There are not many people that can claim to have changed nationality without moving but I did.
A few years ago if you’d asked me my nationality I’d have said I was British. If you’d gone on to ask me if I was sure I wasn’t English I’d have told you that of course I was English because I was born in England but I was British. I’d probably have given you a funny look.
Then one day, about four years ago, I decided to have a look if there were any St George’s Day events happening in the local area. I probably wanted something to occupy the kids, I don’t remember, but the motivation wasn’t important. What is important is that Google threw up a website for some group calling themselves the Campaign for an English Parliament.
The article I read told me that I was being denied the right to celebrate St Georges Day because I was English and that because I was English I was missing out on lots of things. This couldn’t be true, surely? I’d always taken an interest in current affairs but I’d never heard any of this on the TV so from where did they get this daft notion? I bookmarked the site for future reading and went off in search of some St George’s Day events. I never did find any.
A few days later, with some spare time to while away, I took another look at the Campaign for an English Parliament website and I started to wonder if they had a point. Then I found the CEP news blog and I was converted in an instant. The blog was discussing current affairs – things that were in the news right now – and telling me about things that only applied to England but were being touted as British whilst Scottish politicians were interfering in English affairs. Why was nobody else telling me this?
I hadn’t heard of the Scottish Parliament before I found the CEP website. I’d never heard of the Welsh Assembly either despite living 30 minutes from the Welsh border. The thought of an English Parliament had never entered my mind but here I was, convinced in a matter of minutes of the need to get our own government and take control of our own affairs.
To be honest, at the time I think the main thought that was going through my head was “But the English are better than everyone else, how dare they do such a thing”. I must confess to having a slight superiority complex on account of being English. I recall once blurting out “the reason why you Europeans don’t like us is because you know we’re better than you” on a forum for programmers. One of the Dutch commentators thought me terribly arrogant – on reflection I probably was – but we’re now the best of friends; he’s godfather to one of my children and he’s asked me to be godfather of his impending first child, which goes to show that superiority complexes can have positive benefits!
So what did that day in April 2004 – the day I idly searched for St Georges Day events – do to me? It set in motion the events that would turn me – less than four years later – into a committed English nationalist. I no longer call think of myself as British, I’m an Englishman through and through. I have become almost evangelical on the subject of an English Parliament and the discrimination we all suffer at the hands of the British state (my eldest son has heard me ranting so many times that he told his teacher that if could be Prime Minister for the day the first thing he’d do is give us an English Parliament to stop Scottish people telling us what to do). I started a blog of my own to get things off my chest. I didn’t imagine at the time it would end up being voted the 8th best English blog or 31st best non-aligned blog in a book written by one of the most successful bloggers in the country. I joined the Campaign for an English Parliament, offered to help out with the website, got invited to take over as webmaster and somehow ended up on the National Council.
So what, in a nutshell, does England mean to me? England is my home, the home of my ancestors and the home of my descendants. It’s about living in a country that doesn’t officially exist but is better known throughout the world than the British state that denies its existence. It’s about being constantly challenged to define my nationality and culture and constantly refusing to do so on the basis that I don’t have to because I’m English. It’s about not liking the French but liking French people. It’s about knowing that despite what it tells you on your passport, your driving licence and your birth certificate, you were born English and will die English. But most of all it’s about finding it immensely difficult to write a short essay on “what England means to me”. It’s something inside that almost defies explanation – like trying to explain why you like the colour blue or Marmite.
Cecil Rhodes said “To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life”. If that’s true then I’m a millionaire.
Stuart Parr is a programmer from Telford. To the blogosphere he is known as Wonko.