Britain’s World Cup Bid 2012

Originally published 14th October 2010

David Cameron couldn’t even say England when he was asked about England’s World Cup bid at yesterday’s PMQs.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): As vice-chairman of the parliamentary football club and a qualified football referee, I am well aware that there are just 50 days left before FIFA makes its momentous decision on the location of the 2018 World cup. Will the Prime Minister join me in supporting the English bid, which is in the interests not only of football, but of the entire country?

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I am sure the whole country, and indeed everyone in the House, will want to get behind our bid for the 2018 World cup. I think we can launch and run an incredible World cup. We have the best fans, the best teams and the best stadiums, but above all this country has the biggest enthusiasm for football. We can make it a success for Britain and for the world.

Yeah, yeah, I’m sure that the ‘whole country’ (whatever country that might be) is behind ‘our’ bid to make it a success for ‘Britain’, after all ‘we’ have the best fans and the best stadiums and ‘this country’ – you know, that country? – is very enthusiastic about football, even if ‘we’ are shit at it.

The Conservative website is, by default, an English website

Originally published 22nd December 2009

David Cameron has pledged to support children’s hospices in England. Good. And I say that without my usual cynicism.

But as usual, the press release made no mention of the fact that this was an announcement about England.

Dear Mr Lansley,

I welcome the fact that you have pledged £10M to fund children’s hospices.

From your press release it is unclear as to whether this is £10M for childrens’ hospices in England or £10M across the whole UK.

Ensuring proper funding for children’s hospices

Please could you tell me whether this £10M is pledged for England or the UK?

Many thanks,

Gareth


Many thanks for your email to Mr Lansley. I can confirm that it is for England.

kind regards
Connie

Connie Sturgess
Office of Andrew Lansley CBE MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Health


Thank you Connie.

Is there some reason the Conservatives never mention England on their website? Various stories that concern England are presented as if there is no territorial dimension – a casual reader would probably conclude that they apply to the entire UK.

For example.
Universities bailing out students due to loan delays
Almost 65,000 children a day are skipping school
Lansley calls for action to reverse public health time bomb
Curriculum changes will lead to children learning less

These articles relate specifically to England, yet they make no mention of that fact. I’m curious as to why.

Best,

Gareth


Unless we state otherwise our announcements relate to England, we will state UK/Scotland/Wales if the announcement relates to these. Most people understand that Wales and Scotland are devolved. Thank you for your comment though.

Merry Christmas!

kind regards
Connie

Connie Sturgess
Office of Andrew Lansley CBE MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Health


Thank you for the clarification. Given that it is a UK website – the website of the UK Conservative Party – I had assumed that announcements related to the United Kingdom unless otherwise stated. But as by default it is an English website that also carries UK, Scottish and Welsh announcements, I can see your logic.

Many thanks, and a merry Christmas to you.

Gareth

So there you have it. The Conservative and Unionist Party website is an English website. Everything you read on www.conservatives.com relates to England unless it explicitly states otherwise.

England is the country, and the country is England

Originally published 7th January 2011

My pick of the articles that appeared while I was away in Canada is this one from Matthew Parris:

The presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme was doing a quick round-up of the weather on a freezing December morning, just before signing off at 9 a.m. Very cold all over Britain, he said. Later there would be ‘snow in the north of the country’. ‘Which country?’ I thought.

It was an immediate and unconsidered reaction; and of course on reflection context often does make clear. But not in this case. I still don’t know which country Today meant. If the country they were referring to was Great Britain then they must have meant snow in Scotland. If it was England they were talking about then we in the north Midlands were due for snow too.

A small confusion, and slight enough. But faintly it troubled me. As an Englishman, and as 2010 drew to a close, I was experiencing for the first time the thought that, when directed towards a predominantly English audience, the ordinary and natural meaning of ‘the country’ might now be England.

Read it in full here.

This is a subject close to my heart. Regular readers of this blog will know about my ‘say England’ campaign in which I nag politicians to say ‘England’ when it is England to which they refer. Politicians often prefer to use the word ‘Britain’ to falsely convey the impression that they have a vision and mandate for the whole of Britain; or they may use more nebulous terms like ‘our country’ or ‘this country’, leaving the un-enquiring mind to assume that they’re referring to stories that apply to the entire UK, which, post-devolution, is very rarely the case.

As far as I am concerned our politicians do not mention England because they want to give the impression that the UK is still united, to all intents and purposes a unitary state, and that they and their pronouncements, policies and initiatives are still relevant and of interest to the entire UK. They also have no desire for England to start viewing itself as a distinct national, political and economic community, an idea that constant utterances of ‘England’ and ‘English’ might impress upon their audience. Until very recently the Media, who also like to portray themselves as British and who offer no specifically English news portals, have been in connivance with the political class, but that is changing and as Matthew Parris notes Scotland is fast becoming a foreign country to the extent that English ears now substitute ‘England’ for ‘this country’ and ‘our country’.

Many Scots and Welsh will say ‘it was always thus’, that for them England was always ‘the country’; but according to Roger Scruton the territorial ambiguity of Westminster politicians is a tradition that flows from a wider ill-defined sense of self.

Vague notions of ‘kith and kin’ animated the builders of empire; but who was included and why remained uncertain. When politicians appealed for support, they addressed not the nation or the kingdom but ‘the country’ – meaning all those people who were represented in the Parliament of Westminster. But what these people had in common, and what brought them together under a single crown remained wholly obscure. – Roger Scruton, England: An Elegy

If the ambiguity is removed and ‘the country’ now means ‘England’  then politicians are going to have to be more specific about when they are discussing England, and they’ll need to do this for the sake of Britain because it is ‘England’ not ‘Britain’ that is now the ordinary and natural meaning of ‘the country’ in whatever part of Britain you reside in.

UPDATE

Prof Arthur Aughey has referenced this post in a lecture.