Leading Article: Conduct in a grand English tradition

Share
Related Topics
IT IS an odd notion, widely put about yesterday, that the behaviour of English football fans in the Netherlands and the England XI's dismal performance in Rotterdam in some way damaged this country's reputation. The Sun, for example, thundered: 'How much longer are we going to allow mindless morons to drag our name through the gutters of Europe?'

Yet contrary to the preconceptions of many Britons - in Westminster as well as Wapping - Her Majesty's subjects are not an object of general admiration on the Continent. To reduce further their already low repute, far worse conduct would have been required.

It is particularly hard to see why the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, as well as the Prime Minister, should have deplored the display of loutishness. They were, after all, simply expressing in their robust way the view of foreigners widely on view at the recent Conservative Party conference, notably by Mr Howard's fellow right-winger, Peter Lilley. 'We have all too many home-grown scroungers,' the Secretary of State for Social Security said. 'But it's beyond the pale when foreigners come here expecting our handouts.' He promised to end the 'crook's tour' of social security offices by EC visitors.

Sir Edward Heath dubbed Mr Lilley's speech 'the nastiest form of petty nationalism'. Lacking the minister's gift of eloquence, the England fans felt obliged to express the same sentiments in the only language they knew: violence.

It is equally puzzling that John Major, leader of a party that hymns and defends British traditions, should regard the Rotterdam violence as a 'disgrace and embarrassment' to this country. The fans were behaving in the violent, drunken and chauvinist manner associated with the English at home and abroad over many war-torn centuries. If government ministers want less-privileged Britons to treat foreigners with more respect, they should set a better example.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'