Magazine article The Spectator

The Left's War on Britishness

Magazine article The Spectator

The Left's War on Britishness

Article excerpt

The terrorist attacks of 7 July, as the ludicrous BBC refuses to call them, have raised many questions. We might ask what turned ordinary Muslim youths into mass murderers. Or we might wonder how a religion of peace can inspire people to terrorism across the world.

A more pressing question, however, is: why Britain? Not why was Britain attacked, because the list of countries targeted by Islamist terrorism is growing so fast it will soon be quicker to list those unaffected. But rather: why did Britain become the first country in the developed world to produce its own suicide bombers? Why is Britain just about the only country in the world to have produced suicide bombers who sought to kill not another people but their fellow citizens? Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland were all part of the war on Iraq, and have not produced suicide bombers. The US and Spain had to import their terrorists. For those who think that Muslims in Britain are particularly oppressed and poor, try visiting Muslims in France or Italy.

For all our concern about Islam, Britain is one of the least Islamic countries in Western Europe. There are more Muslims, as a percentage of the population, in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. It is true that Britain, more cursed with political correctness than most, has shown a joyfully optimistic tolerance of Islamic extremists. The BBC, the Guardian and the Metropolitan Police promote groups like the Muslim Association of Britain, even though it openly supports terrorism (just not in Britain).

No, the real answer to why Britain spawned people fuelled with maniacal hate for their country is that Britain hates itself. In hating Britain, these British suicide bombers were as British as a police warning for flying the union flag.

Britain's self-loathing is deep, pervasive and lethally dangerous. We get bombed, and we say it's all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over 'the other', but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London's internationalism - in other words, that there is little British left about it.

It wasn't always like this. The Great Exhibition in 1851 and the Festival of Britain a century later both unashamedly celebrated Britain's achievements, fuelling an infectious sense of pride in being British. But then the Left and the multiculturalists waged an intolerant war of attrition against British identity and social cohesion, culminating in a report by New Labour's Lord Parekh calling for Britain to become a 'community of communities'. By 2000, the best Britain could come up with for the Millennium Dome was an embarrassing display of giant lice in giant pubic hair.

But self-loathing in a nation, like self-loathing in an individual, is alienating. Someone who despises himself inspires greater contempt than affection, and a country that hates itself cannot expect its newcomers to want to belong.

Only in the last few years has it dawned on the government how dangerous the Left's war on Britishness really is. Labour ministers now queue up to declare that we need a new sense of British identity. But the ability to learn a few sentences in English and a knowledge of how to claim benefits do not create a national allegiance.

What is needed is something to make the people who live in these islands feel good about being British, but the war on Britishness has imposed a nationwide amnesia about our national story.

The historian Simon Schama wrote that 'to collude in the minimisation of British history on the grounds of its imagined irrelevance to our rebranded national future, or from a suspicion that it does no more than recycle patriotic pieties unsuited to a global marketplace, would be an act of appallingly self-inflicted collective memory loss'. …

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