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  • British identity

    by Sunny
    27th July, 2007 at 4:11 pm    

    I’ve written a short article for the Our Kingdom blog on the loss of ‘British identity’, blaming multiculturalism, and my solution to the problem.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Civil liberties,Race politics

    37 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Rumbold — on 27th July, 2007 at 4:34 pm  

      Create a British identity by destroying 800+ years of tradition? That sounds very New Labour to me Sunny, you can do better than that.

    2. sid — on 27th July, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

      You have a solution to the problem?

    3. Don — on 27th July, 2007 at 4:49 pm  

      There’s a problem?

    4. Rumbold — on 27th July, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

      “You have a solution to the problem?”

      In light of our earlier discussions I hesistate to call for an American invasion of the UK, but that might be our only option.

      Laws mean little unless they have evolved over time and are interwoven with the country’s history. Concentrate on reducing Saudi money in flooding into education, liberalising the labour market in order to provide more jobs, solving the housing crisis in order to reduce tensions, and throwing out those who call for violence. British identity is something etheral, and attempts to capture or define it will fail. We are not the French or Americans; we do not like sudden changes.

    5. Soso — on 27th July, 2007 at 5:35 pm  

      Sunny, the adoption of a constitution by Canada has proved a disaster.

      Rather than reinforcing a commitment to common values, it has created a patchwork of conflicting legal opinions, a confused moral atmosphere and has contributed to the supression of free speech.

      That said, I was an enthusiastic supporter of it back in the early 80s

      Everyone walks on eggshells for fear of inadvertenly offending someone, somewhere.

      It has benefited one group, though.

      Yep, the lawyers have made a mint off of it.

      Sorry for not having something more positive and constructive to off.

    6. douglas clark — on 27th July, 2007 at 8:30 pm  


      I doubt British values, if they exist at all, can be quantified. There is patriotism, right enough. And when it is good, it is very, very good.

      And when it is bad, it is horrible:

      Or there are ‘traditional British values’ such as:


      Or this:


      Yet all those folk, and their contradictions, group a might agree with group b but see group d as beyond the pale, all exist, all see themselves as British. In fact, they all are British.

      I thought you were onto something when you said that each of us was an individual, some with strong religious sentiments, or political sentiments or whatever. It seemed to recognise our diversity as people, not groups. People are, IMVHO, unique, each and every one of them.

      Whether we British have much in common, beyond mutual tolerance, is very much a moot question for me.

      So, I do not think that there is a decent definition of ‘Britishness’ that can be agreed to. Yours and mine might be miles apart….

      And neither right.

    7. Puffy — on 27th July, 2007 at 8:35 pm  

      “This country has never had a homogeneous common culture across all strata of society, except that bit of popular culture driven by the mass media.”

      What do you mean by that? Of course every country has regional and class variations, but there defintely WAS homogenous English/ British culture 50 years ago and it remains among the over Sixties. Sure there were minorities, but they were definitely that: minorities.

      I also challenge the idea that it has even disappeared. I mean, I KNOW the liberal elite have tried their very hardest to destroy everything good about this country…

      “In left-wing circles it is always always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box.” George Orwell.

      …but despite their hardest efforts most British people appear to feel (and act) pretty British, at least from my limited fieldwork (ie black and Asian girlfriends).

      However, I have to admit Labour’s open-door policy of the past decade may be beginning to bear fruit and by weight of numbers alone they may finally be able to snuff out that mix of bloody-mindedness, politeness and respect for fairness and the law (eroded incidentally by that master-stroke the “human rights” act) that have always characterised the British and the self-hating left have sought to destroy.


    8. Puffy — on 27th July, 2007 at 8:37 pm  


    9. Bert Preast — on 27th July, 2007 at 8:46 pm  

      British identity probably changes faster than any other identity in the world. Surely a written constitution is therefore going against everything Britishness stands for?

    10. douglas clark — on 27th July, 2007 at 9:10 pm  


      You are a bright guy. You define ‘Britishness’. Personally, I haven’t a clue…..

    11. Bert Preast — on 28th July, 2007 at 12:25 am  

      I’m not a bright guy. I’m an alcoholic white van man.

      Seems a fair definition to me.

    12. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2007 at 12:44 am  


      Alcoholic white van drivers. I like it. And you sir, are not just a bright guy. you are a freaking genius.

      Think that is as good as it gets for defining ‘Britishness’

    13. Bert Preast — on 28th July, 2007 at 12:47 am  

      I don’t deal at all well with flattery I’m afraid. Someone abuse me. ZinZin? Anas? Dude? Random? Help me here.

    14. douglas clark — on 28th July, 2007 at 1:20 am  


      It’s now 1:19. Seems you’ll just have to accept it. It’s a bugger, I know. But genius will out…

    15. Clairwil — on 28th July, 2007 at 1:23 am  

      ‘There’s no sense trying to instill a sense of Britishness in immigrant populations when the indigenous populations feel palpably more English, Scottish or Welsh.’ (comment from Our Kingdom blog)

      I cannot offer any analysis as to whether this reflects the feelings of rest of the population but from my own perspective I never identify myself as ‘British’ other than my legal status. I regard myself as Scottish, I don’t see any reason why immigrant Scots should be encouraged to identify with something that I wouldn’t.

    16. Clairwil — on 28th July, 2007 at 1:24 am  

      Oh Bert,
      Didn’t see you there. I’m afraid I’m not going to insult you either. I’m a bit of a fan.

    17. soru — on 28th July, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

      I’m all for a written definition of Britishness, providing we write it on the back of a fag packet, then lose it in the pub while watching the Sky.

      @Bert: Your name is based on a crude sexual spoonerism, and you rarely use any proper long words or provide references to back your arguments.

      Will that do?

    18. Bert Preast — on 28th July, 2007 at 5:44 pm  

      Thank ‘ee very much, Soru. You make me sound like a right pukkah Englishman.

    19. Muhamad — on 28th July, 2007 at 6:48 pm  

      I live in the country, and I insist on being described as an Englishman, just to piss off all the hillybilly honkies. :-)

    20. sonia — on 28th July, 2007 at 8:00 pm  

      very interesting to follow this discussion. good points from douglas rumbold, and clairwil.

      should be interesting to see if this sort of thing will create more of a divide. ( sod’s law being what it is - heh)


      i don’t know why you shouldn’t be described as an Englishman Muhammad, if you feel able to call yourself British - why shouldn’t you be an Englishman? and do you know if the ‘hillbillies’ are pissed off? ( very nice broad categorisation from yourself - i see at least you’re not reciprocating on the broad brush strokes approach yourself) I can’t see how if “English” is meant to denote an ethnicity - why the same can’t apply to “British”. Yes i hear Sunny is trying to encourage people to ‘re-appropriate’ the British label - but the same could be argued for any of the other English/Scottish/Welsh/Irish labels..?

    21. sonia — on 28th July, 2007 at 8:20 pm  

      Sunny I must say I find it very strange that you think a piece of paper will change anything. Is your point is rather that in the process of agreeing the Constitution this will bring everyone together in a warm cuddly ‘aw..look at this..we have these particular political values!’ we do have something in common - look there it is - its the Constitution we wrote proudly together! ?

      is that the idea? Perhaps if you actually provided an analysis - it would help people get their thinking hats on about what you said. I’m afraid your post was rather short and starting to sound a bit politician-y ( are you practising) - and doesn’t explain at all how you really a constitution answers these very complex questions. Political values -yes - do you mean democracy? What don’t we know - that we will - with the Constitution in place? Don’t we know explicitly what our political values are? Perhaps we need a Press Release rather than a Constitution?

      are you also suggesting the political apathy problem could be addressed through this writing of the constitution?

      I’m pretty sure if you put this idea forward - you need to explain your model in some depth. I mean - why should a Constitution in itself foster a sense of social and civic duty? We could parrot on about the institution of Common Law, and how that is ‘British’ - and how it gives you these rights, and expects you to be a Good Citizen and all the same kind of fanfare you hear the Americans giving their Constitution.

      And also - you mention other countries - can you give us some idea of how you see the national identity playing out in Canada and New Zealand? HAs the constitution solved the Quebecois issue? Perhaps it has. Oh and Soso’s comment was interesting - what did you think about that?

      What I find really worrying though Sunny - is the idea that you really do seem to think that complex social problems have simple ‘press that button, write that document, pass that law’ solutions. Here, you are displaying good potential for being a future politician. It is also very disappointing. \

      Are we to never get away from a real consideration of problems -and acknowledgement that there may be no short-term solutions? and be stuck with - “look at me!i’ve got the solution” - type of thinking that politics seems to engender?

    22. Bert Preast — on 28th July, 2007 at 9:20 pm  

      Muhamad wrote: “I live in the country, and I insist on being described as an Englishman, just to piss off all the hillybilly honkies”

      If by that you mean the Scots, Welsh and Irish you are indeed a true Englishman sir.

    23. Muhamad — on 28th July, 2007 at 9:39 pm  

      Dear Sonia,
      Thanks for correcting a dyslexic’s English. Yes, I ought to have written “hillbillies”.
      FYI Sonia, I’ve never ever described myself as “British”, and I don’t intend to do so. I think it’s a cop out for those who are reluctant to adjust to life in our country.
      It’s been several years since my move to the country, and I’ve encountered people in my local boucherie and the gym asking me if I’m only visiting. :-) People always talk about “your culture”. It’s not the 50′s, the 60′s, or even the 70′s, I’m not having some dumbfuck make me feel like an alien in my own goddamn country. :-)
      I’m glad you like my broad categorisation. The hillbilly mother of my child loves me for it. :-)

      As someone with somewhat rudimentary understanding of science, I think “racial” and “ethnic” identities are equally shit. As a father, I refuse to reduce my child to some idiot’s idee fixe.

      Thara, “Sylhetis” like the “Punjabis” are gorgeous people. Sylheti women have a certain I-don’t-know-what about them. :-)

      all I need is the air
      that I breathe
      and to love

    24. Muhamad — on 28th July, 2007 at 9:54 pm  

      approximately 2 million people marching in London wasn’t anything to do with political apathy, and it certainly isn’t now, it’s just that people realise what thick-skinned scroungers those politicians are. Recently, I asked Tariq Ali, on his book promoting visit to the southwest, whether he felt there’s something of national apathy at the moment. He replied, “You’ve been in the country for too long!” :-)

      Pert Breast, they are the autochthonous people of this land, aren’t they?

    25. Bert Preast — on 28th July, 2007 at 9:55 pm  


      Sorry matey, I don’t do big words. They’re too un-English.

    26. douglas clark — on 29th July, 2007 at 1:35 am  

      “have never read Sid or Sonia bashing whole ethnic groups. They might criticize individuals, but do not go in for that sort of stereotyping you accuse them of. I am afraid that you are mistaken.”

      Well, I’ve never seen it either. Produce evidence, young Thara…

      Oops, you can’t.

    27. Don — on 29th July, 2007 at 12:23 pm  


      Someone here with a surplus of vowels, I think.

    28. Sunny — on 29th July, 2007 at 1:39 pm  

      Alright Thara, enough of the trolling now. Please stick to the topic instead of having a go at others.

      I’ve deleted all of Thara’s messages and he/she is subsequently banned for posting personal information about other people. All further messages from that person will be deleted.

    29. El Cid — on 29th July, 2007 at 2:03 pm  


    30. Vikrant — on 29th July, 2007 at 3:47 pm  

      Now i am British-Indian-Maratha-Rajasthani Yank… my 5 identities.. one of a kind.

    31. Muhamad — on 29th July, 2007 at 8:12 pm  

      I’ve never heard you speak anything in Sylheti. How come?

    32. Muhamad — on 29th July, 2007 at 8:22 pm  

      Pert Breast,
      So, don’t do big words? Well, you wouldn’t get far with our citizenship test, and most likely Gordon Brown and his neocon chums would repatriate you to wherever you come from.

      I’d recommend that our constitution states a monthly citizenship test to keep us all in check, on our toes. A heavy penalty, and ostracising, of those who fail to live up to our nazional vitality.
      What say you Sunny?
      The problem with our country is that there isn’t much militaristic discipline.

    33. Katy — on 29th July, 2007 at 9:19 pm  

      I’ve just deleted the remainder of Thara’s comments and any that respond to what s/he is saying. This is a discussion thread, not a platform for personal vendettas against particular writers.

      Any further comments from Thara will be deleted too, Picklers, as s/he is now banned, so if I were you I’d save my energy and refrain from responding.

      And now… I return to my butternut squash risotto. Butternut squash: the king of vegetables.

    34. sid — on 29th July, 2007 at 10:32 pm  

      I agree. I had a butternut squash curry accompanied by stir fried chicken in Thai green curry sauce with rice. Good for the Constitution.

    35. Avi "Buffoon" Cohen — on 30th July, 2007 at 2:11 am  

      Many Asians Do Not Feel British

    36. Kulvinder — on 30th July, 2007 at 3:00 am  

      Given the times we live in saying that 62% do is quite surprising in my opinion.

      Making an issue about others not ‘feeling’ something that is inherently undefinable is obviously idiotic. I think the issue of social exclusion generally is more important, and trying to deal with that by proxy via nationalism is insane.

      Its more critical to individually deal with why a ‘white’ person living in Scotland or a ‘brown’ person living in England feel like outsiders than it is to force the union flag down their throats.

      Now im not going to be my usual condescending self to those who ask ‘why don’t you feel British’? because as it was recently pointed out to me the question may be meaningless but the underlying sentiment is sincere. What they’re asking is

      ‘why do you feel disconnected to me? why do you feel different?’

      the desire to be empathetic is there its just unfortunately expressed in a way that doesn’t really offer any insight.

      The point im trying to make is i couldn’t care less whether anyone ‘feels’ British or Austro-Hungarian or whatever, im much more interested in what makes them feel cut-off to whats around them. And from that whether they feel ‘excluded’ to the point its harmful to them or anyone else. Only in that way can you actually deal with what the fundamental problem is - the alternative is to paper over the cracks with flag-waving.

      To give an analogy its meaningless to make students at a particular school ‘feel’ that school. There could well be problems with different groups of students not getting along and dealing with those issues is more important than getting them to collectively sing an anthem.

    37. Avi "Buffoon" Cohen — on 30th July, 2007 at 7:39 am  

      Well it is a bit like here isn’t it but on a grander scale.

      You have the people who view themselves as Centre or Centre Left and as forward thinking. They look down upon people who disagree points with them and hence those feel excluded and different. Anything you say is labelled as useless.

      Soon people are labelled and away you go - the gang mentality has started. People gang up on other people, that is what Brisithsness is supposed to be, we are better than you, have better values than you, are more advanced than you, we know you want to be like us so why won’t you hurry up and do it.

      On a broader scale this is a vote winner.

      Marginalising people, not listening to them and then saying they need to engage was classic Blairism. The Blair years are defined by spin, presentationa nd not listenting to people and doing what he wanted. Then the press wonder why people feel detached. It is because of the environment created where a government won’t listen.

      People don’t feel part of a wider society because:

      1. They are made to feel different
      2. They are under-represented
      3. The Centre and Right aided and abetted by the neo-cons make people feel different.
      4. The media wade in with demonising stories
      5. Give voice to extremists and then say the majority are like that

      Soon you have people detached from general society who feel they have no belonging or sense or belonging to a thing which is undefinable.

      Everywhere ethnic people go they have to fill out forms saying what ethnicity they are and then the Beeb do a survey and publish “Shock Horror” Asians don’t feel British. But we are ready keep telling they are not by askign their ethnic grouping.

      Britishness is something along the lines of drinking German/Danish Beer, eating Indian/Italian/Chinese food, driving a Japanese/European/American Car, going on holiday to Spain, Turkey or Greece, reading an Australians Newspaper and opinions and then saying you are British.

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