On a recent holiday in France, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sunday Times, I asked some twentysomethings “what, in their minds, was good about Britain”. There was an awkward silence, before one of them replied: “Nothing.” To Gen Z, “all the stuff that made my generation proud to be British is now something to be ashamed of”. Winston Churchill was a racist. The British Museum is full of stolen artefacts. “Our stiff upper lip causes mental health issues.” And we were only able to give the world “penicillin and the internet and television” because of slavery. “Which we invented.” The kids “genuinely believe all this stuff”.
There’s no point arguing because that would be “mansplaining”, so we moved the debate on to today. Again, they couldn’t think of anything British that made them proud. And there’s no point arguing with that either, because they’re right. “I look at Britain today and I simply don’t know what’s holding it together.” If you want a decent plumber, “you’ll have to wait until we rejoin the EU”. We can’t build HS2. We don’t have enough nuclear physicists to construct a power station. “Our aircraft carriers seem to break down more than they run.” What we need is that four-letter word Margaret Thatcher gave us in the 1980s. “Hope.” A chance to buy our houses and become shareholders and “make cash and beat the Argies and make Britain great again. Hoorah.” But in the minds of those poor, deluded Gen Zedders, Britain never was great. “It’s always been awful, it still is now, and it always will be.”