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The Left's Oppositional Attitude Towards England

If you want to understand the Left's antagonistic attitude towards England and English identity then I recommend that you listen to this talk by Charlie Kimber and the discussion which followed. They would rather steal from the poor box than embrace their English identity. For them Englishness is a repository of all that is bad, racist, imperialist, conservative, white, reactionary and capitalist about Britain. The sluice gate marked Englishness is what they can open to purge Britishness of anything negative. As one woman put it: "It doesn't matter how many times you wash the English flag you will never wash away the blood of Empire".

During their thirteen years of power the Labour party promoted Britain and Britishness, and Scottishness and Welshness, but did absolutely nothing for England (except attempt to balkanise it into regions against England's will and milk the English taxpayer like a cash cow). But having deservedly lost English votes at the general election there are signs that they are waking up to the debate on the English Question. John Denham has recently given us his views on reclaiming St George's Day, the English flag and promoting a progressive idea of English identity. David Miliband has arbitrarily dismissed the idea of an English parliament and - quite selfishly - suggested that Labour should be leading the national conversation on England that they have studiously ignored for so long in order to win back votes.

On Radio 4's Broadcasting House on 4th July, listeners were treated to Michael Rosen, a popular author and voice of the far-left, informing the audience that England did not even exist.

"We're not giving them the grass roots support but I don't think that's why England failed. England fails because if you think you are a high paid footballer playing anywhere in the world, why would you want to play for this thing called England? It isn't even a nation. Great Britain is the nation. Why would you want to? Let's say you're Rooney, let's say you're Terry - you beat it out for nine months against each other where everything matters day by day, then suddenly you're sent away to a weird camp for three weeks to play for an entity that doesn't really exist. I mean, I'm not blaming them, but why would you want to do it?"

And today Rick Muir of IPPR treats us to the ludicrously titled "The English left needs to reclaim English identity". As if to suggest that English identity was once the property of the left. Rick informs us that "Scottish and Welsh national identity have managed to become inclusive civic identities precisely because those countries have political institutions with which all citizens can identify" and then goes on to argue against an English parliament. His pearls of his wisdom include:

  • There is no comparable crisis [of democratic legitimacy] in England.
  • the West Lothian question is an anomoly, but does anyone really care?
  • There is very little support for this [a solution to the West Lothian Question].
  • An English parliament would likely exacerbate [the weakness of local government].
  • Federalism in a state dominated by one component (England) would likely lead to separation.
  • by trying to solve a tiny anomoly (West Lothian) you end up creating a series of even worse problems.

The usual unsubstantiated rhetoric about the deleterious effects that an English parliament would have on democracy and Britain, it's the sort of thing that we're more used to hearing from politicians like Lord Falconer rather than someone purporting to be a serious academic. I've asked Rick whether he supports the right of the English to decide how we are governed.

Why doesn't the left ask the people that they are supposed to represent what they want rather than arbitrarily ruling out an English parliament. Where's the democratic left?

How do you hope to reclaim Englishness from a position of dictating to the English on what's best for them?

Rick has declined to answer. But in Rick's stead some joker named Peter Jukes has popped up to state: "I don't want popular sovereignty for England". That says it all. I welcome Labour's attempt to discuss the English Question, even if it is for purely selfish and partisan reasons, but in doing so they are going to run up against the problem of exposing their general antipathy towards England, and highlighting a significant constituency of left-wingers that are vehemently anti-English and opposed to the very idea of England itself. They have ignored the English Question for years for fear of exposing the dark racist underbelly of the Labour Party, but now they have to discuss England because their failure to connect with England has caused Labour to lose touch with their traditional supporters, the majority of whom are very happy to be English.

All is not lost. There are people on the left that do love England and are not hamstrung by irrational anglophobia. People like Frank Field, David Dyke and Andy Newman will keep chipping away at left-wing anti-English prejudice. Whether or not their common sense attitude prevails will determine whether or not the left manage to reconnect with England.

Links to Labour List's 'National Identity Day':

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Labour's Anglocentrism

Labour List's 'National Identity Day' (which I mentioned previously) also offers us a post by Paul Richards entitled "England: I would die for it".

It's worth bearing in mind, before you embark on reading what is to follow, that the idea of 'shared valu

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Eeuww, nasty!

Ever since I was banned from Labour Matters for pointing out that the admin's mother seemed to be receiving subsidised meals on wheels under false pretences, I have had little contact with Labour blogs and forums. Then I was stupid enough to follow one of your links, and I find myself in the middle of compulsive English flag washers and people still "struggling to come to terms with" the British Empire - Heaven knows what sort state they'd get themselves into if something serious ever actually happened to them personally.

I don't think the anti - (or anit as a certain fat buffoon has posted elsewhere) Englishness they display is really anything to do with their politics; after all, as you pointed out, Andy Newman has argued the logic and justice of fair representation for the people of England on Socialist Unity (and elsewhere), and English Socialist seemed to make sense in the Labourlist comments. I am beginning to suspect that this reflex condemnation of English self-determination is symptomatic of a personality defect to be found at all points of the political spectrum - the need to tell other people what to do, and often also what they should think. The only difference seems to be how it is expressed - one lot tell people that they should not consider themselves to be English, but if they can't help it they should keep jolly quiet about it, while the other lot tell people whether they can be English or not, presumably with the help of family trees from quack ancestral tracing companies, a colour chart and in extreme cases some nose-measuring equipment.

Please could you isssue warnings when linking to such stuff in future? Perhaps you could design a symbol.

Toque's picture

I'm sorry about that link to

I'm sorry about that link to the mp3. Those people almost legitimise Uncles 'self-loathers' label, but there's not much that's liberal about them.

There's no reason why the left should be inherently opposed to England, but unfortunately their anti-Englishness is the reaction to (and to some extent the cause of) ethnic nationalists pro-Englishness. The pro-English-fascists and the anti-English-anti-fascists are antagonistic to each other, they each provide the other with something to rail against and build from: the scorn these left-wingers pour upon England is the sort of thing that the BNP thrive from, and the left-wingers thrive on the BNP and love nothing more than a bit of BNP baiting.

For vast overwhelming majority of English people who are caught in the middle, neither far-right nor far-left, it is immensely depressing. England is caught in a pincer movement between two sets of idiots both, in their own way, hamstrung by an obsession with race. Any debate on England is invariably hijacked by 'progressives' who claim that there is something wrong or dangerous about expressions of Englishness or English nationalism - the spectre of the BNP, NF and EDL is always raised - and that is met by counter claims by the right claiming that the left have destroyed Englishness through immigration and multiculturalism. Neither side is correct but between them they manage to prevent any meaningful discussion.

What's interesting is the fact that the left-wing commentators (Muir, Field, Denham, Miliband, etc) all mention an English parliament and immigration in the same breath (or at least the same article). The two issues are separate, practically unrelated, but Labour's failure to adequately deal with either has given the English two potent and legitimate grievances, so now you have groups like the BNP (and various ethnic English nationalist groups) adding the absence of an English parliament to their list of grievances to bolster their more traditional xenophobia and opposition to immigration. What a result for the Left - they've managed to tie the perfectly legitimate democratic call for an English parliament to far-right groups thereby helping to delegitimise the democratic call for popular sovereignty in England. I'm no conspiracy theorist, the Left didn't really plan it that way, but that's the net effect.

And then you have the EDP for whom initially an English parliament was by far and away the most important concern (almost to the point of being their only concern), but who are now increasingly encroaching upon BNP territory with far more prominence given to immigration, the fight against political correctness, Muslims and multiculturalism, even to the point of co-opting the England First Party into taking on the BNP on their home turf in a battle royale against English and British nationalism. Another result for the Left - English nationalists are as bad as British nationalists. Same difference in fact.

It's a toss up as to what I find most depressing, is it reading the English Democrats Facebook page, or is it listening to that Charlie Kimber speech?

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