English Institutions & English Nationhood

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
From Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde.

Sometimes, commentators use seemingly arbitrary events in order to complain about something they have been musing upon for some time.

Witness, for example, Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover writing an article with a title of ‘With Arsenal the latest institution to fall to foreigners… is there such a country as Britain any more?’

Quite why he has elected to delay writing a piece of this ilk until the latest proud Premier League football institution has capitulated to the bulldozer of foreign capital is unknown. Indeed, quite why he elected to wait until now to pose the question as to the existence of ‘Britain’ is also a matter of mystery; devolution, the EU and years of political mismanagement put paid to any notion of Britain as a feasible entity a long time ago.

This becomes more and more obvious every day. Today, the BBC reported on an affair that has become a microcosm of the different legal status of people in our supposedly ‘United Kingdom’. The Scottish supreme court, the Court of Session, upheld the Scottish Parliament’s passing, in 2009, of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions)(Scotland) Act: an act that in the words of the BBC,

“… allows sufferers of pleural plaques, a benign scarring of the lungs, to make compensation claims.”

The fact that this Act has been upheld, in spite of claims from insurers that it was flawed and illegal demonstrates how powerful the Scottish Parliament has become, and is important evidence of how Scotland is asserting its sovereign power. And what of similarly-afflicted citizens of England and Wales? They have no legal right whatsoever. Therefore, any claim that Britain has ceased to be a country due to the sale of its institutions is wholly inaccurate.

Glover’s initial assertion is very peculiar in the first instance. The notion of Arsenal Football Club ‘falling to foreigners’ appears to suggest that the club was, up to now, a bulwark of Englishness that has surrendered its principles to foreign invasion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Arsenal – and English football generally – has benefited hugely in the last 15 years from the innovations of its French manager, Arsene Wenger, who was the first overseas manager to win the ‘Double’ of the FA Cup and the First Division (Premier League). Arsenal were also the first club to name and field an all-foreign line-up for a football match in England. Oddly, both these facts were recorded in a Daily Mail piece six years ago. Furthermore, Arsenal now play their football in the Emirates Stadium, after signing an enormous deal with Dubai airline company Emirates.

Ultimately, the writer rather vindicates Harold Macmillan’s claim that Margaret Thatcher’s ideology – lovingly expanded by New Labour – was tantamount to ‘selling the family silver’. However, while his article is essentially confused and suffering from old fogey syndrome, Glover does make an intriguing connection between English brands – some of which could be qualified as being ‘institutions’ and Englishness itself. He asserts that

“If the football teams with which we identify are stripped of any quality of Englishness, and if more and more of our major enterprises are internationalised, our sense of nationhood is bound to diminish.”

The internationalisation of English achievements is both something that has directly undermined our sense of ourselves as a people and also our national identity. For too long, we have allowed left wing ‘thinkers’, politicians, media figures, celebrities, writers, musicians et al to encourage us to forget the fact that the English either formalised or invented everything from the suit to railways to football to the internet. This collective amnesia directly undermines our perception of both our achievements as a nation and our contribution to the world. Recognising these proud and infinitely laudable achievements and recognising the culture from which they came as being one of enterprise, ingenuity and technical excellence would certainly do our understanding of what it is to be English no harm.

Will our sense of national identity diminish if we allow our strategically and culturally vital companies to become franchises of foreign multinational corporations? There is absolutely no question that it will.

For a start, it will mean that more people – such as the staff at MG Rover or Cadbury – will work not for locally recognisable and organic institutions, but for the profit margins of foreign executives and companies floated on foreign stock markets; their labour itself subject to vastly different concepts of profitability than it was previously. Will Hutton and Phillip Blond write eloquently in a Respublica article that

“Cadbury represented a successful and more value-driven approach to capitalism that is now lost. Kraft is another gigantic corporation hacking out its quarterly earnings growth through relentless standardisation, reducing consumer choice – look at the range of cheese in any US supermarket.”

And thus are the values of British entrepreneurs – who, despite much unwarranted criticism from leftists, are generally fair and good to their workers – replaced and supplanted by the amorality of the free market. Hutton and Blond continue:

“After [the] acrimony [of the bidding process] Kraft will enter Cadbury like an occupying army intent on doing what it must to deleverage fast – the clash of values, people and strategy that is so destructive after hostile bids.”

The article continues to provide demonstrable reasons why there is a danger fiscally in such manoeuvres, but also as to how such takeovers are practically very dangerous to indigenous entrepreneurs:

“The UK confectionery market is now dominated by multinationals, making it harder for smaller rivals.”

Will there be another Cadbury family – with British Christian values, as evinced by its philanthropist founder – providing employment and adding another aspect to our national pride? Not if we continue down this dangerous path.

This is a matter of truly pressing concern that demands immediate reform – both to the education of children in this country and the subject matter that they learn and to the laws – or lack thereof- that allow this destructive, counterproductive stupidity. England will only be able to begin to reclaim her sense of herself if what is England’s is asserted as being England’s.

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About Byrnsweord

I am an Englishman. Constantly striving for the truth and to conserve what is good about England. You can find my on flickr at http://www.flickr.com/people/byrnsweord/ my blog over at byrnsweord.wordpress.com/ and my Twitter account at twitter.com/byrnsweord Byrnsweord is min nama.
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One Response to English Institutions & English Nationhood

  1. This bit of TV punditary from a BBC TV hack sums up exactly what the problem is I feel. Yesterday, she was on the box talking about a BBC commissioned poll asking voters in Scotland what their priorities were. This is what she said –
    “Scottish voters have made it pretty clear that they want the Scottish NHS to guarantee an appointment with a cancer specialist within two weeks – just as the NHS in England”….

    One description is specifically belonging to, targeted and identified with, the other is almost a sort of sectional part of a perceived larger whole. She may just as well have said “the NHS in Coventry” or “the NHS in Sunderland” or “the NHS in Yorkshire”…

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