About Ingeborg van Teeseling and Jacqueline de Gier

Ingeborg van Teeseling emigrated from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, she became a historian instead. Jacqueline de Gier is a journalist and author with an allergy for pot-noodle journalism. She has written extensively on Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.

Who’s Your Daddy? The personal cost of the Brexit – Part four

Approx Reading Time-11Embracing or the ignoring where your daddy hails from is front-and-centre in the Brexit issue, evidenced by the most familiar faces.




June 15

Dear Ingeborg,

What do you think about this idea for a reality TV show? Guess my Daddy!, with the various teams chanting, “Who is your daddy? Who is your daddy?”, and those who know, or think they know, cry, “That’s your daddy!!” “That’s your daddy!”

If hell hath no fury, then triumph knoweth no mercy. If the candidate tries to wriggle out of the brutal truth.

Now, why this reality show, you may ask? Don’t you have better things to do in Casa de Gier? No. We have hit rock bottom. We are now down to a oneupmanship on Britishness. No debate is complete without your lineage trumpeted, dating back to King Arthur and the Round Table or some heroic battle to ward off foreign invasion.

This “I am more British/English than you are” oneupmanship – there is considerable confusion about whether it is British or English – reminds me of a feud when I lived in Belgium. Two joke shop owners on the same street were battling it out. At first, it was funny. (Well, that is the least you may expect.) Joke shop boss A would leave laughing gas, and joke shop boss B would retaliate with stink bombs. Then they started leaving plastic turds in front of each other’s shop doors. The police intervened when the turds became real and bigger, with a stick of fireworks, until they were real horseshit.

Back to home, though, and beating the British drum is Nigel Farage, the former stockbroker who is the leader of the UK Independence Party. He is anti-EU – it is his life’s work – and anti unskilled migration, but his cause has been hijacked by “Brexiteer-in-chief” Boris Johnson and his mates. Farage’s slogan on his battle bus is, “We want our country back.”

Which country is that Mr Farage? Or should we say Heimat? What is the matter with this man? We know that his second wife Kirsten is German and from Hamburg, but we never see her in public. He himself is the child of German ancestry. His great grandfather was a dead-poor migrant from Frankfurt, who came to Britain in the 1850s for a better life. He and his wife Bina lived in damp rented rooms in the tenements of Tottenham Court Road in central London. It was sheise then, full of refugees and prostitutes, and is still rank now. But it was a good base for the gentrified and upper crust nearby.

What do we make of this? Is it shame? Does it not fit in the script? Who is your daddy? Der Farage simply refuses to discuss it. In his self-congratulatory “tell all” memoirs, Flying Free, there is no mention of these poor Germans who, like millions, had to migrate. Most went to America; others were drawn to a Britain grown prosperous on the Industrial Revolution.

If I applied some psychological bubble wrap it could underline an identity crisis, one that is collectively suffered. The interesting thing is that Donald Trump also has German and Scottish ancestry, but he flaunts it, like any good New Yorker. So does Boris. We all know his daddy. I adore his daddy, the fabulous Stanley Johnson, who is an environmentalist and who is for Britain to remain. Boris loves to boast about his multi-blooded heritage. Der Farage is a fraud.


Also on The Big Smoke

June 16

Dear Jacqueline,

What I find so interesting is that people pretend all this confusing mixing and migrating is something that humankind started five minutes ago. You were talking about Boris and I remembered watching his episode of Who do you think you are?, the show about genealogy. I looked it up on YouTube and had to laugh. He talks about himself as “a jar of honey on a supermarket shelf: the product of many countries”. And he is. His grandfather was a Turkish journalist who got in trouble and was lynched. Further back there is European aristocracy (of course), with plenty of illegitimate children and complicated French and German family lines that bring him back, in the end, to the Prince of Wales and one of his squeezes. So Boris, of all people, should know. The Australians call themselves mongrels, a mixed breed of people, with a little bit of everything. The thing with mongrels, of course, is that they are much stronger than pure breed dogs, and can survive on the smell of an oily rag.

Pure anything is so last year.

Long live the mongrels!



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