Why is CBBC trolling Brexiteers?

That Nish Kumar / Horrible Histories thing shows that Remoaners have won the culture war.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Deputy Editor


Trolling. That’s the only way to describe the decision by CBBC – that’s the kids’-TV wing of the BBC – to put out that Nish Kumar / Horrible Histories clip on Friday, as Leave voters celebrated Brexit Day. In it, Kumar – a liberal-left irritant and alleged comedian – bookends a skit from CBBC’s Horrible Histories series, in which Queen Victoria is schooled by her footman about where various bits of produce and clothing actually come from.

The clip begins with Kumar sarkily saying ‘Britain is striking out on its own and leaving Europe, goooo Britain!’, before the musical number, ‘British Things’, from a 2009 episode of Horrible Histories, begins. The song is premised on the idea that Queen Victoria has no idea that tea and sugar and cotton are not actually grown in Britain, and were acquired by Brits in less than ethical circumstances. The point presumably being to inform the young viewers of the history of slavery and colonial plunder.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but the skit is strange in a lot of other ways. As one tweeter has pointed out, the emphasis it puts on Victoria being ‘of foreign descent’ and on her husband, Prince Albert, being ‘a German’ sounds an unintentionally xenophobic note. (As if even royal immigrants can never truly become British.) Plus there is an implication here that the UK has never produced anything other than misery around the world, as if the Industrial Revolution or Magna Carta are footnotes in world history.

But what’s more strange is that CBBC felt it should weigh in on Brexit in the first place. The clip is from a nine-minute video on BBC iPlayer, in which Kumar tees up various European-related skits from Horrible Histories, intermingling them with snarky asides, all to mark Brexit Day. The clear intention is to nod to our alleged collective ignorance of our Europeanness (we’ve had German-born kings, you know!) and the folly of our departure from ‘Europe’ (even though we’ve only left the EU, which has existed since 1993).

Sure, this is all intended for kids. But that’s all the more reason to find the framing rather odd. Then, of course, there was the decision of CBBC to post the Queen Victoria bit on Twitter, a platform that is not exactly where the CBBC audience hangs out, alongside the words ‘British things… turns out there’s hardly any’. All on Brexit Day itself. Whether it was intentional or unintentional (I’m not sure which is worse), this was inevitably going to come off as a pop at us supposedly dumb, historically ignorant, Empire-apologist Brexit voters. And that’s precisely how it was received.

The BBC has not exactly covered itself in glory with its Brexit reporting. (Witness the BBC reporter vox-popping Brexiteers celebrating in Parliament Square on Friday night, asking them about why they thought it was a ‘very white crowd’.) There is nothing snowflakey about being irritated by our supposedly impartial, taxpayer-funded broadcaster routinely pouring scorn on more than half of the voting population. That even the kids’-TV department took Brexit Day as an opportunity to get some digs in shows how deep this unthinking, or perhaps unashamed, hostility to Brexit and Brexit voters runs.

But this bizarre case also tells us something about the Brexit wars in general. Namely, that while we Brexiteers won the political battle to have our vote implemented, we lost the cultural battle long ago. The narrative that Brexit is ugly and racist and driven by colonial nostalgia (against all the evidence to the contrary) was cast years back. And the doubling down of various elite Remainers in the wake of Brexit Day shows there is little reassessment going on even now. As Matthew Goodwin put it at the weekend, ‘while Leavers won the battle, Remainers could end up writing the history’. That really would be horrible.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: YouTube.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tony Benn

5th February 2020 at 11:28 am

I really don’t care that the BBC made this song, what I care about is the numerous inaccuracies in it and the fact children are being misled.

Victoria didn’t come to the throne until 1837, Great Britain abolished slavery in 1808 (before she was born) the Slavery Abolition Act came into force in 1834 and abolished slavery throughout the empire. Britain then ran the West Africa Squadron up until 1860 which freed some 160,000 slaves, not mentioning that is thoroughly dishonest.

Neil McCaughan

5th February 2020 at 11:16 am

Mr Kumar has a shovel-ready face.

Chris Dixon

4th February 2020 at 4:02 pm

Just a word of warning from over here in Ameriker. We don’t get taxed for our TVs and our “free market” news is just a skewed to the neoliberal left as the BBC. Ours is paid for by the ads purchased by global corporations. So, the programming must deliver a propaganda ROI in a addition to raw eyeballs. As least we are seeing the steady Balkanization of our news media thanks to patronized podcasts (Joe Rogan) and streaming outlets like The Young Turks.

Chris Dixon

4th February 2020 at 4:07 pm

Ha. I’ve a a loose a key on my keyboard!

Tony Benn

5th February 2020 at 11:29 am

That’s fine, people can turn off the Young Turks and their income will fall. In the UK you face a trial and imprisonment if you refuse to pay for the BBC.

Forlorn Dream

4th February 2020 at 12:57 pm

The British Brainwashing Corporation knows exactly what they’re doing when they target children with propaganda. Targeting children in this way is insidious and should be stopped immediately.
Brainwashing children today to have mindless and obedient slaves tomorrow is the hallmark of every evil organisation from the previous 100years or so.

jessica christon

4th February 2020 at 9:02 am

So todays news is about the licence fee increase. I don’t buy a licence, instead I send TV Licencing an email warning them not to contact me and they send a polite letter back saying that they will comply with my request for two years. Then I send the same email two years later when they resume contact. Remember, TVL agents have no more power than an ordinary person on the street; they can only come in to your home if you invite them, they must leave immediately when they’re asked to and you can easily formally withdraw their presumed right of access to stop them coming round in the first place. Here is the template email that I send every couple of years to ward them off, and you can also do this on behalf of others if you need to:

Dear TVL,

I do not require a television licence, as I do not receive or record live television broadcasts, nor am I watching BBC iPlayer. Despite this, I have received multiple letters from your organisation implying that I am committing a criminal offence.

Your employees, and agents acting on your behalf, may not call at my address.

This letter provides you with prior written warning that such a visit will constitute trespass and harassment, and that I am withdrawing the implied right of access to my property from your organisation and also from any agent(s) working on your behalf.

Please note that I am under no obligation to provide you with any of my details, including my name, and that since I am the legal occupier of this property I am entitled to withdraw your implied right of access.

This fact was confirmed by the BBC in June 2009 in response to FOI request RFI20090807. This response states that “TV Licensing does not legally require the name of an individual to action such a request”.

Yours sincerely,

The Legal Occupier of the following address:

Geoff Cox

4th February 2020 at 9:32 am

Well done Jessica. I haven’t had a TV (or paid a licence fee) for over 20 years. I used to do the letters to them, but now I feel it is my duty not to cooperate or comply with anything the BBC does or says. Therefore, their letter goes in the bin.

jessica christon

4th February 2020 at 10:53 am

Thanks Geoff. I think I’m getting to that stage soon too! Btw, I have great admiration for your namesake in government – an unsung hero of Brexit imo.

eli Bastenbury

4th February 2020 at 10:06 am

By stating that you ‘ formally withdraw their presumed right of access’ you allow them to take this to a magistrates court and ask for permission to gain a warrant to enter your property with the help of the police, I’d leave that part out of your e-mail imo.

jessica christon

4th February 2020 at 10:33 am

I see your point, but I’ll keep it as it is because I’ve been using it for around 10 years, and they can go to magistrates court regardless. Generally they don’t unless they’ve been threatened with violence because they’re basically opportunist, relying on scare campaigns and verbal intimidation of people who answer the door unaware that they can’t do anything without permission. They’re a legal racket.

Dan Behr

4th February 2020 at 12:46 pm

When you say with the help of the police, is it not the case that plod should only be there to intervene in the event of a beach of the peace, they shouldn’t even enter a garden unless they believe one is about to happen.

eli Bastenbury

6th February 2020 at 10:01 pm

Dan Behr to inforce the court order.

Dan Behr

14th February 2020 at 4:30 pm

They will not have a remit to enforce the court order, that will be the job of the parties involved most likely court appointed bailifs.

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