2007 - 2022

The British Dream

The problem for the British Dream (that nobody had ever heard of before Theresa coughed it up this week in Madchester) is not that it is derivative, not just of its better known cousin The American Dream, but from the fictional tv series West Wing.


The problem isn’t so much nicking stuff and getting found out – politicians and script writers are constantly ‘recycling’ lines and ideas. The problem is more that the quality of the West Wing writing and the quality of acting by Martin Sheen as President Bartlett meant that you got goosebumps listening to the delivery. It may have been gross escapism but it was pretty good gross escapism. For a generation watching the death of the American Dream before their very eyes it was soothing to pretend that a Democrat with values might emerge to save the day. Bartlett was after all a facsimile of Kennedy at the time when Clinton’s presidency had ended with a stain and George Dubya actually became President of the US of A. People thought then that things couldn’t possibly get even worse. What could be more humiliating than Dubya?

The problem for Theresa May is that the stolen line might have been a good one: “It is when tested the most that we reach deep within ourselves and find that our capacity to rise to the challenge before us may well be limitless” it speaks to inner strength in a way that’s vaguely pleasing, aspirational, soft and squishy without really having any meaning. It’s ideal. And it could have worked well for her, “Look I’ve completely wrecked my career, my party and am slowly going to do this to the rest of the country, but I’m a trier”.

It’s sort of patriotic and a wee bit Churchillan, which is very fashionable at the moment.

But May couldn’t deliver a Christmas card and in her mouth it came over as if it was a hackneyed stolen line from a drama, which of course it was. It had as much authenticity as the Cabinets show of faith in her today.

If Bartlett gave you goosebumps May just gave you the boke.

The British Dream she hacked up is, it seems, to build some more houses (though not very many) and to engage in large-scale self-delusion. At one point, near the end she explains that Brexit will work because: “And another thing that’s important. The essential ingredient of our success. The strength and support of 65 million people willing us to make it happen.”

She actually said that. Our actual Prime Minister.

It’s not clear what’s more tragic – the idea that she seems to believe that you can just “will” things to happen – or that she thinks 65 million people are doing so?

The coughing fit and the rest of the omnishambles actually did her a favour distracting the viewer from absorbing what she was saying. Here’s her best bits:

In a section called “A message from Britain to the rest of Europe” she spluttered:

“June the 23rd was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world. It was the moment we chose to build a truly Global Britain.”

Nobody knows that this could possibly mean, especially her and her virulent racist Foreign Secretary.

In a section called “A Plan for Britain” she says: “I want Britain to be what we have the potential, talent and ambition to be. A great, global trading nation that is respected around the world and strong, confident and united at home. That is why this Government has a Plan for Britain.”

Stirring stuff.

The speech was full essentially a bland homily of meaningless drivel, brimming with blithely incoherent utterances that would make your teeth grind:

“So to our friends across Europe, let me say this. Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours.”

It then spooled away to become something between an absurdist play and a really bad children’s story that should never have been published.

In a section somewhat unconvincingly titled “Certainty and Clarity” she said:

“So today I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead. 12 objectives that amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

And as we negotiate that partnership, we will be driven by some simple principles: we will provide as much certainty and clarity as we can at every stage. And we will take this opportunity to make Britain stronger, to make Britain fairer, and to build a more Global Britain too.

1. Certainty

The first objective is crucial. We will provide certainty wherever we can.”

Got that?

But it was on Scotland and the Union that she really got into her stride proclaiming incoherently:

“At this momentous time, it is more important than ever that we face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us as a people, and our shared interest in the UK being an open, successful trading nation in the future.”


She continued: “I have also been determined from the start that the devolved administrations should be fully engaged in this process.” By which she must have meant ignored, sidelines and treated with complete contempt. But – there’s good news:

“We have already received a paper from the Scottish Government, and look forward to receiving a paper from the Welsh Government shortly. ”


Tellingly under the section marked “A Fairer Britain” we kick off with Immigration (geddit?):

“Britain is an open and tolerant country” remarks the woman who brought you the Hate Van as she coughs up another lung. “We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends”.

(“Hello migrant – want to be my friend?”).

At times you worry for the womans health. She concludes offering the observation that: “After all the division and discord, the country is coming together…”

So that’s the British Dream in full for you, we’re not a wee bit racist, honest, and we love Europe so much we’re leaving it but only because we share its values, and, er, that’s it.

Got it?

If you want to wrap your self in the Union flag and read the whole speech without the distractions of watching someone’s career slide down the toilet, read it here.

Try reading it and imagining Josh Bartlett delivering each line.


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Comments (12)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    May is not the first European leader to believe in the triumph of the will, but the only image of creating a global Britain from Brexit I can see her government achieving is one of curling into a ball and hoping to regress to some foetal golden age, umbilically fed from its unfortunately terminally toxic, violence-addicted and obese unfit-mother USA, who woefully has not ratified the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.

  2. Willie says:

    The Great British Dream where we would march the dirty filthy sponging immigrants into the gas chambers 1930s style is alive and well.

    And it’s starting and there’s not a jot that any of our supine populace will do to stop it.

    Animal Farm or was it 1984. The Orwellian vision was bang on the money, and we Scots will sup it up.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      Persecutions may pick up the flavour of their times. Inquisitions and holy wars where religion divides; serfs traded with conquered land; millions dying of starvation and disease from liberal sanctions, totalitarian pogroms or free-market imposition. Those our government marks for death, or at least expendability, are characterised as what historian Mark Curtis calls Unpeople. Without rights, security, welfare services, sustenance, land, extended family support, voices or culture, their protections stripped away, they can be despatched or exploited with minimal public opposition.

      I doubt that you will get an overt general public majority support for gas chambers, though. That didn’t happen even in Nazi Germany.

  3. Mach1 says:

    Theresa May is the Edith Cresson of British politics, and is slowly but surely making her way off, stage right. What comes after could be much worse, as her departure would signal a challenge from the hard wrexiteers, politicians from the Tory right who want to see Brexit talks fail. Bizarrely, I watched Liz Kendall, former Labour leadership challenge, tip Ruth Davidson to succeed May on This Week. Cripes! But it is worth while trying to pin down what exactly Davidson believes, since she seems to have the capacity to be ever-present and ever-absent at the same time when it comes to major policy decisions, revealing that the Davidson brand is all presentation and no substance, a political Cheshire Cat act.
    I guess even the never knowingly hilarious Kendall might have been making mischief. But we all must ask: how can Ruth Davidson’s Tories, who campaigned to Remain, and claimed that Brexit would still see the UK and Scotland retain membership of the single market, manage to hold the line with Theresa May and position themselves to support her likely hard Brexit successor? I think the solution might be summed up in one short phrase: reversion to type. God help us.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      I suspect Liz Kendall might well see herself in with a shout for the Tory leadership.

    2. IDL says:

      Yes indeed you put your finger on something-what is Ruth D? that I struggle to describe-and your ‘Cheshire Cat’ somehow sums it up.
      Engaging for sure, but the smile, like the Mona Lisa’s is directed everywhere, for everyone to see.
      The problem I sense is that Ruth D is not actually quite a Tory. She doesn’t have the venomous tight-lipped reactionary streak, or socially regressive instincts that seem to be the essential henchman of the Tories, or the mad religiosity, that is so necessary for Tory ‘leadership’ (or even (past) Labour leadership, come to think of it).

      She is seen by some as a breath of liberal fresh air-(Is she really a lib-dem who was lucky enough not to join them?) but I just can’t see her lifting the deeply entrenched Tory fugg. She sits well with liberal Scottish Tories-the well heeled, insulated pink jacketed, liberal intelligentsia executives and upholstered middle classes of the europeanised, Scottish deep state-but winning over the howling madness of the southern brexiteers of Gillingham, Norfolk or Lincolnshire just seems an unlikely struggle for her.

  4. Wul says:

    And yet there are those in Scotland who voted for this.

    1. Willie says:

      Absolutely right and very many of these voters were the older folks who voted in narrow self interest.

      But their greed will come back to haunt them as the right wing Tory agenda gathers pace.

      Especially so with healthcare where, like the USA where sixty million Americans have no healthcare, we too could be in a similar position. Private healthcare ain’t no charity, never will be, and certainly won’t be for all of those who voted for it.

      Sup it up old yins, or at least the ones who voted for it. Animal Farm, too right.

  5. Interpolar says:

    Thanks for picking apart that dog’s dinner of sound bites and pflegm. I can’t see anything in it to dream about, but it’s sheer hypocrisy and blindness should be keeping us awake at night.

  6. Mach1 says:

    BBC Scotland, every Davidson friendly, has decided today to lead with her supposed support of May’s premiership… er, which bit? And why is Davidson so studiously absent, actually saying something and then defending her/Mrs May’s tenets? Could it be that someone at the Beeb simply picked up the latest Tory press release and worked it up into a story? What happened to proper reporting? Someone needs to grill Davidson, to pin her down for backing a pro-Brexit PM from an anti-Brexit position… that way we might just see the Scottish Tories sink with the crude ship Theresa May.

  7. Jeff says:

    That’s Jed Bartlett.

    1. Josiah known as Jed:

      “The West Wing is an American serial political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999, to May 14, 2006.[2] The series is set primarily in the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff are located, during the fictitious Democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen).”

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