I suspect that it is more due to the fact that English nationalism has been co-opted by the far right to the extent that right minded English people do not want to be associated with such an ugly and hateful form of “National pride”.
-Comment on Daily Telegraph forum about the supposed lack of patriotism in England.
If I’ve heard this sentiment once I’ve heard it a million times, and it’s getting boring now. It’s high time we exposed it for the fallacy that it is; a dangerous, nasty, loaded cliché that trips easily off the tongues of the England-haters and of well-meaning English folk whose minds have been poisoned by ‘liberal’ liars. The fact is that English nationalism is not necessarily any worse than that of any of other nation, and our national flag does not need to be ‘reclaimed’ from the ‘far right.’ To claim that English nationalism is inherently, irrevocably negative is ignorant and inaccurate, generating resentment amongst those of us who want to see a positive Englishness flourish.
English nationalism in its current form is actually quite a recent phenomenon. It has really only been since the 1990s and devolution that the English have embarked on a journey of self-rediscovery. Before that, the only widespread form of ‘nationalism’ in England was avowedly British rather than English. The BNP and the National Front before it almost exclusively used the Union Flag as its symbol rather than the English flag. Despite these groups having an overwhelmingly bad press, it hasn’t stopped the British elite promoting the British flag as an inclusive symbol and celebrating Britishness.
We also need to take into account the fact that the Union Flag has very negative connotations in the many parts of the world which were formerly British colonies. Many Welsh, Irish and Scottish people refer to the Union Flag as the ‘Butcher’s Apron,’ an epithet not born out of affection. The sight of British flag immediately calls to mind the British Empire and the many controversial foreign wars which Britain has fought in. It is a stuffy old flag, a relic, a symbol of a dead empire, of oppression. Yet there is a group of people who, for whatever reason, desperately want us to believe that it is a positive symbol of a multicultural, unified UK that we can all rally around. Unlike that nasty, racist cross of St. George (who wasn’t even English doncha know?) which has so been tainted by the fascists that there’s nothing we can do about it.
Let’s examine the myth that English nationalism is ‘racist.’ For a start, many of us English nationalists believe in a form of nationalism that is far more similar to the civic nationalism of the SNP than to anything the BNP can offer. Many of them are more concerned about democratic representation and the rights of the English to have their own parliament than they are about mass immigration and the rise of Islam. It is true that in Scotland and Wales civic nationalism is easier to implement because the proportion of immigrants and migrants is far lower in those countries and they find it easier to assimilate into the mainstream culture (which sees their presence as less of a threat.) In any case, Scotland and Wales have leaders who are proud of their own nations and their distinctive cultures. Many English nationalists are simply asking for the same rights for the English to determine their own affairs and to consider themselves a proper nation just as others do.
I believe that there is a legitimate and practically unavoidable debate to be had about the effects of multiculturalism and mass immigration on English national identity without accusations of racism. Many English people feel frustrated and angry about the rate of immigration and the tension and strain on resources it causes. Many feel left behind in a PC, multicultural world that tells people that ‘diversity’ is an unquestionably good thing and that anyone who disagrees is racist. Not everybody feels at home in this brave new England and many feel that they have little control over their own destiny. Anybody who dares to speak out against this or to assertively celebrate their distinctively English cultural identity is treated as a pariah by ‘liberal’ types who fall over themselves to celebrate any and every foreign culture, but shun that nasty old Englishness (which is snobbishly treated as a working class affliction.)
If our leaders were more astute they would realise that to make English patriotism out to be a ‘bad thing’ is to create a smouldering resentment amongst English people. When I hear comments like the one at the top of this page it makes me angry and frustrated. To bandy about the pejorative title of ‘racist’ is unfair and in many cases unjustified. The ‘liberal’ elite (which contains some of the most bigoted and opinionated people you are ever likely to encounter) seems to have already made its mind up that all English patriots and nationalists are racist bigots who hate everybody else. I certainly don’t hate anybody and I don’t want to be negative all the time. In fact I’d much rather that we all came together to celebrate England and Englishness. Since that isn’t happening, since many influential people treat Englishness as though it emitted a nasty smell under their noses, then I need to speak out until the people listen. The myth that English nationalism has been ‘co-opted by the far right’ seems to be less a statement of truth than an attempt to create a politically-motivated stigma which has little basis in reality.
Even if we accept that a certain core of English patriots is genuinely ‘racist’ (though that is a strong term and we should be sparing in our use of it) does that mean that English nationalism is irrevocably lost and tainted? I would suggest not. After all, British nationalism has a far worse history than the relatively new phenomena of English nationalism, yet this does not seem to prevent many people celebrating Britain and a British identity. Also, there are nationalist movements in many countries which tend to be ‘right wing’ and often violent. The IRA murdered innocent civilians in the name of Irish nationalism, yet it doesn’t stop people (even in England) celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and it doesn’t cause educated and respectable Irish people to hang their heads in shame and deny their own nationality.
Scottish nationalism is supposedly ‘inclusive’ yet through it runs a strong thread of anti-Englishness. This does not cause decent Scottish people to spurn Scottish patriotism because some idiots use it as an excuse for violence and hatred. To suggest that English nationalism is tainted beyond redemption is not only inaccurate and insulting (as I said, British nationalism has a far worse record) but is also as absurd as saying that nobody should support a certain football team because some of its fans have been involved in hooliganism. To leave English nationalism to an extreme fringe should not even be an option as it is something that belongs to all of us. It should be mainstream and positive, not the preserve of a resentful minority.
People often cite the English Defence League as an example of negative English nationalism. This theory actually has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese! The EDL are not a proper English nationalist group (they are staunch unionists who have no problem with flying the Union Flag.) They are not out there campaigning about the injustices England suffers, about the Barnett Formula or the West Lothian Question or about an English Parliament. They are purely and simply an anti-Islamic group who happen to use the English flag. In any case, the EDL has only been on the scene for a few years and the Cross of St George has been in use far longer than that.
We need to start seeing through some of these lies and exposing them for what they are. There is a body of people in England which has a vested interest in denigrating English nationalism/patriotism and making respectable people think that it is an unworthy cause, the sole preserve of nutters and racists. That is why it is so important that we develop a positive, celebratory English nationalism which is generous and ‘inclusive’ without being too politically correct and without avoiding serious discussions which need to be had.
It is British nationalism and unionism that has uneasy questions which it needs to ask itself. The demonization of English nationalism is only a smokescreen to divert attention from its own failings, agendas and machinations. The English are waking up, slowly but surely, and they will not be taken in by British lies forever.