I CONFESS I have never watched an entire episode of Only Fools And Horses. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what it’s about. Is a wheeler-dealer a kind of tax dodger? A petty criminal? A morally flexible money-grabber? If so, I can understand why the Tories are still such big fans of the sitcom, all these years on.

I do know there’s a scene in which the main character, Del Boy, falls through a bar, because Stewart Lee has described it in one of his stand-up shows. I’m not sure if the comedian’s TV output counts as “distinctly British”, but he once referred to the 1989 slapstick bit as “perhaps the greatest moment in entertainment history” and we invented sarcasm, didn’t we? Us, the British.

If there was an episode of Gogglebox in which some quintessentially British people watched an episode of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, and made sarcastic comments in response to his skit about Del Boy falling through the bar being the greatest moment in entertainment history, would that be British TV squared, or British TV cubed? It’s important we work this out, because the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has grant funding to allocate.

READ MORE: 'Distinctively British' TV shows will be legally required under new Tory rules

Would that be more or less British than someone on the Great British Bake Off making a triple-tiered pavlova in the image of Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army, then exclaiming “I’m doomed!” upon accidentally dropping it fruit-down on the floor in front of a frowning Prue Leith?

“Britishness is, of course, a nebulous concept,” said the soon-to-be-ex media minister John Whittingdale, addressing the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention this week. “It means different things to each and every one of us in this room.” OK – so far, so sensible.

But then he went and spoiled it by adding: “And yet we all know it when we see it on our screens.”

Hang on a minute, If it means different things to different people, how do we all know it when we see it? Who exactly is “we”, here? I have a suspicion it doesn’t include me.

Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army and the Carry On films are “the sort of things we’ve all grown up with”, said Whittingdale, adding in a mention of Bake Off and Line of Duty in grudging recognition that some British people have been born in the past 30 years, and not instantly strapped into bouncy chairs and parked in front of UK Gold repeats in an attempt to instil in them British “values and unique identity”. But what is so very British about police drama Line of Duty, or a formulaic competitive baking show that claims to be “British” but is happy to have an entire series featuring only English contestants?

The National:

Apparently some of the ingredients for British telly are self-deprecation (as seen in Fleabag) and a “dash of restraint” (deployed for the finale of Blackadder Goes Forth). So does that mean anything involving assertive characters or visual excess doesn’t deserve to have a Union flag stamped on it? Maybe this explains why I May Destroy You – Michaela Coel’s 2020 tour de force, which has nine nominations for next week’s Emmy Awards – didn’t merit a mention. The 12-part series is unmistakably British, indeed Cole has said that “London does not inform how I tell the story, London is both the teller of the story, and the essence of the story itself.”

It’s odd that such a show didn’t merit a mention in a speech that sought to contrast distinctly British shows with the kind of generic on-demand programming that has “no real identity, no genuine sense of place”. But perhaps the “we” who are seeking to keep “British spirit and identity alive” didn’t have black British spirit and identity in mind.

There was at least some reassurance about how creative output would – or wouldn’t – be assessed. “I’m not talking about waving Union flags and a picture of the Queen in every scene,” said Whittingdale, who was standing in for the former culture secretary Oliver Dowden, but said he was looking forward to working with his replacement Nadine Dorries. Poor old Whitters can now look forward to spending more time with his television, having been given the boot from his Minister for Media and Data role.

He remarked that Troubles-era comedy Derry Girls could only have been made “here”, seamlessly slipping in a mention of the UK into what was otherwise – very clearly, repeatedly – a discussion about “Britishness”. Oh dear. No wonder he got the sack the next day with that kind of attention to detail.

We all know the UK Government are a bunch of jokers, but it’s notable that their notion of TV epitomising “Britishness” barely extends beyond comedies and soap operas. This is perhaps no surprise, given that serious British dramas tend to be made by the kind of folk Dorries calls “left-wing snowflakes” and therefore perhaps don’t quite project the best of Britain to the rest of the world, instead showing the often grim reality of life under Tory rule.

But hey, all the folk struggling to get by on reduced Universal Credit can still afford TVs, can’t they? There’ll be another Only Fools repeat on in a minute.