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