Norman Tebbit

We are who we are by our parents’ genes, by our inheritance of history and culture and our own experience of life.

That inheritance of history may reach back to a time before one’s family came to this island – in the case of my father’s line, in the 16th century. So, to be English today is to be an inheritor of the most powerful language in the world – literature, art, science and technology, even sport, which have done so much to shape the world, and a philosophy or culture of government which has permeated not just the Anglosphere but great countries such as India.

We English are not an introspective people. We rarely think about England (except in the field of sport) unless something malfunctions. As for Britishness, that wider concept is a way of sharing with others living in this kingdom their history and culture and our own. It provides a banner around which we can all rally for mutual aid and strength.

Since the English have influenced and been influenced by almost every other nation we know that how others see us is as much about what they are as what we are. From time to time, if it seems to affect our interests we become anxious about that, especially if we are seen as weak, a soft touch or an unreliable friend, but being mostly content within our collective English skin we are neither extrovert nor introspective and leave others to make of us what they will.

Tolerant as we are, we do not require outsiders who come to live there to put on an English identity – but we do ask that they respect not just us but our English house – its fabric and its customs. Should they not like it we would not wish to detain them there – but if they and their children wish to join our tribe we see no reason to discriminate either against them or in their favour.

Quietly, as we look back at what the English family has done, what it has given to the wider world, we take pride – not arrogant nor puffed up pride, but honest pride in our history. That pride is patriotism and without it societies disintegrate into no more than crowds jostling for shoulders in one place.

For the English the modern cry for devolution sounds like a struggle to put back the clock and chop up the United Kingdom which has been of mutual benefit to all us British islanders. If that is what the others want so be it, but they should not think that they can have both their independence bun and their halfpenny too.

However, the concept of England is changing. The false doctrines of multiculturalism and the authoritarians preaching the doctrine of the big state ruling a citizenry denied the strengths of family and of religion and of history, has ruptured the English consensus. A growing underclass, the like of which England had not seen for centuries, rootless, feckless, ill educated and violent, has begun to infest England’s great cities. The ballast of the respectable working and middle class families is shifting.

They may look for a while at outsiders from the Continent of Europe to resolve our difficulties – as the Romans and Normans did in their time – and the political classes of Brussels are eager to do today. Or they may look to an English hero – a twenty first century King Alfred – to define as he did what it meant to be English.

His victory at Edington was the birth of England and the English which led through to the Magna Carta, the Tudors, the Empire, the Reform Acts and the 20th century wars to the flowering of an English culture whose power and reach has been rivaled only by that of China at its greatest.
The English must soon choose. To succumb like Italy after Rome – or to rediscover what Alfred found in Wessex a thousand years ago.

The Rt Hon Lord Tebbit, Conservative politician and former Member of Parliament for Chingford.

Will Rhodes

What if England meant as much to everyone as it does me?

Thinking back to when I was a boy – the first thought that always comes to mind is the day we, my family and I, stepped off a DC10 into the frigid air that was London Airport. We had arrived back from Bahrain where my father was stationed, and when I think of the cold, cold air that greeted us, I still think of that as my first recollection of England – but even with that chill, I knew I was home.

Through the long journey back to Yorkshire I knew that this was my land, it was all our land. The history that can be found in England rivals anywhere in the world – but even that was just off the mark.

So what do my fellow Englishmen think of England – for all 50 million of us I would say that each has a different feeling – but for those of us who love England it is something akin to a religious thought. Not that we can quantify it that we have a Messiah – just that we love this land and no matter what, we will stick together through the thickest of problems – for we are, after all, English.

This always leads to a question – even one that is asked to this day – asked, I may add, by Canadians, as Canada is where I now reside. They ask me what it is like in Britain, I always use a generic answer, and that answer is that Britain is a great place. But I still don’t feel the same way about Britain as I do England. I was asked once how it was to be English – that answer lasted almost two hours and drew many people to it, they listened – my friend’s wife asked mine, “How does he do that?” My wife asked her what she meant – “How do all those people sit, stand and listen to him while he speaks?” My wife replied, simply “He is talking about England”

And that is how it is – I am, obviously, British, but I am English first – that is my true love.

The people who were listening to me said, and I did smile at this, ‘That just isn’t the England we hear about’ – and, you know something, they don’t. They do hear about the Queen – they hear about the football violence, some even took the time to look at the internet and find out about England and found ‘our’ castles to be spectacular. Some had been to Scotland and heard how cruel the English were – nothing at all like this guy who was speaking to them. That saddened me to some degree – they had not been to England and seen what England was. London, yes – but very few had left the walls of The Tower and looked at England’s green and pleasant land.

Not only that, you have to look at England for what she is – she gave the world so much, and the world took it – she spread a simple thing called English Common Law around the world – and most countries base their law upon it. England is a place that once you fall in love with – you never want to leave. I have, believe it or not, heard both Welsh and Scot say such things – they saw the England I see.

England was the first melting pot. England was and is made up of so many – we are, as English, ‘a bastard race’ – not the derogatory term but one that joins us at the hip.

England is history, it is modern, too. It is one place that can be said for all men/women. Because once you say – with the pride that many feel is unsophisticated, rhetorical pride – “I am English” – that pride isn’t something that most can have, it makes your heart swell and a tear flow. That pride is uncountable – it is you, it is a part of you that never goes away until your last breath – it is something that calls you home so you can rest there for all eternity.

England is England – I suppose I am one of those who believe that England should be her home country again – one that belongs in Britain, but not to rule others but rule herself. For too long it has been that to be English you couldn’t speak out – you had to be quiet, Politically Correct so as not to upset anyone else – that saddens me more – because that pride of what England is should be felt by all. I must say that I have seen what others are trying to make of my home – they want to tell me I am European – I am not, part of a continent that is Europe, but how can I be European when I am English?

If you are English and love England you will understand every word I type here – if you are not, you will think me a lunatic or a flag-waving Englishman who has too much time on his hands. But that is the part that many around the world never grasp – being English is to love the very ground you walk on because – it is my home.

Will Rhodes is a 47 year old guy who is now living with his Canadian wife in New Brunswick, Canada. For many a long month/year Will and his wife have been planning to go back to England to live. Mainly out of his constant complaint that the butter is right, the weather is way too cold or hot in summer, the slow take up of Yorkshire Pudding and roast beef and they fact that he never shuts up about England, and missing football on TV.
Will is actively looking for a literary agent or publisher so he can get his scribbling out into the world, and make a few quid as well. If you should want to read his bloggings, you can do so here: http://vpcyn.wordpress.com/

Toni Hargis

I’ve been invited to contribute to a Domesday project for the 21st century, and write about “What England means to me”. I am determined to contribute – once I can think of something to say that doesn’t make me cringe.

I was going to write about the smell of an English garden on a summer’s eve, (oh, a tear just dropped), or the pleasure of meeting old friends in a lovely country pub, but it all seems too, well, corny. Then I thought about pointing out to England, that it’s all not as bad as one would think judging by the on-line newspapers – yes, the NHS is in crisis, but at least everyone in theory has access to healthcare. That sort of thing. But that seemed too preachy.

As it happened, on the same day as my attempt at this piece, my son’s English teacher sent him home with an article from the New York Times entitled “Britain Looks for its Essence, and Finds Mostly Punch Lines”. It starts by discussing the recent competition in The Times (of London) to find a five-word motto. I must admit I followed it every day because some of the answers were hilarious. The best included

“Dipso, Facto, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco”,

“Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used” and

“At least we’re not French”.

But the winner was “No Motto Please, We’re British”. My sentiments exactly. We can’t go around bragging about being British, (or English) although a little less of the hair-shirt would be nice.

Toni Hargis is the author of Rules Britannia, she lives in the USA.

Adrian Thurston

It would be very easy to describe England as a luxurious green and pleasant land with breathtaking countryside and beautifully quaint buildings set in an almost fairytale environment of warmth and cosiness, but that would be to over-simplify how we came to live in that way and who we really are. So first, it must be said what and who we are not.

We are not “Celts” who used to live in round houses with no tables or chairs or spoons or forks. We don’t originate from Britain, but from the adjacent lands, mainly from Northern Europe where our houses are long and rectangular! We don’t promote ourselves as a multi-racial or multi-cultural society because we are not. We are by nature liberal and expect the same of those who choose to come and live with us. We do not believe in equal opportunities unless it has been hard earned. We had to earn it ourselves so why not others? We do not subscribe to sexual superiority, nor do we encourage sexual inferiority either. The different sexes are just as they are without weak men and women trying to make us all into something that we are not. We do not believe in positive or other forms discrimination unless it must be made an issue of, because of culture. The English culture transcends race, creed and religion. These ugly three are just the packaging. What’s inside is hidden from the eye and it could be good or it could be bad for us.

English children are our future and they must be taught to follow our traditions (above & below) or we are finished as a people. Children are just as they are described on the tin before you get them out. They are mostly just plain-brains and full of foolish uncoordinated helplessness right up to the age of consent, and often well beyond that. They are not more important than adults. Children have a lot to learn about being adults. Children’s subconscious knowledge may be fresh in their tiny little minds, all excited from their perfect pre-birth world experience, but perfection is what we adults are aiming at and striving for in the real world, the living world, the wholly conscious world of knowledge. This is almost a different universe to the universe of the child! We have all been children and we are fully aware of how to retort from the gut if necessary. Respect for adults is therefore the order of the day here, because children must do as they are instructed to do or they would be obeying something or someone else – certainly not us – and so in need of a harsher lesson than just simple instruction from a kindly parent at their wits end. Our future depends upon rearing healthy good natured English children.

Clearly it can be seen that England means more of a social order to me than a terrestrial or historical visual effect – a social order that is being broken down by both foreign oriented foolishness and Celtic misguidance. England is not a breeding ground for foreign culture, social misfits or sexual deviants and other kinds of perverts as currently seems to be the order promoted by the current administration. Instead, England is an Ideal Land where perfection and idealism may be taught peacefully to our children, their children and their children’s children without party political, state or foreign interference. By suppressing our English national culture, we may lose the weaker elements of our nationality which would undoubtedly betray us to our faces before too long, so its important to realise that being English is more about being strong inside, about bearing the loss of dear ones who may happily betray everything sacred and good and see nothing wrong in doing that. Preventing the upper lip from quavering through grit.

Being English means a way of doing something, an attitude, a disposition, a way of living, an aspiration which though essentially peaceful, when provoked has the capability of great anger. To the English, law is not an ever changing tool for the rich, but a standard that poor folk can use to accuse rich people of corruption with when necessary. That is why rich English people in England tend to seek to help the poor when fortune smiles upon them. Non-English do not usually do this (in England) because they do not share our ethos. England is not land, banks and buildings, but a people. A people who know right from wrong and are more than willing to ensure that the right and the good prevail no matter how strong the wrong and the bad becomes, and no matter how much evil it threatens us as a punishment for those refusing to become evil and servants of the devil.

Being English is the reason that I live because my ancestors made this country for me and my offspring, the greatest country on Earth, the greatest country the world has ever seen, the most inventive and creative and populated by people with the biggest hearts, the strongest minds and the widest vision. Colonialism is just another way of saying forced acculturation of the ignorant, but those who have benefitted from our civilising presence, are the billions of people down the ages who wisely understand this and give silent thanks to the greatness and the fearlessness of our ancestors who lie mocked and abused in rotting unkempt cemeteries around our tortured country.

There is no country but England for the virtuous – so let the peoples of the world seek us out and learn of our eternal culture from the greatness of our glorious past – wherever we may be.

Adrian Thurston is a writer, director and actor. He lives in Brighton.

Lola Adesioye

England to me means home. It means fond memories of school days; Sundays holed up in a pub drinking wine and eating a succulent roast while discussing the state of the weather with good friends; running to catch a train from Victoria station after a hard day’s work and breathing a sigh of relief once I’m on it and as the train rolls out of central London into the leafier suburbs.

England is what I signify to people when I’m abroad. My accent, my sarcastic sense of humour, my values and politeness (such as saying sorry when I really don’t need to) are all products of being brought up in England. “Oh! You’re from England!” people exclaim before asking me whether it really does rain all the time.

England is also a part of me that non-English people sometimes don’t understand. “Are there black people in England?” I’m asked that on a regular basis. Yes there are, but we clearly don’t fit into the idea of what Englishness means to others, nor are we often visible in mediums of communication such as TV and film so some people abroad really do not know that we exist.
The Englishness in me is sometimes an anomaly to people who don’t expect to hear a black woman speaking with an accent which to them sounds like the Queen’s. England is a part of me that sometimes forces people to change their perceptions, to do a double-take and to look and listen to me differently.

England is the ‘green and pleasant land’ described in Jerusalem, one of my favourite songs. At the same time it is also – being that I come from London – inner city and urban; a metropolis of sky scrapers and polluting cars and buses; a landscape dotted with parks which sit alongside historical buildings and cultural landmarks. It is at once inclusive yet at the same time, at times, hostile to immigrants and foreigners. It is both a melting pot and apparently tolerant yet also the country that has colonised and oppressed large sections of the world and gave birth to figures such as Enoch Powell.

What does it mean to be English? Is it interchangeable with being British? That’s a tricky question. I will always have a sense that although I was born and bred in England, I am not considered to be truly English. English is not as accommodating a concept as say, American; being “English” still has a connotation that does not fully encompass black people – I’m not sure that it ever will. It’s very possible to be both an insider and an outsider at the same time. “British” however – thankfully in many ways – is an all encompassing term, meaning everything… and at the same time very little.

In any case, I am proud of having being born and raised in England… I know and am well aware of England’s colonial roots and no doubt England has, for such a small place, created a lot of havoc in the world! As a person of colour I would be silly not to acknowledge that. But for all it’s sins, contradictions and paradoxes, it’s still home.

Lola Adesioye is a regular contributor to the Guardian who hails from London but now lives in New York.

Paul Kingsnorth

A few years back, I found myself in a narrow valley on the border between England and Wales. There are some landscapes – fewer as time passes – in which it seems that time has, if not exactly stood still, then been hijacked by some outside force for its own ends. There are some landscapes in which you can sense the ancient heart of the place in the air. This was one of them.

It was a landscape of scattered hill farms, high moors, hedge-lined holloways and winding brooks. Save for the odd industrial shed tacked on to a farmyard, or barbed wire fence, there was little of contemporary England about it. There were few cars. And everywhere, there were textures.
The textures of this valley became more and more noticeable as I walked its length. I took out my camera and began to photograph them at close quarters. Robbed of their wider context they look, when printed, like abstractions. The jigsaw bark of an old tree; white air bubbles on the surface of a blue pond; another tree’s bark, glossy this time and mottled; green moss on a purple gravestone; tree roots snaking through the dust; the parallel lines of a corrugated iron roof.

A legion of textures, colours, surfaces, pictures, crowding in on one another; the patchy, unplanned, diversity of place. This is what England means to me. Place, above all, is what makes my England. A small nation, shaped by humans for millennia, has no place which does not bear the mark of that shaping. Contemporary England is a patina; a palimpsest of historical eras, of times, of peoples. Everywhere there is colour, culture, history.

But England means something else, too. England means the rise of capital; the birthplace of the industrial revolution. England means enclosure, and empire. England invented much of the modern world, and what it invented is now destroying it. England is eating itself.

Look around you. Where are those textures? What is happening to them? Where I live, the texture of place is rapidly being overrun by the corporate non-places which our economic progress apparently requires of us: the malls, the motorways, the clone stores; the faceless ragbag of globalised, plasticised corporate clutter which allows us to “grow” and “compete” and remain players in a global economy which is spiralling out of control. It is an economy which eats up colour and character and spits our conglomeration and control. In the Brave New World of flexible labour markets, 24-hour consumerism and £5 air tickets, belonging to a place and having any feeling for it is a serious stumbling block on the road to the future.
But what England also means to me is the spirit of its people: a spirit which has at its heart a contradiction. One the one hand the English are – frustratingly – some of the most obedient people on Earth. Their pubs can be sold off for executive flats, their landscapes ripped apart by motorways, their folk culture scorned, their community gathering points shut down in the name of Health and Safety, their high streets scoured out by Tesco – and most of them will just shrug their shoulders, moan about the government and head for the out-of-town shopping centre. Sometimes, the English could do with being a bit more – well, French.

And yet there is another English spirit too, which arouses in me hope rather than despair. It is the spirit which marches to save Post Offices; which ties itself to bulldozers to save beauty spots from destruction; which saves its local pub and fights yet another shopping mall development in its historic towns. It is, perhaps, the spirit channelled by Gerrard Winstanley, John Ball, John Clare, William Morris – and William Cobbett, who railed two hundreds years ago against “The Thing”. The Thing is still with us. It’s bigger now, and greedier and it eats texture, patina, place and peculiarity for breakfast. But maybe – just maybe – England is beginning to wake up. I hope so.

Paul Kingsnorth’s book Real England is published by Portobello. www.realengland.co.uk

Noel Currid

I think of myself as an old-style English Radical in my politics, somewhere on the Left. I see the English people, whatever their origins, as having struggled for centuries to reverse the effects of the “Norman Yoke” . When I was about eight, living in a Labour-voting (or, more accurately, Tory-hating) household in the West Midlands, I remember learning at school about the Roman and Viking invasions of England and how they left eventually. Then when learning about the Normans, the obvious question to me was “when did the Normans leave?” I never got a decent answer at the time. As I got older the obvious answer was “never”, but l knew from the callous destruction of much of the West Midlands’ industrial base under the Thatcher regime that we were a nation of lions led by donkeys. When I was 19 I came across the Levellers in the English Civil Wars and their idea of the “Norman Yoke” which deprived the “free-born” Anglo-Saxons of their liberties after 1066. Ever since, I have basically held onto the idea that England is still under the thrall of a much-modified “Norman Yoke”. The faces and names may change (and if your ancestors came over in 1066 I don’t hold you personally responsible for anything!) but “the Thing”, to quote William Cobbett, has persisted for centuries. Its “golden thread” , to coin a phrase, runs from the “Harrying of the North”, Magna Carta (a baron’s carve-up), the Glorious Revolution (a banker’s coup d’état) all the way up to New Labour’s paeans to “New Britishness”.

Why does anyone on the Left have hang-ups about the idea of being English? It sure beats the idea of Britishness. For about two decades I’ve thought the whole concept of Britishness (for which my spellchecker suggests “Brutishness“) as an idea whose time has gone. The only question is how we give the United Kingdom a decent burial. However, too many on the Left hold onto the idea of Britishness, fearing Englishness. However, how on Earth can holding onto the ideology of a big business dominated imperial state, which is in its death throes, be progressive? There is simply no “Britishness”, new or otherwise, that political progressives can subscribe to and be true to their ideals. It is a concept too weighed down by the gap between its democratic, enlightened rhetoric and the sordid reality that the British state has presided over for centuries.

Instead the Left should embrace English Radicalism, which inspired thinkers and movements such as the Levellers, Tom Paine, William Cobbett, the Chartists, the mutualist and co-operative movements, William Morris, the pre-1914 syndicalists and Guild Socialists such as GDH Cole. It was driven underground politically by the triumph of “top-down” socialism, in both its Fabian and Leninist forms, after 1918. Now that global “top-down” models of organising society, whether by states or corporations, are under attack from decentralising, democratic tendencies, it is time for the English Left to embrace a national identity that accords with the spirit of the age.

It also means we need a national identity that draws upon one of the most abused phrases in modern politics: “Little Englander“. The original “Little Englanders” were patriotic radicals who were opposed to the Empire building that underlay Britain’s participation in the 1899-1902 Boer War. Our nation can only be at ease with itself when we abandon imperial adventures, whether our own or on behalf of the USA or EU, and realise that our real gifts to the world are our language, our culture and our sense of humour, none of which the Normans gave us! (”Taking the piss” is something that William the Conqueror, Oliver Cromwell, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair would never appreciate!). We should become a country where, to quote Orwell, we “hate to see England either humiliated or humiliating anyone else.”

I was born in Walsall in the Black Country two weeks before the end of 1969. My mother was also born in the Black Country. My father was born in County Sligo. He came over in 1948 at the age of six after his dad served in the British Army during WW2 (and was to again in Korea in the early 1950s). However, I think of myself as English rather than British, and have done for 30 odd years. My blog is at: http://anglonoelnatter.blogspot.com

Andrea Cox

Editor’s note: The following essay was originally entitled “All I want to be is British” but it reveals humourous insights into how others see us, the English.

Anyone who knows me, and some people do know me, knows I really want to be British. Nay, that I, in fact, SHOULD’VE been British but by some fluke or accidental “heaven to earth” tube slide mix up – I ended up in the sticks of Utah (I’ve always had the image in my head of little babies sliding down “heavenly” tubes to earth – I don’t know why). Sigh. It’s okay – there are probably a lot of ethereal tubes leading from heaven to every imaginable place in the world, and I’m sure a little mix up happens once in a while. Whatever happened, somewhere deep in my heart, I feel that Britishness, or Englishness rather, would suit me just fine!

Why British?

  • The British are dryly hilarious. I love British humor and ever since I can recall, my particular form of humor (although dashed with some American sarcasm and slap-stick guffaws) is really very British. Witty, but not obtrusively so. Clever most certainly! It’s a smart humor that most Americans can’t fully appreciate. And of course – we must make our humor “bigger and better” which is what we do with everything – but really – is bigger (louder, annoying, pushy) better? No Texas. It isn’t!
  • The British Don’t Touch Each Other. I’ve never been a touchy or particularly affectionate individual. In High School – when girls all hugged each other and held hands (was that just my High School? Hmmm), I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t really want anything to do with hugging all over the boys either. As far as true affections go – I’m quite reserved and distant. It’s not a “defense mechanism” or anything of the sort – it’s just how I am. And it’s just how the British are too.
  • The British are Proper and Polite. I also feel I’m quite proper when the situation calls for such propriety, as well as rather polite. Sure, I have my little vices here and there – I think poop is funny – but all in all, I like the proper way of things such as “loading the dishwasher properly” or “politely clapping after a horrible performance or play.” They also are concerned that you “mind your head” and likewise “mind the gap” so’s not to injure yourselves while using their conveniant public transportation systems.

What I like About Britishness/Englishness

  • Spelling. Favourites. Shoppe. Colours. Yes yes. I think it adds a little something – er – other than the obvious
  • Street Names. None of this Jefferson Avenue or Bart Blvd nonsense. Or even worse, 13th East and 4th South. No no. The have names like “Little Winging” or “NewCastle Up-On-Tyne” or “Kensington and High Street” or “Notting Hill.” I also enjoy the “Shires” (said “sure.” It’s not Lord of the Rings) – Lancashire, Devonshire, etc.
  • They Name Their Houses. This is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the English tradition; their modest homes with over growing gardens and fences to keep out the rabbits. I could live in “Rose Cottage” or “Meadow Glen” or “Hamstead Heath.” Lovely.
  • Sweet Shoppes. Enough Said. Oh! Sherbet Lemons. Now, enough said.
  • Vernacular: Bubble and Squeak, Sausage and Mash, knickers and trousers, trainers, and jumpers. I also like saying Vitamins and Aluminium with a British accent…which brings me too
  • The British Accent. An Englishman could say “there’s a hole in my sock” and it would sound smart – Posh London style anyway. It’s an entirely amiable way of speaking and only adds to the overall pleasure being of the British. Don’t mind me a right “Ello Gov’na!” either!
  • The History. Roman Baths. Royal Heritage. They’ve been around the political block a number of times. The House of Lords and the House of Commons sounds much better than “The House of Representatives” and “Congress.” They’ve got cemeteries with gravestones dating back centuries. They’ve got Westminster, Tower of London, London Bridge, Big Ben and Parliament! What haven’t they got??? I wish I could say McDonalds and Starbucks but dammit – they DO have those. Sigh. Stupid American Big Business.
  • The English Countryside. Oh yes, absolutely ideal. Literary even.
  • Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath, the Cliff’s of Dover, Brighton, LONDON, Canterbury, Manchester, Wales!
  • Pasties! Mmmm, pasties. No you sicky’s – not in the “barely covering nipple” kind either. Psh. Pull yourselves together.
  • Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Jane Austin, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Bronte’s, William Shakespeare, Milton, JK Rowling “gasp” I better stop.
  • Tea. Duh. Translates into “tea breaks.”
  • The Tube
  • 2 hr train ride to France
  • REAL Chocolate – none of this Hershey’s nonsense
  • Nannys – Mary Poppins!
  • Boarding Schools – (better educational system in general)
  • Socialized Health Care

THUS! You can see what I mean don’t you? There are so many reasons why 1 – I should rightly be English and 2. Why anyone in their right mind can see WHY I have this desire. I went to London for 6 weeks on a Study Abroad through the University of Utah. 6 weeks was not enough – it was a mockery – but I did solidify my desire to join the ranks of Britishdom for a season, or two. When I go back, I’m going back to stay. God Save the Queen!

Andrea Cox is a 24 year old graduate of English Teaching and French from the University of Utah. Currently residing in Provo, Utah where she works for the Independent Study Program at Brigham Young University as well as researching and writing for an anti-pornography company based in Orem, Utah called CP80.org. Andrea plans on getting her Masters Degree in British Literature at BYU, emphasis is the rise of feminist literature in Great Britain, and eventually getting a Ph.d at a University in England somewhere, anywhere, they will accept her.

Ian Campbell

Until quite recently I never thought very much about being English. England was simply home. 20 years ago if anyone asked me my nationality I have said British. Oddly enough, it is only in Scotland that I am immediately recognised as an Englishman. I have been mistaken for an Italian (in France), an Irishman (on the ferry to Dun Laoghaire), a member of the Romany people (at university), an Austrian (in Germany), a Norwegian (in Norway and by a Norwegian taxi-driver!) so perhaps I am not a typical Englishman.

When Mr Callaghan and then Mr Blair proposed a devolved Scottish Parliament this seemed a good idea. I assumed naively that if the experiment were successful the same offer would be made to England. When I learned that the Government had no plans to hold an English referendum I joined the Campaign for an English Parliament in the hope that we could persuade the Government to do what was fair, just and democratic. It was Mr Prescott who turned me into an English nationalist. The discovery that our British government had decided to partition England made me realise that we English must stand up for and reclaim our country. You sometimes never know what you value until you are in danger of losing it. After our family, our nation is the strongest bond.

Although I was born and brought up in the small town of Luton in England and my mother was English, my father was a patriotic Scotsman – there is of course no other kind. As a child, Scotland was for me a different, interesting and exciting place where we met relatives we did not see very often. I knew that England and Scotland were different countries though both were part of Britain. I always knew that I was partly Scottish – my friends treated me as if I were Scottish. I was first taken to Scotland, in the cab of a lorry, when I could barely stand. My father humorously claimed that the air was different as soon as one crossed the border. He was quite serious later on when he made me promise that if he had the misfortune to die in England I would ship his body back to Scotland for burial. When very small, my sister and I could count up to ten in Gaelic and the first songs we learnt were in Gaelic. Even at school, we had a dashing Scots teacher who made sure that, for little English boys, we were unusually well-informed about Robert the Bruce and his battle axe, William Wallace and his two-handed sword and of course the Battle of Bannockburn. My father was a piper as well as a Gaelic speaker and when we were older my sister and I did our homework in the living room to the tremendous sound of pipes as my father and his friend patrolled round the room practising their tunes. The volume of sound indoors made by two pipers was impressive and did wonders for our powers of concentration. We frequently took holidays in Scotland when I was a child – visiting relations in Port Glasgow, the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Tiree, or the Kintyre peninsula. My father’s family came from Tiree but when he was a boy his father and mother had taken three children to the mainland to find labouring work, leaving two children with the grandparents in Tiree. The whole family used to camp in the cottage in Tiree in the summer. None of the family was at all well off but in all my visits to Scotland I have never met the “mean” Scotsman of legend. On the contrary, my Scottish relations and their friends almost overwhelmed us with their hospitality and generosity.

Although very proud of being a Scot, my father was not anti-English. He served as a police officer in England for 30 years and told me that the English had always made him welcome and treated him well. He had no complaints. My mother and her relations seemed a lot more relaxed in their Englishness, as befits the majority indigenous population, but they did not apologise for being English. In those days many English towns still celebrated St George’s Day, a celebration that is now happily returning, and we joined in English and Scottish events, Easter Bonnet parades as well as Highland Games. I was not particularly aware of Englishness but I noticed that my agreeable Scottish cousins thought I was English. I have always enjoyed having one foot in Scotland as a “second country”. My home town had grown considerably from immigration – first in the 19th century when labourers moved in from the surrounding countryside to join in the straw plait trade and hat manufacturing; then in the early 20th century when families came from all over Britain and Ireland to find jobs in motor manufacturing, engineering and building; later still from the middle of the 20th century people arrived from the West Indies, India and Pakistan.

Englishness as I grew up was taken for granted. People frequently said “England” when they meant “Britain”. That annoyed the Scots as did post boxes in Scotland bearing the legend EIIR when of course Queen Elizabeth I had never ruled in Scotland. Then suddenly, around the year 2000, it seemed that England had ceased to exist. It disappeared from EU maps. Following the creation of national assemblies which provided devolution to Scotland and Wales, the British government announced (so quietly that few noticed) that England was to be divided into regions. Over 1000 years of national history was to be set aside in favour of recent, meaningless regions which, apart from Yorkshire, lacked any cultural or historic identity. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister explained that this was because England was “too big” to fit in with the Labour government’s idea of the United Kingdom. It became official policy to refer to the “nations and regions of Britain”. The British government poured money into promoting and researching regional assemblies. All regions were to be offered a referendum. Then as the English began to resist, the first round of referendums was restricted to the North East, the North West and Yorkshire. Finally, the North-East was selected for the first referendum. The British government clearly hoped to achieve a “domino” affect but lost by 78% to 22%. It has not given up. Ministers have been appointed “to represent the Government” in each of the so-called regions. It has now become official policy to call England “Britain”. The Prime Minister, Mr Brown, has announced that “Britishness”, whatever that is, will be taught in English schools but not in Welsh or Scottish schools. He says “this country” (not England) when he refers to health, education and transport in England. Supermarkets flag up Scottish and Welsh produce with their national flags while English produce usually bears only the Union flag. Henry VIII is described as a “British king”.
Poland was partitioned in the 18th Century between Austria, Prussia and Russia and ceased to exist politically until 1919. Despite 150 years of partition, the Poles never forgot that they were Poles. We English are now becoming the “Poles” in partitioned Britain. It has become essential to reclaim and defend our Englishness. Recently I met up with a school-friend I had not seen for nearly 40 years. “When we were at school, Ian,” he told me, “if anyone asked me, I used to say I was British. Now I reply that I am English.” So must we all. I thought I lived in a democracy, protected by the great statutes – Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, the Declaration of Rights – and the Common Law of England. No longer. We English have never been asked what sort of government we want for our country. Being English means that in the last resort we must stand up for England and defend our liberties. We are told that devolution is the “price we pay” for the Union. If that price includes the partition of England, it is too high. Those who speak up for England are often denigrated as “Little Englanders”. The term was used in the 19th Century to excoriate those Radical members of the Liberal Party who were opposed to the expansion of the British empire. They did not wish to rule over other peoples. That is probably a majority position today.

1,000 years ago England, already by then a centralised and wealthy country, was seized by the Normans. William the Conqueror built the Tower of London, over which the Union flag now flies. His cronies built castles over England to terrorise the English and snuff out any revolt. Having secured England, the French kings of England turned to Wales, which was finally incorporated into a Greater England under Henry VIII. An English king born in Chinon, Henry II, was the first to sail to Ireland with a great army. The Irish gave in. The Pope had already granted Ireland to Henry as a papal fief. Next the French kings of England turned to Scotland, putting down an insurrection led by William Wallace. They were only defeated when they came up against one of their own, a Norman knight called Robert de Brus who made himself King of Scots. From 1314 until 1707 Scotland maintained a precarious independence from Greater England, briefly united in a Union Parliament under Cromwell. The Acts of Union 1707 were however agreed between the respective Parliaments. Scotland was almost bankrupt and needed access to the English overseas empire. The negotiations were pressed by the English government, anxious to secure Scotland against the French. Money was provided. The threat of military force if the Scots did not come to heel was implied. It was an arranged marriage, with force behind it. The Union was completed in 1801 with the closure of the Irish Parliament.

This is the Union, essentially a guise for Greater England, that the Unionist parties now declare to be sacrosanct because “it makes us stronger”. Stronger to do what? Invade other countries? If the Union is to continue, it should rest on the consent of the people. Many politicians have recognised, in the Claim of Right for Scotland, the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. The UK has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 1 of which recognises the right of peoples to national self-determination. Devolution started a process in Scotland but paradoxically, within Great Britain, England has become a colony itself. No national devolution for England – it is the national equivalent of Middlesex. Sovereignty of the people means that all the British nations have the right to decide whether they wish to have their own national assembly, within or without the Union. They have the right to leave the Union if they wish. British Unionist politicians extol the Union but refuse to test it against the popular will. Outside the UK, peoples have the right to choose. Within the UK, Unionists close down discussion.

So what does it mean to me to be English? My nationality is English but I am a British subject. I am an Englishman who is partly Scottish, just as the son of an immigrant from India may be English. My English nationality is not recognised by the British government. If I speak up for England, I am a “Little Englander”. It seems to me that we need more Little Englanders, and fewer Greater Englanders, so that England can regain its identity, its self-respect, its freedoms and its culture. What began for me as the rediscovery of Englishness has brought me to realise that it is also a quest for democracy. I am happy to be a Little Englander.

Ian Campbell is a member of the Campaign for an English Parliament, the English Democrats Party and the Scottish National Party.

Iain Dale

You never appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it. I most appreciate England when I am in another country. It’s the little things you miss – the green landscape, the village shop, the pub, the Daily Telegraph. But summing up what England means to me in a few sentences is quite difficult. There’s no one thing – it’s the sum of many things. Having been brought up in a small Essex village in the 1960s and 1970s it’s the village atmosphere which, to me, sums up what it means to be English – a respect for tradition and institutions, a sense of belonging, an affinity with the earth.

The English are a proud people, patriotic without being nationalistic. They are also understated, not quite comprehending what they have given the world. They are not given to overt outbursts of emotion. Being English still remains having a stiff upper lip, albeit that it has become a little more quivery in recent years. Above all, being English means having a sense of fairness and a perverse liking for the underdog. My Englishness is part of who I am. And it makes me proud to have been born in the greatest country on earth.

Iain Dale is an author, political commentator and one of the country’s top political bloggers.

John Joannides

We Really Used Jumpers For Goalposts

Starting with a blank sheet of paper, electronic or not, it seems impossible to fill it with the flavour of a lifetime’s experience of England. Time passes, life is lived, one doesn’t take notes. The problem is exacerbated by a memory that could be described as lacking in one of the more rudimentary characteristics of a functional memory, that being the ability to remember things. I jest, but only a little.

I was brought up in an entirely continental family. Continental, that is, if you consider just the national origins of my parents. Both immigrants and both from different countries to each other one might be forgiven for thinking that an English upbringing was an unlikely outcome. Yet that was what my upbringing was. Entirely English. Except, perhaps, for the cuisine which had a fair smattering of Mediterranean dishes. What you lose in chips you gain in melanzanie and sun dried tomatoes I suppose.

A middle class English upbringing. That possibly makes me the enemy of the liberal and media classes and, if true, it is a situation that I am entirely happy with. After all, if I didn’t think that my way of life was a good one I would have changed it by now.

So to my England. That is a story of two parts. The first starts at year one and ends a few years ago. The second starts after that and is entirely submerged in a sea of politics and revolutionary thinking. Revolutionary in the constitutional sense that is.

I start with the first part and the England of my childhood. It was an England that I felt entirely comfortable with and relaxed in. Though not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, that England certainly felt to me as if it was inexorably tending towards the direction in which perfection snuggled impossibly out of reach. Warm, enticing springs. Long and wonderful summers peppered with perfect days that no foreign summer holiday, no matter how fantastically predictable the excellent weather was, could ever hope to achieve. Rich gold and red autumns where the leaves that were piled high on the streets demanded attention and where the smell of them burning in local gardens filled the neighbourhood on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Cold, drab winters where the drizzle seemed to feature regularly on a Monday morning school day. Fishing over at Jack’s lake, the Totteridge Long Ponds, the illicit Lady Byng’s lakes. Shooting with air rifles. Conkers. Cycling on Raleigh Choppers and Grifters. It was, in many ways, an excellent childhood. Right now, I guess, a few cynical readers are mumbling something about “jumpers for goalposts”. Yes indeed, there will be no apologies on that front coming from me. More to the point, there were jumpers for goalposts just about anywhere there was an open stretch of green. Not a “no ball games” council sign in sight. Heady days indeed, even if viewed through these rose coloured spectacles.

Later came a Polytechnic education. Remember those? Public houses. Remember those? They were the ones with esoteric beers, proper pint glasses and drab food. You might recognise them these days as suburban restaurants serving a world class array of dishes and drab lagers in bright surroundings. Back in the day pubs had character, these days most seem to have the same character. It is a part of England that has progressed to such an extent that we are in danger of losing something very special and almost uniquely English.

I spent a great deal of time back then under an array of classic cars, predominantly of the Triumph variety, and I was not the only one by any stretch of the imagination. People jest about the lone Englishman in his garden shed or workshop but it is a tradition that I hold dear. I’m one of those Englishmen. From my perspective if you’ve never run down to the nearest breakers yard, bought and engine for thirty quid and fit it in the same day then you should think yourself accurs’d. Your manhood is cheap. Mine is covered in engine oil.

I don’t want to get too misty eyed about this but in some ways my England was like my old Triumph. Hobbled together from whatever came to hand over many, many years. Parts from here, parts from there collectively bringing a uniqueness to the machine. A machine that ran well and would continue to run well as long as the choices of what to replace and what not to replace were well considered and wisely made. I was responsible for making those choices for the old car, which I still have today. Original she is not. Fit for purpose she most certainly is.

This brings me neatly to my second England. The England of today. The England of political and constitutional upheaval. The choices made by our representatives on behalf of England have been foolish and no matter how hard they try to ignore or drown out the knocking sounds coming from under her hood she will eventually need attention. The sound is now so loud that people in the street pass comment. Sooner or later the problem of asymmetrical devolution and equal national representation will have to be addressed.

Some of us have thrown ourselves entirely into the maelstrom of this constitutional weather system and have, on more than once occasion, been chastised for it. In the early days it was dinner parties and quiet drinks that would descend into unreasonableness. I would gently guide the conversation away from football, sex or whatever and onto weighty matters such as politics and devolution and people would listen for five minutes and then glaze over. Eventually I would be told something similar to “you worry too much” or “England is fine, we don’t need any more politicians”. And that was the way it was for some time.

Then, out of the blue, one of my friends cornered me on a night out, looked me in the eyes and said “I gotta say you were right”. Gradually they came on side, many without coaxing as the national press had finally taken up the issue. One friend went incandescent and the remnants of the glow can be seen to this day. That was my fault; I mentioned to him something that John Prescott (a New Labour member of the British parliament) had once said about England and it not being a proper nation. Kabooooom.

What England means to me now is tangled up with the struggle for national political equality in the British Union and as the struggle continues my respect for the idea of Britain and Britishness (whatever the latter is) declines. To me the British Union has become an entirely administrative concept. England is my home, my nation, my entire point of view and fighting for the right of her people to choose the best form of government for their needs is the only choice that this Englishman can make.

John is the blogger behind The England Project

Clare Short

What does it mean to be English today?
I was born in Birmingham and am of Irish origin. My father was from Northern Ireland and strongly resented the partition of Ireland and felt himself to be Irish. My mother was born in Birmingham as were her father and grandfather, but her great grandfather came to Birmingham during the Irish potato famine and she and her family had an Irish Catholic sense of their identity. We had a strong ethos of educational achievement and public service in the family. I was always strongly committed to serving my community and country but was strongly opposed to any sense of Englishness or Britishness that gloried in the British Empire. I became aware of immigration to Birmingham from the Caribbean and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the age of 10. My father pointed out postcards in shop windows which said things like “Room to let – No coloureds or Irish”. Later, Enoch Powell made his “rivers of blood” speech and the National Front started to grow. My sense of my identity included a deep hostility to racism and a need to organise to resist it. I remember Ghana becoming independent when I was 11 and can still recall the sense of happiness and pride that Africa was beginning to throw off the shackles of colonialism.

At this stage, I did not call myself either British or English but as time went on I was happy to see myself as British of Irish origin. Birmingham was an increasingly multicultural city and we talked of Black British, British of Asian origin, British Bengali, Sikh, Muslim etc. I think we were all evolving a sense of belonging to our country which incorporated our origins.

Until very recently, I would say I am British but not English. This seemed clear because I am of Irish origin and I could not be English and many who boasted of Englishness seemed to be quick to boast of Empire and often mouthed racist sentiments.

I have adjusted this view, I think, since devolution to Scotland and Wales. This leaves Birmingham clearly in England and throws up the obvious anomaly about voting in the House of Commons. I favour the establishment of an English Grand Committee (on the same lines as the previous Scottish Committee) where English MPs vote on devolved questions. This is a simple matter of fairness and democracy but it makes me more willing to accept an English label. I have until recently been totally opposed to the break up of the United Kingdom but am impressed by the argument that if Scotland became independent, Britain’s delusions of grandeur, which led to the role of US poodle, would have to end. We could then become a more useful, modern country helping to build a stronger multilateral system and a more just and equitable world.

In conclusion, events have led me to accept the idea that as well as being British of Irish origin, I am English of Irish origin. In my city, white people will be a minority within 10 years and many of them are of Irish, Scottish or Welsh origin. No one ethnic group will be a majority but we will all be English within a devolved UK. But over the last 50 years, we have evolved a different sense of Englishness. This was brought home when people started to put the flag of St George (much used by the British National Party) on cars and in windows to show their support for England in the World Cup some years ago. I held my breath and then smiled as young men of all origins proudly put up the flag on their vehicles and in their homes.

What do the English think of England?
I suspect there are different English with different views of England. In the Home Counties, there are probably those who see it as pretty villages, Empire and Monarchy. In Birmingham and all our other cities, I think a different sense of Englishness has evolved (as outlined above).

What do the English think of Britishness?
Britishness is the passport we hold and includes Welsh and Scottish people. There are also 8 million people of Irish descent who live in Britain. Interestingly, Britishness is ambivalent about Northern Ireland. I got caught out once after introducing a motion in the House of Commons calling for equality for British women and being criticised by the Ulster Unionists for excluding them!

My original answer spells out how my sense of my Irish origin and rejection of Empire and racism, originally seemed ill at ease with Britishness but later became part of a new sense of Britishness that easily incorporated all the people who were recruited from the Commonwealth to work after the 1950s. Over time, the arguments over racism towards black and brown people from Commonwealth countries reminded British people of the diversity of the existing population and broke down the dominant image of white, conservative, Church of England Britishness. This challenge created a more inclusive sense of Britishness.

The new sense of Englishness that is demanding political power and resents devolution leaving Scottish and Welsh MPs deciding English questions, is not yet fully formed. I suspect it includes people of diverse origins who bring the new inclusive sense of Britishness to Englishness and those of an older mindset who resent multiculturalism and still glory in Empire.

How do others see England and the English?
I suspect there are a variety of views. One is of drunken yobbishness. Another is America’s poodle. People abroad tend not to distinguish between Britishness and Englishness. In Ireland, the reference is always to England. In Sylhet, it is to London which includes Birmingham. Some people say Britain and some refer to the UK. There is a residual sense of an arrogant colonial power in some of the countries colonised by Britain but this has softened and many people saw Britain as a fair country that always stood up for international law. That image has been weakened since the attack on Iraq. Many people who have relatives and friends living in the UK see it as a fair country that gives everyone a chance to improve their lives. Recent events have made the Arab and Muslim world more hostile to Britain and British Muslims also feel increasingly marginalised and under attack.

Is Englishness a spiritual inheritance or does it only describe the condition of living in England?
Englishness certainly is not spiritual in any way whatsoever. I have already described the dissonance between a majority of the people living in most British cities coming from countries colonised by Britain, and the “proud of Empire” sense of Englishness. But there is much in English history that predates Empire and remembers occupation by the Romans or the Normans or celebrates the fight for freedom of religious belief, trade unionism, the vote and social reform. There are different historical emphases that go with different senses of Englishness, but the landscape leads to a sense of affection and belonging that includes all.

Does Englishness have a nature or is there only history?
People often talk as though Englishness has a nature; the English have always loved alcohol, the Englishman’s home is his castle, the English are brave fighters, the English are a polyglot nation etc. I suspect that these are a vague series of images that are called into play when someone wants to claim authority for their view by emphasising continuity with the past.

Is Englishness a political or cultural idea, or both?
I think Englishness is largely a political idea which is changing politically at present. But there are writers, ideas and events in English history that create a broad, and probably self-contradictory, sense of Englishness that is cultural.

Is the cheapest form of pride national pride or is national pride essential to modern England?
National pride has often been used historically to whip up war fever and a sense of superiority that justifies domination and exploitation. These are ugly elements of nationalism. But it is natural to care for the people one lives amongst, the values of society, the behaviour of your government and to be fond of the landscape and developments in your place before these times that helped to shape the present.

There is a sense of national pride which is cheap and ugly and another sense which is about love of place and desire for a just and caring society and world order.

Where does English fit in the new, devolved United Kingdom?
The first response in Labour circles, which I supported, was to balance devolution to Scotland and Wales with devolution to the English regions. We agreed to follow the Spanish model and give the choice to each region. I suspect if the referenda had been held earlier, some may have passed. The Northern region in particular always wanted the same powers as Scotland. But by the time the referendum was held, the Government was unpopular and it was lost. We now have administrative regions and a highly centralised state with weak local government. The demand for decentralisation is growing which may in the future lead to a call for democratic devolution to the English regions. In the meantime, the sense of injustice that Scottish and Welsh MPs can settle questions in England that are devolved elsewhere is unacceptable (also see above). New Labour will not support an English Grand Committee because the Tories would dominate it but with the likely Tory electoral advance, this may be implemented before long.

How does England connect with Europe?
The old pro-Empire, superior, nationalistic vision of England is hostile to Europe and still wants to think “England rules the waves”. The new inclusive England fits easily with Europe but like people across Europe is disgruntled at the EU’s over-regulatory interventions. It is time to insist on real subsidiarity to build a more popular EU.

What is the distinctive place of England in global culture?
Our distinctive place is our land, our history and the English language, though in reality English is the global language more because America speaks it – though the global spread of the language because of colonialism is part of the explanation.

The fashion of the last 10 years favouring the Anglo Saxon, marketised state and booming economy is already losing its allure.

The country that has successfully absorbed a diversity of people into an equal, modern citizenship is an attractive model but is currently being undermined by the marginalisation of the Muslim community.

Clare Short is Independent Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood

John Cope

The essence of England lies in her institutions. They are respected because they incorporate the distilled wisdom and acceptability of generations. Many are of considerable age, because England has not had the trauma of a bloody revolution (except in the 17th century and the situation was restored within twenty years) or of being occupied by a foreign power. This gives our institutions a long lived continuity, but they all adapt continually to changing circumstances. Our Monarchy stands at the centre of national life and the Westminster Parliament and government can trace 1000 years of its evolution (England was described as “The Mother of Parliaments” 150 years ago).

There are many other English institutions which have evolved and stood the test of time. Some are official (but independent of the Government) and all pervasive throughout the land: The Church of England, the Common Law and the whole legal system; the police and respect for law and for order; the armed forces of the Crown, Guardsmen and all. Others may be newer and not part of the state, but they embody similar principles: The National Trust; The Lifeboat Institution; the great national charities; the BBC; the sporting bodies who manage the games we evolved – cricket, football (of three kinds), horse racing , and more.

Other institutions, old and new, are smaller and more local – Universities and their Colleges, Schools, Hospitals, Lord Mayors and Mayors, Charities, from alms houses to the newest hospices, and clubs of every kind, from the Livery Companies in London and other cities; the “Gentlemen’s Clubs” of St James’s; the Womens’ Institute in villages and “Working Men’s” Clubs in the North. Some are “one offs” like the Chelsea Pensioners’ Hospital, others occur in different forms like the County Agricultural Shows.

The people who run these institutions, large and small, cherish their piece of England’s heritage and do their best to hand it over to their successors enhanced. They see their time in office as service to the community. So England evolves at her own pace, not essentially set by the Government of the Day, but the product of her citizens’ efforts for the common good. We respect one another and cherish the best we have inherited.

Lord (John) Cope of Berkeley is a former MP, now a Life Peer and Vice-President of the Royal Society of St George.

Stuart Parr

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.

Tom Griffin

Perhaps no group of people have been more ambivalent about their English identity than those of us born in England of Irish descent.

It is no secret that the history of Anglo-Irish relations is in large measure a story of conflict. At different times, each nation has defined itself in opposition to the other, leaving little room for those with connections to both.

But it was not always so. At the very dawn of English literature, the Venerable Bede records the first contact between the two nations, a literary and spiritual flowering which first brought Christianity to the English, and then brought orthodox Catholicism to the Irish.

“This seemed to happen by a wonderful dispensation of God’s grace, in order that the nation which had willingly and ungrudgingly laboured to communicate its own knowledge of God to the English nation might later, through the same English nation, arrive at a perfect way of life which they had not hitherto possessed,” Bede wrote in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

This pattern of mutual influence between the two countries is visible even in later, more troubled periods of history.

By the Seventeenth Century, the Anglo-Saxon era had come to be seen as a golden age of English liberty, to be contrasted with the ‘Norman Yoke’ of later monarchs by Protestant radicals such as John Lilburne.

Just as the spread of literacy aided the rise of insular Christianity a millennium before, the new thinking was spread by a new technology, printing, that disrupted old power networks.

Lilburne was arrested in 1637 by officers of the Stationers’ Company, the official government-backed printing monopoly, for distributing subversive books imported from Amsterdam.

He was brought before the royal prerogative court of Star Chamber, where he faced Archbishop Laud, who led the Crown’s attempts to suppress the rising tide of seditious pamphlets being produced by the puritan underground.

Lilburne refused to answer Laud’s questions, a stance which would provide a key precedent for the emerging doctrine of the right to silence. His punishment was to be whipped from the Fleet Prison to Westminster.

He remained in jail until 1640, when his case was taken up by the MP for Cambridge, Oliver Cromwell, as part of the Long Parliament’s revolutionary challenge to Charles I’s regime. It was Archbishop Laud who now found himself in prison, as his system of censorship was replaced by an unprecedented era of free speech. The prerogative courts were abolished, and the King was banned from levying taxation without the consent of Parliament.

It was Ireland that provoked the final break between King and Parliament. After rebellion broke out there in late 1641, both sides agreed on the need for a military expedition to put down the insurgents and their newly constituted government, the Irish Catholic Confederacy. £1 million was raised in the City of London in return for promises of land to be confiscated from the Irish, making the project a huge exercise in military capitalism.

The parliamentary leadership now faced a crucial problem. It had to ensure that an army could be raised against the Irish, whilst also preventing that army from being used against the English. It was this dilemma that sparked the English Civil War.

The royalist defeat in that conflict opened up a unique window of opportunity for democratic ideas. The parliamentary forces met at Putney in 1647 to agree proposals for a new constitution.

The New Model Army’s commanders, led by Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton, argued that political rights should be restricted to the propertied classes. The radicals argued, in the words of Col Thomas Rainsborough, “that the poorest he that is in England have a life to live, as the greatest he: and therefore truly, sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government.”

The radicals had by now formed what was effectively the first modern political party, the Levellers, in support of their proposed constitution, the Agreement of the People.

Along with Lilburne, the most prominent figure was William Walwyn, a London merchant who boldly argued that religious toleration should be extended to Catholics as well as Protestants. However, the key to the Levellers’ strength was their support in the army, whose membership was far broader than the narrow social stratum represented in Parliament.

With Parliament’s planned invasion of Ireland threatening to destroy this powerbase, the Levellers appealed to the troops in a pamphlet entitled the English Soldiers’ Standard:

“For consider as things now stand, to what end you should hazard your lives against the Irish. Will you go on still to kill, slay and murder in order to make them [the army commanders] as absolute lords and masters over Ireland as you have made them over England?”

In the course of rejecting their arguments, the Cromwellian paper, The Moderate Intelligencer, published the Levellers’ alternative proposals:

“Whether if the state of England, now in their full strength, should send and proclaim Ireland a free state, repenting of all the evil themselves have acted and intended, and that our kings have formerly acted against that nation, and that they will not further act to their prejudice: but only sit down by them as a neighbour state, as Holland doth: desire only to be in mutual league as friend, to seek the peace and welfare of each other, not countenance or assist or protect each other’s enemies, nor any that shall disturb the peace of nations, only require some considerable seaports or towns for security and bond to tie the Irish to performance of covenants, and whether this may not be every way as advantageous to the state and people of England as a conquest of them, the charge considered.”

This proposal might have been acceptable to the Irish leader Owen Roe O’Neill, who was in secret negotiations with Colonel Monk. It was not however, acceptable to the Army commanders. An Irish invasion would secure the support of the City of London, and get rid of the troublesome agitators in the ranks. It was all too easy for them to whip up fear of the Catholic Irish as an implacable, existential threat.

Nevertheless, influenced by the Levellers, several regiments refused to embark for Ireland. They were attacked by Cromwell and Fairfax at Burford in Oxfordshire in May 1649. In the aftermath, three soldiers were executed, Cornet Thompson, Corporal Church and Corporal Perkins.

With the defeat of the Levellers, the invasion of Ireland became inevitable, and England lost its last chance of securing a democratic constitution for centuries. Without Ireton, who was killed in Ireland, Cromwell proved incapable of delivering any kind of stable republican constitution at all, paving the way for the ultimate restoration of the monarchy after his own death.

The consequences of the invasion are well known: the bloody sieges of Drogheda and Wexford, the expulsion of thousands of Catholics ‘to hell or Connaught’ and the transportation of many thousands more as slaves to the West Indies.

Yet the spirit of the Levellers was not entirely dead in the New Model Army. Despite the efforts of its officers, many of its soldiers married Irish women and were absorbed into the Catholic majority.

By the Eighteenth Century, the Baptist and Independent communities established in Ireland under Cromwell’s rule had become Presbyterian congregations. Their radical tradition expressed itself in the demand for greater powers for the Irish Parliament. With the Volunteer Movement of 1782 this campaign took a form remarkably reminiscent of the Levellers.

Eventually the demand for self-government merged with the call for Catholic emancipation and the older tradition of Irish nationalism. A new generation of radicals, led by figures like William Drennan and Theobald Wolfe Tone created an organisation whose name represented this fusion: the Society of United Irishmen.

It was the birth of a new phenomenon, Irish republicanism, whose radical Protestant strand remained visible in later generations. In the Nineteenth Century, it was represented perhaps most clearly by Thomas Davis who called for “a nationality which may embrace Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter, Milesian and Cromwellian, the Irishman of a hundred generations, and the stranger who is within our gates.” As recently as the 1960s, thinkers who are clearly in this tradition, such as Roy Johnston and Desmond Greaves, were key figures in the Civil Rights Movement.
Irish republicans have often fallen short of these ideals, because of the same dangers of sectarianism and militarism that brought down their Seventeenth Century English counterparts. Nevertheless, this tradition has played a decisive role in shaping Irish national identity. Ireland, like the United States, drew on English ideas to define itself against the British Crown.

That tradition is still alive in England today, the legacy of the Levellers, Tom Paine, the Chartists and their successors. Their demand for the sovereignty of the English people is more relevant than ever. That idea, and the people who have fought for it down the ages, are what England means to me.

Tom Griffin is a Londoner of Irish decent, his online journal is The Green Ribbon.

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 www.englishmaninstrasbourg.com

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.

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.

James

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