TV is the new Tory battleground

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23 September 2021

By Michaela Makusha

The Secretary of State for Media and Data John Whittingdale has thrown out another dog whistle in the Conservative Party’s culture war.

He is helping draw up plans which will see the UK’s public service broadcasters have a legal requirement to produce “distinctively British” programmes.

Mr Whittingdale admitted that Britishness is a “difficult concept to measure. We will talk to Ofcom about how to make the obligation of Britishness work.”

Slightly Orwellian if you ask me.

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Examples of ‘Britishness’ and shows that reflect British values in the plans include shows such as Only Fools and Horses, Doctor Who, Downtown Abbey, Derry Girls and The Great British Bake Off.

Yes, Derry Girls. A show set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, in which every episode features at least three moments where multiple war crimes committed by the English are pointed out.

And Doctor Who, a show about an alien, presents a culturally diverse Britain and points out the historical and future mistakes/crimes of the British and human race as a whole.

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What you will also notice about these shows is that they also focus on white people. Downton Abbey is a show about white aristocrats and their white servants set when Britain still had an empire. Shows like this, whilst entertaining, aren’t realistic, and are more propaganda than anything.

They portray an idyllic version of Britain where we are all tea-drinking toffs with posh accents wandering about country estates.

It makes sense when you remember the Tory Party is largely made up of posh, middle-aged white men.

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This is probably why Mr Whittaker didn’t consider shows such as I May Destroy You, It’s a Sin, Luther, and Small Axe, which portray a realistic Britain. A Britain which is diverse made up of multiple social classes systemically failing marginalised people for years.

This is simultaneously an important and an unimportant story. It’s part of the Tory Party’s unimportant culture war to divide the country and pander to certain voters.

It is also to try and distract from the mess that Brexit has caused and pretend that we need to focus on reclaiming ‘Britishness’ in the media.


However, this reveals how the Conservatives see Britishness or, rather, Englishness.

For them, it means whiteness and memories of when they ruled the world; ethnic minorities who are obedient; invisible LGBTQ people and working-class people. That way they can project a false image of Britain to the rest of the world and not remedy the lasting impact of these problems at home.

If Derry Girls is an example of Britishness and British values, then sure, let’s produce more shows like it. As in let’s have more shows where we all get to bash the English Government and their actions. That is true Britishness.

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