Just Saying

Hell hath no fury like the British being labelled as ‘completely useless’

Yonden Lhatoo highlights some of the feedback – minus the flood of abuse – he received for asking in a previous column if Britain had really become a ‘completely useless country’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 3:14pm

The old stiff upper lip that the British were once famous for appears to be waning, just like their country’s relevance on the world stage.

I had expected to ruffle some feathers – not stir up a hornets' nest of incandescent Englishmen – with my last column.

They took great exception to my argument which was based on three talking points: a recent BBC panel discussion during which a European participant declared that Britain was a “completely useless country”; Prime Minister Theresa May’s shambolic rallying speech to her party; and Hong Kong’s denial of entry to British human rights activist Benedict Rogers.

You need only look at the number of comments that had to be removed from our website to get an idea of the heated debate among our vociferous readers. I stopped counting the messages and emails filled with expletive-ridden diatribes and personal attacks that I received myself.

“While we might expect such negative views from someone born in a former British hill station ...” the irate chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Hong Kong chapter wrote in a letter to the editor complaining about my column.

Has Britain become a completely useless country these days?

Actually, I grew up in awe of the British in my old hometown of Darjeeling for putting it on the world map. It’s only when I really grew up that I realised what the British brand of colonialism had done to the country, and others.

As Indian author, politician and diplomat Shashi Tharoor so eloquently put it: “There’s no real awareness of the atrocities, of the fact that Britain financed its Industrial Revolution and its prosperity from the depredations of empire, the fact that Britain came to one of the richest countries in the world in the 18th century and reduced it, after two centuries of plunder, to one of the poorest.”

I found this comment from a Post reader particularly significant: “I’ve lived in Britain for most of my 57 years ... I’m just going to say Britain has become useless and most Brits have become apathetic ... It’s not a place I like any more.”

It reflects the attitude of most of my British friends and colleagues in Hong Kong. Many of them openly talk about how “depressing” it is back home and why they’re “never going back”.

Actually, I grew up in awe of the British in my old hometown of Darjeeling for putting it on the world map

I’m advising them to listen to the unflappable gentlemen at the Royal Commonwealth Society from now on: “Lhatoo ignores the global soft power that the UK exerts in terms of culture (literature, music and sport) and values (parliamentary democracy, rule of law, tolerance and inclusiveness).

“If the UK succeeds in diversifying its trade with this powerful global network [of Commonwealth countries], and given the proven resourcefulness of its people, Britain might well see off the pessimists who perceive the country to be in terminal decline.”

They do have a point, but they might want to tweak the equation to include China, which Britain will need for trade after Brexit.

Which is why the British government adopts a willing suspension of virtue signalling and rolls out the red carpet every time a top Chinese leader visits.

And which is why political grandstanding by the likes of House of Commons speaker John Bercow over the “frankly, utterly scandalous” treatment of Rogers is completely useless.

“Those responsible have certainly not heard the last of it, of that I think we can be sure,” he told parliament. Ooh, what’s he going to do, write a letter?

Tharoor once pointed out: “Indian restaurants in Britain employ more people than the coal mining, ship building and iron and steel industries combined. So the empire can strike back.”

I’m not saying any more. Our readers and the British can have the last word on that.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post