Sunday 27 December 2009


Way back in 2007 when the Labour party, without a vote, wished Gordon Brown upon us because it was his turn, his first address to parliament laid out his Britishness. It was a word he was to use over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Every speech had British and Britishness in it more times than it had words like “and” and “the”. He even told an American interviewer that he came from “North Britain” in an obvious attempt to be acceptable to the English, and without thinking just how incredibly insulting it was to Scots.

He set up a programme, complete with road show, to promote Britishness, and discuss with the public, whether there should be a British Bill of Rights and Written Constitution. Of course, like everything else Gordon touches, it fell apart before you got it out of the box.

The first road show took place in Leicester, England, in December 2007 and was hosted by Jack Straw. It cost £37,000, and was attended by 10 members of the public! After that embarrassment, the Ministry of Justice restricted attendance at Governance of Britain events to people selected, and even paid, by the ministry. (Details about payments in Subrosa's article here.) According to the Conservatives, however, even that appears to have misfired, because in subsequent events, even those invited to and paid to attend failed to do so in bigger and bigger numbers, until at an event in Newcastle on 21st November, no one turned up.

English Justice Minister Michael Wills criticised the Conservatives for their attitude saying: “It’s disappointing that they (the Conservatives) have such little regard for what it means to be British and the importance of this identity in a challenging world.”

On the basis that only 10 members of the public out of a population of 60 million turned up to these events without being paid to do so, it seems the Tories got it right on this one. I think that says a great deal about being British.

We just don’t care.

Incidentally, the overall cost for the road show is expected to be less that £1 million. Very economical until you work out that that is £100,000 per member of the public that was interested enough to turn out.....

I wonder what conclusions the study will reach and when they will be published.


  1. Every speech had British and Britishness in it more times than it had words like "and" and “the”. He even told an American interviewer that he came from "North Britain" in an obvious attempt to be acceptable to the English, and without thinking just how incredibly insulting it was to Scots.

    I've always wondered who Gordon's Britishness obsession was aimed at and why.

    It must be remembered that there are two separate Britishness campaigns running in the UK. The English based one is all about integrating immigrants into England and the Scottish one is all about keeping Scots in the Union. Often neither campaign seems to acknowledge that the other one exists.

    However Brown's obsession with Britishness may be something else. I've always thought that, as you point out, he's playing to an English audience not a Scottish one.

    It may be that Brown, the socially awkward outsider, knows in his heart that he is Scottish and he's chosen another way to integrate into the establishment in Britain. Rather than follow the old route of becoming more English than the English what he's tried to do is to remove both Scotland and England as identities in Britain. If there are no Scots and no English Gordon is British just like the rest of the establishment and not an outsider from the other side of the border.

    There are frequent complaints from many English that Gordon's Britishness campaign is as much about replacing the English identity with a British identity as it is about replacing the Scots identity with a British identity.

    Brown's hatred of the SNP and the neutering of Calman may have more to do with Brown's sense of isolation and being an outsider in English society than on any political calculations.

  2. Dug:

    Interesting post. Thank you.

    I've just always though that Brown was very aware of the differences, and even tensions, between Scotland and England, and was afraid that a Scottish Prime Minister wouldn't be accepted, or at least wouldn't be popular with the English electorate. He was always making every effort to make sure that no one in England thought Scotland was getting a good deal, even a fair deal, out of HIS government.

    But yes... you’ve made me think. If you remove the difference between them, then the fact that you are from the minority nation, ruling over the majority nation means almost nothing. “I’m a British Prime Minister, from Northern Britain, just as Margaret was from Southern Britain”, kind of thing.

    Typically of Brown, he hasn’t stopped to think that people are pleased or proud to English or Scottish and don’t want to change to save his scrawny neck!

    But, whenever they have tried to define what Britishness is, particularly on radio discussions, they always end up describing some sort of Englishness that bears no resemblance to what you actually see out there.... and exists only in the pages of literature.

    It’s interesting though that I have typed this on Word, and the spell check accepts “Englishness” but rejects Britishness, suggesting as an alternative ‘Brutishness’! However, before we rejoice at that news, it also rejects Scottishness, preferring ‘Skittishness’!!!

  3. I think Brown is a member of the church of Scotland. The only church on the planet to have sold its entire flock down the swany for its own selfish ends.
    Without the church of Scotland voting in favour of the union in 1707, we might not be in the predicament we find ourselves in today
    So therefore he has ingrained form and his church to this day still detests its old flock

  4. Anon:

    Whilst the Church played its part in the Union of the Parliaments, I don't think it can shoulder the entire blame. The Scottish government, such as it was, and the fact that the country was on its knees as a result of foolish investments in the West Indies may have had something to do with it too...

  5. Hi Triss,

    I'd rather be Skittish than Brutish any day!


  6. tris:

    It's probably a theory that will never be proved but the only others who proclaim their Britishness so often and so loudly are the perennial outsiders in the UK, the unionists in Northern Ireland. They do this in case they are regarded as Irish.

    Gordon proclaims his Britishness in a similar fashion in case anyone regards him as Scottish.

    His desire to remove Scottish and English identities is like the principle of Newspeak in 1984. Newspeak was designed to restrict the thinking of those who spoke it by restricting the vocabulary they had to work with.

    In a similar fashion once Scottishness and Englishness are removed as identities then thinking of yourself as anything but British is impossible.

    The fact that the Labour leader regards his Scottish identity as a handicap is sad but not surprising.

  7. HI there Rab... welcome to the blog...

    I think that's a pretty good choice.... ;¬)


  8. Doug:

    I have to say that I'd never rated him highly (he's dull and humourless), but when he behaved like a snubbed teenager when the SNP won the elction, and then called himself North British I took against him in a big way. Fancy being ashamed to call yourself Scottish, and in North America too, where Scots are held in such high regard.

    There's something wierd about a man who couldn't offer congratulations to Alex Salmond, but had no problem in being the second (after his boss) to congratulate the "somewhat irregularly elected" president of Afghanistan.

    You're right about the unionits in Northern Ireland. They are terrified to be thought of as Irish... Sad.

  9. Hey Tris
    the church of Scotland the law and education are nothing more than an arm of the British parliament.
    they have no other function, only existing to deny Scottish aspiration

  10. "but when he behaved like a snubbed teenager when the SNP won the election"

    Gordon Brown's missing week after the election must go down as the most under-reported missing politician story in history. The Scottish media and all the pundits still have a blind spot about it. I may not get paid to write my opinions but I knew he was doomed from that point on.

    As a matter of interest Subrosa has a story that they were paying the audience £75 a pop to turn up at the Britishness events.

    Imagine if the SNP had been paying their National Conversation audience to turn up. It would have been headline news for weeks.

  11. Doug...

    I caught the Subrosa piece. She actually did it before me, but I hadn't seen it when I wrote this piece (and I have apologiesd to her).

    I saw in it that they were stumping up that money for the officials to attend the meetings to make it look like someone cared...

    Quite amazing. As you say, the SNP would have been roasted over hot coals and wee Fisty Cuffs Thingy Gray would have been screeching for someone to resign. Can't you just hear them:

    A misuse of public money ... theft for constitutional purposes. Resign. Nationalist nonsense! Foam and frothing at the mouth. Hysterics. Demand that Alex Salmond apologise to the country fro squandering cash on a narrow nationalist agenda.... yawn.

    I have to say I don't remember Brown's missing week after the election... (as you say, it was under-reported) ...feel free to tell me more, if you have the time.

  12. Anon:

    I'm not sure I understand that. Could you explain please?

  13. ...And since we are talking about Gordon and his morons being inept and wasting money like it was water in a flood, this article from the Telegraph will choke you up....

    The English NHS is spending £9 million pounds on a campaign to try to get people to understand that they are drinking too much.... Clever or what? Apparently they are using iphone technology. What happens is every time you have a drink you punch information about it into your iphone. Then when you’ve had the limit the iphone tells you. Ministers insist that the application is useful because many people struggle to realise how many units they have drunk.

    FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. The daily limit is something like 2- 3 drinks. Have we reached the stage where people are incapable of counting to three without an iphone to do it for them?

  14. Calculators and the Labour party have a lot to answer for!

    The only good thing for Gordo is that under his stewardship it has shown to a far wider public how corrupt Westminster is and hopefully will ensue the end of Labour in Scotland.

  15. cynicalHighlander: I wish I had your confidence that that would happen. There are still an awful lot of people who see Labour as the champion of the working man. It's a bit like calling John West the Champion of the Salmon or the Tuna, but there you are... what can we do?

    We've shown them to be stupid, incompetent, wasteful, war mongering, and just as corrupt as the other lot in London; we've shown them that the SNP can govern in Scotland fairly and reasonably...

    What we need is a fair press in Scotland, and a national broadcaster which is not in bed with the Labour Party.

    That's not likely to happen any time soon.

  16. tris:

    On the 4th of May when the result for the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections was announced Gordon Brown fell off the media map.

    He disappeared for a week. No radio, no TV, no reaction to the result, no rallying the Labour troops. Blair had the backbone to make a TV appearance but Gordon was missing. I was actually gleefully waiting to see what Gordon would say but I never found out because he never appeared, anywhere, even though I made a point of trying to find some statement from him.

    Even before this incident he had a reputation in the blogosphere for disappearing whenever the going got tough and as a result his nickname was McAvity.

    This was the man who controlled his Labour, "fiefdom", in Scotland and was the leader-in-waiting for the British Labour party. When it came to facing the electorate and the media after a bad result he bottled it big time. No surprise to me then when he bottled the election call the next October but it came as a surprise to plenty of the media labour fan club.

    If you want to be a leader you can't run away and hide when the going gets rough but this is just what he did.

    It's hard to find links on the web to news stories about his disappearance as even then it was not reported on.

    However Guido Fawkes was running a, "Where's Gordon?", thread on his blog and the relevant posts are the first post on this link dated 04/05/2007 and the last four posts on this link dated 07/05/2007 to 10/05/2007.

  17. Doug:

    Thanks a lot for that info and the links. All I can remember is seeing him on TV visiting a factory in Scotland and being asked if he would like to comment on what he thought the SNP victory would mean, and did he have any congratulations for the First Minister.

    He behaved like a petulant child and did what we have seen a few times since. He walked away; presumably in a Nokia throwing mood... he got into the car without another word to the tv cameras.

    Not a man suitable for the job of Prime Minister thought I... and I was right.

    Thanks again Doug.....