British actor Terence Stamp, who turned 77 today, has expressed misgivings about how mass immigration has changed his hometown of London, especially as it relates to language.
A West London resident who has 83 acting credits on IMDB, Stamp was nominated for an Academy Award for the title role in Billy Budd (1962), his first big screen performance. You may recall him as Supreme Chancellor Valorum in The Phantom Menace (Star Wars episode 1). He also portrayed the villainous General Zod in the 1978’s Superman and in Superman II (1980). In his prime, Stamp — considered an icon of the “swinging sixties” according to the Guardian — reportedly dated Julie Christie and Brigitte Bardot.
The actor recently acknowledged mixed feelings about multiculturalism and that English has become a foreign language in London, a development which didn’t completely receive his stamp of approval, according to the Daily Mail.
“It’s very sad how few English people there are in London now … When I grew up in East London everyone seemed to speak English, and now you can barely get by speaking our own language … It’s changed so much in such a short space of time, that God knows what London will be like in another decade or so … I do think a multicultural society can be a good thing, but when it’s at the cost of your own culture and history, then it’s gone too far and it would be very sad if London stopped being predominantly English.”
Stamp’s comments prompted a pro and con reaction on social media, with some mocking him for also mentioning that he has difficulties buying mangoes in East London, where he grew up, because none of the vendors speak English.
Separately, Haseeb Ahmed, a self-described proud British Muslim who made a viral video condemning terrorism, has suggested in an interview with the Express of London that only English speakers should be allowed to immigrate to Britain. “It frustrates me, people not speaking English. If I went to Germany, I’d learn German so I could contribute to everyday life, and it’s a shame that’s not happening here,” he said.
In recent years, the U.K. has experienced a significant influx of migrants from third-world countries as well as from Eastern Europe, the latter the result of European Union regulations that supersede Britain’s own border control laws.
The immigration issue is in part the reason why U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to go forward with a national referendum to allow voters to decide whether the country will retain its EU membership. The debate over immigration also has given rise to the populist Nigel Farage-led UK Independence Party. Ukip only won one seat in the British parliament in the May 2015 national election, but received about four million votes (the third largest vote share nationally), and finished in second place in more than 100 constituencies in the country’s fragmented, multi-party political system.
[Terence Stamp photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment]