Hollywood is providing the lines but not the substance
Wednesday 20 January 1999
In his speech yesterday at the Centre for Policy Studies, William Hague had tinkered a little with the opening for local tastes - "I want to talk to you about Britain," he said, "Britain, now at the cusp of a new millennium" - but the speech that followed had more than a few unadulterated Bulworth moments - passages in which sweeping, emotional abstractions about the national character were enlisted for a particular political end.
As politics, the speech was straightforward. As social commentary, however, it was at times positively surreal - a strange blend of National Geographic prose ("We are reserved, polite, private") and glaring internal contradictions.
Early in the speech Mr Hague, who recently stayed at a hotel in Essex which flew the flag of St George, talked approvingly of how "a distinct English consciousness" is emerging - for which he calls in evidence not only football fans but Julian Barnes' recent novel England, England (which would have provided him with a far more acidic roster of national characteristics had he troubled to open it).
But just a little later he was talking darkly about "the first stirrings of the sleeping dragon of English nationalism".
Perhaps that Essex hotel turned out not to be so innocently patriotic - a cover for the Sons of Albion Defence League rather than aB&B. And by the end of Mr Hague's address, that "reserved, polite, private" people have strangely altered too - now they are a brassy, noisy crowd, snogging policemen at the Notting Hill carnival, holidaying in Florida and turning first to the sports pages of their newspapers.
Where does he get all this from? Another Hollywood satire might offer an answer. In Being There, Peter Sellers played a simpleton who rises to the presidency of the US because his naive remarks about gardening are interpreted as metaphorical pronouncements.
Mr Hague clinches the parallel when he supplies the evidence for his speculations. "I recently watched The Godfather again," he says. "I was struck by how many cousins Michael Corleone has, and how many of them join the family business." That's the Italians for you then, but us? "In Britain families tend to be much smaller. One of our most popular sitcoms is actually called Two Point Four Children," he continues sagely. An even more popular comedy is Keeping Up Appearances, but maybe Mr Hague thought that would be a little too close to home.
- 1 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...