Mark Steel: Oh, we do like being British by the seaside

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The Independent Online

Surely, if you've been desperately frothing to become prime minister every day for 14 years, once it finally happens and you get to make your big speech you must have something more to say than that. From the bit I heard it just went "it's an honour and a privilege to be in charge of the British people because of all the British people only the British people are British."

Apparently we came through the floods because of "the resilience of the British people." If only the tsunami had been in Britain we'd have seen it off. Instead of panicking, jolly Mr Puddleton the baker would have used some of his extra sticky dough to plug the ocean up, and a few of us might have got wet but everyone would have pulled together and used their old cardigans to mop up the perishing tsunami and then Mr Puddleton would have brought everyone some of his delicious custard pies, instead of flapping about like the Sri Lankans because we're British.

Then it turns out we've got through foot and mouth because of our British character as well. I wondered if he'd say "and because the infected animals were British, then with typical British determination they calmly incinerated themselves for the good of the British countryside."

The response to the failed bomb in Glasgow was more evidence of how British we are, and I wondered if he'd continue "and in true British spirit, British citizens not only captured the bomber, but seeing as he was on fire they used him to set light to a herd of infected cows, saving crucial British energy."

If he'd been more honest and included all recent events in his examples of our British resolve, he'd have had to say "and then, faced with an uncertain rumour about something to do with a loan, we heartily resolved to calmly gallop to banks in our millions and take out every penny we possess."

That's the true British resolve. If there was a hint on the evening news that there might next year be a temporary shortage of cheese graters, there'd be 10,000 people squashing to get into every branch of Woolworths, and people striding out with 200 cheese graters in a wheelbarrow, screaming at the news reporter: "I can't afford to go short, not with all the Shepherd's pie we get through in my house."

Or last year, when the issue of the month was bird flu, they found one dead poxy Scottish swan and half the country was shrieking: "Aaaaagh, kill everything. Right – next door's got a budgie – get the shovel, we're going in."

Then he told us that foreigners with a gun would be deported, and the logic seems to be that in this way we could get back to the days when, if you were shot you could be certain that at least it had been done by someone British. I wondered if he'd start quoting someone from the East End of London, who'd said: "In my day lying in a pool of your own blood happy to know you'd been done by Ronnie and Reggie and you were proud, but these days it could have been any old Latvian and you don't know where you are."

And then he got onto his favourite subject of dour statistics, none of them making much sense so they all became one long blur, but each one punctuated with vast applause. He could have been saying anything, and maybe when it's played back it will turn out he said: "Trees have become three per cent taller year on year in real terms since 1997. (Loud applause.) Liquorice, which was becoming lighter and lighter under the Conservatives until it was almost grey is now the second blackest piece of confectionery in the G8 nations. (Loud applause)."

This would have made more sense than the sentence about not resting until "no one is barred from further education through lack of money." So he's abolishing the fees he helped set up that bar thousands from further education, is he? But everyone clapped.

And they clapped the bit about not resting until everyone had equal opportunities, even though every survey from every angle shows inequality is much wider now than 10 years ago, and the Government has fallen over itself to befriend resolute British folk such as Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi, Sunil Mittal and Roman Abramovich.

And they clapped to appear united, because even if someone's talking gibberish it's vital everyone talks the same gibberish, including if it's to praise the opposite to what you're doing.

So, although I switched off about half way through, I imagine the end went: "And so the Britain I want for the British people is a Britain in which no one makes excessive use of the word 'British'." (deafening applause, standing ovation, calls from the floor to make him King).

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