Monday, 19 April 2010

The Mail's rules about who is 'British'

Sunder Katwala has written a couple of interesting posts over at Next Left about the Mail's attacks on Nick Clegg's background in the wake of the leader's television debate.

On 17 April the Mail ran this headline:

Clegg, the panto Yorkshireman: He plays the Northerner, but he's really from the Home Counties and is as posh as Dave

This seemed particularly hypocritical given the Mail's front page a week earlier:

James Chapman's article said:

Gordon Brown set the tone for a class war campaign yesterday by mentioning his 'ordinary middle-class background' while his Labour attack dogs launched spiteful attacks on David Cameron's privileged upbringing.

Whereas Stephen Robinson's article on Clegg said:

Clegg...admits his upbringing was 'affluent' - his father owns a 20-room chalet in the Alps and a chateau near Bordeaux.

Friends speak of the close and loving family that was young Clegg's world until he was sent away as a boarder at Westminster School, where fees are now close to £30,000 a year.


But those friends, who comprise smart European business and political people, British media folk and a smattering of theatrical types such as Sam Mendes - who directed him in a student production at Cambridge - must have choked on their ciabatta when Clegg reinvented himself as a Yorkshireman, speaking passionately about 'my city of Sheffield'.

How dare a politician be friends with 'smart' people who are European.

So do as we say, not as we do when it comes to spiteful attacks on people's upbringing, apparently.

But then the Mail gets really ugly:

Despite his Anglo-Saxon name, Nick Clegg is by blood the least British leader of a British political party, the son of a Dutch mother and a half-Russian merchant banker father.

Why does this matter? And what point are they really trying to make with that statement?

They upped the rhetoric in the Mail on Sunday the following day, with the headline:

His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about LibDem leader?

Clegg was born, raised and educated in Britain - as the Mail on Sunday profile makes clear. So why are they asking if there is 'anything' British about him - and thereby implying there isn't?

As Sunder points out, this follows on from the Mail's claim that the British-born children and grandchildren of immigrants are not really British.

It's hard to work out exactly what these comments about Clegg are meant to achieve, other than to suggest he's not quite 'one of us' and therefore not to be trusted. But would they ever make this point about, for example, Prince Charles or Winston Churchill?

But it seems the Mail are setting their own arbitrary rules about what constitutes being British. They don't use the word 'indigenous' - as favoured by the BNP - but they don't seem too far away from that.

If the Mail wishes to attack Clegg and his party, it should do so on the basis of their beliefs, their policies, their ideas, their voting record.

But they should leave the snide remarks about race out of it.


  1. Someone should point out to the Mail what 'Anglo-Saxon' actually means.

  2. Ricardo, Whitehaven19 April 2010 at 19:32

    I doubt they ran similar headlines about Tory leader Michael Howard during the 2005 election, yet surely he's just as "Un-British" in their eyes?

  3. Panic stations!

    The Mail and their right wing colleagues have thrown their lot in with "sure fire next PM" Saint David Cameron and are now resorting to such vile tactics.

    Is there ANYTHING British about the Daily Mail?

  4. Excellent piece. Very interesting. Since I generally avoid the hateMail I had no idea what they were up to.

    Disgraceful, racist, nasty ... business as usual.

  5. I wonder how well Tory donor Lord Ashcroft scores on the Daily Mail ratings of Britishness.
    Or what about Swiss born banker Henry Angest who has donated £7m to the Tory party in the last 9 years.

  6. There were also comments on the fact that the Clegg children speak Spanish at home. Great, say I - the children will be bi-lingual. Would there be the same criticism if a British family living in, say France, spoke English at home?

  7. Surely being British is having your money invested in a British bank, unlike the Daily Mail? Private Eye have been following that one rather closely...

  8. IS there a point when the the Mail will just come out and admit its support for the BNP?

  9. Using the idea of 'Britishness' to slur people they don't like - which political party does that remind me of *cough*BNP*cough*

  10. It reeks of the American media claiming Obama isn't really American. The USA has it written into the constitution that a non-American can't be President. We don't have any such rule or law.


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