The Wurzels, You Bet! on the telly or paparazzi upskirters: Which Britain do you want back?

MALCONTENTS often say they want their country back, but the question is: which one? There are plenty of Britains to choose from, if you don’t get bogged down in inconvenient reality.

The groovy 1970s

This is the Britain of Raleigh Choppers, Dancing Queen and the loveable Smash robots. It’s not quite clear how you’d leave out all the bad bits like Fred West, The Wurzels and the omnipresent dogshit every 70s child remembers scraping off their shoes with a stick, but you’d definitely need to or you’d be back in the real 1970s and no one wants that. The pubs closing at three would be too much for today’s pampered Brits, never mind the IRA.

The stiff upper lip 1940s

Worshipped by people born post-1950, this is essentially an edited, highly-romanticised version of the actual 1940s. People were stoic, young people were high on spinning tops not skunk, and you had enjoyably dramatic conversations with neighbours, eg. ‘Looks like Southampton caught a packet last night from Jerry.’ Goering was right about that, at least. If you’d enjoy this reality is entirely dependent on whether you survive the war and live happily ever after with Virginia McKenna, or get your head blown off by a piece of shrapnel. Probably best not to take the risk and stream The Cruel Sea instead.

Rave Britain

People who lived for raves would happily spend eternity in a bleepy, drugged-up dancetopia, although your entire sex life would have to be conducted in a portaloo. The other problem is there’s an obvious conflict with traditionalists who want a drug-free 1940s or 1950s Britain. Maybe they could compromise, and a friendly policeman could give you a clip round the ear for having a bag of Mitsubishis.

The forgettable noughties

‘The noughties’ suggests some sort of saucy Carry On revival, but thousands dying horrifically in 9/11 soon put an end to that notion. However for perverts the noughties did see the rise of upskirting celebrities. There was a grim, practically gynaecological fascination with Britney Spears’ muff, but mercifully it was mostly just pictures of Sarah Harding’s pants. Culturally everything looks a bit dated now, like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and f**king Twilight, so frankly there’s not much point going back unless you’re unhealthily fixated on Liv Tyler with pointy ears.

Imperial Britain

This version of Britain has its fans, who usually leave out the evil bits like the Opium Wars and the Amritsar Massacre, and focus on Waterloo, Queen Victoria and sensible Florence Nightingale. However Brits are crap at history, so a fair bit of steampunk has probably found its way in by now, and it’s widely believed Allan Quatermain won the Battle of Trafalgar in The Nautilus.

The TV 1980s

Nostalgia for the 80s focuses disproportionately on TV, which is fair enough because no one’s eager to get their ribs broken by a charging police horse, or if you were a kid, spend 20 hours typing in a computer game in BASIC that could never be made to work. So 1980s TV Britain would entirely consist of watching fondly-remembered old shows like JigsawYou Bet! and Bergerac. It’s not clear how this society would function, as you can’t have an economy entirely based on TV detectives, game shows and sinister mime artists. Probably.

The white monoculture of the 1950s

This is a favourite destination for racists, but they downplay the racism so you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just Britain with less traffic and more hats. However, there are certain aspects of 1950s life we’re surprisingly close to returning to. Due to inflation people have already had to effectively ration essentials like Lurpak. Maybe an orange will soon become an exotic treat thanks to Brexit and the cost-of-living crisis? We can only hope. And it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the spineless BBC will bring back The Black and White Minstrel Show to keep the culture war twats happy.

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