Letter from Simon Kelner: Has success become a bad thing?


Related Topics

Why we should pay attention to what someone who's lived in California for 20 years thinks about Britain is slightly beyond me, but John Cleese's remark that London no longer "feels English" has attracted a good deal of comment, most of it predictable.

The leader of Ukip - yes, they're still going - said that Cleese was only articulating what a lot of people felt, while Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone argued that the capital's cosmopolitan profile was a major part of its attraction.

Perhaps all that alimony has gone to Cleese's head, because I don't really know what he's on about. London hasn't really felt "English" for a very long time. Like most important capital cities, it has been a melting pot of cultures, races and ethnicities and, because of its history and traditions (and, from time to time, the weakness of its currency), it has been a huge draw for tourists. You could stand all morning outside Buckingham Palace and not hear anyone speak English: is that a matter for resentment or pride?

Cleese wasn't talking about the racial tensions and the social and ethnic challenges of some of the inner-city areas of London where, yes, it is not difficult to feel the dominance of other cultures. No, he was railing against the number of foreign voices on the King's Road. King's Road! Chelsea! It's not exactly Coldharbour Lane, is it? And if it wasn't for foreigners spending their money, heaven knows how much worse it would be for high street retailers. "London is no longer an English city," said the comedian who last did something funny three decades ago. "That's how we got the Olympics."

Exactly, you silly old fool. London's reputation as a functioning city which traditionally opens its arms to foreigners was, I'm sure, a key factor in being awarded the 2012 Games. Or is he saying that's a bad thing? Perhaps he's upset because he can walk through London, down the King's Road even, and no one will come up to him any more and say how funny they thought the dead parrot sketch was. (I remember it, and I didn't think it was that funny at the time.)

Anyway, he was going to come back to live in Britain, but our onerous tax system (you know: taxes, those awkward things we all have to pay) have decided him against it. Instead, he is considering buying a house in either Switzerland or Monaco, countries where he won't be bothered by anything as troublesome as cultural diversity, or indeed income tax. Nevertheless, his views on Britain will always be welcome.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own