Danny Boyle's Britain is being dismantled brick by brick

Jul 30, 2012
Neil Clark

Why the Tory MP who hated Boyle's 'leftie multicultural crap' has nothing to worry about

ON THE strength of Friday night's Olympic opening ceremony, I think it's fair to describe Danny Boyle as a 'progressive patriot'. The working-class son of a school dinner lady and a self-educated farm labourer, his patriotism is about pride in Britain's industrial achievements, its welfare state and its tolerance towards minorities.

But the sad truth is that the Britain Danny Boyle was celebrating in some of the most memorable scenes on Friday is either finished or very close to being finished. We've lost our industrial base, the NHS and welfare state are being dismantled before our very eyes and even multiculturalism is under threat.

Take de-industrialisation. In the country that was once 'The Workshop of the World', manufacturing accounts for only around 12 per cent of our national output.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, played in Friday's ceremony by Kenneth Branagh, would be turning in his grave to see how little British industry remains – and how much of that which does is now under foreign ownership.
Then there's the NHS. The impact of the government's Health and Social Care Act, which passed earlier this year, hasn't hit home yet because of the time delay for the changes to take effect. But the reforms, which effectively introduce a 'market' in health care and open the door for private companies to provide NHS services, means the end of the NHS in all but name.

"Privatisation is an inevitable consequence of many of the policies contained in the Health and Social Care Bill," says Clive Peedell, co-chairman of the NHS Consultants' Association, writing in the British Medical Journal. "The coalition government's repeated denials of NHS privatisation do not stand up to scrutiny. The public is being misinformed about the consequences of the Health and Social Care Bill."
Multiculturalism - the belief that immigrants to Britain should be free to live their lives as they best see fit - is under attack too. In a speech in Germany last year, David Cameron declared: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we've encouraged different cultures to live separate lives apart from each other and apart from the mainstream."

The Prime Minister singled out British Muslims in his speech, leading Inayat Bunglawala of Muslims4UK to accuse him of taking a "patronising attitude towards UK Muslims".

It's hard to see why the Prime Minister is so concerned with Muslims: a 2012 study showed that UK Muslims feel that being British is more important to them than it is to whites. "Our research shows that people we might assume would feel very British, in fact do not - while others who we might assume would not associate themselves with feelings of Britishness, in fact do," Dr Alita Nandi, of the University of Essex, said.

Aidan Burley, the Conservative MP who in tweets on Friday night branded the ceremony "leftie, multicultural crap", needn't be so worried - Boyle's Britain is on the way out. In the place of a country which makes things, which provides a state-run health care system for all its citizens and which respects the rights of people to be different, we have the deadening, standardising force of neo-liberal globalisation – threatening to wipe out everything we recognise and like about our country.
If we had wanted the history of Britain to be brought up to date in Friday's ceremony, it should really have ended with a group of City bankers and traders coming on, waving wads of money and glaring arrogantly at the cameras. These are the people who call all the shots in the neo-liberal Britain of today: not engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, not dedicated NHS professionals, nor the heroic people in overalls who Boyle depicted in his staged scenes on Friday.

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It's a shame the author went to bed early (perhaps he had to be up early to do his patriotic shift in a good-old-fashioned Victorian mill but i doubt it) and missed the bit with Tim Berners-Lee, Dizzy Rascal, et al.

Vision, innovation, culture - these are the attributes of value for the future and IMHO the ceremony showed we have that in spades.

My 12 year old son summed it up for me with a similar sentiment to this article. He said the ceremony felt like a Memorial for the UK, rather than a celebration.

Good article from Neil Clark.

Joffy, all that postmodernist creativity stuff is now old hat. Over the past 15 years or so we have learnt that the web, hip-hop and the rest of the digital age's paraphernalia cannot create the labour-intensive industries, services, communities, values and politics that we need to guarantee socioeconomic participation for all our citizens. It's all an illusion, what Bernard Stiegler calls 'the libidinal dis-economy', the latest phase in the 'society of the spectacle'.

Danny Boyle perfectly reflected Britain today: an overblown, incoherent mess.

This country is finished, I'm in my mid 40's and still have another 20 plus years of working, worrying about my pension and hoping I have a decade of enjoyment to look forward to, I still love Britain but it's like loving a 98 year old auntie with dementia, we're flogging a dead horse.

Reduction in the relative size of our manufacturing industry is a natural consequence of economic advancement. The total real output (value added) of UK manufacturing was at an all time high just before the 2008 crash.

Multiculturalism was always wrong. When in Rome, behave in ways acceptable to the Romans; do not expect them to change or accept practices alien to their culture. If people choose to live in a foreign country they must adapt to their hosts. Insistence on separate cultures seems likely to lead to a form of apartheid.

If there is a clash between UK laws and customs and Islamic* teachings then Islam must give way.

*applies to all people but Islam is the only group in the UK that seems to have large numbers who are at odds with UK law (though I believe Islam accepts that Muslims should obey the law of the land).

I'm less pessimistic about Britain but I agree with your opinion of the ceremony (as much as I watched until I fell asleep).

I thought that rather than being a celebration of the NHS, it was a fond goodbye to the the English NHS.

He was dead right! The UK has passed its sell by date, and is going off.

Attempts to "hold back the economic tide" in the UK go back as far as the Peasants' revolt. Same rules apply now: you can't sell things for more than others are willing to, and as new players enter the global markets, you have to cut your prices (and costs) or move into different fields which have higher added-value.

Fortunatley, we "own" something Roddy Doyle didn't include. Cultural Hegemony (although he kind of hinted at it with the strong inclkusion of popular music) The Chinese dance to Western tunes... not the other way around. Chinese classical musicians are coming to dominate the musical world - of EUROPEAN music. We are - and have been for a LONG while - "the cool kids that everybody wants to copy". WE decide what the fashion is, "what's hot and what's not". And that is a very lucrative place to be.

Nothing stays the same and Britons have adpated before to change and will do again. Perhaps we accept change too easily. We allow successive governments and much of the media to pull the wool over our eyes instead of getting stuck in to defending what we can be proud of and working hard for change that benefits us. The writing may be on the wall for things we cherish (like the NHS) but it's not our graffiti, it's the ConDem government's. Can we remove any of their words before they becomes self-fulfilling? Boyle's view of our achievements wasn't favourable to one political view but it was great.

'If we had wanted the history of Britain to be brought up to date in
Friday's ceremony, it should really have ended with a group of City
bankers and traders coming on, waving wads of money and glaring
arrogantly at the cameras. These are the people who call all the shots
in the neo-liberal Britain of today'

You seem to have missed the glaringly obvious fact that it's these very people, and their hangers-on and creatures in the IOC and global politics, who were in the best seats and who were behind the whole damn thing. They didn't need to come on.

i agree we must reign in (or re-channel) our libidinous tendencies but don't kid yourself that these new ideas are unnecessary - there's no going back.

it's like those in the 1730s who wanted to do away with to that new-fangled fly-shuttle contraption in order to re-employ all the weavers - a (IMHO) very short-sighted approach.

we cannot escape the golden rule life - adapt or die.

Boy! do I agree about when in Rome. I have lived in 4 countries that were not mine yet I have made a point of adapting. There are certain countries where I would never go because I could not adapt to their way of living yet when they come to Western countries they do not even try to adapt. The opening ceremony did not reflect the greatness of Britain and it is a terrible shame. And it was too long, too boring and the idea that Mr Boyle has of a typical British family being a black man a white woman and half cast children is not the Britain that I know.

I am glad I had the opportunity and luck to leave the UK for the US. I have been called a traitor and a non patriot and told 'please don't come crawling back home' when things go wrong over there. I have been in the US for nearly 25 years and totally love the place, freedom and incredible places. When I do go back home to visit friends in the good old UK, it is so depressing with rain and crap weather. It always seems to be grey, as if the place needs a good wash !! It's just a real shame to see the country go downhill the way it has done. There is no way I would ever want to live in the UK now. It's had it's day and I cannot see any way it's going to get any better. Ill probably be told 'good riddance' and such, but I dont care. It's just a shame to leave some of my friends who stayed behind.

could not have put it any better. a celebration only of a past britain.

The British press should hang their collective heads in shame - Always happy to create a "Build them up/Knock them down" mentality for sensation or mere column inches - Are ANY of these lacklustre scribes actually patriots, we might reasonably ask ?..............I'm actually not at all interested in The Olympics, but I do admire those who train endlessly & strive for excellence both personally & for this Country.........They deserve better from our "Media"...........who might reflect on the many positive aspects of our society & how so many in this World do not have our many advantages, not least "Democracy"...........which many here can not even bother to turn up to vote for..................Ignoring the many sacrifices of their forebears - Oddly, it is possible to take pride in a country.................not fascists or xenophobes, just patriots............We still have much to be proud of & to celebrate - Please do not lose sight of this with mere journalistic cynism

I agree with every word that Danny Boyle said, Great Britain is being dismantled by private companies, bankers and traders so that they can get rich quick. And this coalition goverment is helping them to do just what they want. God help us if they privatise the NHS.

Did not the Blair and Brown Labour party start the rot almost as soon as they took office.
The present Government have one hell of a mess to
sort out and it's not all down to the greedy banks.

I'm afraid that the writer is what I call a Daily Mail Socialist - so obsessed with Old Labour values and virtues (which did, obviously, have a lot to recommend them) that he is just as fearful of anything from outside that world as any harrumphing old colonel in Shropshire.

Of course the dismantling of the NHS and the loss of our industrial base are very bad things for the country, but that does not justify the portrayal of Dizzee and British urban pop generally as not 100% British and as some kind of alien threat to noble socialist endeavour, which is no more progressive than viewing them as an alien threat to foxhunting, and which Clark happily indulges in whenever it suits him.

Out of interest, Steve, why do you specify hip-hop as The Wholly Bad, rather than rock music as played by McCartney or the Arctic Monkeys, or the classic soul influences of Emeli Sande? Why is it somehow different, somehow more of a threat to you? Smug little cracks like that go a long way to convincing me that a certain wing of the Left is just as petty and fearful of (not even all that) new influences as any wing of the Right, and that is *not* a good place to be.

Are you the same Steve H who comments at Shiraz Socialist, btw? If so that would explain everything.

Well, to be precise the Americans do that, and we tend to tag along with varying levels of success. So not 100% "us".

Not that that justifies socialism reverting to nativism and fear of outsiders, which the writer will happily play up to on other occasions despite his pro-multiculturalism talk here.

GB is only finished if we ignore what Boyle reminded us to fight for! I'm a little pissed off at all the apathy and pessimism amongts these comments!
If Britian is "broken" then bloody fix it FFS!

.... and good riddance to multiculturalism ... its destroyed us.

Yes, but why did you refer to it specifically, rather than rock or Adele-type soul graverobbing? Why did you single it out? It's comments like that which do a lot to give certain people away.

I mean, Arctic Monkeys-type music *also* isn't an instrument of economic regeneration of the type that can bring mass employment back to Sheffield. And it has had a far greater role in official Britain's self-image, and the glossing-up of neoliberalism, from the emergence of Blair in the mid-90s onwards than British urban pop (which has only really crossed over since 2009) has had. So why not cite that kind of rock music? Is it because it's not "different" enough in your mind?

I should add that Tory Aidan Burley also picked out, specified and moaned about the representation of hip-hop. This is what I mean when I talk about a *triangulation of fear* between the reactionary Right and the reactionary Left - a common ground of resistance to anything they're not instantly familiar with. People like him dress it up as an attack on national pride and tradition, people like you dress it up as a bourgeois diversion from the aim of socialist equality. But the pettiness and fear remains as the guiding force in both cases.

British industry is under foreign ownership for two reasons.
1) Our financial institutions are willing to lend the money to buy out our companies.
2) Our top management hasn't been able to hold the ring. ( Its noticeable how well we do with Nissan, BMW, Toyota, Reliance etc - same Engineers, same workers - just different top bosses. )

"Yes, but why did you refer to it specifically, rather than rock or Adele-type soul graverobbing?"
Yes, that's what I meant, pop music in general is not an instrument of economic regeneration. Hip-hop was merely a synecdoche, the part that represents the whole. It sprang to mind because it featured at the end of Boyle's ceremony just before Tim Berners-Lee came on, and that's what I was talking to Joffy about before you butted in with your silly pious interrogation, straight from the Ecclesiastical Court of the Liberal-Left Inquisition. 'Out of interest', indeed - shove off and take your sanctimonious yoof bigotry with you.

"The part that represents the whole" - because the whole of pop music for you is alien and threatening and "other", and hip-hop is merely more obviously and conspicuously so than the other parts of it? This is very much what a lot of socialists thought about all pop music in the 1960s. Paul Johnson was a self-identified socialist when he wrote 'The Menace of Beatlism'. The mutation of the New Left into neoliberalism under Blair should not persuade us that what came before was any more progressive, or worth going back to. I don't think concern that certain forms are not treated as any less British than others (which are just as imported, or not, depending on how you see culture) is "sanctimonious yoof bigotry".

If you had simply been talking in right-wing terms of identity and belonging, I wouldn't have bothered with your comment - that's what you expect from the Right after all. It was your use of classical socialist language as a cover for cultural fear (all too common among disorientated former activists today) that upset me.

But if you didn't mean anything *consciously* I accept that. I'm just interested in why you cited hip-hop *subconsciously*, that's all.

Thankyou for writing and publishing this article. I am English and left the UK last year. I don't intend to return. Thankyou for giving voice to what lots of us feel. The UK is finished, we're left with empty spectacles like that opening ceremony through which dissent and rebellion such as the suffragettes, the trade union movements are neutralised.
I'll just add that if we were going to do the ceremony differently, along with the bankers waving wads of cash, we should have had a forest of CCTV cameras emerging out the ground and in place of that house, should have been a Tescos superstore, and the entire thing ringed in by a motorway on which is a traffic jam.

your 12 year old sounds a smart little cookie!

You come across as the liberal-left version of Alan Partridge. You've also invented distance psychoanalysis, which, given that proximal psychoanalysis wasn't very effective, is no mean feat. Over the web you are able to see into my subconscious mind, identify my deep fear of the 'other' and infer that I'm an aging racist who can't accept black people as British, when all I said was that pop music won't bring back mass employment. Amazing. My citing of hip-hop, despite my clear explanation that it sprang to mind because it had just been on the telly on the show Joffy and I were talking about - the subject of the thread, by the way, before you hi-jacked it - is enough for you to label me a racist dinosaur of the old left. Let me tell you something. The left was virtually destroyed by the power of neoliberalism, from the outside as it were, but it was also destroyed from the inside by naive, sanctimonious, divisive cultural warriors such as you, pointing accusatory fingers at anyone suspected of not measuring up to your pristine multicultural ideal - guilty until proven innocent. You and rest of your pious middle-class pals tore apart the generations and shattered the left into hostile fragments waging pointless micro-cultural wars against each other. In other words, you're so stupid you fell right into the trap that liberal catastrophists - those who are too cowardly for real political opposition - set for you. I watched it all happen in front of my eyes, starting in the 80s - you are a cell in the cancer that killed the left. One striking miner, no matter what cultural prejudices he carried, was worth a thousand of you. You should be sentenced to an unbearably hot place where you have to read for all eternity old 80s NME articles about how radical pop festivals were going to stop neoliberalism in its tracks. Shove off.

"so obsessed with Old Labour values and virtues (which did, obviously, have a lot to recommend them)"
Indeed. And why are you so glad to see the back of them? Because they demanded solidarity, determination, plain speaking, practical action and personal sacrifice, the very thought of which terrifies the living daylights out of you and the rest of the snivelling cultural warriors of emasculated liberal-postmodernism. You would rather sit behind your computer in your sanctimonious little bubble sniping at individuals who support these things with honest and unpretentious writing. Why? Does it remind you of how consistently nasty you have been to your 'suspects', and of all the destruction you have wrought on the left, how politically useless you are, and therefore make you feel guilty? Is this guilt the source of your obsessive, defensive piety? Have you killed the Fathers and now wander hopelessly in an arid desert of symbolic inefficiency desperately wishing you had some idea of where you are going and wishing dearly you had someone else with you? There you go - we can all do the internet psychoanalysis when it suits.

Doesn't matter who started it - we could go on for ever with blaming one political party, or the other.

The fact of the matter is that in order for us, the people of Britain, to deal with these vile, greedy despots, we first have to shake off our own political dogma and revolt, as one, against them.

They are relying upon you and me to argue with each other for ever. Let's not let them continue to divide and rule.

Hear, hear! Britain can be great again, but it is for its people to make it so, not politicians. They rely upon us arguing amongst ourselves.

If the British public revolt 'as one', forgetting our particular dogmas, then we will indeed overcome. Don't allow the power crazed despots of any political colour continue to divide and rule.

I truly hope that none of your family ever need medical care, should they find themselves unemployed in your particular utopian paradise.

Most Brits do not agree with you regarding the NHS, so a little more humility from you, added to an argument backed up by fact, would serve you well.

The root of Britain's dismantling is taking place in the abortion centres around the nation. And everyone looks the other way.
Sorry ....but you cannot have a future, if you don't have enough children. Too late you will learn.

I'm not "glad to see the back of them". I just don't think they offer every answer to life in 2012. That does not equate to contempt or hatred of them. I have immense respect for the founding fathers of the Labour Party and the makers of the 1945 government, and do not want to see their achievements destroyed. I just don't think that justifies treating other oppressed peoples, people who have had to fight damn hard to win serious recognition from the British authorities, as "blacklegs" or "scabs", that's all.

You talk of "honest and unpretentious writing", but much of this comes out as a rather petty anti-intellectualism and suspicion of education as bad as anything in the Mail or Telegraph. Are working-class people who have a strong sense of their identity and who they are - very much *against* the exploiters in the current government who would deny them their equality and humanity - to be deemed class traitors because they prefer Beyonce to Billy Bragg? This is what I mean by traditional socialism often not understanding the value of art within society - unless, of course, it can control it. (Note, that *isn't* an attack on equal pay and fair shares for all.)

I regret quite a number of aspects of the modern world. I just don't think that baleful fear of anyone who steps outside a certain set of narrow boundaries and ordained life is the way to heal the pain they have caused. I am perfectly happy ploughing my own path. I am happier and clearer in my thoughts than I have ever been. Are you?

The truth is that most Western nations, particularly European ones, are in slow decline. Many of the negative sentiments expressed here could also be applied to France, Italy, Spain, etc. The future is far from certain for even the strongest players such as Germany.
The "Workshop of the World" comment is not really true, though. Advanced economies concentrate on high-value activities because this is where the real money is made. For example, do the Japanese make pocket radios and cheap plastic toys any more? Thought not. A return to the mass production of low-value products is out of the question as it would be completely uneconomic. That's why we stopped doing it in the first place.
What nations such as the UK need to do is invest heavily in R&D and new technologies in order to develop expertise in highly specialised areas. We have had some success in this but need to do so much more.

I also left the UK for the US and it was the best decision I ever made. I am more independent, free, and prosperous. I met REAL fiscal conservatives instead of fake toffee-noses like Dave Cameron, and I avoided the multi-cultural nightmare. When people come to America, they tell you to BE AMERICAN and that is what Britain should be like. People who go there should BE BRITISH. Unfortunately for the rest of us, idiots like the writer of this neo-Marxist crap above have us all praising multiculturalism and socialism. Multiculturalism is cultural suicide. Greece is right now doing the right thing, rounding up non-Greeks and deporting them to Jordan, Turkey and Iran. I would have thought people got the message on 7/7, but it just made their commitment to cultural suicide stronger. How long is it until someone pulls a Breveik in England? The clock is ticking. I predict the collapse of the Eurozone soon, followed by civil war, heck, all out war. Maybe when people all over Europe wake up to their national pride, they will see exactly where Serbia was coming from, all those years ago. Maybe they will ask why these immigrants from incompatible cultures move from their homelands. They don't want to be like you. They want you to be like them.