History is the raw material for nationalist or ethnic or fundamentalist ideologies, as poppies are the raw material for heroin addiction.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century nationalism was an extremely powerful political ideology throughout the world. This was a period of history when governments and political parties exploited nationalistic sentiment by cementing, whilst at the same time exploiting, notions of 'the past.' All European states have at some time used nationalism as a deliberate political device that could subdue social unrest and placate the masses, populations that were as a result of modernity, becoming increasingly aware of their ability to alter their own destiny. In Britain, politicians have become increasingly aware that people craved power over the state and strived for political self -determinism. The British State recognised the power of nationalistic sentiment, particularly its ability to politically mobilise the country behind the state thus quelling the threat of internal unrest. It was also an ideology that could be associated with both imperialism and anti-imperialism and emancipation and aggression. Nationalism was an ideology that 'exalted the nation state as the best form of political organisation' and in this way it legitimised itself and claimed the 'loyalty of its citizens.’
The formation of nationalism is extremely problematical and contradictory. A number of reasons can explain why as a political force nationalism became so powerful in different geographical areas at different times, 'race, gender, language, ethnic conflict, economics, imperialism and religion', for example. Different cultures also have varying 'aspirations, sentiments and cultural values' that might also effect the formation of nationalistic sentiment. It would be difficult therefore, within the constraints of this piece, to examine on a global level why nationalism was such a powerful political force occasionally for good, but mostly for bad; for the reasons mentioned above, different countries have different values. So I will concentrate on the formation and decline of British Nationalism and the current reformation of English Identity. In doing this consideration will have to be given to both the modernist view (Hobsbawm & Gellner) and the ethnic view (Anderson), concerning what nationalism is and how it is formed then go on explore why certain elements of notions of community are important to populations and help to ease unrest.
Tom Nairn once wrote that 'Nationalism is a crucial, fairly central feature of the modern capitalist development of world history'. There are certain features of nationalism that occur in most 'imagined communities' and it is these that will be referred to when looking at the formation of nationalism generally. Although the piece will be concentrating on the formation of nationalism in Britain the general pattern of development can be applied to most European nations during the period with which we are concerned. There are elements of modernity and capitalism that forged and are still forging ethnic identity and new notions of 'community,' and how the very notion of 'community' is constructed through language, history, culture and heritage, as Hobsbawn saw it 'The Invention of Tradition'.
Nationalism in the modern world arguably started its life and could be identified in the sentiments of Liberalism following the American and French Revolution. The term the 'principle of nationality' had certainly been known about in Britain since the 1830's so national identity and its use as a form of political hegemony was not an altogether new concept. Nationalism is described by Eric Hobsbawm in his book 'Age of Empire' as being the 'readiness of the people to identify themselves with 'their' nation'. Perhaps the British were relatively passive unlike other European's during the nineteenth century, and were not in a position on an emotional level, to be exploited at that time. Nationalism's association with the American and French revolution made it an attractive ideology to the growing liberal intelligentsia. During this era nationalism could be seen as a good thing, a tool to free the oppressed masses, Greek and Latin-American independence for example, even J.S. Mill referred to it as 'a form of progress.' It is only during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, that nationalism became 'increasingly associated' with and used to great effect by a more fascistic, repressive form of authority.
Britain, of all the European nations, was the first country to experience numerous elements of the modern age such as, industrialisation, mass communication, railways, education, and political reform. Along with other more advanced European nations Britain had world-wide material interests that needed to be secured. Like other nations such as France, Holland and Belgium, Britain was conducting a policy of imperialism and like other nations it found that there was an apparent need to legitimise territorial acquisition. In a post industrial sense, Britain was arguably the first nation to form the ethnicity, and the common national and cultural tradition that made and still makes nationalism on occasion, a powerful force in the country today. Britain had what Eric Hobsbawm points to as being perhaps the most important element of the ideology of nationalism 'a past,' a rich history which could be exploited and abused by political forces to their own ends.
The early nineteenth century British State did not seem to feel the need to legitimise itself and its actions, the masses were after all still largely subordinate to an aristocratic social order and economically Britain was doing well. This social order however, was to change dramatically over the course of the nineteenth century the result being the formation of a unified middle class and mass proletariat who were both becoming increasingly aware of their potential to alter state power. The social revolt that had seemed to disappear at the early part of the nineteenth century with the death of 'Chartism,' was reviving itself 'in a very different form' towards the end of the century. Social unrest certainly appears to have been significant in Europe during this period. The continuous uprisings in France for example are a measure of just how comparatively stable Britain was at this time.
Given that Britain had been the first country to experience the numerous elements of modernity and industrialisation brought about by capitalism, it can also be argued that it was also the first country to experience a new form of industrial and economic decline, a decline that was most likely to be felt by the working classes. During the middle part of the nineteenth century there appears to have been a considerable amount of concern amongst the governing elite about the validity of the British constitution. Ireland was presenting the British government with another problem; the nearest colony to the centre of the Empire was now calling for autonomy. As a result of all these problems, the number of concessions that were being made to the masses was increased. The 'Reform Acts' in particular were a major political concession throughout the eighteenth century. The reform of the political system after 1888 does not appear to have been enough of a concession to maintain the existing structure of power. As economic and geo-political concerns grew, an increasingly anxious government seemed compelled to adopt a new approach. Tom Nairn points to the 'political baptism of the lower classes' as being directly tied to the arrival of nationalism in the modern world. This assimilation into political life allowed the middle-classes and the intellectual leadership the opportunity to channel the energy of working class into support for the state.
By 1880 Britain and Europe seem to have gone through the cultural shift that Benedict Anderson argues makes nationalism so powerful. Britain in particular was a much more secular society with a population that was better educated, 'knowledge itself is power' after all. The British public apparently no longer saw their rulers, be they royal, religious or political, as being some divine entity that should be worshipped and revered. People were now more than ever aware, because of improved communications, of who they were and began to understand the very nature of their existence, coming to terms with perceptions of 'self'. Benedict Anderson argued that it was ‘capitalism and print converging that created the possibility of an imagined community - a modern nation.' Britain of all the European nations seemed to be at the forefront of the historical development of print and the development of a mass print culture. This in turn created a common language another element of the 'imagined community.' The main problem with this formation of 'community' is that it creates the notion of 'other,' everything that is not associated with the community within the nation State becomes merely an 'other.' This notion of 'other,' is something that will have be addressed when forming a new English community, it is perhaps one of the most important issues the new English political parties face during their formation.
In Britain the effects of the Industrial Revolution had created the 'civic elements' required to produce an ideological sense of nationalism. Utilitarian paternalism for lower classes, the desire to integrate them into a growing nation by the promotion of education and health are just two examples of this civic phenomenon. The 1870 'Education Act' introduced what Eric Hobsbawm describes as the 'secular equivalent to the church' the primary school system. Only now could an 'invented tradition' be imbued and exaggerated, and a future generation's mind constructed in a way that was acceptable to the ruling intelligentsia. The loyalties of the children in Britain who benefited from the 'Education Act' were now 'centred on the political units whose boundaries were defined by the language of the educational system'. Educated civil society in Britain was turning to the politics of right wing radicalism; organisations such as the 'Navy League' formed in 1894 made clear their concern for the stability of British society in the wake of democratic reform. Other organisations soon followed the 'National Services League' 1902 and the 'Imperial Maritime League' 1907, both called for policies that expounded notions of a 'Greater' Britain, the superiority of the political and legal system as well as racial policies such as anti-Semitism and protectionism. All of these patriotic sentiments seem to point to the existence of a more aggressive jingoistic form of British nationalism. The term jingo deriving itself from the song 'We Don't Want To Fight' by G.W.Hunt in 1887 when he referred to the British Fleet's stand off against Russia in Turkey. The writers, journalists, teachers, lawyers, civil servants and academics of most European countries now formed the social group that had the most profound hegemonic effect on society as a whole. Tom Nairn argued that what developed was an intelligentsia that was becoming more dominant within the state and that it was this that developed into a form of 'conservative liberalism.' It was a 'socio-political strategy' that preserved rank, whilst developing trust and confidence in the system of rule. In effect the idea of Britain cemented an ideology of other and legitimised imperialistic endeavour.
According to Nairn ‘nationalism is a general process of the worlds historical development,' it also corresponds to certain 'internal needs' of the society in question, so if nationalism is so associated with feelings and instincts, then politically, the psychology of the British people was ripe for exploitation after 1880. The British State could lay claim to a sense of altruism and point to what had been achieved by the nation, empire, trade, philanthropy, scientific endeavour and adventurism, all of which Britain clearly seemed to have an abundance of. This is not to say that other European countries did not possess the potent historical claims required when forming a sense of nationality. Throughout Europe there had been a distinct change in the character of the communities in which people lived. The decline of the village community as a result of agricultural policies and industrialisation created a dislocated and isolated mass of human beings. This is not dissimilar to the isolation that a large number of English men and women claim to feel today with the decline of the Union and their lack of identity. 'The Nation' provided the sense of community, the 'bond' that created a feeling of belonging. Aggressive nationalism seems to result when external forces threaten the communities 'bond'. The world was after all now locked into a global economy. If this economy remained stable and free and no nation wanted a greater share (than others felt they were entitled to) of the spoils then every one would get along. Once imperialism reared its ugly head and protectionist policies were carried through the dream of a laissez-faire world economy disappeared and the nationalism that bound now tore the world apart.
The need for these Empires to protect their capitalist interests by following a policy of 'protectionism,' was fuel to the fire of isolationism and the patriotic ideology of the political right. Each government now appealed to the educated masses, through their newly acquired literacy, to protect the 'community' to which they belonged. It had become 'their' 'natural' duty to accept the rule of and stand behind a government that they themselves (or so it may now have appeared) had put in power. Economically bourgeois capitalism still existed, but even this was changing. Hobsbawm further argues that commercial interests started to create a new form of capitalism 'corporate capitalism.' The large corporations may have been as much to blame as individual States for the implementation of imperialist 'protectionist' policies.
There must have been a point in time when British politicians realised that the nations interests around the world could not be sustained, a concern that undoubtedly has effected numerous governments around the world during the decline of Empire. The Irish question was of particular concern to the British State. Democracy had created an open forum where Irish nationalism could be discussed. The British parliament laid claims to the effect that they were the only organisation capable of settling the issue due to their history of reform, the troubles however continued. Again 1880 is an important year for Britain in this debate as it was the first year when the 'Irish Parliamentary Party' represented the Irish home rule question in the House of Commons. 1880 was also the year when a major agricultural crisis hit Ireland, together with the calls for an autonomous Irish state, Britain genuinely feared the effective loss of a colony. The fear was that the loss of these overseas interests, to more 'dynamic capitalist interests,' would cause major unrest within Britain, prompting revolution. In the political world nationalism became 'a psychological release valve,' a release valve that was much needed during the period of economic uncertainty throughout Europe caused by the 'Great Depression' 1873 to 1896 and the developing imperial rivalry.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century as has already considered, nationalism now in its more aggressive form, became the 'preserve of the right wing' it had became an antagonistic ideology. European expansionism in particular seems to have played a major role in the erosion of the liberal sentiments of nationalism with the introduction of policies of protectionism. The German Chancellor von Bulow for example, provides what appears to be the most candid acceptance of nationalism as it relates to imperialism when he wrote: 'I explained that I understood by a world policy merely the support and advancement of the tasks that have grown out of the expansion of our industry, our trade, the labour power, activity and intelligence of our people. We had no intention of conducting an aggressive policy of expansion. We wanted only to protect the vital interests that we have acquired, in the natural course of events throughout the world.'
The modern elements that Britain experienced are all here, industrial growth, labour power and education. In the post Darwinian world it was 'dog eat dog' and only 'survival of the fittest' that mattered, it was the creation of a 'natural' world order. It is claimed that the imperial rivalry between Britain and Germany especially on the high seas, created the 'radical right' in both countries that argued for an imperial policy that should 'serve the interest of the nation only.’ The remarkable thing about this is that the German nation state was only formed in 1871, which clearly demonstrates the power of nationalist sentiment when applied aggressively.
Tom Nairn explains the rise of nationalism well when he writes 'Nationalism is always the joint product of external pressure and internal balance of class forces.’ The imperial policies that were being pursued by nations all around the world created power blocks that needed validity. The claims that were made by politicians to the 'Nation State' appeared to be extremely effective in this respect. It was not only politicians that realised the potential power of this ideology, powerful corporation's also laid claim to nationalistic sentiment when selling products. 'Pears' soap for example claimed to be 'The Formula of British Conquest' in 1887. What has been argued here is that nationalism became the political force it was after 1880 because of the external pressure caused by and the competition created by a number of countries carrying out an aggressive policy of imperialism. This added to the pressure that was already being experienced internally by most metropolitan imperial nations, of democratisation, colonial unrest, rising reform sentiment and growing working class movements. Politically a policy of nationalism was an extremely effective way of uniting a population.
I hope that I have established how Nationalism became such a powerful political ideology and touched upon why since the end of the war it has become less relevant so I now want to turn to why today the formation of an English National Identity is so important. In the modern world people have become more aware, because of improved communications such as mobile phones, cable television and the internet and transport such as air travel and high speed trains, of who they are. As a result of this they have truly begun to understand the 'very nature of their existence,' coming to terms with 'self' thus establishing their ethnicity. Social groups used to be based on real, 'biological kinship ties' and workplace association, so much so that social relations tended to be more stable and permanent. Technology however initially changed this perception. Although the 'experience' of everyday life was still a collective one, it was now one that existed in a much larger community caused by what Richard Sennett refers to as the shift from 'the personal to the public sphere'. That public sphere however is now limiting itself as a result of the break-up of Britain, whilst at the same time the personal sphere is expanding beyond all recognition as a result of technology.
The concept of 'Ethnicity' is a recent construct emerging from numerous discourses on the subject of 'the nation' in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies. It points to the formation of identity as emerging from 'linguistics, ancestry, religion and region'. Benedict Anderson's view is very much aligned with other writer's arguments of ethnic origin in national formation, but there should still be room for the more modern Marxists view of Eric Hobsbawm that nations emerge at a time of 'change in the social order.' What Hobsbawm seems to be arguing, certainly in relation to Europe, would be the shift from a feudal to a capitalist society. This might also apply in countries where the shift is from a colonial to a post-colonial order as might be the case when looking at the formation of nations in South America, Asia and Africa. The 'change in social order' can of course be on a local as well as a world level, in its way creating a number of nations and this of course is what is happening in Britain today. There follows an argument then about national formation, although simplistic, that seems to be the most convincing argument when trying to establish; when is a nation? The argument suggests that 'a nation exists with other nations - and because other nations exist' and is 'directed to secure the aspirations of a people for equality and freedom - and to secure the institutions necessary for that purpose.
All of the arguments that have been considered so far seem to point to the idea of 'the nation' as existing in the individual and their 'state of mind' at any given moment, but surely it must go deeper than 'the nation' being just a symbolic invented force created by the manipulation of the past. What is it that retains the idea? There is a lot to be said for Hannah Arendt's view that:
'The society of the nation in the modern world is that curiously hybrid realm where private interests assume public significance and the two realms flows unceasingly and uncertainly into each other 'like waves in the never ending stream of the life-process itself'.
In other words it appears that there has to be something in it for the individual or why else would it appeal. This may not be just financial or territorial, but might also focus on the individual’s psychological need to belong. What is being argued here is that the nation creates or evolves from a selfish state of mind, individual or collectively it is about 'survival of the fittest' in a Darwinian sense. It seems that there must be benefits for the individual if those benefits are not real, then they must at least appear real. Previous forms of national identity however, seem to have in some way circumvent this individual requirement, extending it to the wider needs of the community. Some have argued that the individual within a nation is brought up in such a way that it feels natural that she or he in some way belongs, it is what they have been taught by 'the state.' 'It is nature and nurture - it is not either or but both' it is about survival.
This is what the emerging English identity is about, it is about 'survival' the survival of those things that are familiar, things that are natural to us, but for reasons that we don’t fully understand but, we have in some way been taught, but that survival is no longer located within a greater community, a league of nations. The English people of the 80’s and 90’s have become slowly but irrevocably marginalized in their own country. The sometimes-stifling political/moral/social correctness of the intelligentsia that exists today must accept a great deal of blame for this state of affairs. The author of this piece comes from a family that is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
There are numerous examples of how there is growing disenchantment with the idea of belonging to a Great Britain, this perceived national identity is anathema. Britain no longer exists in the mind of a majority of people who classify themselves as English. The devolution of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland has put paid to any notion of a United Kingdom, a united nation. The ludicrous fetters on personal freedom imposed by a well meaning but ignorant intelligentsia, will only make more English people (regardless of Race, Colour or Religion) seek solace in a community, which represents their interests alone whilst, and this is most important, not imposing its ideology on others. As Foucolt observed, the more that a community feels marginalized the stronger they become, their identity is created.
Hugh Seton-Watson wrote: 'A nation exists when a significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or behave as if they formed one. It is not necessary that the whole of the population should so feel, or so behave, and it is not possible to lay down dogmatically a minimum percentage of a population, which must be so affected. When a significant group holds this belief, it possesses 'national consciousness'. It is evident that English consciousness is on the rise, but it is not an ideology driven by a larger communal desire for survival, this desire this feeling is more localised. The individual now sees benefit from belonging to a community or an organisation whose sole purpose is to represent them and protect ‘their’ interests, not the interests of ‘others.’ Whilst Britain looked outwards and reaped the benefits of Empire the new emergent National identity in the face of the expansion of the personal sphere will look inwards seeking the preservation of an idea that bonds us a community. Only time will tell if this state of mind will be put to positive or negative use.
There's something comical about today's Daily Express headline
It's probably something to do with how old-fashioned it sounds. As Ed West says "Monty Burns is the only person I've heard use the word 'ethnics'".
We're all ethnics these days, pigeon-holed by racially coded identity, and petitioning for 'rights' not as individual Britons or Freeborne Englishmen but by ethnic affiliation. That is Blair's legacy; that is Britishness and New Labour's New Britain.
The English Independence Party is an ethnic nationalist party set up after, or possibly during, the fall of the civic nationalist Free England Party. It joins the growing ranks* of other ethno-nationalist groups ranging from the England First Party, white nationalists; The BNP, British but in favour of an English 'Volk parliament'; United England Patriots and English Shieldwall, Anglo-Saxon revivalists, and; Steadfast and the English Lobby, both supporters of majority rights for the ethnic English.
There is overlap between these groups but ideologically speaking they are a somewhat disparate collection of ethno-nationalists. Some might be more correctly termed white-nationalists and others cultural-nationalists, but even the more culturally orientated delve into areas of race. The English Lobby, for example, has recently launched a petition to "preserve the White English ethnic group identity".
The other common link that these ethnic nationalists share is a dislike of, or lack of trust for, civic nationalists. So it's perhaps no surprise that new English Independence Party launched into an attack on English civic nationalism with one of the first posts to the English Independence Party blog (originally publically available but now hidden from view).
There's little point fisking this, it doesn't need it. But as a civic nationalist I do feel the need to reply and hopefully inject a bit of reason. I have some insight into ethnic nationalist insecurities through discussions with them on this blog, when they have come to inform me that I am an idiot and to tell me that only the ethnic English can be English. Ethnic nationalists understand 'civic nationalism' to be code for multiculturalism, and they feel that a civic, plural and inclusive English national identity will render Englishness as meaningless as they feel British identity has become. I don't share that insecurity. I want people from other races, religions and cultures that make England their home to feel a sense of belonging, to feel English. In my speech to the Convention on Modern Liberty I asked the audience to ask themselves three questions:
- What is my ethnic identity?
- What is my national identity?
- What is my state identity, my citizenship?
Given England's constitutional status it is perfectly possible, and unfortunately probable, that second, third or fourth generation immigrants will not answer "English" to any of those three questions. That's bad for England. My civic nationalism is about allowing people who are not ethnically English to feel English by national identity, which I hope will help instill a sense of pride in England's cultural heritage and collective national identity, despite the fact - or even because of the fact - that they are not ethnically English. I want to bring us together as a nation, not by being prescriptive, but by providing a gateway into a feeling for England through civic and democratic means. By railing against English civic nationalism as "stupid" the ethnic nationalists are not only a reaction to the multiculturalism they despise, they are an integral part of it. We have arrived at the position whereby each and every ethnic group competes for their 'rights', the logical endpoint of multiculturalism as described by Paul Kingsnorth:
Britain now is a ‘cosmopolitan’ society in which no one cultural identity has pre-eminence, and in which Englishness, Polishness and Bangladeshiness must compete on equal terms. The nation’s many ‘minorities’ are not to be integrated into mainstream society (‘integrated’ is such a problematic word; and anyway, what is the mainstream?) but fenced off, theoretically if not physically: defined as ‘BMEs’, afforded ‘protection’, treated as victims, spoken for. Descended from Pakistani immigrants but born in England? Sorry, you’re still ‘Pakistani’, or ‘Asian’ or’ ‘minority ethnic’. You can be British, if you like, because Britishness has been stripped of meaning and is therefore ‘inclusive’ – but you can never be English (or, presumably, Scottish or Welsh, though this gets less attention) because Englishness is ‘racially coded’. Attempts to define it are thus potentially racist; it’s best if the English just shut up about it and get on with ‘celebrating diversity’ instead.
Is a more inclusive English national identity a threat to the cultural identity of the ethnic English? I don't think so. It may undermine the racial coding of Englishness, but that would be no bad thing, and those ethnic nationalists who are more interested in protecting the cultural inheritance of England should think about the positive benefits of an immigrant population who respect - respect not tolerate - the ethnic English on the basis of a mutual respect and a shared national identity.
* To the starting list you might also add The English Defence League, but their ideology is somewhat unclear.
Those who claim to be English civic-nationalists have some explaining to do since there is no English state and no English civic identity. Their claim to favour civic-nationalism is often a means of seeking approval from the political establishment – just as the Scottish National Party has done. It is a way of saying, I am not one of those nasty ‘ethnic-nationalists’ of whom you disapprove.
And those who claim to be communists have some explaining to do because there is no communism in England. Those "who claim to be" English civic nationalists favour the creation of an English state, or aspects of a state, in order to help create an English civic identity, to promote and foster a sense of belonging to England and, importantly, of England belonging to us. This claim does not find favour with the Establishment because the Establishment are Anglo-Brits who see English interests and British interests as indivisible; these are people for whom, Britain is "greater England".
Ethnic nationalists, like Steadfast, exist to protect and further the interests of their ethnic group. Most civic nationalists recognise that civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism are not mutually exclusive positions, but they see civic nationalism as the only platform on which to build a modern nation state because it works on the basis of individual rights and national solidarity, rather than group rights and ethnic solidarity (multiculturalism/communalism).
If civic-nationalists have 'some explaining to do', then the question arises - do ethnic nationalists have some explaining to do? Do ethnic nationalists not want England to possess the constitutional apparatus of statehood; and if not why not, does it diminish their England?
A recent article in the New Statesman highlights the identity crisis that English civic nationalists wish to correct:
Loyalty itself has different meanings in different parts of Britain. Asians in Scotland, particularly those born in Scotland, describe themselves as Scots and tend to be more loyal to Scotland than Britain. The bulk of the Muslims in Scotland now support the SNP and back the demand for an independent Scotland. Asians in Wales also describe themselves as Welsh Asians and appear comfortable with their Welsh identity. In contrast, Asians in England tend to describe themselves as British Asians; and see Englishness as an exclusive identity that is closed to them. Their local loyalty belongs to Britain as a whole and many regard the demands of their Scottish Asian brothers and sisters across the border for an independent Scotland as treason.
Ethnic nationalism has a strong cultural component, and it may be that a self-assertive and confident cultural nationalism in England can help foster a more inclusive sense of belonging in England, a pride and interest in its heritage, politics and direction. Unfortunately, although there is nothing intrinsically 'nasty' about ethnic nationalism, it's doubtful that a bunch of anglo-saxon revivalists agitating for group rights are the most suitable vehicle to deliver either a cultural or political renaissance of England. But since the UK Government won't step into the vacuum, it's not at all surprising to see the English taking things into their own hands.
Non English minorities, (whilst often heard in the press/BBC deriding England and the English on most fronts,) are content to seek to live in England and gain the benefits of an English education, commerce and quality of life, yet at the same time denigrate the very nation that has made them who they are. England and the English have been far too patient for far too long and are now being unfairly treated within the Union and this anti-English discrimination must cease....
The people of England have worked hard and suffered much to attain a decent level of living, and politicians appear only too ready to hand these hard won achievements to anyone “other” than the people of England themselves. This is a travesty of politics and democracy and must be brought to an end.
The English should be put FIRST in their own country – charity begins at home.
And then there's The Centre for English Policy Studies (like the English Lobby, registered to former English Democrat Christine Constable), seeking to develop "a range of targeted initiatives to the young people of England, irrespective of their race or religion".
The tentative beginnings of a majority fight-back against the race-relations industry. An understandable but regrettable development in my opinion.
It has long been my view that the British identity politics preached by the British government are a hamper to successful integration in England. The CRE's paper reinforced that view; following are some selected extracts:
In England, white English participants perceived themselves as English first and British second, while ethnic minority participants perceived themselves as British; none identified as English, which they saw as meaning exclusively white people. Thus, the participants who identified most strongly with Britishness were those from ethnic minority backgrounds resident in England.
There is a difference between being British and being English. English is being indigenous, being white and from this country. But being British, the primary thing that comes to mind is that you have a British passport. The second thing is that you live here and you function here, in this society [...] I am British. I am not English (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, London)
For many ethnic minority participants, in particular, maintaining the difference between the English and the British was crucial, because this provided them with some space to belong.
This seemed to be more important for ethnic minority participants who lived in England than for those who lived in Scotland or Wales, where they were happy to take on those national identities.
At the most basic level, all British passport holders know they are British citizens. However, not everyone attaches any value significance to being British. In Scotland and Wales - and this is true among both white and ethnic minority participants - there was a much stronger identification with each country than with Britain.
We therefore found that most black Caribbean participants identified as black British in England, as black Scottish in Scotland and as black Welsh in Wales.
...it may be that partial devolution in Scotland and Wales means that Scottish, Welsh or even European identies become more attractive than a British identity.
Those extracts seem to suggest that the British government is failing in its aim to integrate immigrants in England, whilst the Scottish and Welsh governments are having some success in fostering a civic, rather than ethnic, nationalism in those countries. Immigrants to England feel distanced from the indigenous population; they largely regard themselves solely as British, certainly in a legal sense; they rarely regard themselves as English, which they see as a ethnic or racial identity.
Why is England failing where Scotland and Wales are succeeding? Well, a quote from Helen's article may help shed some light:
...the government has announced that “All secondary school pupils could be taught about "core British values" such as freedom, fairness and respect under new plans unveiled today.
That British government directive applies only in England; in Scotland and Wales it is the concern of the Scottish and Welsh governments. Why does the British government feel the need to foster a sense of Britishness in an English population that feels palpably more English (and increasingly so) than British, and, conversely, why reinforce a sense of Britishness in an immigrant population that feels palpably more British than English, in defiance of the indigenous population's views? Isn't it all a bit arse about face!
The main drive towards this New Britishness comes from Gordon Brown who has his own selfish reasons for moving against the swelling tide of English self-awareness. It's a mad, bad and dangerous policy - he is playing fast and loose with identity politics for political gain - and the net result may not be a happy one. I forewarned of this in my article English Civic Nationalism which was first published on the Campaign for an English Parliament website in November. I hope it will find an interested readership here.
English Civic Nationalism