11 March 2024

I want my country back.....

 An open letter to a sheltered Anderson

Dear Sir or Madman,

I heard you today say these words: "I want my country back....."

Let's start with your ego - my parents used to tell me that "I want, won't get," and they made sense.  Insistence in wanting is not the way to go.

But also, "my country."  Whoever gave you this country?  Yes, we sort of know what you mean, but let's look a little further into this, shall we?

"I vow to thee my country...."  may mislead us, but what on earth gives you any right to claim this country as your own?  Isn't it mine as much as yours?  Or perhaps it is my neighbour's as much as yours or mine?  What does the first person possessive adjective do here?  If it was indeed your country, then how come it is in the state it is in?  I am sure that you, as a member of parliament (Labour/Conservative/Reform party or whatever) would not wish to be responsible for the calamitous state we are in, however anyone defines it.

But.....  You want your country back.

OK.  Let us try and define this.  Let us suppose the country you refer to is England?  (Or do you mean, the United Kingdom? - Somewhat more complex but much the same problem).  

When, exactly, was this country (England) how you imagined it?  I am a little older than you, and have my own dreams, but sometimes idealise a world where Postman Pat worked alongside the Fat Controller, with maybe Noddy and BigEars in the background.  Pooh Bear held the hand of Christopher Robin and the weasels were evicted from Toad Hall, while Moley regained his peace on the riverbank.  In the meantime, Kenneth Moore went down, stiff upper lipped (if nothing else) on the bridge of the Titanic.  

Do you not remember Hancock?  Dad's Army?  Steptoe and Son, Or 'Til Death Us Do Part' where all the gentle weaknesses of our society were gently exposed?  Selfishness, bigotry, laziness, ignorance and self-importance ruled the Sunday afternoons and the drill halls. 

Did you never watch the Black and White Minstrel Show and sing along with Dai Boulter?  

Where, and what, was this mythical land you claim?

Forgive me for reminding you of a few hazily recollected facts:
  • Humankind did not originate in this part of the world
  • The land we now call England was once attached by land bridge to the mainland of Europe
  • There were Ice Ages during which human life was impossible in these latitudes
  • In recent history this land has been invaded, overrun and ruled (in no particular order) by Vikings (and isn't Anderson a name that indicates a Scandinavian background?) Germans, Danes, Jutes, Angles and Saxons (According to St Bede, the Anglo-Saxons were the descendants of three different Germanic peoples—the Angles, Saxons and Jutes - so even the Angles were German), Romans and Normans.....
  • The history and DNA of 'our' Royal Family includes Normans, Germans, Dutch and Greeks (not to be too fussy about the Russians, Austrians and the Spanish)
  • It would be very hard to prove that anyone was 100% English, whatever that meant. Perhaps some people can trace their family back many generations, but to think that anyone is 'purely' anything is delusional. 
  • And don't ever forget that we occupied other countries around the world, inseminated their ways of life, their laws and their borders, and then shrank back as we realised that maybe, just maybe, this wasn't quite how it should be......

I was born in Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, and have lived in many different places since.  My parents both played their parts in the Second World War.  My grandfathers both served in the First World War.  I grew up in a country that I loved - I saw smogs and the Milky Way, I gathered mushrooms in the field with Richard Mabey, I drank Worthington White Shield and ate fish and chips; I watched Dixon of Dock Green and Listened to The Archers before my bedtime.  

I may not entirely disagree with you, Mr Anderson, that I would love to live for ever in the fantasies of my childhood, but the past is another country....

Do you want the coal mines back?  I guess you miss the camaraderie?  I worked in a steel works in Sheffield, with showers of sparks and the clank and smash of forges and the insane electrical twitching of the cables that led to the Arc Furnaces and I miss that too, though I wouldn't dream of going back (even if the industry still existed.....)

Mr Anderson, I sympathise with your shallow thoughts, but wish you weren't so antagonistic to fellow beings who could perfectly well be at least as useful to the world as you?

You have said that, “generation after generation” of people “cannot budget” or make meals properly and you also said in the Commons that meals could be cooked from scratch "for about 30 pence a day" as you invited "everybody" on the opposition benches to visit a food bank in Ashfield.

That may be the country you want to return to.  Who made that country?   What have you done to make it better?  Were the Thatcherite intentions to reduce the general populace to an inability to budget (sorry - that is an exaggeration - but when you were a Labour politician you might have railed against the conservative policies to ensure that the masses didn't get the education to enable them to understand how they were being diminished) not something you accepted as Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party?

I rant.  I rave.  I am as deranged as you may be.  My hurt is personal but also social.  You now take a seat as a member of the Reform party (without the honour of having been elected as such, of course.....)  So what do you reform?  The ills you have brought during your career?  The wrongs you believe your supporters have suffered?  Or is it simply the passing of twisted time?  

Let you and I go back and wander the lanes of Postman Pat's little England.  Let us defend this country from the horrendous fate that loomed behind Dad's Army.  But don't forget the help we had from others.  Don't forget how we got here in the first place.  And don't forget how rich life can be when you appreciate the value of your neighbour - whoever he or she may be.

If I were to say, "I want my country back," I wouldn't mean what I think you mean.  I think that what I would mean is that I would like to live in a world where there aren't prejudices and barriers but people can live in harmony and peace, with those little things they value, like an efficient health service, libraries, youth clubs, transport systems that function as advertised, theatres and sports facilities that are available to all.  And, Hey! what about two houses of parliament that work for the people and not for themselves?

Yes, I fantasise.  But I don't blame others for my failings.

With love




  1. Brilliant, shiney skewering!

  2. Richard, I hope you send a copy of this to Lee Anderson personally as your many valid points deserve a considered response from him.