Alfie has been in touch with TV and radio personality Clive Anderson about a disparaging and inaccurate remark he made about Englishness on the Loose Ends show:
When on Loose Ends Sarah Miles raised the question of Englishness, somewhat tangentially to the main thrust of our conversation, I attempted an off-the-cuff and, I hope, amusing explanation as to why England or Englishness might be unpopular.
If I had specified 200 years of imperialism I think your point, as far is it goes, would have been a fair one, as perhaps I would have been confusing England and Britain (or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland , or in later years the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)– an error that almost everyone risks falling into from time to time – but one which I would have wanted to avoid in the context of the conversation we were having, however light-hearted.
In fact according to the BBC transcript of the programme I said
I think it’s a few hundred years of imperialism that have made England very unpopular.
This is vaguer, but I think more apt. In any event , I had in mind not just the years of the British Empire but also the centuries before that in which English kings, queens and state attempted, with some success, to acquire dominion over the rest of the British Isles and elsewhere. All in all I think there is a perception that Britain, and particularly England, has over long periods of history sought to rule parts of the world beyond its borders. While there is much to be proud of in England’s history it is perhaps understandable that this has provoked a certain amount of resentment in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and overseas.
"Amusing"? "Off-the-cuff"? Surely his remark was simply a typical example of the determination of a certain type of person to make the people of England feel guilty? To make us shoulder the blame for all that is now perceived as "wrong" in the British Isle historically? It's a familiar ploy, but not amusing or "off the cuff". I've read such nonsense at least a thousand times over the years.
Clive Anderson is a fine example of what is wrong in England today. There he sits, on his tumpty, loads of dosh, unaffected by health apartheid and the Barnett Formula, convinced that the people of England deserve the West Lothian Question and that the English alone in the British Isle have been aggressive. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - not so.
And as for imperialism... didn't Scotland bankrupt itself during a colonial venture BEFORE the Act of Union?
Mr Anderson, it seems, belongs in the same bed as Jack Straw. What he says sounds priggish, ill-informed, bigotedly anti-English and hopelessly 1990s.
And, in view of the Barnett Formula, health apartheid and the West Lothian Question, very uncaring indeed.
Mind you, this is the man who even upset the 60s/70s/80s pop group The Bee Gees. Judging by his latest ill-informed outburst, he's enough to make anybody shriek.