Friday, May 04, 2007

The Tebbit Test

Everyone's favourite semi house-trained polecat returns on the pages of the Guardian today, in a piece adapted from a speech given to the Bruges Group. It's a piece about the decline of a sense of British national identity (badly treated by the sub-editors, who clearly want Tebbit to sound an ein volk, ein reich note: Sold out by its political class, Britain is in dire danger of disintegration. Only a strong leader can save us).
The comments bring back memories of the 1980s, with spittle-flecked students shouting incomprehensibly. One charge always brought against Tebbit is also present, the infamous cricket test: are immigrants British? Which side do they support at the Test Match? I've always thought this was actually a good way of determining where someone's loyalty lay: if you support India or Pakistan when they play against England, you clearly identify more with India or Pakistan than you do with England.
The odd response these days seems to be whether this should apply to English expats in Spain and elsewhere: shouldn't they too be taking the Tebbit test? Well of course they should! If I moved to Australia to live, I would be trying to become Australian: even if I was never able to bring myself to cheer on the Aussies, I would expect my children to. If, on the other hand, I was retiring to Spain, I would continue to think of myself as English and would continue to support England - but I wouldn't be pretending to be Spanish, and I wouldn't be playing it both ways.
The Tebbit test is, ultimately, a question of where ones' ultimate loyalties lie - and there's absolutely nothing racist in asking that question.

1 Comments:

Blogger JohnM said...

The Tebbit test is, ultimately, a question of where ones' ultimate loyalties lie - and there's absolutely nothing racist in asking that question.

I agree there's nothing racist in asking "where ones' ultimate loyalties lie", but is the Tebbit test a good proxy for that question?

Nationalism occurs when there is a common sense of shared identity. This cannot be absolute, since we expect there to be differences between people - an Italian American is still American despite his affinity for things Italian. Therefore we might imagine a list of national attributes against which we mark an putative candidate.

A liking for cricket in itself might be regarded as an item on such a list, possession of which is indicative of a shared identity. The team supported might be another item. However, given that the majority of people in the UK do not follow cricket let alone support a team, how valid is such an item on our list in the first place.

Clearly Tebbit never intended his test to be so narrowly constrained, but it's no surprise that his critics portray it so.

10:47 am  

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