England to me is much more than a football team. The flag of St George means something very powerful to me. It’s a reflection of who I am, where I come from, what I stand for and where I am going. It is not a flag I wrap around me just when the national football team plays and then goes back into the cupboard until the next match. To set the scene, I am English not British. The Union flag and the British National Anthem don’t speak for me.
Recent polls back up my view on being English and show that people in England are now more likely to feel “English” rather than “British.” Whilst in the media discussions around sovereignty and our shared values focus on Britain, not England, which stifles conversation and holds England back.
What has pleased me – and I certainly wasn’t expecting this – is that from the England football team’s success there is now a new and almost wholly positive debate about English identity taking place.
Publications from very unexpected sources such as the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Telegraph and – wait for it, Ladies and Gentlemen – even the Guardian. Yes, even they have reported about the English coming together with warmth.
The mainstream media love to portray the English as knuckle-dragging racists wherever they can. Hang out the English national flag when the England team isn’t playing and that beloved flag means something else.
In truth, most English people have long abandoned ethnic and racist ideas of Englishness. The vast majority of us don’t believe you have to be white to be English.
Increasingly over the last twenty years the meaning of being English or British have diverged. Twenty plus years ago you would see far more union flags at an English football game than you would the Cross of St George. At the recent World Cup you would be hard pushed to see a union flag. And this is a reflection on what is happening in the country and people’s views on being English.
National identities in the UK are diverging and I for one celebrate this. The other home countries such as Scotland have had a long history of nationalism and a separate political identity. The English have not.
The feeling of Britishness is much stronger in large English cities such as London. But go outside of these clusters and into the rest of the country and Englishness is much more visible and more proudly spoken about.
Shockingly England, has no state, no citizenship and no national political space. England is the only part of the UK not to have its own elected parliament or assembly. Yet England is the biggest country within the UK and has by a long way the biggest population and economy.
Make no mistake, this policy of refusing England the same chances as all the other UK countries is being driven by a powerful anti-English faction within the UK’s British identifying elite. This vengeful, controlling faction is found within the media, politics, academia and large corporate business. They detest the thought of England becoming a successful nation-state.
English national identity is now greater than British national identity in England. More people say ‘I’m more English than British’ than vice-versa. Yet England and the English barely feature in the national debate.
We the English under our new found nationalism must continue to move forwards. We must not pull back on the new mood within the country. We must, as a priority, make our voices heard in the corridors of Westminster.
John Botting is an ex police officer living in Kent. He is also an active member of the English Democrats. Twitter @johnbotting