The Blood of the English

Courtesy of flickr user 'wolf359'

At the end of last month, a headline appeared in various newspapers boldly proclaiming that genetics had ‘proven’ that ‘the English’ are ‘largely German’. The various permutations of headline conveying this new ‘science’ were, if nothing else, tremendously revealing about the projected opinions of the audiences of those newspapers.

Guy Walters of the Mail, for example, elected to title his interpretation of these ‘facts’ with the heading:

‘As it is revealed half of Britons have German blood… Time to embrace your inner Jerry!’

The Telegraph opted for a more restrained title:

‘Half of Britons have German blood’

The Sun, however, did not hold back, with a brazenly moronic ‘quiz’ to ascertain ‘how German you are’.

This story is by no means the first of its kind. Various stories have emerged of late that have ‘proven’ that ‘Britons’ (here read ‘English’) are <insert almost any other nationality here>. The key science and ideas have been expounded by the likes of Professor Bryan Sykes (whose book Blood of the Isles I will eventually get round to reading) and Stephen Oppenheimer, who argued that Britons were descendents of Iberians. Or ‘Spaniards’ and ‘Portuguese’ as we now know them.

Whilst the aforementioned authors have at least used scientific evidence to attempt to vindicate their ideology, the majorities of these stories as reported in the press blithely simplify some extremely complex disciplines, they are prone to being nonsensical not only in their phraseology but also deliberately misleading in their intentions.

The study itself is probably the first I’ve looked into that to all intents and purposes appears to be crafted for the benefit of the tabloid media. The website of UCL, who it seems the newspapers credit for the study, hardly mentions the study. Bizarrely, it only links to the tabloid newspapers that reported the findings in a haphazard fashion.

The story also credits Der Spiegel with a more detailed study of the matter; specifically, for stating that

“… there is no use in denying it. It is now clear that the nation which most dislikes the Germans were once Krauts themselves.”

The title of said article , ‘Britain Is More Germanic than It Thinks’, would appear to assert this point still further.

However, this is entirely ideologically incoherent and anachronistic. Germany is a recent invention, for a start, not truly existing until the late 1800s. Even after this point, ravaged by wars and political ideologies, it took many forms and sped through several very different, fractured and unstable identites. Furthermore, genetics do not make nationhood. It is wilfully misleading and nonsensical to claim that Britain is more ‘Germanic’ because of a genetic ancestry that dates back into prehistory.

What perplexes me still further is the matter of ‘national blood. If the new nation of  Germany does has its own ‘blood’, why does England not? If anything, surely the ‘tribal diversity’ of the English blood makes it quite unique in and of itself.

Also, I am yet to discover the scientific source of the Spiegel’s claims. A previous UCL study, titled ‘A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles’ – possibly the one alluded to in the Spiegel article – appears to suggest that myriad sources, including Iberian, Danish, Irish and German genetic backgrounds were ‘feeders’ to Britain. This was detected by analysing ‘haplogroups’ – a key aspect of the science of DNA – in order to ascertain how results of blood tests may infer areas of particularly high or low migration of peoples across time. Thus, the nonsense of a ‘national blood’ is merely a much-reduced analysis of the science of haplogroups; variations of a genetic blueprint that spreads across Europe and further afield, uniting many diverse peoples and populations.

It could be argued that such studies -scientific or not – were in some way damaging for English nationality and nationhood. Some infer that they are further evidence of Englishness ‘dying on the operating table’, as JuliusWhacket would have suggested. I would move to disagree. Englishness is precisely nothing to do with scientific data. England and its uniqueness have never been grounded in biological ethnic origin and never has been.

Englishness is the shared culture, values and historical experience of a group of people who were, with consideration of fair amounts of inward and outward migration, in possession of a coherent national identity that developed in a linear fashion across centuries. This identity was shaped and strengthened by events happened upon them, fittingly enough, by external circumstances, individuals and nations.

Would England be England without Christianity, a religion with its origins in ancient Palestine? Of course not. Does the dominance of a religion of foreign origin preclude two millennia of distinctly English Christianity, with its own architecture, hymns, inclusion into law and governance and contribution to our language? Not in the slightest.

What would the foundations of our culture be if not for William Shakespeare’s knowledge of European stories? Does that diminish his astonishing literary achievement, his genius or his contribution to a unique and demonstrable Englishness? Not in the slightest.

What else captured the English imagination like the exploration of strange new lands and their people? What else strengthened the English – and British – sense of self than the wars against France? Did these cultural exchanges lead to a less definable Englishness? Perhaps you should read Rudyard Kipling or T.S. Eliot for answers to that question.

I digress. But the facts remain. Until someone can substantively prove, using scientific evidence accumulated from nations across the world, that people’s blood is in some way affected by the physical soil of their homeland, I should encourage people to allow poets and poets alone to make comparable claims.

Let us disassociate notions of who we are as a people – our values, laws, history and the events that shaped our nation’s history – from biological happenstance of prehistoric times. Let us also be wary of populist efforts to undermine our sense of ourselves through the flimsy conclusions of calculated, deceitful media hacks, who are liberal with facts.

We are English not because of genetics, but because of our character.

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The Importance of Patriotism to Aspiration

“I believe that, in order to live a full and satisfying life, a man needs to have a picture not only of the community to which he belongs and of his place in it, but also of the place and destiny of that community in the outside world.This is, as it were, the frame of reference within which his life is lived, which gives it… a meaning and a purpose beyond the narrow confines of place and date.
If you care to call this patriotism, so much the better.”
Enoch Powell, from ‘The Nation in the World’ in Freedom & Reality

Today, much hand-wringing, many desperate sounding semantics and industrial quantities of political bravado is or are given to thoughts on young people’s place in the world in England. I myself have documented the plight of England’s NEETs – or those not in education or training.

I have always found Enoch Powell’s aforementioned statement on what constitutes happiness fascinating. Taking Powell’s thinking as a framework, I shall endeavour herein to demonstrate how current political, educational and cultural thinking has failed young people, and empirically attempt to suggest possible solutions for these sophisticated problems.

So firstly, what are the factors that are prohibiting the ‘full and satisfying life’ that Powell believes is possible? Primarily, it is a chronic lack of aspiration; a key factor in the inability to perceive a place for oneself in the community in which one lives.
Studies emerge on a regular basis as to the root causes of a perceived ‘anti-aspirational’ culture that permeates English society. In 2008, the BBC noted on a report by The Association of Teachers and Lecturers that poor, white boys

“… have the lowest aspirations of all ethnic groups.”

One aspect of the report was particularly depressing, but nonetheless fascinating…

“The areas with the lowest educational aspirations, termed “low horizons” by the researchers, were characterised as deprived, close-knit cohesive communities with high levels of social housing and a history of economic decline.

The areas also tended to be inward-looking. with low population mobility, and few wider connections with people outside the immediate area.

The report said: ‘Residents may lack broader links with people places outside their immediate neighbourhood.'”

A resounding vindication of Powell’s viewpoint.

The Prince’s Trust recently published a fascinating survey, entitled ‘Broke not Broken’ into this problem. Its key findings were startling. According to the results, 26% of young people from deprived homes believe that few or none of their career aspirations are achievable. Furthermore,

“The survey of more than 2,300 people aged 16-24, also revealed that young people from deprived homes feel that “people like them don’t succeed in life”, and are significantly less likely to imagine themselves buying a nice house or even finding a job in the future.”

In addition to this, it stated that

More than one in six of those from poorer homes, surveyed in the ‘Broke not Broken’ survey, said their family and friends had made fun of them when they talked about finding a good job.”

This sort of negative attitude, which actively creates a psychological barrier to work and thus deprives the individual of the meaningful social function of work within their community, is a root cause of anti-aspirational thinking. The Prince’s Trust’s proposed solution? Very simple indeed.

“… I set up and ran a weekly ‘Job Club’ from a youth centre.  During this weekly club, unemployed young people would come together for a morning, work on their CV, interview techniques, job application forms and find out about education and apprenticeship opportunities.  It gave them a reason to get up in the morning, and provided them with encouragement and motivation, something not all of them got at home.”

Whilst I would not usually hesitate to suggest that the state should not take over the role of the parents and family in promoting positive attributes, here we can see the tangible benefits to communities of this service. Thus we can see that Powell’s notion holds water: the importance of a place in the community to aspiration and leading a satisfying life is not to be underestimated.

But there are wider reaching rationales and a broader malaise in our culture that informs our perspective about ourselves as English people; our lack of faith in our nation. In January, leftie defeatist – and noted for her disdain for England and Englishness – Madeleine Bunting, suggested that it is not only imperative for Britain to accept its irrelevance, but that it has already taken place.

“It’s particularly hard for Britain, still suffering from post-imperial withdrawal, where political leadership requires claiming a prominent role on the world stage. Nick Clegg’s brave foray proposing a realistic national modesty during the election proved brief: irrelevance is a concept the British have yet come to terms with.”

Of course, my own input and analysis is here nearly superfluous. If there has ever been another quite such a devastating knockback, such a clear disincentive to all peoples of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I have not yet seen it.

Simon Heffer picked up a very similar thread shortly afterwards. It is clear that the language and ideology of decline has a powerful impact upon its populace – particularly if we take the Powellite definition of patriotism to hold elements of truth.

For a start, to say that we are ‘irrelevant’ or ‘in decline’ is, to use a Powellism, arrant, manifest nonsense. Our scientists are constantly in the news for their innovations for the betterment of all mankind, whether it be cancer tests and research, analysing dinosaur skin or researching hardier crops for the third world. Our people – particularly our architects – hold positions of significance and are involved in important work across the world. And that is to say nothing of the historical significance and unquantifiable wealth of our exports of democracy, buildings, infrastructures, justice, technology, ideals, settlements, values and much more besides.

The good news? Wide ranging and comprehensive research says people that recognise these things about their nation are actually happier! A Gallup Organisation poll says:

“In the study, more than 130,000 people in 128 countries answered questions posed by the Gallup Organization about how satisfied they were with life, country, job, home, and other areas. People with good feelings about their country also tended to have a rosy outlook on their personal life.”

And to defy Mrs. Thatcher and her New Labour acolytes…

“And a high GDP doesn’t necessarily buy happiness: People in poorer nations feel especially good about their lives when they are satisfied with their country.”

All in all, we see resounding evidence that Mr Powell’s notions of happiness are substantive and a viable basis for improving the lot of many millions of our countrymen. It’s even good news for the major political parties. While they’re likely to avoid anything connected with Enoch Powell, Labour and the Liberal Democrats needn’t deviate from their core notions of community and the Conservatives’ (or David Cameron’s) much vaunted and much maligned ‘Big Society’ could be said to have a practical and wide-ranging meaning.

So rather than being defeatist, rather than being negative about our role, our people, our prospects and our nation, let us celebrate. Who we are, what we have done, where we are now and the kind of people we already and wish to produce. Let us be taught to seek meaning in our communities and in their part in the fabric of the nation. Let us take pride in ourselves.

Above all, let us shrug off the arrogance of those who would say that national pride is divisive. Let us recognise the importance of patriotism to aspiration.

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The Left’s Fear of the English

‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is 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.’
The Lion and the Unicorn
(1941), Part I : ‘England Your England’ by George Orwell

Since the time of George Orwell, the hatred and fear of England by the left has been a decidedly unguarded prejudice. My documentation of the phenomenon is merely a brief synopsis of some of the permutations that it has taken recently. Now, the logical conclusions of devolution – a scheme entirely concocted by the left and advised and warned against by anyone with a modicum of common sense – are provoking new swathes of histrionic fear and implicit anti-Englishness.

See for example an article by George Eaton published late yesterday in the New Statesman, entitled ‘The Tory plan for a permanent majority gathers pace’. Herein, the writer attempts to assert that the Conservative Party are plotting the demise of the left through political gerrymandering, capitalising on the supposed naivety of their coalition partners and other such tosh:

First, the coalition’s proposed boundary changes are approved, depriving Labour of an estimated 25 seats (the Conservatives would have won 13 fewer seats at the last election and the Lib Dems would have won seven fewer).

This is insubstantial. Border changes have been happening since the demise of the rotten borough. I also fail to see how equalising border changes affects Labour adversely; the programmes of building swathes of affordable housing in affluent areas continue apace, bringing Labour votes to former Tory strongholds.

The writer continues:

Second, Alex Salmond holds a referendum on independence and Scotland votes Yes. Of the 59 Westminster seats in Scotland that would be automatically lost, 41 are Labour-held but just one is Conservative-held.

Hmm. That is all very well, but is there even a vague likelihood that this will happen? The most recent YouGov poll on the matter indicates that a vote on Scottish Independence would return an overwhelming majority ‘No’ vote (and that it has higher support in England & Wales than Scotland). It would mean that Alex Salmond would have to work utter miracles in the months to come for that to change. So, the reality? The SNP won in Scotland because Scottish people had lost faith in Labour. So what it is is a transparent attempt to divert attention away from Labour’s failings and blame the Tories instead.

The writer surmises his argument on the ‘perfect storm of Tory evil’ by stating that:

“Finally, the Tories and the Lib Dems introduce a cap on party donations, depriving Labour of much of its trade union funding and bankrupting the party. Labour is consigned to permanent opposition and a new age of Tory hegemony is born.”

This is so impenetrably illogical as to beggar belief. Labour is already bankrupt. The New Statesman ran with the story, as openly professed by John Prescott, almost a year ago. Again, the blame is passed to the Tories for the ludicrous situation of Labour being incapable of running their own finances. If Labour are to win again, they must look at themselves. To me, it is very obvious that people not wish to support a party that is funded by antequated Unions that have no positive impact on people’s lives, led by a hugely uninspiring man and still underpinned by people who believe that their arrogant monetarism was the way to run an economy.

Furthermore, the problem with the writer’s perspective in the event of these three almost entirely unrelated – and in one case extremely unlikely – events coming to fruition is that he is entirely wrong to imply that England would be perpetually Conservative if devolution occurred. When Labour won in 1997, it had a clear majority in England: William Rees-Mogg here quotes the margin of victory as being 3.5 million votes. Again; passing the blame for failure.

Despite this fact, the writer devotes a good deal of attention to regarding England as an inherently conservative country, and therefore something of a lost cause.

To many Tories the prospect of an independent England – economically liberal, fiscally conservative, Eurosceptic, Atlanticist – is an attractive one. The Conservatives have not held more than one seat in Scotland for the last 19 years – there is little political incentive to preserve the Union. As Michael Portillo told Andrew Neil on This Week in 2006, “From the point of political advantage, the Conservatives have a better chance of being in government if Scotland is not part of the affair. You are continuing to assume the Union is sacrosanct. That is not an assumption I make any more.”

Quite why the writer is content to gauge the opinion of the MPs, councillors, employees, members and voters of a political party on the basis of one five-year-old quote from a man who has not been in a position of significance in that party for fourteen years is quite beyond me. Furthermore, he could equally have been commenting upon the political reality of an SNP that was gaining momentum and local assemblies, councils and cities calling for greater autonomy from central government.

So does the author provide solutions that Labour can get to work on in order to win in England, to snare the English people once more, to make them believe in the possibility that Labour might lead the English people the way they deserve to be led? No.

“… Labour must broaden its funding base as a matter of urgency… But the wider challenge is clear. If history is not to record Gordon Brown as the last Labour Prime Minister, the party must show as much ruthlessness, cunning and ingenuity as the Tories.”

Just when I thought that Blue Labour was a genuine movement for change, the writer seems instead to favour the Labour Party taking the approach of deliberate duplicity, manipulation and innovation in its misdeeds.

It is no wonder whatsoever, therefore, that the Party struggles. This writer has demonstrated no solutions whatsoever to the problems he has stated; there is no tangible way to solve the fact that Labour should be aggressive in either preserving the Union (and thus its Scottish & Welsh MPs) or advocating full devolution by discussing English matters. But above all, this writer treats England with contempt. Contempt for its conservative instincts, giving no credit to the ability of English people to discern between two political parties. Contempt for the true matters of such dire urgency as to be blatantly obvious. Contempt even for those who are trying to actually address these matters, preferring to play the same old political game without improving anyone’s lot.

We must expose this duplicity between thought and deed wherever possible.

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The Flying Scotsman and England

Image courtesy of the National Railway Museum, York

This weekend, the world-famous steam locomotive, the London and North Eastern Railway’s A1 No.4472 Flying Scotsman, was finally unveiled after a lengthy restoration. Bedecked in its wartime black livery, the machine remains as ethereal, graceful and majestic as it did when first unveiled in the 1930s.

Designed by one of England’s truly great – and sadly overlooked – engineers, Sir Nigel Gresley, the locomotive has a long and profoundly fascinating story. What is significant today is the fact that the locomotive, the first in the world to reach a speed of 100mph among various other astonishing feats, was named after the express of the same name, which has been running for 149 years and has just been relaunched. This express was the very manifestation of the enterprising modernity and engineering genius – not to mention the sheer power of the force of will – of Victorian Britain. By the time that Flying Scotsman was displayed at the British Empire Exhibition in 1934, a journey that might have taken days a mere 70 years previously was now possible in just eight hours.

The express also stands as a reminder of how profoundly important a connection between the capital cities of Scotland and England was to the strength and unity of the United Kingdom. It is perhaps a little sad to consider that it seems that while the locomotive and the service with which it shares its name continue on their journeys to this day, the bridge that they were instrumental in building between the home nations is in danger of collapse. So let us celebrate the continued ingenuity of English engineers and skilled craftsmen – and lament the decline in the Union that provided the context for their innovations and the manifestation of their genius.

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Blue Labour and England

I wrote in my last entry that the key problem with British politics at the moment is voter disillusionment with politicians and political parties that no longer accurately reflect their views, opinions, hopes and fears. This is not a problem isolated to one political party or to a single ‘wing’ of the political spectrum- the Conservatives are as worried about falling numbers as Labour probably should be.

In an effort to counteract this, individuals (most of whom are either ironically or fittingly outside of the political sphere) have tried to either revert or adapt their ideologies to ‘traditional values’ in an effort to try to woo disillusioned ‘small-c’ conservatives and social conservatives back to the fold. The first of these was Phillip Blond’s ‘Red Tory‘ ideal – a sort of renewed Conservatism for the post-Thatcherist. But what has been the most intriguing, certainly from the perspective of an English nationalist is the ‘Blue Labour’ permutation.

First mooted early last year, this ideology, championed by Maurice Glasman in a recent Guardian interview, seeks to break Labour’s strong recent association with neoliberalism and globalisation, recognises that this approach left what New Labour called ‘communities’ feeling like strangers in their own home thanks to the rampant march of international capital and the false idol of ‘progress’ and recognising the inherent value of institutions both of and to our nation.

Toque, among others, was quick to pick up on the inherent Englishness of this belief structure, noting that all that was absent was a mention of the word ‘England’. Mr Glasman has since been explicit in his references to what he perceives as the Englishness of Blue Labour:

“‘The blue refers to the centrality of family life, a recognition of the importance of faith, a real commitment to the work ethic, a very casual but nonetheless profound patriotism that people feel about England,’ he suggests.”

It is most uncommon for those on the left to ever openly admit that there is a widespread ‘profound patriotism’ about specifically England. Indeed, a plethora of articles of late have sought to suggest that we are an entirely invented group of people – see the tangibly desperate leading article from the New Statesman or remarks that try to diversify us out of existence from noted self-loather Jack Straw. Glasman himself does actually fall prey to suggesting that

“The English nation, above all, is deeply synthetic in form, constituted by large waves of immigration that generated an unprecedented form of common law, common language and an inheritance of a commonwealth.”

While he may subscribe to this historically inaccurate perspective, Glasman is in fact unique in being the only leftist to openly accept the true crises of the English in the modern age – not over identity, but over governance and denied nationhood.

“Labour’s unfinished constitutional reforms, which delivered devolved government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have, as the political theorist Maurice Glasman points out… left a “political void where England should be”. The English, Glasman argues, “do not govern themselves”.”

A good start indeed.

He sees the manifestations of the problems of governance and denied nationhood as being the scenarios in which English people are denied their rights to their cultural inheritance through a lack of English-specific representation. The Guardian notes that

“… Blue Labour folk such as Maurice Glasman have made… a fuss over coalition plans to privatise forests. They’re also not keen on selling off Dover port and taking away the ancient licences of porters at Billingsgate fish market in London.”

It is truly pleasant to hear someone else mention the scandals of Dover and Billingsgate; I had thought that my words had fallen upon deaf ears. Glasman carries on in his vein of emulating Paul Kingsnorth…

“If [being experimental] means private sector operators working in collaboration with the providers and the recipients of services in a more relational, more democratic way, then we have to be prepared to say that that’s the right move forwards.”

A further examination of his ideals reveals his perception of England as a nation:

“he believes… there are two sides to England: ‘the monarchist, reactionary, Anglican supremacist ruling-class England’ and ‘the Labour movement England’. The story of the latter is ‘resistance to the domination of the rich and powerful’ and the attempt to have ‘working people recognised’.

This is perhaps a superimposition of contemporary class delineations on what are essentially ideological conflicts from a vastly different era to our own. I do not believe, for example, that any supposed ‘class war’ of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century can be conflated with the feudal system of the early Norman era in which even the military aristocracy and nobles were denied a voice by their King. Hence the Magna Carta.

There is in fact an allusion to this ideal shortly after the aforementioned direct quotation:

“It’s that story – stretching back to 1066 when people resisted the king and the Normans, through the assertion of the rights of the Commons against the king in parliament, and the resistance to the enclosures – that Glasman believes Labour should honour and reconnect with.”

I would argue that Mr Glasman knows considerably more about the peoples which he affiliates himself with; this analysis wholly disregards the inconvenient tribal rather than class-based conflict from which true English hero Alfred the Great emerged as a beacon of English nationhood.

Indeed, as a dutiful leftist, he decides instead to take on the ‘great right-wing topics’ of immigration and the English Defence League. On immigration he opines that:

“He has…‘no concerns that the future of the country’s going to be pluralist’ and is himself from a family of immigrants but believes there has also ‘got to simultaneously be solidarity, and there has been an erosion of solidarity’. “

He goes on to state that:

” ‘There have to be ways of honouring the common life of people who come [as immigrants],’ he believes, but it also not the case that ‘everyone who comes is equal and has an equal status with people who are here’.”

It is here that his over-riding instincts as a leftist become apparent: words such as ‘honouring’ and ‘equal status’ sound remarkably similar to asinine platitudes such as ‘celebrating’ and ‘equality’ in their sterility of meaning. They also offer no realistic suggestions. He continues on the EDL by stating that

“The solution, he says, is ‘to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL within our party. Not dominant in the party, not setting the tone of the party, but just a reconnection with those people that we can represent a better life for them, because that’s what they want.'”

Glasman here misses the point almost entirely, which is surprising given his previous analyses of England’s plight. The members of the EDL are almost certainly interested in a ‘better life’, but this is another overly simplistic oversight of what their key concerns are: the erosion and official abandonment of English Christianity and its laws, customs, architecture, culture, literature and distinct identity. And the danger of its being supplanted by the state religion of multiculturalism.

To conclude, Glasman has a good grasp of what is wrong with England. He has a comprehensive understanding of the realities and consequences of a lack of political representation and the subjugation of discussion about the English question. However, whilst we should be grateful for, and take up with vigour any opportunity to engage with the political hierarchy about the necessity of freedom and fairness for England, I struggle to see how these ends can be achieved through the medium of political parties that seek only re-election and mandates of vacuous ‘change’ above anything meaningful.

If only one thing can be said with certainty, it is that we are still clearly in the grip of New Labour’s ‘adjective politics’ where the single words are no longer sufficient to describe a party’s core beliefs. Desperation indeed and evidence of a need to find multiple identities to try to conflate with ideals of ordinary people that are of a growing complexity. Perhaps, as English people, we should beware these Janus-like figures. We have seen their sort before.

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Scottish Independence: An English Perspective

“I do not believe that the loyalty of those many who over those 270 years, and particularly in this century, worked together and died together as part of the union under the Crown, was to the Crown quite simply, even though they wore the Crown on their uniforms and many of them wore it on their hearts. They were not the mercenaries of a Habsburg empire bound together by personal union and dynastic marriages; they were not the servants of a Hohenzollern empire imposed by military force. It was the Crown of the United Kingdom in parliament which was the centre of loyalty, as it is the essential unifying element of this realm, in the name of which and under the inspiration of which men and women these 270 years have worked and lived and died together.”
Enoch Powell, speech in the House of Commons against devolution to Scotland, January 1976

Throughout the long process of the AV referendum, the Royal Wedding, and the local and devolved assembly elections, I have remained fairly quiet.

There are a number of reasons for this. I shall divulge only two.

The first is that it was obvious that endless coverage would be given to at least two of the aforementioned events; thus, my own would be superfluous. The second is that I have no position on the politics of the devolved administrations: their significance is so minimal to me as an Englishman as to be of no concern – aside from the fact that I wish to resolve the problems by which they exist, either by their independence and thus the removal of the fiscal burden on England that they impose by their presence or by a logical reunification.

That is until Alex Salmond’s SNP won a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament. And an intriguing – and tremendously revealing – range of reactions emerged.

Like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Salmond strikes fear into media commentators all and sundry who regard him as being the architect of the ‘end of Britain’. This in itself is a tremendously complex issue; some, as Peter Hitchens did with great verve in his essential polemic Abolition of Britain would argue that Britain ceased to exist ideologically and culturally some considerable time ago. All Salmond is doing is unimaginatively mouthing the same nonsense that Tony Blair initiated. For example, by asserting today – with characteristic self-importance – that

“Whatever changes take place in our constitution, we will remain close to our neighbours. My dearest wish is to see the countries of Scotland and England stand together as equals.

He quoted Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a commissioner of the old Scottish Parliament, who warned in 1706 that the Union would mean the “greater must always swallow the lesser.”

Quite aside from the contradiction in terms in these statements, the concept that England could be seen as ‘equal’ to Scotland is antithetical to reality. England is a nation with a vastly different economy (including one of the world’s leading financial centres), a vastly different series of industries, a hugely different ethnic make-up, a stark wealth gulf within the country (that I have previously highlighted), at least ten times the population of Scotland, different religions, different democracy… I could go on. But all it is is the same nonsense that Blair clearly quite strongly believed in when he inspired the Scotland Act. See for example his hand-written phraseology on the document itself! The nonsense is wilfully perpetuated.

But what has also manifested itself in the wake of the SNP election gains is the widespread manifestations of self-deprecation with a leaning towards self-loathing and a virulent anti-Englishness that the liberal media seem to thrive upon.

Take, for example, the utter drivel composed by Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian. She claims that the removal of Scotland would ‘leave’ 50 million people with England, and more ludicrously, that

“…definitions of English nationalism have been abandoned to football hooligans and the far right. There’s a curious and debilitating disconnect between the rich cultural traditions of Englishness and its political expression.”

Shortly after casually scribbling the often quoted historical falsehood that England’s ‘institutions’ are ‘British not English’, she continues that

“British is seen as the inclusive, accommodating civic identity for a multicultural society and, by default – dangerously so – English has become a racialised political identity of resistance, resentment and grievance. British Muslim, British Asian are widely used terms; English is still perceived as predominantly white. The 2011 national census in England, unforgivably, defined English as white.

Ah, yes. All those Sikhs and Muslims who have played for England’s cricket team, all those black and mixed-race football players that wear the Three Lions with pride and the black bishops and clergymen who call for St. George’s Day to be celebrated as a festival of English Christianity are exempt from this lazy definition, are they? Or the millions of Anglophiles of all races, religions and nationalities who invest financially and emotionally in Englishness? Or are they not ‘English’? Hmm. Dare I cry ‘racist’?

A sad state of affairs indeed. But we have lost sight of the reality of the matter. As much as our politicians differ on these issues, can we say the same? Why is it suddenly the case that our politicians were entrusted with these matters? Why are we deferring to the agents of the state? That’s the antithesis of being British of any stripe!

Daniel Hannan wrote this week on how, in spite of the hubbub of the extremist Irish Nationalists who demonstrated against the visit of Her Majesty the Queen this week, Ireland and Britain are closer than they ever have been. The people of England and Scotland are arguably the same – perhaps not in their political perspectives, but in their attitudes towards politics.

The SNP victory is merely another symptom of a disillusionment of ordinary people with a Parliament whose trust has been permanently damaged and in fact has been slowly unravelling for many years. The problem with Britain to ordinary Scottish people is probably not ‘English dominance’ of their politics, it is more likely to be the fact that the metropolitan political classes of all political stripes cease to represent their concerns, make little practicable difference to their lives and have even ceased to share their ideals and beliefs. Ordinary Scottish people are thus no different to English people: the collapse of the Labour vote that led to the surge of the SNP is probably comparable to the collapse of the Labour vote in Europe that led the odious Nick Griffin to take his seat in France and Belgium.

What has been barely reported – if at all – is that while we as English people must endure this public, unseemly and ideologically nonsensical airing of dirty laundry in advance of a protracted divorce, we will likely have precisely no say in what our wishes for the future of the Kingdom – and intrinsically therefore, England – are. If we must endure this, we must ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear.

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On St George’s Day…

In our halls is hung
Armoury of the invincible Knights of old:
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held.-In every thing we are sprung
Of Earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.
From ‘It Is Not To Be Thought Of‘ by William Wordsworth

Last St. George’s Day I wrote about the recurring values, ethics and ideals of English people, our rich history and the beauty of our language. This St. George’s Day, however, rather than the past, I turn my thoughts to the future. It would be extremely easy to analyse the present situation and feel distinctly uneasy and concerned over what the future holds for our England.

In recent entries, I have mused upon the future of England, and how the issues that plague her now threaten her future, and whether it be impotent hand-wringing from the Prime Minister or the Leader of Her Majesty’s opposition over mass immigration, historical ignorance, economic divisions across every stretch of England, the abandonment of Christianity and Christian values, the sabotage of Conservative and Labour parties by liberal centrists and anarchists of all descriptions or the continued insistence on the existence of an antequated ‘Britain’, the unfolding or compounding of these matters have taken their toll on the country.

The Church of England, for example, has always been a  succinct microcosm of the dangerous decay that we see in English cultural institutions. For many years, as I have described in other entries, the CofE has actively sought to become a trifling irrelevance in national life, and this transformation and compromising of its inherent belief structure continues apace.

The only conclusion, for example, of Ann Widdecombe’s recent BBC documentary is that while Christianity is declining across the country – but not terminally, as this 10,000 strong throng at a dramatisation of the Passion in multicultural, multi-faith Southampton from yesterday evinces – it is the Church of England that is in the most serious decline. Why? Because it has forgotten whom it serves; the English people. This has become even more clear in the fantastically short period of time since the transmission of even that programme. In a succinct demonstration of how the new Clergy are actively in favour of destroying their institution’s position in society, The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, said Church of England schools should move away from Christianity and academic rigour by serving “the wider community”. Rev Pritchard went on to say that

“”I don’t think I would be as concerned even if there was a decline in standards because what we want to do is to serve.”

Presumably here he means ‘serve’ public opinion as opposed to English Christians, or even the children whom his organisation is responsible for educating; what of the still significant Anglican community? Who serves them now?

And on top of that, as the Campaign for an English Parliament addressed so eloquently and starkly in their fantastic April Fool’s effort, due to the fact that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish hold sway over Westminster rather than the other way around, England still suffers from the Barnett Formula and an unjust balance in its public spending. England now pays over the odds for its prescriptions from the allegedly ‘National’ Health Service while its subsidised neighbours pay nothing.

In spite of this sustained assault, whether longitudinal or recent, all is far from lost. In fact, much has been done as a result of these facts to demonstrate the fact that England is being maligned; surely the first step to awakening a national consciousness. Paul Kingsnorth, ever the defender of Englishness in its most tangible form, has written eloquently for the Guardian about how England is disproportionately affected by Government spending cuts.

His establishment of the dichotomy between English people and British state is succinctly stated:

“At heart, this is an issue of sovereignty. When the Scottish reclaimed their nationhood from Westminster, they asserted the sovereignty of their citizens. The English case is the same. Who owns the English NHS, English forests, English libraries? Not David Cameron. Not the British state: the English people.”

I could almost copy the article verbatim, but Kingsnorth astutely sums up the only logical conclusion to the mess of devolution: an English Parliament.

“In the name of our historic freedoms, we could call for English home rule – for the return of the English parliament, lost like that of the Scots to the Act of Union. This would give us a national narrative a million miles away from the establishment tale of royal weddings and military interventions.”

Here the connection between the national narrative – which we already have, but is suppressed – and an anti-establishment strain is clearly rooted in the 1381 spirit and designed to interest suburbanite keyboard warrior Guardianistas, but it is a powerful strain that appeals to all patriotic Englishfolk – and a neat narrative in which to couch our grievances and arguments.

Let us not be carried away with our grievances, however. Let us celebrate our successes. Today’s celebrations demonstrate the enormous value of an English national day to repairing damaged relations between groups of people in our society. Commenting on Birmingham’s events for today, Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:

“St. George’s Day provides a great opportunity to [bring… communities together]”

The message is clear, strong and resounding. Return the most simple of attributes to the English nation state, and positivity and true unity – as opposed to inherently divisive and flimsy Socialist ‘solidarity’ – is the logical and tangible result.

We must redouble our efforts to take our message to the English people. To provide a legitimate, coherent and insistent branch of British politics that speaks to the majority of the British people – the English.

Like Saint George, we have a dragon to slay. Let us go about our work.

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