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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Identity: Who are we?
Breakfast's series on British identity
Tune in tomorrow for a "Breakfast Special"
We all have an idea of what it means to be British and how you define Britishness, but do we really have any common traits which mark us out as British?

All this week on Breakfast we've been exploring our identity and finding out what you think

On Friday we returned to the British Museum for another special programme looking back at the views we've heard, discussing all the issues raised and revealing the results of our poll.

One result from the ICM survey from Monday showed an interesting result from the West Midlands: almost half of people in that area who responded to our survey said that they thought new cultures have undermined the traditional British way of life. That was a significantly higher result than other parts of the country.

We sent BBC correspondent Barnie Choudhury to Wolverhampton to investigate. You can click on the link below to see his report.

Earlier on Breakfast, we heard the views of Blackpool Barber shop owner, Fay Haynes,

I don't think of myself as European

And of course you can keep up to date with our coverage from this week, here on the website.

Wednesday's highlights

One of the questions in our opinion poll asked which of the following is Britain's most important role in the world?

  • 26% of you said it was to offer financial help to poorer countries
  • 25% said intervening and peacekeeping in the world's trouble spots was our most important role
  • 20% said keeping ourselves to ourselves and putting Britain first was considered more important
  • 16% said being at the heart of Europe was our most important role
  • 7% said maintaining our special relationship with America was important

    We featured two profile films:

    We heard from Daddy Ernie, a record shop owner from London and from a florist Fiona Fallows.

    And we talked to Baroness Shirley Williams, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, and to John Redwood, who became Shadow Secretary of State for Deregulation in Michael Howard's reshuffle last week.

    Dame Shirley Williams
    "Results are striking."

    Dame Shirley Williams said the results were striking, and showed we were not isolationist, but pragmatic and we were more specific in what we wanted.

    John Redwood said the poll results showed how sensible we were, and as the fourth power in the world - we are capable of doing the things we want.

    Tuesday's highlights

    British Identity
    A nation of shopkeepers?

    There's an old saying which says that 'Britain is a nation of shopkeepers' so Breakfast decided to speak to Kevin Rowley, a cobbler from London and Muhammad Ali, who runs a fish and chip shop in Glasgow.

    We asked them for their views on Britishness.

    We also looked at another of the questions from our poll which asked which institution best represents Britain. The response from the poll was: The royal family 33%, the armed forces 19%, the BBC 17%, parliament 14% and the NHS 12%.

    We discussed this with the Reverend Richenda Leigh and Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas.

    Breakfast's ICM Poll

    We've commissioned a poll from ICM which examines attitudes to Britishness. The findings are as follows:

  • Are you proud to be British?
    83% proud
    4% not proud

  • Do new cultures undermine tradition?
    48% of those surveyed said they didn't
    34% agreed new cultures did undermine our traditions

  • 76% of you agreed that Britain should change to be part of the modern World.

  • Is Britain changing too quickly?
    47% said yes, the UK is changing too quickly
    41% said no, they were happy with the pace of change.

    We've also set up a separate online vote for Breakfast viewers who also use our website - full details below.

    Monday 13 September

    On today's programme...

    What you told Breakfast
    'British' means a society virtuous in truth, honour and gentleness.
    Ken, Sheffield

  • We heard from the BBC's Home Editor, Mark Easton.

    Mark said the survey is dynamite, it shows foreigners are a real issue. He thought there's a huge amount of tolerance and a recognition that Britain needs to adapt to a changing culture.

  • We discussed the British identity and nostalgia with one of the curators from the British Museum, JD Hill and the historian Lucy Moore.

    JD Hill and Lucy Moore
    JD Hill and Lucy Moore talk about Britain's heritage

    JD Hill told us the British Museum is a national, not nationalist repository. He said the Museum tells a story of Britain's past and is not made up of acquired "booty."

  • We spoke to Tony Woodley, the General Secretary of the Transport and General trade union about whether a "Buy British" campaign would make any difference to our spending?

    Tony Woodley said the Government needs to stamp out "corporate greed" and encourage British companies to use British workers.

  • We talked to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

    Gordon Brown
    "Our values include civic duty, we have over half a million charities."

    He said we should look forward with pride and confidence. He told us our values are liberty, fair play, tolerance, civic duty, opportunity, citizenship. He also said globalisation is made for Britain, as we are outward looking.

  • We persuaded two Britons from very different backgrounds to swap 'identities'. You can see what happens when a British/Asian man who runs a catering business in Leicester changes places with a landowner from Sussex.

  • We talked to Jonathan Freedland, columnist, for The Guardian and Melanie Philips, who writes for the Daily Mail.

    Jonathan Freedland
    "Common values evolve."

    Jonathan told us common values evolve, and that people can rally to them, but they should not be platitudes. He spoke about America's defining values and how you can be from any part of the world and still buy into them.

    Melanie spoke about the importance of knowing our identity. She talked about the dangers of society being fragmenting and operating as "competing tribes" if we did not have common values.

  • We heard from the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips who sparked a debate about Britishness when he said multiculturalism had become divisive.

    Trevor Phillips
    "Good manners, decency, tolerance are all important values."

    He told us we are a multi ethnic society, and we have a common core of beliefs. He also said citizenship should be for everyone, and should be recognised by every eighteen year old that everyone needs to learn about our country.

  • We talked to the director Ken Loach about his latest film, "Ae Fond Kiss" which looks at division and common ground alike. The actress who plays Roisin in the film, Eva Birthistle was also be interviewed.

  • And we heard from the actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah whose play "Elmina's Kitchen" focuses on three generations of black men trying to define themselves in London's Hackney.

    So now's your chance to get involved

    Choose a word which sums up what it means to be British
    Class Obsessed
    1463 Votes Cast
    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

    Take part in our vote and tell us which word from the list of ten to the right of this page best sums up what it means to be British.

    Our vote will be 'live' until next Friday (17 September).

    We'll be announcing the details of how you voted during Friday's programme when Dermot returns to the British Museum for our second special programme.

    There will also be other feature items throughout the week on Breakfast.

    We will be updating this page on a daily basis in case you miss any items on the programme.

    Crucial to our coverage are YOUR views and we want you to answer the following question: If you think that there is a word not included in our vote (above), which describes Britishness, e-mail us with your own example. Also, what do you think best symbolises Britain? For example, a pint of lager or shopping on a Saturday

    Your E-mail address
    Where you live

    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

    Barber shop owner, Fay Haynes

    Barnie Choudhury reports from Wolverhampton

    BBC Breakfast



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