God almighty I never thought so many clichés could be shovelled into half an hour of prime time radio. But Andrew Marr’s latest offering, Unmasking the English on Radio 4 really did achieve the impossible. And what’s worse, there are another 3 programmes to go!
Marr was aided by his panel of self-opinionated bigotry in his objective (and objectionable) task of finding out what Englishness was all about. As this programme was an exercise in national disrespect it was a gimme that the Scottish racist and food critic AA (I hate the English) Gill would be on. As this was the BBC, it was also a nailed on cert that multiculturism would have a representative. It did in the form of Anita Anand (first generation British Asian journo). The place of the token indigenous English bloke was obviously filled by an upper class twit famed for his blue blazer, floppy hankie and for using the word ‘ghastly’ a lot. Peter York self-styled style snob with a Prince Charles hair cut and a sneering countenance hewn from a vein of 24 carat Prussian arrogance got the job. (Narrowly beating art critic Brian Sewell and ginger cad, James Hewitt).
And so it went. Andrew declared being English was all about ‘Fat Les’ – it isn’t. Fat Les, Keith Allen was born in Swansea – and the persona of Fat Les is a crude pastiche of football caricature cynically concocted to sell records.
Anita said that being English is all about tolerance, stiff upper lippyness, irony and being rubbish at sport. As if to prove it, the back-room boys at the BBC stereotypical bullshit workshop had compiled a tape of heroic sporting failures... Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss, being spanked by the Aussies at cricket, etc, etc.
Someone piped in that the reason for the English trait of self deprecation was a ruse to hide an innate feeling of superiority..... Everyone else chin rubbed and metaphorically nodded in agreement.
Andrew rolled out a couple of typical English people to sum the whole nation up..... No, not Dick Van Dyke’s excellent and incisive portrayal of a poor cockney chim-chimmering chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. Not Kevin Cosner’s ever so real portrayal of folk hero, Robin Hood – “Goddammit! We have to rescue our bro', Little Jan from the clutches of that asshole, the Sheriff of Nattingham”.... Not even Audrey Hepburn’s remarkable performance as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady (she was born within the sound of the bells of Brussels Town Hall, you know). No, apparently, yer typical English persona can be summed up by Miss Marple, Agatha Christies amateur sleuth and bumbling buffering Tory, Boris Johnson....(Stands back in stereotypical gobsmacked amazement! I mean they must have spent, ooh, at least fifteen bob on the research, eh?)
York sneered, Anand smugged, Gill hated, and criticised the BBC coffee and curly sandwiches - and Marr kept on telling us how not English he was. “No really, I’m as Scottish as a deep fried Mars bar, Jimmy”...
Robbie Burns versus William Shakespeare it wasn’t.
It wasn’t even the Krankies up against the Telly Tubbies. It was complacent, ill informed radio trash – but as it was all about dissing the English,it was perfectly legitimate, wasn't it?....