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

 

Share
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

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

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tulisa Contostavlos arrives to face drug charges at Southwark Crown Court on July 14, 2014  

Tulisa might have been attacked for being working class, but she still has to take some responsibility

Chloe Hamilton
Is Ed Miliband a natural born leader? Or could he become one?  

Wanted: a leader with the strength to withstand criticism from the media

Steve Richards
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried