I did not comment on Nick Griffin’s Question Time appearance last month because I was on holiday. But I did catch it on one of the BBC World channels which are helpfully broadcast into South Africa.
Overall, my impression was that the other pannelists collectively agreed to discredit Griffin with ad hominems, rather than engage with, and demolish his arguments. Several obvious and definitive retorts went begging. For example, in response to Griffin’s unsophisticated critique of Islam, Baroness Warsi could simply have pointed out similar hateful lines from the Christian bible. Instead, she made a round-about speech on the contribution of Muslims to Britain which looked like abvoidance of the question. Likewise with the pathetic nonsense about “indigenous” Britons. None of the pannellists seemed to counter this in the definitive manner I would have liked to see.
What they needed was some poetry. I am delighted to discover The True Born Englishman by Daniel Defoe, written in 1703. An excerpt:
The western Angles all the rest subdu’d;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
Who by the tenure of the sword possest
One part of Britain, and subdu’d the rest
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu’ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite:
And these the mixture have so close pursu’d,
The very name and memory’s subdu’d:
No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
The silent nations undistinguish’d fall,
And Englishman’s the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e’er they were they’re true-born English now.
It reminds me of England, Half English by Billy Bragg:
My mother was half English and I’m half English too
I’m a great big bundle of culture tied up in the red white and blue
I’m a fine example of your Essex man
And I’m well familiar with the Hindustan
Cos my neighbours are half English and I’m half English too.
Andrew Sullivan makes this point in The Sunday Times, in a post about race in America: ‘Scratch white America and beneath it is black‘.