According to the Daily Mail, I’m a foreigner

Given the Mail on Sunday’s story casting aspertions on Nick Clegg for not being properly British in their eyes (“His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg?”) now seems a good time to revive a post I wrote on a previous occasion when the Mail took to defining British:

As Sunder Katwala has pointed out, the Daily Mail has said it thinks it is a mistake for people who were born here but whose parents where born overseas to be counted as British.

Here’s the comment I’m submitting to the Mail’s story:

I was born here. I’ve lived here all my life (nearer to 40 years now than I wish to think). I’ve been to school here. I’ve been to university here. Twice. All my jobs have been here. All my homes have been here. I celebrate Christmas. I munch chocolate eggs at Easter. I was confirmed in the Church of England. I’ve been taught, read and seen Shakespeare. I support the English cricket, football and rugby teams. I think football should start at 3pm on a Saturday. I’ve even cheered on English chess players. I love Ealing comedies. I laugh at Monty Python. I’ve voted in every public election here (except one where the Royal Mail lost my ballot paper). I’ve stood for election here. I’ve read the Magna Carta. I talk to strangers about the weather. I’ve been known to use the word “spiffing!” in public. I’ve even started drinking tea. I have on my shelf my father’s certificate from the British Under-Secretary of State for War thanking him for his service in the army. But according to you, I should be counted as a foreigner. Is the mistake I’ve made never to have gone Morris Dancing?

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Winston Churchill’s mother was American, does that disqualify him too?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 12:03pm

    “His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg?”

    It really is rather bizarre, considering that at the last election the Tory leader was the son of a Romanian-born father and a mother whose family had also come from eastern Europe. I don’t remember the right-wing press telling us that there was nothing British about Michael Howard (or, indeed, that he wasn’t a Christian (!), which is another bit of ammunition currently being fired at Nick Clegg).

  • Anthony, I agree 100%. Like Mark I have lived in Britain all my life but one of my parents and three or my grandparents were born in another land. Does that make me 3/4 something else? Thank goodness you and millions of my fellow Britons don’t think so. Even if I fail the Daily Mail test – and some of its journos appear to believe that it is a mistake for me to be counted (and treated?) as British – I know that, like Mark, my failure to take part in Morris Dancing will not be held against me by the vast majority of my neighbours.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 12:57pm

    Yes, and bearing in mind that the polls are showing a large proportion of the Lib Dem boost coming from those under 35 – who are surely not going to be overly shocked at the thought of a man marrying a Spanish woman (or even having a Russian grandmother) – these xenophobic tactics are not likely to be very effective in reversing it.

  • Mark, you really should know better, you clearly aren’t a card carrying member of the Conservative Party……. Must be a johny foreigner……

  • Isn’t Iain Duncan Smith one quarter Japanese? And what about Benjamin DIsraeli? And how British is the British Royal Family?

  • Oh, and doesn’t Boris Johnson make a virtue of his multi-ethnicity?

    Rothermere must be desperate to run this garbage.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 1:37pm

    “Isn’t Iain Duncan Smith one quarter Japanese?”

    I think he is an octoroon, not a quadroon. (I presume the distinction is an important one for those concerned about the contaminating effects of “a touch of the tar brush”.)

  • Philip Young 19th Apr '10 - 3:22pm

    And how about this leader-column from the Mail on Sunday. As the leader column writers were all away on holiday and stranded, presumably the paper asked Conservative Central Office to fill in for them as holiday-relief:

    Under the headline: The Charming Mr. Clegg leads a loopy army:

    ” Behind him in the shadows stand dense ranks of beards and sandals, with beliefs so loony Left-wing that even New Labour long ago abandoned or rejected them.

    “On national defence, on taxation of property, on green fanaticism, on the punishment of criminals, on immigration and above all on the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have policies which mitght have been designed to alarm and annoy the very parts of Middle England which they have suddenly reached.

    After complaining that we don’t know what Clegg stands for because its all the fault of the broadcasters – forgetting for a moment that the Mail is a newspaper, and when it did attempt to do a summary of Lib Dem policy, they asked a Tory MP to write it, the column goes on:

    “Vote orange, and you get Brown.

    “The holiday romance could end – as they so often do – in sadness, disappointment and recrimination. Happily there is still plenty of time to calm down, and for Mr. Clegg to lose the allure of novelty.”

    Oh, Mail writers…when did you last attend a Liberal Conference?

    In Scotland, the elderly get free care, and students don’t pay university top-up fees, thanks the Liberal Democrats, and up and down the country Liberal Democrats work side by side with both Tories and Labour in numerous council chambers, and, run some of the great cities, from Portsmouth in the south, Bristol in the west, Newcastle in the north, and Liverpool and Sheffield in between. C’mon….get with the programme.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 19th Apr '10 - 4:05pm

    We all know HM The Queen no less, has barely a drop of ‘British’ blood. Have the Mail explained how she can be regarded as British?

  • Shan Morgain 21st Apr '10 - 7:11pm

    Hmm. Well I have a Czech heritage mother, Irish grandparents, my brother’s married to a Spaniard, his children married Japanise and Chinese respectively with beautiful nephews and nieces as aresult.
    Me I just married a fiery Welshman and our son identifies as Welsh.

    I thought it was all terribly British to link by marriage and friendship with other nationalities – since the days of Empire? Isn’t it the most British thing to tolerate and respect different cultures and traditions?

    Then there’s the Royals. They’re German. Or perhaps just Brits.

    Cameron looks more and more like a scary blank faced fanatic to me. He’s hostile to almost half of us who don’t choose to marry – great vote winner that one. He wants to hit the most vulnerable people of all, on benefits. His economic policies are “a disaster” according to 28 leading economists.

    Oh LibDems thank you for offering us all HOPE out of the despair of the last 3 decades.

  • George W. Potter 22nd Apr '10 - 1:44am

    I’m even worse! I was born overseas! In Belgium! Yes, I may claim that both my parents were British and that their families have lived in Britain for as long as we care to remember and that I was registered as a British Citizen with the British Consul as soon as I was born but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I am a filthy foreigner who came here when I was five to steal jobs from good hard working true Britons. The best I can ever hope to achieve is to be used in an anecdote by a Tory Party Leader in about 40 years time.

  • Claire Potter 23rd Apr '10 - 10:28pm

    The Daily Mail makes a mockery of what it is to be British.
    Birth is nothing, it’s where your heart is that matters. This is why for me:
    I was adopted and have chosen not to find my natural parents, mainly because my (adoptive) parents are so ace. I stood for Parliament for the Lib Dems in the last election.
    If I had been contending a marginal, now, would they find my natural parents for me? Would they discover what I have never wanted to? Just to prove that I am potentially ‘not British’ by birth?
    I always find it ironic that those who claim to be ‘patriotic’ and ‘fly the flag’ are those that do the country down all the time. I am a Liberal, I do not oppose immigration on any scale, and I feel patriotic because our country is richer for those immigrants.

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