What do we want?

Prospect Magazine

What do we want?


A green and pleasant land, with fewer immigrants

Above: Britain’s favourite Britons. The Queen comes in second place, while politicians make up the bottom of the table

The typical Briton loves our countryside, National Health Service and David Attenborough, but thinks immigrants, welfare scroungers and yobs are letting Britain down.

Click chart to enlarge

Overall, YouGov’s latest survey for Prospect suggests that we are preparing for the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in a nervous, small-c conservative mood. Unlike much of the rest of Europe, our progress has been uninterrupted by revolution, invasion or occupation for some centuries. This helps to explain our reverence towards those features of our national life that suggest reassuring permanence. When people are asked to pick the best features of Britain today, three of their top four are our countryside, history and monarchy. The fourth, the NHS, is of course a more recent invention; however, as Andrew Lansley has discovered, it is now regarded with conservative veneration in the sense that politicians tamper with it at their peril.

Our present economic problems have narrowed our outlook further. Down the years, people in different ideological locations have been stirred by dreams of, variously, a low-tax society, an end to class divisions, greater tolerance, and a clean, green future. But when YouGov invited people to imagine a “British dream” (nodding with due humility to the American version), we found that these come way down the list of today’s national ambitions.

Rather, we want the flipside of our perceived current failings. We yearn for more rewards for hard work, fewer immigrants and more honest politicians, journalists and police officers. If there is a British dream, it is less about marching confidently towards Churchill’s sunlit uplands than clambering out of the hole we fear we are in.

Click chart to enlarge


No wonder politicians fill the bottom three of the list of living Britons we most admire: Tony Blair, David Cameron and Tony Benn. Only Margaret Thatcher avoids the relegation zone, coming eighth out of 15. (We derived our list from responses to an earlier survey, when we asked people, unprompted, to nominate candidates they personally admire.)

David Attenborough just pips the Queen to first place; they are followed closely by Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking. Perhaps these names offer a clue to a sub-conscious (or, in some cases, conscious) belief that Britain could be Great again if politicians got out of the way. Those of us who believe in liberal democracy should be terrified, if unsurprised, that a mere 5 per cent consider our political system to be one of best things about today’s Britain.

Those broad-brush observations conceal some notable differences:

• The over-60s feel far more strongly than the under-40s that to fulfil the “British dream” we need fewer immigrants and departure from the European Union.

• Four of our five female nominees for greatest living Briton attract more support from women than men: the Queen herself, Judi Dench, the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) and Joanna Lumley. But the fifth, Margaret Thatcher, appeals more to men than women.

• The over-60s—that is, those people who have lived throughout the Queen’s reign, tend to say that Britain has changed for the worse since she came to the throne; the under-25s disagree by a margin of three-to-one.


  1. May 29, 2012

    Matt Thompson

    Well, sadly our countryside will have to be destroyed to house this growing number of immigrants. The NHS cannot be sustained to accomodate the growing number of immigrants. Our history/heritage is being watered down all in the name of diversity. How wonderful for us.

    • June 10, 2012


      Too late baby! You need to blame your forefathers who decided to go to India 400 years back. You reap what you sow.

  2. June 1, 2012


    Yes I know Prince William is wrong but here is my Gov

    Cabinet of the United Kingdom[9][10]

    Portfolio Minister Prime Minister First Lord of the Treasury
    Minister for the Civil Service
    Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council
    Judy Dench
    First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    Mr Jeremy Clarkson
    Chancellor of the Exchequer
    Sir Richard Branson
    Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice
    Mr Gordon Ramsey
    Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equality
    Miss J K Rowling
    Secretary of State for Defence
    Roy ‘Chubby “ Brown
    Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
    Seven Hawking
    Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
    Jeremy Paxman
    Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
    Paul McCartney
    Secretary of State for Health
    Ricky Hatton
    Secretary of State for Education
    Brian Cox
    Secretary of State for Transport
    James May
    Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    David Attenborough
    Secretary of State for International Development
    Simon Cowell
    Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
    Everyone would say Bono but he is an ass Mr P. Bronson would be a better choice
    Secretary of State for Scotland
    Sean Connelly
    Secretary of State for Wales
    Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
    David Beckham
    Chief Secretary to the Treasury
    Alan Sugar
    Leader of the House of Lords
    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
    Rowan Atkinson (at least that would be a laugh)

    • June 3, 2012


      Now that would be interesting. I think Prince William would make a good leader thus a good King.

  3. June 2, 2012


    Why are us Britons’ opinions on the state of Britain’s future elicited anyway, considering we no longer have a say in it. The EU has seen to that. British politicians are mere puppets, paying lip service to unelected social climbers, posturing and preening at expensive, hot air events in Brussels. Another ten years or so and Brits will be yesterday’s news, so neatly have our young people been indoctrinated into believing mass immigration is the only way forward

  4. June 2, 2012


    The under 25s seem to like the way things are going.
    I hope (well, not really) they like the Britain they’ve inherited when they’re in their 40s.

  5. June 2, 2012

    Golam Murtaza

    Just a reasonably polite comment to those who want to get rid of us immigrants, could you please stop talking about it endlessly and go ahead. Seriously, give it your best shot. I’m dying of boredom waiting for you guys to make your move. (though maybe that’s part of your cunning plan)

  6. June 2, 2012


    See its just that sort of attitude you calling us out that makes my blood boil. Just go home before a new Hitler arises and changes world history yet again. Why stay in a country where you are not welcome?

  7. June 3, 2012


    What did those surveyed understand the word ‘immigrant’ to mean, I wonder? My guess is, sadly, that most of them would associate the word with benefits scrounging, an inability to speak English, criminal gangs, human trafficking, radical Muslim clerics, black youths rioting, Afghan and Chinese people hiding in containers, cheap Polish plumbers and Pakistani groomers of white teenage girls. All of these things are exactly what the press wants us to see, wants us to think of when we hear the word ‘immigrant’.

    • June 5, 2012


      No – immigrants are people who come here to live. Which is fine in theory, but at present over half a million are coming here each year.
      Which seems a lot don’t you think?
      Or don’t you think?

  8. June 3, 2012


    Interesting that a majority of anti-immigrant and anti-EU respondents are over 60s from the nasty party. Luckily, this product is coming to the end of its life-cycle.

    • June 5, 2012


      Well that’s fine is it not? You’ll be alive to see the country look like Hong Kong from coast to coast. That IS what you want isn’t it?
      (No logical answer expected)

  9. June 3, 2012

    John Ellis

    I’m over 60 and do not subscribe to the majority view of my age group as described in the poll. If there is a good thing about immigration (and it is, largely, a product of our businessmen’s, politicians’ and financiers desire to have globally foot-loose capital) it is that one day it might lead to a rewritten constitution. We live with a system of government that is creaking at the seams, a mish-mash of patched-on legislation that is usually passed in response to threats to the old order’s existence. That people can express the sentiments in the comments above (standfast Scythera and IANDE) is an indicator of what I would describe as a backward-looking, conservative (small c) tendency. Frankly, we need new blood to act as a catalyst to shake us out of our cozy island mentality.

    • June 5, 2012


      Why exactly? Was Britain in the early nineties somehow deficient?
      We pulled ourselves out from being the ”poor man of Europe”; to being one of the wealthiest nations in the world – before mass immigration.

      Surely there should be a very well proven case FOR immigration before such a seismic change is considered – and no-one has come up with a convincing case. Every ”reason” dreamt up by the left has proved to be lies.

      • June 5, 2012


        That has nothing to do with immigration, economics is to do with governments wait to see what happens as the immigrates get into our system and into power. All ready they work in our councils and I will give you a perfect example. I was sitting in Dubai and there was a gang of Indians at a 5 star hotel partying with hookers and champagne. Then one said to me I know you, really yes you live on Roman Road sutton coldfield. He was right so I asked how do you know? he replied we own 8 houses on that road (starting price around 1.5million per home) I was shocked I said you must have a great business, he replied while drunk I can show you how to make millions out of your tax system. My reply is I pay over 180,000 per year in tax if I could save some of that I would be happy. He then showed me how they fiddle the VAT out of millions in fraud and the guys that were with him also worked in the VAT office and the various customs offices. This trip was for him to pay them off. But don’t worry to much at least I got him and his friends 7 years in Jail ;) That’s when your iphone/ cameras / recordings come in handy. Not just Indians but also Jews are doing the same thing. look at what the
        Jews own now. Sorry to say this Hitler was right just went about it the wrong way. I do not live in the UK now and can’t ever see me going back.

  10. June 4, 2012


    Of course politicians are derided. England has a broken political system rigged by the two major parties to benefit themselves and shut challengers out. Consumer choice is good, right. The more choices the better for consumers. Would we accept a marketplace where you can have any soft drink you like as long as it is Coke or Pepsi. But when it comes to political parties the voters in most constituencies only have two choices. And if you are the minority in a safe seat for the other party your vote never counts. With more parties to chose from it will be easier to for voters to “fire” corrupt and complacent political parties and vote new parties in. With a proportional multiparty system the politicians have to be on their toes and actually listen to voter sentiments.

  11. June 6, 2012

    Philip Fry

    > All of these things are exactly what the press wants us to see, wants us to think of when we hear the word ‘immigrant’.<
    No, not the "press" – we can and do obtain our information from other sources. If these 'newcomers' where able to adapt to European culture, they would not "stand out'.

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