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August 05, 2012


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I'm sorry, it proves neither of these things. What it proves is that Norman 'The Enforcer' Tebbit was the creepy authoritarian racist that his public image made him out to be (there are reasons that he was always portrayed as a skinhead thug or sinister, truncheon-wielding leather-clad secret policeman in British media of the time). Contemporary reaction to his 'cricket test' speech was, to say the least, unfavourable. All sides of the UK's political spectrum and society were united by anger, but mostly by contempt.

There are two important aspects of the 'cricket test' I suspect you may be missing. As a sport, cricket is of only low popularity in the UK (our national game is soccer) and is mostly watched or, more often, listened to on the radio, by the middle class. However, despite its low popularity, cricket, particularly cricket on the village green, or the First Test at Lords* enjoys a place in the symbolism of English (nb English, not British, the other nations of the UK don't play cricket) culture probably something akin to idealised fantasy small town USA or Thanksgiving in US culture.

The second thing is that cricket is wildly popular in the West Indies, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (South Africa, Australia and New Zealand too)**. The West Indies, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are the original lands of the UK's main established immigrant communities and among the main competitors in cricket. What the 'cricket test' is actually asking is, 'Is your loyalty to the new country you live in and its culture or to the old?'. It's the old 'divided loyalties' stuff loved as an excuse by bigots the world over.

The UK's experience with mass immigration and multiculturalism has certainly not been without its problems, many of which are ongoing, but on the whole the record has been far better than might have been expected at the outset, and considerably better than many comparable First World democracies, including the US. We did of course deserve to lose the empire, because it was stolen property and we had to give it back.

* Tests are international matches between cricketing countries. There is a first, second, third etc Test yearly. Lords is the most famous and hallowed cricket ground in the world, it's in north London.

** they are all really good at it too, and usually, but not always, kick England's arse


Thank you!

I am curious as to why you wrote, "considerably better [than] the U.S." Could you elucidate?

I have to add ... my in-laws are Trinidadian, and I've spent a lot of time on the island. I know all about the Windies! :)

Yeah, I didn't quite get that line, myself. Also, I kind of assumed that the purpose of the test was to pose the question "Is your loyalty to the new country you live in and its culture or to the old?", though I'm heartened to discover that it wasn't a popular one to ask.

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