Before the opening of the Olympics, the Daily Mail ran a series of stories on those athletes it called “plastic Brits“. By this ugly term, it referred to those in the British team who were born overseas and later acquired citizenship. Under the guise of reporting a “controversy” (controversial to no one but itself), the paper complained that “11 per cent of the 542-strong squad were born abroad.” Thus, as Sunder Katwala noted previously, competitors such as Mo Farah (born in Somalia) and Bradley Wiggins (born in Belgium) were, according to the Mail’s definition, “plastic Brits”.
Now many of those same Brits have triumphed, my guess is that the Mail will quietly forget that it once disparaged them as “plastic”. It may even use this moment to celebrate the successful multiethnic society it normally does so much to hinder (one witnesses a similar volte-face when overt racists such as Nick Griffin, whose party swims in the swamp of hatred created by the right-wing press, appear on Question Time or other public platforms and are noisily denounced by the Mail and the Daily Express).
Should anyone revive the “plastic Brit” charge, however, here is how Mo Farah, his voice denoting impatience, responded last night when asked by one journalist if he would have preferred to run as a Somali.
Look mate, this is my country.
This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud. I’m very proud.
Was the Mail listening?