it and vomited it back across the North Sea with Scandinavian or German accents. The more inane our pop exports, the more the Europeans loved them; hence that memorable high-water mark of 'Making Your Mind Up', by Bucks Fizz: a Song Contest winner, a Continental number one, and possibly the most stupid song ever written.

But now, it seems, they've had enough. Our pop group Jemini - just as devoid of talent as Bucks Fizz or Paper Lace - was shunned by every voter from Ankara to Zagreb and scored a famous nul points. Newspaper editorials argued that this debacle occurred because the song was crap. That is as maybe, but it ignores the fact that every previous entry from the UK has been 'crap', too, yet still garnered enough points to finish in the top five. The truth is that voting in the Song Contest always reflects national affiliations and enmities, which is why the Irish - those cheerful underdogs who have been the victims of reluntluss upprussion by the Bruddish - always do well, the Greeks always give the Cypriots 12 points, and why, this year, we finished last. Ergo, it is argued, they hate us.

It is partly true. My guess is that if we hadn't invaded Iraq we'd have finished in the top 12, at least - something Blair didn't think about, clearly. But even before then we were fairly loathed: an opinion poll in 1996 ranked us bottom of the EU for likeability. Ireland, as ever, came top. People who had been invaded by Hitler happily placed the Germans above Britain in the popularity stakes. We were despised for our nostalgia about the war and the empire, our arrogance, our sangfroid, our hooligans, and our linguistic and cultural attachment to the United States. Indeed, we were seen as sort of US manques -except without the firepower and the financial clout.

But these are only words and opinions. They are not actions. And my job is to convince you that beyond the veil of contempt, actually, we are adored, when you examine the statistics that matter: the ones about people wanting to live here.

The good news is that Britain is still by a mile the most popular country in the industrialised world for refugees. In 2002 there were 111,000 asylum applications for Britain - more than double those for France. In fact only 1.5 per cent of the world's asylum-seekers wish to live in France. Not many more wish to live in Germany, and comparatively next to none in Ireland. Last year we had double the number of applications of the United States, according to the US government website. If we are so reviled as a nation, why is this the case?

Partly, it's our strange obsession with abiding by the letter of international law, plus some attractive economic incentives. People who wish to live in Britain are afforded the instant status of asylum-seeker. Further, our black economy is four times the size of those in both France and Germany, and there is no penalty for employers who are found to be hiring illegal immigrants. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.