19 October 2013

Lovely Jubbly – Del Boy speaks for the English

View all news

The English see themselves as a nation of charming chancers battling against the odds, misusing French to sound ‘posh’ and sipping cocktails in the local boozer, but certainly no longer snobs. At least that is what our latest polling says ahead of today’s festival of Englishness, with Derek Trotter of Only Fools and Horses named as the comedy character that best represents Englishness, writes Steve Ballinger

David Jason as Del Boy, our English comedy charcter, Photo: Crystal Hendrix Hirschorn
David Jason as Del Boy, our English comedy character. Photo: Crystal Hendrix Hirschorn

With 38% of people choosing Del Boy, he beat the frustrated snobbery of Basil Fawlty and Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances to the top spot in our poll. Considering that one of the defining elements of the English character is our distinctive sense of humour – over three-quarters of people chose it as a defining characteristic – it is particularly suitable that the more antagonistic comedy characters tend to lag behind the underdog in our collective conscience. And while many of us may know a nightmare boss like Ricky Gervais’s David Brent or recognise a Vicky Pollard in their younger relatives, we do not see them as representative of our own Englishness, as just 7% selected David Brent and 9% Vicky Pollard.

Director of British Future Sunder Katwala commented on this saying:

“People know the English used to be seen as snobbish and superior but we’ve moved on now. While we laugh at the uptight Basil Fawlty and Hyacinth Bucket, we laugh with Del Boy because he’s not a snob. Del wants to do better and he wants people to see him as a success, but he doesn’t look down on anyone else.”

Hyacinth Bucket was considerably more likely to be chosen as representing Englishness by Scottish (36%) and Welsh (37%) respondents than by the English themselves (25%), but Del Trotter was the top choice among respondents in all three countries.

Mr Bean was the top choice of the under-24s, among whom he led Del Trotter by 39% to 22%, but Del Boy was the top choice across all other age groups, and the most popular choice across the north, the midlands and the south.

Comedy is one of the topics up for discussion at “England, my England: A festival of Englishness”, at the London College of Communications this Saturday. Comedians Shazia Mirza and Matt Forde will be part of a panel examining what makes the English laugh – often at themselves – and what has made our humour such a successful export over the years.

The festival also features RSC and National Theatre playwright David Edgar and former editor of The Archers Vanessa Whitburn discussing English culture; head of Labour policy review Jon Cruddas in conversation with top Conservative thinker and MP John Redwood on the question of Englishness; and “A Question of English Sport” with award-winning sportswriters Mihir Bose (BBC, Evening Standard) and Anthony Clavane (Daily Mirror).

Steve Ballinger is the director of communications at British Future.

Which of the following comedy characters best represents Englishness?

Del Trotter 39%
Basil Fawlty 29%
Hyacinth Bucket 27%
Mr Bean 20%
Alf Garnett 20%
Vicar of Dibley 18%
Miranda 13%
Tony Hancock 12%
Vicky Pollard 9%
David Brent 7%
None of these 13%

ICM interviewed 2360 adults across Great Britain, 9th – 11th October 2013.

British Future’s latest activity on Twitter