Made in Britain


Made in Britain was the 1983 British television play which propelled Tim Roth to stardom for his amazing portrayal of the skinhead Trevor. Yesterday it had a reincarnation as a backfiring social media debacle of the sort that would have an embarrassed PatronisingBT Lady spluttering into her Coco-Pops.

Both are tales of desperation – has spawned a whole new comedy genre. It’s the hashtag for Parody Britain. The botched brainchild of a nationalism running low on soft-power.

The whole Made in Britain flag-waving bonanza discloses a deep uncertainty by the British politicians about the degenerating project and shaky identity of Britain and Britishness. Combining nervous hand-wringing with emboldened flag-waving (a challenge of dexterity) David Torrance writes in today’s Herald (‘Britain is neither ‘broken’ nor a failed state’):

‘Of all the rhetoric produced by the referendum, the notion that the UK was somehow “broken” irritated me the most.’ And, we’re told, Tom Nairn is to blame.

Struggling just a little, Torrance explains that we are nowhere near as bad as Haiti before lighting on the arguments that the Malcolm Rifkind/Jack Straw incident are an example of brokenness. Complaining about James McEnaney writing in Commonweal he says:

“The argument makes little sense, for it implies that greed and rule breaking is somehow an inescapable product of a particular constitutional arrangement, which of course is ridiculous. Sir Malcolm (who certainly behaved badly) is, of course, a Scot, but then Mr McEnaney would presumably argue that Unionism had somehow corrupted an otherwise decent sensibility.”

It’s the oddest mixture of distortion and misunderstanding you’ll read in a long time. Now returning to his own desperately low-bar he established earlier Torrance cites the former Labour guru Will Hutton: “For all the egregious mistakes made on its behalf, the country is not a wasteland.”

“Not a Wasteland”.

Could we have that enameled onto the plaques maybe?


Torrance’s excitement can barely be contained by Hutton’s analysis but he does worry that “For too long constitutional debate has been much too Scotland-centric”.  The statement is left hanging unexplained, like Boris on his zip-wire.

The problem is that not only does Hutton have a track record of picking apart the crisis of British economic injustice, none of his proposals and suggestions have seen the light of day.

The State We’re In (1995) must be an analysis that Torrance would find deeply disquieting. Hutton’s slightly vague left Keynesianism was quickly abandoned by New Labour. None of his ideas for reform have been taken up, nor will they.

In a review in the London Review of Books RW Johnston wrote:

The heart of Hutton’s book lies in his raking critique of the Thatcher period. This, heaven knows, has been done before but he does it exceedingly well. The sheer social vandalism of those years has lost none of its capacity to shock: the fact that homelessness has increased in every single year since 1979, an utter disgrace committed as a conscious act of policy; the £3 billion thrown away on bringing in and then abolishing the poll tax; the £22 billion given away in public assets sold under cost; the dreadful damage to the manufacturing base, which recaptured its 1979 level of production only in 1988; the crazy adherence to monetarism despite the fact that monetary growth in 1983-8 averaged 14.7 per cent while inflation averaged 4.7 per cent, quite invalidating the alleged causal link between these figures; the destruction of the Serps pension scheme and thus the deliberate infliction of poverty on millions of old people; and the wicked and deliberate increase in inequality of every kind. This last is what makes all the bombast about ‘Tory radicalism’ and Major’s ‘classlessness’ such a terrible, empty sham, for, as Hutton points out, the net effect of all these changes was ‘the entrenchment of the old class structure that Tory radicals affected to despise’, with the gap between those able and those unable to afford private health, welfare and education far, far worse at the end than when it began.

The problem for Torrance, and the latest discharge of British symbolism, is that the book review could be talking about any time and any government between now and 1979. Hutton’s articulate but futile rumblings over twenty-five years are the perfect example of how Britain is an irredeemable state characterised by patronage and studded by enshrined inequality.

This latest outbreak of fervent UnionJackery is being led by Danny Alexander who is promising to plaster Scotland with plaques as an antidote to ungrateful electoral collapse. As a tactic it’s almost certainly bound to piss off everyone apart from the tiny 20% of people who still identify themselves as British in Scotland.

Geri-Halliwell-union-jack-dressThis latest paroxysm of a forced Britishness is likely to backfire offline as well as on the internet.

I can think of nothing more annoying than stumbling across endless self-congratulatory  Union Jacks everywhere as bankers hustle you out of money, the big business evades and avoids and the fabric of society is restructured by punitive changes to our social security system.

In place of transport connectivity, cultural cohesion or social equality we’re offered failed symbols enshrined in a bloody past.

Flags have been a trope and a treasure of Britishness for years as unity and cohesion disassemble. From  Maggie fumbling with her tissues at the BA re-launch (1997), from Gerri Halliwell to Gerry Adams – to last years flegs protest in Belfast –  the flag has been a contested, problematic image.

Red white and blue will soon be everywhere – a simulacrum for a functioning democracy.

Remember, where you are living is “Not a Wasteland”. Fly the flag.


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  1. Peter A Bell says:

    What an utter muddle David Torrance gets himself in as he tries to have a go at Scotland’s growing independence movement whilst making a doubtless heartfelt but nonetheless failed effort to defend his beloved Union against charges that it is broken.

    It’s all there. The dishonesty. The strawman arguments. The inconsistencies and contradictions. The disturbing obsession with ethnicity. It’s like revisiting one of those tiresome tracts produced by British nationalist commentators during the referendum campaign. A campaign which those same British nationalist commentators insist is over and should be moved on from, whilst being curiously unable to let go of their own role as anti-independence propagandists.

    In order to get to the more mundane unionist drivel offered by Torrance in the forlorn hope that it might be taken for grown-up political analysis we must first get by the obstacle of his tortured attempt to argue that the Union is not broken because the UK is not a “Failed State”. (Note the sleekit way Torrance calls in aid Tom Nairn, despite the fact that the distinguished academic never has and surely never would describe the UK as a failed state.)

    Where does Torrance get the idea that independence campaigners described the UK in such terms? Not from anything that was actually said and that he is able to quote. Not a bit of it! The idea is entirely a figment of Torrance’s fevered imagination born of his own highly prejudiced interpretation of Yes campaign rhetoric.

    The conclusion that one inevitably draws from this pathetically contrived effort at straw man building is that Torrance is totally bereft of a way of refuting the argument that the UK is broken and so must resort to pretending that “broken” is synonymous with “failed state”. It’s dishonest. And it’s very, very silly.

    The obsession with ethnicity which David torrance shares with his fellow British nationalists is revealed in the remark about one of the latest British politicians to be accused of corruption being “a Scot”. Most of those who are regularly referred to by Torrance and his ilk as “narrow nationalists” will be wondering what the hell Rifkind’s being “a Scot” has to do with anything. But Torrance seems to suppose, for no reason he troubles to explain, that the man’s ancestry is highly relevant.

    Note again how Torrance name-drops another academic at this point, impertinently presuming to put words in the mouth of respected lecturer James McEnaney. How would Torrance know what James McEnaney would make of Rifkind’s dubious escapades?

    Torrance next has recourse to some classic “whitabootery” with the woefully ill-thought argument that “the phenomena Nationalists [sic] cite as proof of Britain’s broken-ness exist in Scotland too”. At which point it is impossible to resist the use of a vernacular expression denoting reaction to a statement so stunningly stupid as to challenge the standard lexicon of the English language.


    In an evidently totally unconsidered attempt to counter the “broken Britain” hypothesis Torrance manages both to acknowledge the broken-ness and to provide a statement of how this broken-ness impacts on Scotland which is as succinct as any that an advocate of independence might hope to deploy.

    It all then descends into confusion as Torrance manages to reference two arguments – from Will Hutton and Peter Hain – which pretty clearly contradict his own argument. Yeah! I don’t get it either.

    Those who have read my previous critiques of David Torrance’s unfortunate forays into the realm of Scottish politics will know that I always strive to give credit where it is due. In that vein, young David is to be complimented for the following,

    “Marry holistic structural reform of the UK to a bold policy agenda and you might end up with something both electorally attractive and worth fighting for.”

    Which is the most artful euphemism this writer has yet seen for the actual strategy being pursued by the British parties. A strategy which might be more accurately stated thus,

    “Combine another round of cobbled-together constitutional tinkering with a raft of empty promises in the hope that it will fool the voters one more time.”

    For the gift of that amusing denouement at least, I thank David Torrance.

    1. jacquescoleman says:

      Well thank you Mike and Peter. Mike for writing such a good article AND for introducing me to RW Johnson’s savaging of the Thatcher regime and her appalling legacy. And Peter for ripping apart the faux intellectual nonsense which Torrance believes is clever analysis.

      There is little more to add except that I find Hutton to be a very very boring writer with at least a five out of five on the yawn factor scale. He is like numerous American writers. They have very little to say but God don’t they use a hell of a lot of words to say it. I wonder if he/they are paid by word count?

  2. Frederick Robinson says:

    Strange: a Referendum organised under SNP stewardship, with SNP the party in (Scottish Government) produces a 51%/46% majority in favour of Unionism, but here, for some reason, ‘only a tiny 20%….still identify themselves as British in Scotland’. Says who? What happened to the missing 31%?

    1. tartanfever says:

      Instructions for Frederick:

      1) Go back up the page to the quote

      2) Note that the text is in bold

      3) Click on the bold text with your cursor

      4) Make sure you are sitting down.

      1. John Page says:


  3. Peter A Bell says:

    James Forsyth in the Spectator (Who paid for that?) does his level best to justify what is obviously no more than a British nationalist propaganda gimmick. But he can’t make a convincing case for plastering union flags all over Scotland.

    Those who think about such things more deeply rather than simply accepting the gloss put on them by spin-quacks will at least wonder why it has suddenly become essential to know how every single infrastructure project is funded. It will occur to many that they never needed to know this before, and that the UK Government was at no pains at all to inform them.

    Some might even wonder whether it is entirely coincidental that this wizard wheeze has been cobbled together at the very time when the British establishment senses that the settled order of the UK is under threat from political forces which cannot be relied upon to offer unthinking respect for the structures of power and privilege which define the British state.

    Advocates of the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status have responded with characteristic wry humour, plastering social media with messages highlighting some of the things that Desperate Danny Alexander might be somewhat less keen to remind voters were/are “Funded by UK Government”. Things like the crimes of the colonial era; the Iraq war; weapons of mass destruction; criminally avaricious banksters; the arms industry; and the insult to democracy that is the House of Lords.

    We are not fooled. We know another exercise in banal, jingoistic British nationalist flag-waving when we see it.

    The next thing James Forsyth will be trying to tell us is that the twenty-fold proliferation of BBC programmes with the words “Britain” or “British” in the title since the SNP were elected to government in Scotland is pure happenstance.

    As we say around these parts, “Aye, right!”

  4. John Page says:

    Another belter, Mike. Thank you. ……..and to get me even more grumpy today the BBC is proposing that (despite me stopping watching TV and cancelling my fee) I will have to pay a collective broadcasting levy whether I watch TV or not as the BBC “binds the nation together”…….. Are they just really crap or have we all moved so far away from them in the last year that they seem ridiculous?

  5. Monty says:

    Scottish gentlemen of the centre or centre right such as both the Massies, James Forsyth and David Torrance seem to be something of an obsession with Bella at the moment. It is interesting that as conservatism has fallen out of favour in Scotland a generation of able and sometimes very good columnists whatever you think of their politics,with a rightward tendency have come out of Scotland at least one of which is related to Sir Malcolm once of Edinburgh.

  6. Rachel says:


    From the 2011 Census, 62.4% answered that they have a Scottish identity only, 18.3% claimed a Scottish and British identity and 8.4% claimed British only. There were also a few other categories to get it up to the 100%. Not sure where the 20% comes from though…

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      “British identity clearly plays second fiddle to Scottish identity north of the border. Forced to choose a single identity, at most only around one in five say that they are British, while typically around three-quarters or so indicate that they are Scottish” – Trends in National Identity:

      1. Pedant. says:

        No it doesn’t! Why would people be FORCE people to CHOOSE an identity. Is the Scottish Cricket test?

  7. Reblogged this on Bampots Utd and commented:
    Another great read and article from Mike @ bella

  8. hi every1 hope yous are all well and enjoying the start of the week ,plz could yous read the link below and make a pledge lets send the red tories packing with fear and smear at the top of the book charts would make a great conversation starter for our SNP mps arriving in London to take up there new posts at Westminster if any1 would like advice on writing a book it doesn’t have to be political just come over to our site and we can help you do a book at no cost via apps its easy and 1s you do your first 1 a bet you want to do more !

    kind regards and best wishes Mick

  9. dcanmore says:

    Britain the Brand is what it’s all about. Selling a product through symbolism but not quite sure what you’re getting out of it. Back in the early 80s it was ‘Buy British’ slogan, which mean’t a choice between a shitty Amstrad stereo (made in Hong Kong) or a disintegrating Morris Ital made by the disintegrating car industry. In the mid-90s it was Britpop, shitty here-today-gone-tomorrow jangly bland clone groups. The problem the erstwhile BritNats have is getting people to believe in a country that is not really a proper country. So instead of being proud of British products being sold throughout the world powering the economy, we have ‘Britain the Bankers Friend’ or How I stop worrying and learned to love debt.

    Britain is a phantom country, an 18th century project designed to fill the coffers of the elite on the back of the sweat of the poor that built an empire for them. It still carries on today doing the same thing, moving money from the Public purse into private hands with little return. Half of the legislator in the Houses of Parliament not elected, the largest unelected government body outside of China. And yet we are often told that is the way it is and it is good for you. Britain and the BritNats play a game using smoke and mirrors, they try to convince people that Britain is normal and those constituent countries are merely regions with obsolete flags. What they actually reveal is that London is the country that they have created and everywhere else only exists to provide London with tax monies and manpower.

    There is a powerful movement now within the Conservative Party to officially make London a City State. Of course this is mostly driven by MPs who reside in or near London. There argument is simple and easy, London should keep all the tax money it earns, Devolution for London so to speak. ‘If Scotland can have this, why not London’. Scotland getting very little transcribes into London wanting a lot. What it is, is a protection plan to put a financial wall between London and the rest of the UK, London gets richer, Britain gets poorer.

    So when these plaques are erected on the side of buildings and structures this is David Cameron pointing a finger at you and saying ‘these crumbs come from me and don’t you forget it’ because the alternative, as stipulated by the very same people, would be no crumbs at all. The union stamp of approval, your only local public building, your 25% share of a shoebox called home has been marked, you are owned by the state and they ant you to know it.

    Britain is a pretend place, with a pretend flag, pretend politicians in a pretend parliament pretending to the masses that they live in a modern democracy, ‘here have some debt then you can pretend you have money’ because that is all that is left powering this pretend economy.

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      Well said.

      James Kelman put it characteristically well,

      “Britain is not a country, it is the name used by the ruling elite and its structures of authority to describe itself.”

      – See more at:

      1. MBC says:

        Britain was really only ever an imperial project. There was no love, except of profit extracted from foreign soils. With the Empire gone, there is now nothing left but habit and fear to keep us together.

        The war effort of 1939-45 and the post-war welfare state and post-war reconstruction did forge a genuine camaraderie that had the potential to create something real – did briefly create something pan-British – but that one-nation post-war Britain was brief and its vision was not sustained – dismantled by Thatcher and her neoliberal successors since 1979. Sacrificed for petty English bourgeois Home Counties selfishness.

        There is nothing of what we were once proud to call British left to belong to. Our empire, our industry, our nationalised public assets – all gone.

        We did not leave Britain. It was Britain that left us.

    2. Perfectly expressed and a full on reflection of my own thoughts on their Artifical Construct!

  10. bringiton says:

    Perhaps using the word “broken” is too emotive for comfortable middle class people who see life as being hunky dory,thank you very much.
    The words,broke or bankrupt would possibly be more appropriate.
    If being in debt to the tune of 1.5 Trillion pounds doesn’t count as being in severe financial (if not terminal)difficulties,then I don’t know what does and the pretence that the British state is still a global power,isn’t going to last for much longer.
    The number of Westminster funded projects that they will be able to stick their wee flag on is going to become miniscule as they face up to the realities of being a bankrupt state who cannot even afford to defend itself properly.
    Thanks Mike.

  11. Pedant. says:

    ‘…Made in Britain was the 1983 British television play which propelled Tim Roth to stardom for his amazing portrayal of the skinhead Trevor.’ ?????

    Is like, racists corner? Using Skinheads to make a fatuous point about the merits of Federalism?


  12. Pedant. says:

    And for your information MIKE SMALL. Us ‘ethnics’ are not English, not Scottish, not Welsh, not Irish, but BRITISH!!!!!! IT IS NON ‘ETHNIC.’ I like most ‘ethnics’ prefer the civic union identity! So stick that in your self righteous pipe and smoke it.

    1. John Page says:

      Is that you back again, Frederick Robinson, Baffled et al ….. Oh and forgot Bernicia

      1. John Page says:

        ……Corporatist Hell

    2. Darien says:

      “Us ‘ethnics’ are ….BRITISH”

      Scots well know what it feels like to be an ethnic minority: we have been that for 300 years, a function of being part of the rather oddly named ‘country’ – UKofGB&NI.

    3. David says:

      Ahh, but are you a ‘blood and soil ethnic’?!
      Seriously, you are not expressing yourself very clearly. Please take more time to compose and edit your comments, and perhaps write longer comments.

      Everyone has more than one identity, some we choose for ourselves, some are given to us by others, including by those who rule us.

      If you are living in Scotland, then I would regard you as Scottish. If you have a UK passport, then I would also regard you as British. You are able to regard yourself as British, that is your choice, and your right. But I would hope that after long enough in Scotland, you would also choose to regard yourself as Scottish.

      This is an important sign for me that Scotland as a country is doing something right – that people who live here are happy they are here, and regard it as their home. We have had too many decades of people from Scotland being forced to leave the country in order to make a living. That is a sign that the government (Westminster) was failing Scotland. Our greatest resource, our people, was obliged by our imperial masters’ policies of neglect to leave their homes, leave their country. The population of Scotland has been almost static for the last hundred years, a symptom of the deliberate running-down of the economy.

      (I have to make assumptions -You call yourself ‘ethnic’, but don’t say whether you were born in Scotland, or were brought here by your parents, or chose to come here yourself. In the grand scheme of things, no big deal.
      I have always liked the slogan “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” )

      Peesonally I am not happy to be called British any more, I prefer to be Scottish. Britain does not represent me now.

  13. Robert Graham says:

    judging by some of the more moronic comments in some of the English papers about Danny’s soon to be told to f/off (stickers) – (labels) the usual rants funded by the English again etc. etc. i wonder who they will turn on next they have had the Irish-the Jews- the Pakistanis- the poles – the Romanians all spongers beggars living of the English i do believe they are wasting their time with the jocks cos most of the folks i know don’t give a f/k as we have heard all these rants before and as a parting shot dear dear is that the best you can do Mr Alexander

  14. macart763 says:

    Mr Torrance may benefit from simply getting out more…

    …but probably not.

  15. Clootie says:

    …as with the famous dress we see different things.

    Scottish Nationalists still consider Scotland to be a Nation within a Union. They no longer (or never have) considered the Union to serve their interest or that of their fellow countrymen.

    British Nationalists consider the Union to be “the country” and all the component parts ceased to exist. They apply the simple arithmetic model that dictates action should be for the majority i.e. high density population centres mainly in the South/South East.

    The debate is not about Scotland and England. It is about addressing the form of society that we live in. Those who live in Scotland favour a move to the left on the spirit level model (along with Scananavia/ Japan / Finland etc) while those in other parts of the UK favour a continuation of the UK’s current position on the far right along with the USA.

    For the Scottish Nationialists they object to the “Larger” population of the Union imposing their version of society on the them.
    For the British Nationalists we do not have countries in a union, we have one nation with regions..

    The Union is therefore a broken model because the foundation has been lost as I and many others consider it our right to seek self determination as a Nation. Being told we are not a nation will not strengthen the Union. However a move by Westminster Parties towards building a fairer society would help retain the union.

    The Marriage model was used many times during the Referendum and it remains valid. A couple can split with each believing they are in the right. The result is they go their own way. They can part angry or with mutual respect and recognition that they have grown apart.
    One person cannot tell the other that it is not over and they have to continue to accept the union.

    Britain is broken – I look forward to remaining friends but I want change. Now let us just split the assets we built up together, settle the credit card bills and move on.

    1. John Page says:

      Very clearly expressed and spot on

    2. bowanarrow says:

      Well said, and, “I only had the salad”. 🙂

    3. macart763 says:

      Nail on the head Clootie.

  16. Dan Huil says:

    The empire is finished; so is the union.
    Get over it!

  17. Caffleck says:

    U jacks on our driving licence,on our buildings and a GB football team at the olympics in Rio not politically motivated of coarse all we need now is a red/blue tory coalition government

  18. david agnew says:

    The union was a fudge from the get go and both sides on that fateful day in 1707 came away from the process thinking something very different had happened. A lot of Scots hated the idea and felt deep shame, some thought that at long last they could get Englands thumb out of Scotland eye, while many in England came away thinking that Scotland was now an extension of England, just like wales, just like Ireland. Though we must remember that the people of Scotland were never consulted, it was decided for them, behind closed doors.

    The referendum was the first time this argument was put to the people. The debate polarised the electorate and ironically highlighted that the concept of union wasn’t all that settled, or really all that united. A majority said Scottish not british (this also included folk who voted no), Some claimed it was a dual nationality, and a smaller contingent proudly boasted that Britishness was a non-national national identity that transcended all others.

    Colin Kidd in his book union and unionisms – concluded this state of affairs came about because the union had become banal. So banal in fact, no one questioned its right to exist. What is odd about this conclusion is that he felt that this was a mark of its success.

    Was there a positive case to be made. Well yes of course there was. Why then did those chosen to defend it, couch the argument in terms of subsidy and dependency?
    They chose to use uncertainty and fear of the future. We were treated to one solemn pronouncement after another of how much of joke we were. The only time to they turned up to cheer was when Osborne announced Scotland was only allowed to use sterling and had contributed nothing to it and lastly when Asda proclaimed that it would starve scotland with high prices if it dared vote yes.

    After all that they barely manage to get more than half. It wasn’t enough, it simply showed in the most stark terms how divided Scotland is on the issue. And the realisation that it had bullied quite a few people with scares to achieve this narrow win. Bullied people can only ever feel resentment for the bully, not appreciation.

    Only now are they panicking about the loss of emotional connection with “Britishness” and think sticking the flag on everything will sort it out. Its westminsters way of screaming “Your British, get over it!” like they were some irony deficient concern troll on twitter. We are also getting pleas from the side wings about “national unity”, prompting replies of whose nation? whose unity? Other attempts involve direct commandments to forget it and engage with a happy clappy vision of Britain that does not exist. They can never admit the lie they told of Scottish dependency and so have no recourse but to keep pushing the union as a giro cheque scotland cannot afford to reject. All this does is to widen the division, not bridge the gap, which is yawning wider every day.

    All the while we are treated in some sections of the British MSM, as eastern european immigrants, here to steal their jobs, their money and their parliament. Even if Britain was a nation and not a collective pro-noun, constantly being portrayed as somehow alien in our own country is bizarre. To be profess pride in that state of affairs even more so.

    The people who supported union put their faith in the wrong people to represent them. If you cannot articulate a single credible reason, that does not imply some inherent deficiency in the character of the Scots or their contribution to the UK, then frankly the union really does not serve any purpose other than prop up a worthless parliament in London.

  19. JWil says:

    Note sure why Torrance gets a regular platform from the BBC, STV, the Herald and other media except that he represents anti-independence tokenism (at it’s most boring and blatant).

  20. Rob James says:

    Ethnicity? I don’t know if I’m Celtic, Pict. Scot, Breton,Jute, Angle, Saxon, Dane, Viking, Norman, Dutch, Hanoverian or whatever. Whichever it is, I’m not British.

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