Hollywood is providing the lines but not the substance

WARREN BEATTY'S new satirical comedy about American political life, Bulworth, begins with a scene in which a senator listens to his campaigncommercials, all of which begin with the same vacuous invocation of moment. "We stand at the doorstep of a new millennium," he declares, before identifying the native virtues of the American people: instinctively hostile to welfare handouts, naturally enterprising and self-reliant.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine