Hugo Gye, Daily Mail (London), September 2, 2011
Mass immigration has turned London into a city that is ‘no longer English’, John Cleese claims.
The former Monty Python star says he now feels like a foreigner walking through the capital’s streets.
California-based Cleese, 71, moved to the U.S. more than two decades ago, having grown up in Somerset.
The comic was asked what he thought about British culture and the recent London riots during an interview on 7.30, a television show in Australia, where he is currently on a stand-up tour.
He replied: ‘I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain. Or, let me say this–I don’t know what’s going on in London, because London is no longer an English city.
‘That’s how we got the Olympics.
‘They said we were the most cosmopolitan city on Earth. But it doesn’t feel English.
‘I had a Californian friend come over two months ago, walk down the King’s Road and say, “Where are all the English people?”
‘I mean, I love having different cultures around. But when the parent culture kind of dissipates, you’re left thinking, “Well, what’s going on?”‘
Far-Right group the English Defence League seized on Cleese’s comments yesterday, posting a link to them on its Twitter page. A spokesman for London mayor Boris Johnson said: ‘If the King’s Road is jam-packed with foreign tourists then that is something we should celebrate.’
And former mayor Ken Livingstone–currently standing for the post again–said: ‘To stay competitive, London must be what New York is to the U.S., a global centre of business, culture and innovation, none of which can be achieved without people of all nations working and living here.’
The comedian was praised by UKIP leader Nigel Farage for articulating ‘what an increasing number of people in London are thinking’.
He added: ‘For him to make these remarks shows a tremendous strength of feeling on this matter.
‘Of course other cultures are welcome, but Mr Cleese is right to point out that it should not be at the expense of the parent culture.’
Of the eight million people who currently live in Greater London, 2.7million residents were born outside the UK, and more than 300 languages are spoken in the city.
Last year Cleese, a Liberal Democrat supporter, lamented the state of modern England, bemoaning a decline in traditional middle-class values, which he says has been replaced by ‘a yob culture’.
He is now preparing to leave the U.S., where he has been living for 21 years, revealing that his decision was partly prompted by a fall in the amount of work he is offered in the States.
The Fawlty Towers star initially moved to California in 1990.
Last year he bought an apartment near Bath so that he could be near to his new girlfriend, jewellery designer Jennifer Wade, and her family when he visited the UK.
It was seen as something of a homecoming for the star, who was born 33 miles away in Weston-super-Mare.
He said he now prefers visiting Bath than London, claiming: ‘It feels more like the England I grew up in.’
However, he says that he won’t be returning to live in Britain permanently, because it would mean paying vast amounts in extra tax on divorce payments to his third wife, Alyce Faye Eichelberger.
He lost more than half his fortune in 2009 when a judge granted Miss Eichelberger £12.5million, as well as £600,000 a year in maintenance payments for seven years.
Instead, he says he is considering buying a home in Switzerland or Monaco.