Douglas Carswell

England is the greatest nation on earth: we may cover just a tiny portion of the planet, yet no nation has given humankind as much.

English science and industry heralded the modern age. Our explorers and voyagers opened the world up to itself. Our political and legal systems are copied the world over. Our games – football or cricket or badminton – have gone global. English is the world’s language.

To me, English greatness is not something confined to the past. In fact, I get quite annoyed at people who attempt to define my England exclusively in terms of former glory. My idea of England is more than the nostalgia of “warm beer” and “long shadows on the cricket pitch”. English-ness must not be defined purely in terms of the past, or in terms of some backward looking, bogus past.

England enters the current century greater than she has left any previous one. Our standard of living is higher today than it has ever been. The freedoms we enjoy are more real to more people than ever before. Most of us can choose to live as we please and work as we wish. More than any people anywhere, we today benefit from the miracles of cheap travel and instant global communication.

If anyone should doubt for a moment the blessings of being English today, ask yourself, why is it that millions of people outside England are today prepared to travel half way across the globe to live here? Indeed, it is our very success in creating one of the freest and most prosperous societies on earth that has lead to a problem in that so many other peoples wish to live here.

Looking ahead, I am an optimist – but I see threats to England. The secret of England’s success historically lies in a distinctively English distrust of unaccountable power. Far from “not doing revolutions”, as some historians claim, England has always overthrown unaccountable concentrations of power. It was English barons who first curtailed the powers of kings. It was Englishmen who rose in revolt in the 1640s and English Levellers who first demanded universal democracy. The American revolutionaries of 1766 rose to defend the “liberties of Englishmen”. It was in England in the 1980s that the West first learnt how to dismantle unaccountable concentrations of economic power. These ideas on how to run society and the economy have spread to every corner of the world. England’s greatness comes from this mistrust of unaccountable government.

Yet we are losing the virtues that made England great. Government in England today is becoming increasingly unaccountable. Indeed, our uniquely English system – copied the world over – is being replaced at home by a continental European system of government. England rose to greatness once she broke away from political interference by continental Europe after the reformation. Until that moment we were but a middle ranking European nation. Once free from Europe, we rose to global prominence.

I fear that England’s political establishment is letting us down again. They are taking us back to being a middling European nation.

Government, which since the time of Cromwell answered to the people, is no longer properly accountable to the English.

In order to prosper in the years ahead, England once again needs to break away from Europe. We also need a new English democratic revolution at home. We need to pass power away from the remote and unaccountable elite in Westminster and Whitehall, and give it back to England’s greatest asset – her people.

Douglas Carswell is Member of Parliament for Harwich and Clacton.

James Higham

First, the geography. People are forever pointing out how small Britain is but the length of the main island is 836 miles or 1329 kilometres. That’s not short.

Given that most city states in the early days were relatively small and that disused Roman roads were pretty well impassable, given that the Elmet held out against the Anglian Northumbria and had little to do with the Saxon south, England as such developed pretty unevenly.

If pressed, I’d say the land from the Humber to the Firth of Forth and across to Cumbria are my extremities, York’s pretty well the furthest south I’d call home but Lindisfarne is a little too far north. Beckfoot Bridge in the west riding settles the western limit.

Is this England? Well, it’s as “England” as we’re going to get. It’s just as “England” as the Norfolk Broads [nice ladies all], Liverpool or Small Dole. But it’s clearly not enough for a definition.
Wensleydale, Double Gloucester, Blue Vinney, Theakstons, Camerons, Bass, Marston’s Pedigree, the pub culture [before it was destroyed by teen-binge-asbo-videoscreen-headnumbing] – do they help create a definition of England?

Drystone walls, railway embankments, signal boxes, dry fly fishing, the salmon, the chippy, mushy peas, Falling Foss, Ugglebarnby, fields and hedgerows, public walkways, shooting sticks, Coronation Street, the Archers, Tony Hancock, Barbours, wellies, anoraks [the people], football, rugby, cricket, Wimbledon [not the Crazy Gang], the Severn Bore – how am I going?

Anything with an “-oze” ending [Rumbelows, Prestos, Tescos], DIY barns outside towns, the Tube, weird names like Lunn Poly and BUPA, Gyrocheques [don’t know much about these], Boots, Marks & Sparks, Covent Garden.
These are just fragments in the makeup which is England.

The cynical moving in of the EU, attempting to exploit historical regional differences, shows a complete lack of understanding of our essential cross-county battiness. It’s our eccentric tastes and passive resistance which will eventually drive the invader from our shores – if they don’t go out of their tree first.

There’s the past I miss too – Carnaby Street, Ska music from 1980, Splodginess Abounds, the whole scene of those days. The Stranglers, Gypsy Moth IV before they stole it and burnt the Cutty Sark, Biggles and Algy’s strange relationship – we could go on and on.

Some of us are stranded, far-flung from native shores but isn’t this also English? From Clive of India to Milligan, we’ve lived all over the place and for different reasons. Philby and Burgess insisted on their copies of the Times; I personally miss Radio 4’s 12 midnight chimes and the shipping forecast. I miss BBC 1’s 4.52 p.m. Final Score and Doctor Who [oh how I miss this]. I miss Sunday Lunches with convivial company.

So yes, much of my life has been spent [and still is] outside that green, pleasant, maddening and frustrating land, some count me American, Australian, even Russian, my accent is an RP mess with a hint of drawl and twang but there’s an Englishness inside which is forever surfacing and cannot be denied. Surely only someone as batty as an Englishman could derive some form of pleasure from this nightly entertainment:
Dogger Fisher German Bight: Northwest 7 to severe gale 9, occasionally storm 10 in Fisher and German Bight, decreasing 5 or 6 in Dogger. Rough or very rough, occasionally high at first. Wintry showers. Moderate or good.

Sublime. Reassuring. It also happens to be tonight’s forecast so you’d best head for home whilst you still can.

James Higham lives in the former USSR, he blogs at Nourishing Obscurity.

Tom Levitt

When I first visited India a wise man said to me: “You English were so kind. You did four things which were really good for us. You gave us cricket, democracy and the English language. And then you left.”

I think that sums up being English for me. We are an understanding, tolerant, phlegmatic people. We’re happy to lead the world, if that’s all right with everyone else. But even when we struggle to put an eleven together on a village green on a Saturday afternoon, we agonise when a potential twelfth man turns up without a full set of whites. We’re actually quite proud of not being able to cope with snow (or autumn leaves) whilst our fondest memory of a family Christmas is Morecambe and Wise rather than anything more spiritual. No one but us finds Tommy Cooper funny.

I am a typical Englishman. My family has been here for oh, well over 200 years, and I have a Polish wife. Our children married an American, an Italian and Australian. Two of my foreign children-in-law speak excellent English (the Australian and the Italian). We have a taste in beer which is unique and a climate which discourages passion 365 days a year. Our Parliament may have been modernised but it’s still ‘quaint’. ‘Sorry’ was never the hardest word: too many of our spoken sentences begin with it.

My grandmother was a British Israelite, a misnomer if ever there was one. She believed that the English (definitely not the British, perish the thought) were God’s chosen people and that the zodiac signs picked out in the field boundaries around Glastonbury proved it. HM The Queen is a direct descendant of David (via King Arthur), she told me, and tea is always preferable to coffee. A true Englishman today would say that all this was going a bit far, though she was spot on about the tea.

A newspaper has been asking people to suggest a motto for the English. The judges are being asked to compare and evaluate ‘Great people, Great country, Great Britain’ against ‘Sorry, is this the queue?’ and ‘At least we’re not French.’ These are all sentiments to which every true English person can relate, including the ubiquitous sense of self-mockery. I’m glad I’m not having to judge the winner.

The wise Indian was right. When half the world was pink on the map we English were not in our true metier; yet conquering an immature world was as much one of our rites of passage as being subjugated was one of theirs. It has taken several centuries and two world wars for us to accept that others have a right to a say on the world stage. When Marx (an adopted Englishman) said that capitalism was a necessary stage on the road to socialism he could have been describing the relationship between the Empire then and England today. We were reluctant but right to enter the political Europe when we did so and when English rapidly became one of the lingua francas of the E Union that was obviously a historical inevitability.

We laugh at the sentiment ‘Fog in the Channel: Continent cut off.’ And then we think ‘Sorry, there’s nothing funny about that. It’s true.’
These days, despite the popularity of the flag of St George (who was not even English, for heaven’s sake) we find sporting victory mildly embarrassing. Notwithstanding the best efforts of Rooney and Flintoff the need to celebrate too often is probably best avoided in the long run. Thank heavens we don’t now have to bear the burden of being in the European Football Finals.

Even the prospect of thinking about being English feels a bit… unnecessary, let alone writing about it.

Tom Levitt is the Labour MP for High Peak.

Brian Barder

England’s my home, it’s where I was born and have lived most of my long life, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But – perhaps because I spent most of 30 years overseas trying to represent the whole of the UK, not just England – I think of myself as British first and only secondarily as English; and since England to me is meaningless except as part of the union of the four UK nations, I can’t separate my feelings about and hopes for England from my feelings about and hopes for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; for Britain.

I’m not an English nationalist and wouldn’t dream of painting a St George’s cross on my face or anywhere else on my anatomy. But there are many things about England that make me proud and affectionate and which I think are worth preserving and building on: our success in absorbing successive waves of immigrants (including many of my own forebears) with phenomenally little violence or discrimination; our generally stoical and courageous reactions to anarchists’ and (later) German bombs, the privations of six years of all-out war, and the barbarisms of the IRA, without giving up our precious civil liberties until Tony Blair, Blunkett, Straw and the rest came along with their ignorance of our history and panic over-reaction to Islamic terrorism. I’m proud of other things: our restraint, until Thatcher, in managing our crucial relationships with Scotland and Wales (less so with Ireland!) usually without exploiting our relative size and wealth to their disadvantage; our global world-view, benign by-product of empire, contrasted with the blinkered ignorance of the outside world of most Americans and the narrow Eurocentrism of many of our European partners (not including the French); our humorous common-sense scepticism or indifference in the face of the weird claims of the priests, rabbis and mullahs; our relaxed attitudes to varying sexual and other unusual orientations; our gift to the world of the ideas of freedom of expression, the right to trial by one’s peers, and – again until New Labour began to chip it away – the notion that no-one should be detained without trial; the English idea that what matters is what people do, not what they think or why they do what they do; our tradition that we can do what we like provided that it doesn’t harm anyone else, is not prohibited by law, and doesn’t frighten the horses. I’m proud of our other huge contribution to civilisation, our incomparably rich and subtle language with its life-enhancing literature. Altogether it’s not a bad record.

England, though, means other things to me of which I’m less proud: our tenacious and pernicious class system which divides us and generates so much injustice, underlying all our most obdurate problems; our assumption, often mistaken, of our national superiority in the arts of politics and constitution management; our crass identification of democratic socialism, egalitarianism, and the idea of a less class-ridden society with Leninist communism, whose brutality and failure are fatuously deemed to have discredited quite different, nobler and more practical ideologies; the rapacious and unprincipled behaviour of much of our private sector and the way it systematically rips us off, with no means of redress; the surrender of our main party of the left to big business and Rupert Murdoch; the Conservative party; our philistinism. Our weather is mostly terrible and internal travel gets more and more expensive and disagreeable. Our mainly illiterate lumpenproletariat, through no fault of its own, gets daily uglier and represents a sad waste of human talent. But it’s still a terrific place, and living here is still the greatest fun.

Brian Barder is a retired British diplomat, civil rights campaigner and blogger.

Stephen Ladyman

Toast and marmalade. Fried breakfasts with bread dipped in bacon fat. Rainy holidays in seaside towns with penny arcades on every street. Green fields. Berries growing in hedgerows. Beer tasting of hops. Lying in at the weekend. Steaming hot tea when something goes wrong. Steaming hot tea when something goes right. Steaming hot tea just when its time for a cup of steaming hot tea.

Getting sunburned at a cricket match. Losing to Australia. Knowing that they took it more seriously than we did and we could have won if we wanted to. Screaming yourself hoarse at a football match. Losing the penalty shootout. Scraping through the qualification stage of the next competition but immediately believing we are favourites to win.

Orderly queues at bus stops. Seeing a doctor when you need one and not worrying about the cost. Sending the kids to school and not worrying about the cost. Putting food on the table day in and day out.

Moaning about the weather. Moaning about the Council. Moaning about the Government. Saying what you think is right and wrong. Saying it in pubs. Saying it in schools. Saying it in shops and workplaces. Saying it on the radio, on the TV and in newspapers. Saying it to the powerful. Saying it and not being thrown in gaol.

Voting. Winning the election and doing something about the things that don’t work. Losing the election and taking defeat with good grace. Power changing hands without a shot being fired or a brick thrown.

Knowing that there is more to the world than just England. Knowing there are more people in the world than just the English. Visiting them. Learning from them. Coming home.

Not taking ourselves too seriously. Being serious when someone has to be. Honouring heroes. Teaching a new generation of heroes what is right and wrong.

Standing up for fair play. Standing up for a principle. Standing up when others kneel down.

Stephen Ladyman is the Labour MP for South Thanet.


If I had to sum up what England means to me in one word, that word would be home. England is my home, always has been and always will be. When I fly back in to England, the feeling I get is the same I got as a child, pulling in to the drive at home in the back of my parents car. A warm, familiar feeling of a place where I will always feel welcome.

I think the comparison with family is a good one. There are those who knock patriotism as irrational, but everyone loves their family and feels nostalgia for the home they grew up in. Like my parents, my country helped make me the person I am today, and me and my ancestors helped and will help to make England. Patriotism is loving your country and wanting to do your best for it.

While obviously loving England as it is my country, it is easy to find things to love about it. From England’s origins as Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Friesians, crossing the sea to conquer what would become England. Under threat from another set of overseas raiders, the Vikings, the English state formed around the already recognised English people, thanks largely to Alfred the Great and his descendents. This kingdom, the origin of the name England is often taught in schools as some kind of dark age barbarians, there just to lose to the Normans. But they don’t explain that the Anglo-Saxons were ahead of their time in terms of things as varied as women’s rights and use of the vernacular language.

That language is now the world’s language. Taken from it’s Germanic roots and influenced by both Danish and Norman invaders, this versatile and beautiful language has spread world wide and England has provided some of the best literature in the world, from Chaucer to Shakespeare.

The English countryside, is calm and peaceful. It is decorated with the defining hedgerows of our agricultural history and scattered across the country are the cities which gave the world the industrial revolution, Blake’s “dark satanic mills” in our “green and pleasant land”. The typical English village may be changing but will remain an icon, with pleasant cottages and village greens.

Although often at war with our neighbours and cousins, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, from 1707 onwards we have been working together, many nations in one state, as Great Britain. All the countries contributed to Britain’s achievements and I feel England can rightly claim it’s part in them. There are obviously many downsides to the Empire, but looking back from todays moral high ground we can miss the many things it brought the world. Industrialisation, trade and parliamentary democracy are just some. Although Britain didn’t start the slave trade, it did do much to end it.

Through our navies under Nelson, and armies under Wellington we defeated Napolean’s attempts to conquer all Europe, and we would stand up again in both World Wars. The English and British have never shied away from war when needed. Even the Normans only won because we were under attack from two sides, King Harold rushing at amazing speed up the country with his armies to defeat the famous Norwegian Harald Hardrada, before rushing back down to his unfortunate end at Hastings. Despite the replacement of all in positions of power with French speaking Norman lords, the ordinary people would remain English, and in time it would be the ruling class who came to consider themselves English and buy into our identity, rather than vice versa.
Even England’s much underrated food is something special to me. Solid and hardy, like the English people, steak and kidney pies, fish and chips, sunday roast and of course the English breakfast. Tasty and filling, not pretentious and arty.

I must have missed so many things, but I hope I have given an impression of England’s place in the world and in history, a great legacy of which we English today can be rightly proud. And I hope others share my sense of belonging and we can work to carry on England’s proud traditions. For all the successes of the Union, the days of empire are over, and it is time for all British nations, including England to stand on their own two feet. A strong English identity can only get us all working together to continue to make England great.

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm.
This England.
My England.

You can find James over at his new blog The Secret Person

Paul Linford

England is the land of my birth, and the land where I hope to end my days. The land of my fathers and mothers, and the land where I too will raise my children. The land from which I have sometimes travelled far, yet always longed to return to whenever I have left its shores. The land where I have enjoyed all my happiest moments, from the childhood summers in Sussex by the sea, to the Lakeland mountain walking holidays of the middle years. The land of music as varied yet as quintessentially English as Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Genesis and The Smiths. A land of beer drinkers and pub culture, of bar-room camaraderie and foaming pints beside roaring log fires. A land of temperate sunshine and richly varying seasons whose weather is reflected in its politics, free from harsh extremes. A land rich in history, symbolised by the continuity of a royal line stretching back fifteen centuries, and by the more ordinary human stories which bear out the truth of TS Eliot’s beautiful verse: “A people without history is not redeemed from time…History is now and England.” A land which people have fought and died to save, and a land which, in my grandparents’ generation, stood alone against the most atrocious tyranny the world has ever seen. A land where the words of our greatest leader Winston Churchill will forever bear witness to its indomitable spirit: “We will defend our island, whatever the cost may be – we will never surrender.”

I hope to dwell in this land all my days and enjoy its safe pasture, and to bring up my children to love it as I have done.

Paul Linford is a former parliamentary lobby journalist now working in digital publishing. He blogs at