Letter: Self-defeating criticism of this damp rock we call home

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Sir: Brian Appleyard's article 'This is a ghastly place: ask anyone' (21 July) prompts me to write and put the case for Britain as one of the less ghastly places to live on this unhappy planet. Having spent half my life outside the UK, I returned to England in 1979 to the cries of friends assuring me that I would hate it here, the place had gone to the dogs, etc. I found things very much changed, of course, but not always for the worse and, in spite of all the condemnation of everything that goes on, the basic decency of most ordinary people still prevails.

Britain is still a relatively free and open society, full of anomalies and things which need to be improved, but no more so than in any other democracy. However, the mood of national self-deprecation that exists here is extreme and goes far beyond healthy self-criticism to become self- defeating. One cannot, for example, even enjoy a tennis match at Wimbledon in which a British player puts up a good fight without dark mutterings of jingoism being heard. The French or the Americans can cheer their sportsmen, indeed find it natural to do so, but the British apparently must not.

Clearly, it goes against our present national grain actually to be proud of being British - but at least we should be thankful for those qualities and institutions that we possess and which are often admired abroad. Above all, we should not be ashamed of our history or ourselves.

Yours sincerely,


London, W5

21 July