More on Englishness


by Sunny
8th July, 2010 at 3:04 pm    

Good to see more articles on Englishess, prompted by LabourList.

This article by Rick Muir says:

The English left needs to reclaim English identity – otherwise there is a dangerous vacuum in which all sorts of resentments over devolution, and immigration get channelled through the prism of a reactionary and belligerent Englishness. We all know the signs of this – and ippr research has found that concerns about immigration are often articulated through a sense of aggrieved English nationalism.

This is not to argue for an English parliament, but rather for the left to re-discover its radical English heritage and defend our interpretation of our national history against that of the right. It is also a call for Labour in office to give some institutional or cultural recognition to England, so we can promote the same kind of shared civic identity that has been so successfully fostered in Scotland and Wales.

And Sunder Katwala:

If we want to remain British – as I do – then we have to sustain majorities for British identity in each of the British nations. The idea that this is best done by suppressing other national identities is wrong-headed, and denies the history of Britain and Britishness too. As a civic identity for a multi-national state, Britishness was inherently plural from the start. Just as, after Thatcherism, devolution to Scotland and Wales was necessary to save the Union so is demonstrating that British identity has plenty of room for Englishness too.

The British left should have more confidence in its engagement in our national conversations. If some on the left have had an apparent allergy to expressions of national identity, that has never been universally true.

Yes to both.

I wrote about Englishness a few weeks back, and have nearly finished a follow-up article.


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  1. keith young

    RT @sunny_hundal: More on Englishness http://bit.ly/9e1AMx




  1. Julius Whacket — on 9th July, 2010 at 9:37 am  

    Sunny – I look forward to your article.

    Rick’s blog makes sense at one level. But I do wonder what the left think national identity really is; they often talk about it as something that they can ‘reclaim’, and they seem to be motivated not by interest in English identity as a good in itself but merely to stop the far right from using it. The left’s instinct is, I guess, to link identity to class, which I think is problematic.

    Rick talks about where we got it wrong on multiculturalism, that we didn’t manage the cohesion dimension as well as we might have; I think that an important part of getting that wrong was the way in which the multiculti agenda treated the already fragile ‘indigenous’ culture as second class and potentially racist. On current performance I doubt whether the left can come up with anything to rectify this; they will always see Englishness outside class as post imperial racist and so on.

  2. Fiale — on 9th July, 2010 at 11:52 am  

    Sadly Labours interest in reclaiming an English identity has nothing to do with any real desire, love or respect for England or the English. The Labour party are cynically trying to ‘reclaim’ (when did they even own or acknowledge it) just for the sake of votes and to regain power.

    There is nothing new in anything they have said, just look at their casual dismissal of an English Parliament.

  3. damon — on 10th July, 2010 at 1:43 am  

    From Rick Muir’s article

    So what do we do? The English left needs to reclaim English identity – otherwise there is a dangerous vacuum in which all sorts of resentments over devolution, and immigration get channelled through the prism of a reactionary and belligerent Englishness. We all know the signs of this – and ippr research has found that concerns about immigration are often articulated through a sense of aggrieved English nationalism.

    This is not to argue for an English parliament, but rather for the left to re-discover its radical English heritage and defend our interpretation of our national history against that of the right. It is also a call for Labour in office to give some institutional or cultural recognition to England, so we can promote the same kind of shared civic identity that has been so successfully fostered in Scotland and Wales.

    That does sound just a wee bit patronisig and calculating.
    For some reason I was reminded of this article about James Corden and his after the match world cup TV shows.

    Never mind all those droning vuvuzelas, the plastic horns that have been drowning out pretty much everything else in South Africa over the past week. The most irritating constant noise at the World Cup 2010 to date is James Corden.

    Not only is Corden boring for England on television even more often than Adrian Chiles, while redefining ‘belly laugh’ to mean building a comedy career on the fact that he has a fat one. What grates most is Corden’s appointment as the public face of the New England fan, who proclaims his love for the beautiful game, but fears and loathes the ugly dinosaurs of the traditional football crowd.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/9017/

    Just for anyone who hasn’t followed this story from Ireland which is big news in the Republic, this high profile Nigerian asylum seeker has lost her final appeal to be granted asylum.
    http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=ie7&q=Pamela+Izevbekhai+ireland&rls=com.microsoft:en-gb:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7GZAZ_en&redir_esc=&ei=R7c3TOjSMJa6jAeXwbT8Aw

    I only mention it as this case seems to have really polarised opinion – with the left (it seems) taking a drubbing. Because it was dragged out through the courts for so long, and when it became known that the woman had provided false documents in her evidence.
    Normally induvidual cases dont get such scrutiny, but in Ireland, the broken down asylum system is a hot topic. Here, I think the left deserves to take some of the flack its getting, because of the tactics it so often uses. (Which can be dishonest ones).

    The Irish government is trying to save money by ruducing the size of it’s biggest hostel, which houses 800 people in a former holiday camp, in which many people have lived for yeras during all their appeals.
    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/mosney-asylum-seekers-to-stage-sit-down-protest-124218.html

    It’s kind of connected with this Englishness question, as you have to win the arguments about things like these. What do you say when it does look like widespread abuse is taking place and that becomes common knowledge?
    Is that when your radical English (or Irish) heritage has to come to the fore?

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