Steve Garrett

What England means to me?…

It’s a big question; but is not a hard one to answer.

One word “Everything”

To this baby boomer, England is the big banana, numero uno, Chairman of the Board and the head honcho all rolled into one. Wherever I am, England is all around me, in my dna, four dimensional, omnipresent and all pervasive. Now into my fifties, it’s a super-emotional bond – “Brand England” is hard-wired into my heart and in my soul, right next to my wife, my kids, Led Zeppelin and my football team.

Thirty years ago, when England was conveniently buried under a British ident, I might have said England meant cricket, curly sandwiches, stewed tea, queuing for Boxing Day bargains, and moaning about the weather. Not any more. For to describe it thus is to insult the most creative and innovative country the world has ever seen. And it took a small paperback book written by a genius of a University Don to make me realise the error of my ways. “”The Making of the English Landscape” by W.G. Hoskins is a towering tome – an inspiration to anyone interested in the landscape of England – and how it got to be the way it is now..

Hoskins knew more about the topography of England than anyone else. Read his books and you too can look at and understand the country you live in. I did – and realised that the tatty little lane in Warrington, the rat run I drove down every day to go to work was actually Saxon in origin – and was likely to be over 1,500 years old. Aside from the historical interest, he explained that the landscape of England is a sculptured testament to a nation’s single-minded obsession with progress and ingenuity. The scree at the bottom of the Langdale Pikes in Cumbria is actually rejected shards from a stone-age axe factory. The miracle that is Salisbury Cathedral. Not just the colossal construct of it, but the fact that it has not yet fallen down despite the fact that it is built on a boggy water meadow and has foundations just 4 feet deep. That grassy mound in a Midlands field was once father of the industrial revolution, Abraham Darby’s first workshop. That wide lane in North Yorkshire is a medieval drove road, specially made to get sheep to market – and to make the local monastery hugely rich in the process. The distant abandoned pit-head was part of the machinery for retrieving one of the trinity of raw materials, coal, charcoal and iron ore – the stuff which fuelled the world’s first industrial revolution. The orb silhouetted against the Sellafield skyline is Calder Hall, the world’s first nuclear power station.

That geographic imprint, the work of countless generations, is evident all over the landscape of England. It’s a multifaceted mosaic of epic proportions. An unsurpassed work of art – honed, manicured and managed. A synergy of form and function, every single acre, every single square yard, each an individual tessera of history, a micro-monument to a nation’s tradition, culture, ingenuity, endeavour and work ethic – all made fit for purpose by the toil of successive English people since the dawn of recorded time. That dedication to progress in every corner of the Kingdom, in every facet of human endeavour and over successive centuries, burst from our borders and impacted upon every other nation in the world.

To realise just how much England has defined the world we live in, take a look at the long, long list of English invention that affects everything we do, every single minute of the day. Our language has become the global tongue of choice, our culture from the Laws of Football to Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been absorbed and customised into virtually every country in the world – as has our parliamentary blueprint. Pretty much every country’s democratic charter is a clone of the daddy of them all – the Magna Carta. The world’s first document that formally sets out the rights of the individual was written, amended, agreed and sealed in 1215 – at Runnymede, England. And that document can now be viewed online – courtesy of Englishman Tim Berners Lee, the man who not only devised the world-wide-web – but then gave it to the people of the world, for free.

England, more than any other is the nation that singularly defines the phrase “punching above your weight”. To put it bluntly, England is, and always has been a land of invention – a nation of pure genius.

Yes, England, geographically the 97th largest country on the globe, the place which sits just behind Syria, Ecuador and Croatia in the size stakes has given the world some fantastic stuff.. As my wife would say, size isn’t everything – but ingenuity and ambition is – and England has both, in spades.

England has the patina of achievement, endeavour and ingenuity ingrained all over its ancient surface. Beneath is a 24 carat stamp of quality that other nations can only dream of – and enviously covet. England has been “creative central” of the globe for generations. While Italy and Germany have been nation states for little over 150 years, and the French regions eventually stopped squabbling in the 15th century, England had already been in existence for nearly a thousand years. While China and Persia can claim to have longer lineages, England, far from being brutalised into a nation by a megalomaniacal despot, sought nationhood through mutual co-operation, beneficial osmosis, willing integration and the imperative to repel invaders from less enlightened lands. (You know who you are!).

Napoleon famously dismissed the English as a nation of shopkeepers – he was wrong. The English are a nation of engineers – and as every lexicographer knows, the word “engineer” is not a person who works with engines – it’s a derivative from the latin “ingenium” – which means skill, talent, ingenuity.

And that just about sums it all up really.

Steve Garrett, NC member of the English Democrats, co founder of Justice for England and author of the pro English, ‘Waking Hereward‘ blog.

William Gruff

To start as I mean to go on I can do no better than to state unequivocally that I am an Englishman and England is my homeland because it is the homeland of the English; a homeland that is now all too obviously under attack. In an age in which all sorts of peoples and “minorities” are aggressively, even violently, asserting their “inalienable” rights to a homeland it is ironic that the English are being systematically stripped of theirs.

It is often said that “Britain” has a long history of welcoming migrants but this is untrue, and demonstrably so. Until the end of the Second World War “Britain” never suffered the levels of migration that have typified the immigration to England of the last sixty years. Before the act of union England occasionally received (what by modern standards were relatively small) groups of refugees, not migrants. Genuine migration was generally limited to individuals, sometimes accompanied by their families. Those who came en masse were usually fleeing some tyranny or another. England offered tolerance and safety and that is why they came but English culture ensured that the recently arrived were eventually assimilated into the mainstream of English society, and English law did not act to inhibit the process with a mass of destructively authoritarian and entirely counter-productive legislation intended only to stifle the complaints of the indigenous population. Following union, migration to Britain generally conformed to the same pattern though immigrants rarely settled elsewhere than England. The Irish migrations cannot reasonably be considered as immigration since Ireland, even before union in 1801, was a possession of the British crown (”by the Grace of God, King of England, Ireland and France”). The Irish, my mother’s father amongst them, were simply subjects moving within a United Kingdom of which they were very much a part, even if unwilling. They were not immigrants, a fact which is too often gainsaid. If the largest group of migrants used as justification for large scale immigration were not actually immigrants what other large group that arrived in the United Kingdom before the Empire Windrush sailed on its portentous tide can be described as immigrants? Regardless of their numbers, the Jews who fled the pogroms in eastern Europe were refugees, not migrants.

The truth is that mass migration is a very recent phenomenon in Britain, from which England has suffered disproportionately, and the result is that England is now far more ethnically fragmented than the little nations of the union. Indeed, so fragmented is England that it has been claimed that there is effectively now no England, the peoples of what was England, the argument runs, are too ethnically “diverse”, too disparate, for anything as “narrow” as Englishness to embrace them, and Englishness far too restrictive for them to embrace. There is now, we are told, only a ‘Britain of the nations and regions’ and only a nebulous Britishness as the less than certain catalyst for an equally nebulous British civic nationalism. Unfortunately for those unionists peddling such pernicious Anglophobic nonsense in a risible attempt to prop up a union that is now perilously close to its inevitable collapse, three considerations militate against the concept of Britishness.

The first is that one size most certainly does not fit all, which consideration was explicitly the motivating force behind the calls for devolution, which has proved, apropos of Britishness, that nothing that can, like Humpty Dumpty’s words, mean precisely what anyone wants it to mean (nothing more and nothing less), for no longer than as long as they want it to mean that, can possibly mean anything meaningful to anyone. Britishness is now meaningless.

The second is that a civic nationalism that is not informed by ethnic nationalism is superficial at best. It works well enough while things are going well only because nothing has gone wrong but when civilisation decays, as from time to time it does, ethnic considerations will to the fore, as from time to time they do, often in most uncivilised ways. Ultimately, civic nationalism is about nothing more than civic responsibility, which grows from a sense of shared interests (i.e. returns on civic investment), whether or not those sharing interests share values. Shared values ensure that those who do not share as much as they would in the returns on civic investment continue to feel that their disproportionate contribution and sacrifice are worthwhile. The notion that one can co-exist with others with whom one has no shared values when the returns on civic investment are so obviously disproportionate is predicated entirely on the entirely baseless notion that civic nationalism is nothing less than overarching and ignores any consideration of ethnic nationalism as anything more than destructive.

The third is that devolution has ensured that Britain is now well past its sell-by date and when Britain goes the people of England, all of them, no matter whence they came, must face the fact that England is, de facto, a nation state again and while it is the homeland of the English, England is now home to many others who are not English; who live amongst us as of British right; who do not wish to be English and are under no obligation to be so, and who may positively, even murderously, dislike us.

Britain has changed England in ways that have not affected or afflicted the little nations of the union, and though some of the damage can be repaired, generally there is no going back. England is now home to people who are not English and do not want nor wish to be. The challenge for the English is: How do the English incorporate those in England for whom even civic nationalism has little appeal into an all encompassing ethnic nationalism. How do we make our country one in which England means as much to those who are not English as it does to me?

The answer is, of course, that we don’t. We make it absolutely clear, by our words and our deeds, that we hold England so dear that we will defend what our forefathers defended so that we may hand on to our children and their children what was handed on to us. When others can see that England is so precious, they will value it too.

William Gruff is the pen name of the blogger behind Pox Anglorum

Bart Hulley

I first discovered I was English the day I met a Scottish Nationalist (in Darjeeling of all places, but I digress) and while I am sure beneath her sour veneer she was genuinely a nice person, she seemed to take great pleasure out of telling me just how ashamed I should be of my race – given what my forefathers had done to her forefathers.

It seemed there was little doubt in her mind that one of my ancestors had been complicit in the butchering of Scottish innocents and the eradication of much of Scotland’s native language and customs.

Quite an accusation I thought, and hardly something I should be expected to agree with; but even so I felt it would be easy enough to distance myself from the macabre events of yore; for I, like her, was British rather than English; and to that end we were united fellow-countrymen (or countrypersons) – and isn’t this weather we’re having simply awful?

Anyway, to say I was simply “English” would be to ignore a number of irrefutable facts: one, my father was a born and raised Scotsman from Clydebank; two, I had drank real single malt whisky on the odd occasion; and well, three, isn’t that Ewan McGregor a talented chap?

But this didn’t wash with the true Scot, since with neither a “Mc”, “Mac” nor “O” preceding my name how could I pretend to be anything but English? Unless my name was “Jones” of course (which it isn’t).

“Good question” I thought; but all the same why couldn’t she accept my classification as British and be done with it? What was wrong with that?

No-one seemed to begrudge James Bond for saying that he’s British. The British Empire was never questioned over its nationality. Why should I have to defend the nomenclature? Britain, Great Britain, Cool Britannia, was something to be proud of wasn’t it? Not universally it seems; the mere suggestion that we were of the same ilk seemed to disgust the McNationalist.

Granted, the troubles in Northern-Ireland have had an influence on the way “Britishness” is regarded. As too has the catalogue of atrocities that the British meted out during the darker days of the Empire. So one can accept, particularly in the days of globalisation, devolution and petty nationalism, that a prejudicial regard for “Britishness” as a byword for imperialist arrogance has become somewhat inevitable.

But Americans don’t feel the need to drop the self-reference “American” to placate those offended by the word, why should I drop “British”? I was brought up in England, yes, but that is little more than a geographic reference, and if we’re going to get specific about race – it doesn’t change the fact of my lineage.

On my passport it says “British Citizen”, so I’m British – end of story.

End of story for me perhaps but with a few drinks inside her the Nationalist decided to change tack – and began to insult me. A clever move on her part, as not only did this save her the trouble of having to construct an argument, it also persuaded me in a very short space of time that I should disassociate myself from Scots people without delay. Our meeting concluded shortly afterwards when I made the sensible move of leaving the room, and a trail of expletives behind me.

Coincidentally, she told me that her English teacher at school was Irvine Welsh – which might certainly explain her colourful language.

I cannot understand the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Nationalist’s craving for their nations to be restored to a state as defined, racially and culturally, prior to Anglicisation; quite simply because England cannot possibly be defined in the same way. To suggest that “true” Englishness, and England, predates the Norman Conquest would be ridiculous. Which just demonstrates why nationalism is so ridiculous; it is based entirely upon a spurious moment in history for a given geographic area. Nations change, people change, cultures change.

I live in France now, I carry a British passport and I tell people that I’m English, if only for the fact that England is where I have spent the majority of my life – so far. I speak French, pay French taxes and send my children to a French school. So there’s a chance that in thirty years time I’ll be telling people that I’m French, should things stay this way.

When they’re old enough, my children will probably describe themselves as “European” to those who ask; no doubt referencing their Anglo-Irish lineage and Alsatian-French upbringing; but I suspect this explanation will not necessarily satisfy all those who enquire.

Bart Hulley blogs at

Robert Key

England is a nation of stability, tolerance and faith. The English are slow to anger – but belligerent when provoked. After centuries of battles and bloodshed, burnings at the stake, decapitating kings and courtiers, feudal power, rampant capitalism and semi-socialism, we have come to an accommodation with ourselves and grown in stature and confidence.

We are also a mongrel nation. There is no such thing as a “pure Englishman”. Waves of tribes from northern Europe arrived, conquered, settled, among them the Angels who gave us our name. They each contributed to our language, culture, the way we live and the way we governed ourselves – and others. Only the Romans invaded and later went back home – but they left an indelible legacy and changed our people for ever. The dark Ages were long and horrible – but we developed notions of democracy and common law that are still with us. The Normans invaded and stayed. They brought us strong government and sound administration. Magna Carta of 1215 gave us the rule of law and laid the foundations for all the world’s great democracies as well as our own.

Our island nation gave us shores to defend and seas to explore. We exported our way of life, our language and our creed. We battled our way around the world, established the world’s only global empire – and usually knew when it was time to go home. But we remain a global force – and our language is the most useful and powerful in the world, the language of the future.

We have many faults and face many challenges – which spring from centuries of collective experience and will be addressed by collective wisdom.
Above all, England is the land of big ideas. Freedom, justice, enlightenment, literature, science, fair play and just reward – and the Church of England. Our Church, established by Queen Elizabeth I is the product of all that makes us a nation. At that time we rejected the excesses of Christian religion in both Rome and Geneva. We grafted the vigorous oak of our English state onto our Christian rootstock in a way that suited us and confounded many.

Like it or not, our Church still guides our national life as we carry forward western civilization that is emulated and so widely desired by free people everywhere.

Robert Key is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Salisbury.