John Cleese on English Societal Change

Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media blogs an Ed West piece that seems to validate some of Dalrymple’s arguments about the direction of English society. The apparent validation comes from comedian John Cleese, a Lib Dem supporter who recently said, “There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it’s a yob culture. The values are so strange.” Cleese explains his decision to move from London to Bath thusly: “London is no longer an English city, which is why I love Bath….it feels like the England that I grew up in.”

Driscoll writes:

John Cleese morphed into Theodore Dalrymple so slowly, I hardly even noticed.

But what did he expect? (Cleese of course. Dalrymple saw this coming ages ago.) …Monty Python was a weekly assault on the values of post-war England. And England’s societal bedrock of wisdom and knowledge proved in retrospect, to be surprisingly fragile…Of course, you shouldn’t be all that surprised if change for its own sake doesn’t go quite as planned.

24 thoughts on “John Cleese on English Societal Change

  1. Jackson

    Hmmm… well, if he feels so strong about it, he might at least criticise the comments of Michael Palin (his one time collaborator on the assault of values) basically arguing the necessity of comedy pushing the boundaries.

    As with Dalrymple’s observation that a journalists praise of A.J Ayer’s being unconventional, without stating what that unconventionality consisted of, I think we can safely assume moral boundaries, what’s left of them, are merely boundaries to be pushed.

    Although admittedly I don’t remember his exact words, he may not have actually said ‘boundaries’.

    I hope Dalrymple doesn’t read this… too much, could have been said in far fewer words.

  2. Gavin

    I like Ed West’s articles a lot and corresponded with him a little recently, when he told me he was actually at the evening Dalrymple had with Mr Hannan last year.

    But I must say I find the comments more interesting that his articles of late. In there people are saying exactly what they think and it helps one get a measure of public feeling in the UK. If you go to this link:

    you can order the comments by Best Rated. Some are very interesting. Cleese gets due criticism for being yet another liberal who brought about the state for London then is fleeing to somewhere which is traditionally English (see also Billy Bragg). Others do not have the luxury of being able to do that.

    I witnessed a gun incident in my part of London the night before last (a gang of 10 black youths involved). Seven police vehicles turned up, about 40 police including SWAT. There was a stabbing last night, in Camden Town this time. I hope my flat sells soon!

  3. Michael F. Shaughnessy

    I love England and I love London. But the London I first visited in 1976 is no longer the same London today–sadly. Having been to Bath and Brighton, I agree with John Cleese. Tower Bridge and Houses of Parliament are still there, and Westminster Abbey still stands strong with St. Paul’s and the British Museum and St. Martin’s in the Fields- but the people have changed and the place has become a polyglot boarding house.

  4. Seymour Clufley

    It’s often when high-brow celebrities speak about society at large that you realise how limited their outlooks actually are (and how intelligent they’re not). Cleese seems to be pretty much a typical middle-class guilt tripper, making a career out of rubbishing civilisation, and taking 40 years to see that something has been lost. Does he blame himself? Who knows…

    I’ve heard him say of Basil Fawlty that “the key” to the character is his snobbery. But now he himself is belatedly realising the need for snobbery (of a kind). Well, pity it took him so long. How many thousands of Brits could have told him this in 1975 only to get laughed at by the Monty Python crew and their armies of fans?

    More evidence…

    Apparently he refused to give a speech at his old (private) school until it turned comprehensive.

    The somehow legendary “class” sketch he did with Ronnie Corbett… as short-sighted as it was self-congratulating.

    His own website boasts that he was the first person to use the F-word in a British memorial service.

    He declined a CBE, because they are “silly”.

    On the Fawlty Towers DVD he says that “of course” Basil should have paid for Manuel’s English lessons – it apparently not being the responsibility of newcomers to integrate themselves. And now he bemoans the loss of England?

    As people have been saying on the Telegraph blog, soon enough Bath will be full of immigrants too. By that time Cleese will be gone: it’ll be my generation that have to scramble madly in the countryside looking for somewhere that doesn’t have a mosque.

  5. Gavin

    True enough. Funny comment on the Telegraph where the person said that if the people of Bath see him coming they should turn him away if they don’t want to end up like London. The thing is, even if he had changed his liberal ways this announcement should be accompanied by some repentance over what has been done to the UK.

    By the way, I saw him not long ago – he was sitting in the luxury lounge of this place with his partner 31 years his junior:

    I guess for a Liberal Democrat who can afford a £3,300 taxi fare this is not too expensive. The place was greatly lacking in enrichment though as far as I could see – just like Bath (for now).

  6. Jackson

    Hi, thanks for the link… If I recall correctly the reference to Ayer was in the introduction to Our Culture…

    I should perhaps point out that the comments of Palin were from the Andrew Marr Show of about two weeks back.

    Rant alert! Also on the AMS was some middle aged female TV personality. She was recalling the hospitality of Brazil (Palin has travels in Brazil coming up), apparently a ‘big’ women on the beach in a ‘candy floss’ bikini taught her the Lambada. Okay big deal!
    Just that it reminded me, I was part of a group activity not so long back, most of the group consisted of ‘upwardly mobile’ city folk. I was talking to a young professional woman, a lawyer, she was quite agreeable, pleasant even, in this conversation – I was discussing among other things the psychology, as I understood it, behind religious extremism.

    However, the day before that, I was walking just ahead of her/with her and at least one other young (Oxbridge educated) woman, they were talking about their travels (when didn’t they?)

    Of South America the lawyer was giving travel advice, she mentioned how the female dress sizes tended to be really small, and how there’s a real problem with eating disorders, body image – she managed to affect moral concern before seamlessly continuing to say something like, ‘but don’t worry, they really like western women’ you know, even if a bit on the big size (who could have argued?).
    She was discussing how the male ‘guides’ were basically prostitutes, and apparently very fit, and dance extremely well. That I was probably listening was of apparently no reason to be coy.
    That the main objective of such holidays was to be with these prostitutes could have hardly been more obvious; advice like ‘Always remember protection!’ and discussing how one weak woman she knew actually fell in love, and got married only to be used to gain citizenship to UK. The tone was casual, matter of fact… I’d say cynical.

    People focus on the breezy sunny side, of exotic erotic adventures; never mind Mead, I blame Joseph Banks (how could I?).

    Sydney Parkinson noted disapprovingly in his journal: ‘Most of our ship’s
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    they occasionally cohabited; an indulgence which even many reputed
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  7. Jackson

    ‘dental floss’ I think I mean… oh, what would I know? Oh dear… candy floss, dental floss… something Freudian about that.

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