Paul Linford

England is the land of my birth, and the land where I hope to end my days. The land of my fathers and mothers, and the land where I too will raise my children. The land from which I have sometimes travelled far, yet always longed to return to whenever I have left its shores. The land where I have enjoyed all my happiest moments, from the childhood summers in Sussex by the sea, to the Lakeland mountain walking holidays of the middle years. The land of music as varied yet as quintessentially English as Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Genesis and The Smiths. A land of beer drinkers and pub culture, of bar-room camaraderie and foaming pints beside roaring log fires. A land of temperate sunshine and richly varying seasons whose weather is reflected in its politics, free from harsh extremes. A land rich in history, symbolised by the continuity of a royal line stretching back fifteen centuries, and by the more ordinary human stories which bear out the truth of TS Eliot’s beautiful verse: “A people without history is not redeemed from time…History is now and England.” A land which people have fought and died to save, and a land which, in my grandparents’ generation, stood alone against the most atrocious tyranny the world has ever seen. A land where the words of our greatest leader Winston Churchill will forever bear witness to its indomitable spirit: “We will defend our island, whatever the cost may be – we will never surrender.”

I hope to dwell in this land all my days and enjoy its safe pasture, and to bring up my children to love it as I have done.

Paul Linford is a former parliamentary lobby journalist now working in digital publishing. He blogs at http://paullinford.blogspot.com

Scilla Cullen

For someone who was born during the war and brought up in the 1950s England was a geographical part of Britain. There seemed no anomaly that the Battle of Britain was fought over the fields of Kent or that “England” stood alone against Hitler. It was a matter of geography, England faced the continent. There’ll always be an England and the White Cliffs of Dover were reflections upon the fact that that part of Britain that was England did, and had always, faced threats coming from the Continent. We admired greatly the Scottish Regiments whose courage and reputation did so much for Britain and also Welsh musicality and eloquence. So it came as a great surprise when I discovered that these sentiments were not returned.

Awareness and surprise that the rest of the British Isles did not feel so suffused with Britishness came at my senior school when girls were allowed to sport the emblems of their country on their Saint’s Days. I remember particularly those girls who claimed Welsh and Irish identities sprouted shamrocks and daffodils. We weren’t told, nor were encouraged to speculate, on what our Saint’s Day was nor of our own national emblems, indeed to the extent that I began to claim Irish identity on the grounds of one grandfather. We were encouraged to recognise Empire Day which later morphed into Commonwealth Day and died entirely somewhere along the way.

As I lived my adult life I was not interested in politics, and particularly not in party politics but on a visit to Glasgow in the ’70s I was aware of the push for separation and considered it a daft proposition. After all I believed, and still do, that the sum had been greater than the parts.
So what does England mean to me now? England must never be confused or conflated with Britain. The Scots, particularly, find that offensive and so do I. England is a separate country and over a millennium old. It is my ancestral home and defines my identity. England is a country of local loyalties and identities, villages where people look after one another, pubs that you can walk into and strike up a conversation, pub gossip; the unique change ringing of our church bells and the church as the focal point of a community, less so nowadays unhappily. Clichés such as the sound of wood on leather on a lazy summer’s afternoon are just as evocative whether or not they are clichés. England means quiet country lanes and villages and that green and pleasant land; a connection with the soil and the farming community; food production, the basis of life.

England means the spirit of enterprise that established trading colonies in America and the far east; the seafaring adventures of Drake and Raleigh. England has produced great inventors, scientists, composers, writers and poets such as Thomas Savery (steam engine), Jethro Tull (seed drill), Newton, William of Occam, William Harvey, Thomas Tallis, Purcell, Shakespeare, Dryden, Kneller, Gibbons and many, many others too numerous to mention.

England means innovation, the industrial revolution, a questioning of the status quo but a sure knowledge of our basic identity and a shared knowledge of our heritage. That heritage includes the sacrifices of our forefathers (and mothers) to bring us equity under the law, parliamentary democracy, the common law, the jury system and who stood together to face threats from outside this country.

I am proud that England in the UK has mainly been the asylum for those persecuted in their own countries for their religion, Huguenot Protestants, and the Jews fleeing Eastern European progroms and Hitler’s holocaust. Their children and grandchildren have attained positions of power and influence in the British Establishment. We ask of them only that they respect us and this country, its culture and traditions as we gave them or their forebears succour.

England was the origin of the mother of Parliaments, Magna Carta and the Bill of rights. These are English, not British, achievements despite what Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister elected in Scotland, has said. England ceased to be a constitutional entity after 1707 and all our subsequent history is British history. England must not be used as a scapegoat for subsequent British acts.

Above all the sense of fair play, singularly denied us in the asymmetrical devolution Acts perpetrated by an anti-English establishment, is an ideal that has deep roots in England. Indeed that sense of fair play was so affronted in me that I joined the Campaign for an English Parliament and shall continue to campaign until England is once again recognised politically and constitutionally. But England is a survivor. We survived and re-invented ourselves after the French takeover in 1066. It may have taken 300 years but we got the ruling class to adopt our legal system and speak English, somewhat modified, in the end. We survived the centuries of domination by French speaking monarchs and their descendants and the usurping Welsh Tudor dynasty which bequeathed our country to the Scottish dynasty that had supported invasions of English soil. We survived and will survive still.

Scilla Cullen is the Chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament

Charlie Marks

The British ruling class has not only tried to stifle the national culture of Scotland and Wales: the radical tradition of the English working class is in dire need of popularization. For example, I did not learn in school about the Diggers, the Levellers, the Luddites, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the London Corresponding Society, or the Chartists, though the Suffragettes got a mention. Focus on events specific to England in the mainstream media did not stretch beyond coverage of sporting events.

It was no wonder that for a long time I confused England for Britain, and vice versa. Coming from an immigrant family further confused matters: could you be English if you were born in here but your parents were not? If my family came from Ireland but I was born here, did that mean I wasn’t Irish?

Unlike my Black and Asian friends at school, I did not face racism for being the child of immigrants, but I understood the hurt caused by jokes directed at the Irish and their use to divide people and prevent opposition to colonialism. Unlike my white friends, I knew a bit about the history of the British Empire, and could shoot-down claims that immigrants came to steal jobs or scrounge.

I have never experienced any animosity in Ireland for being English – and that is always the description, no one has ever said “Are you British?” upon hearing my accent.

As I grew up and became interested and involved in left-wing politics confusion over the issue of nationality returned. When New Labour allowed the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly, it looked as if the contradictions inherent in the dual English-British identity held by most people in England were about to become antagonistic.

To this day, the idea that those “British” people in England might choose an English identity is rarely countenanced. If it is considered at all, it is as a threat. The reason for the denial or denigration of identity is that the development of an English national culture discrete from that of “Britishness” does in fact pose a threat to the British establishment. As Richard Weight wrote in his book Patriots,

“Over the coming decades, everything possible will be done to ensure the survival of the British state, some of which we shall never know about. The Empire may have gone, but capitalism – the economic system which helped to give birth to it – remains in existence. So too does the matrix of power relationships which evolved out of that economic system. It is highly unlikely that those who benefit most from capitalism would lose their privileges if Britain were to break up. But very few are prepared to take that chance.”

I would argue that the break-up of Britain is likely to pose a threat to power of the capitalist class. Would the independent nations of England, Scotland and Wales combine to pursue imperialist wars and colonial occupation in the Middle East as a junior partner of the United States? Would they have remained in the EU, and signed up to the establishment of a European capitalist super-state? Would the ruling class have succeeded in selling off public utilities and eroding the public provision of housing, healthcare, and education? Would there have been the policy of “managed decline” of the productive economy? I don’t think so.

The “matrix of power relationships” that evolved out of the demise of the British Empire have insured that Britain remains an imperial power – the process of decolonization did not result in Britain losing influence over its former colonies, and the close alliance with the United States is not just in recognition for the assistance provided during the Second World War, which itself came at a price.

It should be needless to say that what is essential to capitalists is detrimental to working people, and Britain’s role as a junior partner to the US, its membership of the European Union, and continued interference in the political affairs of former colonies, are essential for the capitalist class.

As a socialist, I do not seek an imperial or capitalist England, or a nation defined by religion or race. The abandoned Clause Four of the Labour Party’s constitution is probably the most famous affirmation (in the UK, at least) of what socialists seek, namely, “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.
In addition to this, socialists seek fraternal relations between nations and support the right to self-determination. At home, this should mean active support for the struggle to establish political representation at a national level for England – a cause which complements the movements for self-government in the other nations of the UK and would greatly improve the prospect of a united Ireland.

The nationalisms of Wales and Scotland are now reaching hegemony in the devolved institutions by implementing and supporting social democratic measures, stepping back from the neo-liberalism of New Labour.

The response to this from the capitalist press is to announce with outrage that inequalities in funding under the Barnett Formula allow this to take place, but to whisper that to increase the free provision of healthcare, etc., is simply not possible. In other words, their intention is not to see reforms that are beneficial to working class people implemented in England, but to see the reversal of these gains.

And there is a problem here – for as the former Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted before his departure, the Barnett Formula has been retained because it holds the union together. If funding is levelled down in Scotland in the next few years, the nationalist-led Scottish government would have a stronger case for independence.

The concept of England as a nation is unfamiliar to many English socialists, just as it is often imprecise for people in England. Socialist organisations encourage members to study the history of the working class internationally, often neglecting to examine and learn from the history of the working class in England, its radical traditions, and its struggle for political representation.

Just as the labour movement remains tied to the Labour Party, despite New Labour being recognized by workers as the party of capital, socialists in England (and some in Scotland and Wales) remain attached to the notion that the working class will come to power through the maintenance of the United Kingdom.

I hope that this will change, and that English socialists will come to realize that devolution completely rules out a multinational road to socialism and that devolution in England, far from being an irrelevant or reactionary development, would actually empower working people across the world.

Charlie Marks blogs at Rebellion Sucks!, he lives in London.

Tony Linsell

England
The territory that is called England is the homeland of the English. The English gave their communal name to England and have lived in it ever since. England means “land of the English”.

The English
By “the English” I mean the ethnic / indigenous English. They are members of a community that has a recorded history that goes back nearly 2000 years. That community – that nation – migrated from Jutland to Britain about 1500 years ago. People who have since then merged into the English population, and are indistinguishable from the English, and claim no identity other than English, and are accepted by the English as being one of their own, are English – and England is their homeland.

A Nation
The English are a nation. By “nation” I mean a group of people bound together by a shared history, culture, ancestry, language and communal identity. A nation is a group of people who feel that they naturally belong together – they share common values, perceptions and interests. A nation is an extended family – a group of people who are willing to endure hardship and sacrifice in defence of each other and their communal interests. Our instincts have been shaped by natural selection to enable us to live and flourish in a community. Our instincts are not suited to an atomised existence in a disorderly society.

A National Homeland
All nations seek to establish or preserve a homeland because it provides a physical space in which the nation can govern itself and live according to its own laws and customs. Freedom and democracy are impossible without core shared values and a shared physical space in which to live by those values. Democracy is about a community freely and fairly electing people from within the community to govern the community according to rules that are acceptable to the community. A government is expected to do all it can to maintain a healthy, peaceful, sustainable community. The more distant a political and economic system gets from communal self-government and the pursuit of communal interests, the less democratic it becomes and the less freedom its members enjoy.

What England Means to Me
England is my communal homeland; a physical space in which my community has from time to time been able to more or less govern itself. England is a place that has been physically shaped by my community. Its landscape, whether in town or countryside, tells the story of my community’s history and achievements; its good and bad times; its values and traditions. The landscape of England reflects the social, political, and economic history of the English. Pubs, churches and people are part of that landscape, they indicate English territory. When they disappear, as is increasingly happening in towns and cities, it indicates that the territory has ceased to be occupied by the English – the English have moved out.

Landscape of the Mind
In addition to the physical England there is the England of the communal imagination – a place where no outsider can go. This is the England of our mental landscape – imagined but nonetheless real in that it is moulded from a very early age and affects how we live in the real world. It is an accumulation of the informal prompts that permeate everyday life and which teach us the worth of certain values, perceptions and behaviour. The prompts are in such things as how others greet and speak to us – the food we eat and, how it is cooked and how we eat it – the sound of our language and how it both shapes and reflects the way we think and see.

Our mental and physical landscapes are the product of those who lived their everyday lives and the few who did exceptional things. Each generation leaves its mark on them.

Proof of Title
Hostile outsiders (and misguided or foolish insiders) often scoff and say, “I suppose you think you are Anglo-Saxon” or “Do you have a family tree that shows your ancestors where here a thousand years ago” or worst of all – and from the certifiable – “But we’re all Celts” . The answer is that I don’t have to prove my ancestry by means of formal records and bits of paper. It is enough that I am a member of the English community – its history is my history. As a member of the English community I am linked to the communal history and imagination of those who have for over a thousand years called themselves English and regarded England as their homeland. I have no more need to prove my ancestry than does a Sioux, a Maori, or an Irishman.

So, I am English and there are two Englands that are meaningful and important to me – both are an essential part of my communal and individual identity – both are my homeland.

Tony Linsell is the editor of Steadfast Magazine

John Hemming

Going back to the year 600 my family invaded what became Mercia and is now the Midlands. The local emperor Offa who was part of the Hemming clan and a descendant of the Danish emperor Hemming (see Beowulf) expanded the empire until it stretched as far as London.

To that extent I am perhaps a typical Englishman with ancestors born in all sorts of places (including Ireland and Uttar Pradesh). What England means to me beyond the geographical boundaries and what it means to be English has to be seen from that perspective.

It is said that the Far East has a perspective of life that is known as the “sticking out nail” that means that people varying from the norm are forced back into line.

To me England is a country which has since 1066 been independent and has developed a tolerance of variety and a desire for individual freedom. At the same time, however, there is value given to altruism and a respect for people who live their lives on the basis of principles rather than obedience.

Although in the 1850s the UK had perhaps 50% of the global GDP, I see England traditionally as a country that does not overvalue money. The willingness of clerics and others to work for the intrinsic value of what they do rather than because of pure cash is part of that.

Similarly a respect for the rule of law and a desire to do things that are “in order” is something that I see as linked to England.

The willingness to trust strangers has been described by Robert Puttnam as “social capital” and has been linked to the willingness to do voluntary work. England established many of the worlds international voluntary organisations such as the Scouts and developed many sports. I believe that arose from a weaker state allowing individual creativity to thrive.

Sadly many of these values have decayed. Parliament does need to accept some responsibility for the way in which it leads and responds to changing attitudes. The white collar corruption in some professional services that is driven by financial priorities has effects wider than merely the spheres in which it occurs.

Obviously there are traditional concepts of the village green and cricket that are seen by some to be typically English. However, the English have been mainly town dwellers for some time so it has to be the values of England that are key.

I think it is possible to change the direction of travel back towards a more traditional English set of values. The first step, however, has to be to recognise the need to change and that some changes are not irreversible.

John Hemming is the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley.

Gareth Young

What knows he of England who only England knows? asked Kipling. The retort Perhaps, after all, we know most of England ‘who only England know’ came several years later from Enoch Powell. Having lived three times outside England I can attest to the truth behind Kipling’s rhetorical question. Living abroad forces you to look at yourself and England as others might see you and your country: What is it that I love about England; what is it that makes me English, and; are their stereotypes justified? Comparisons are made, parallels are drawn, and a more self-conscious and self-aware Englishman emerges.

The England of the mind’s eye, that England that exists in our imaginations, is a schizophrenic construction drawn from often conflicting ideas of England. There is the Romantic’s England, that of the bucolic shire, the pastoral idyll of stone cottages, winding lanes, parish churches, hedgerows and patchwork fields; there is the Imperialist’s England of Imperial institutions like Monarchy, Parliament, Civil Service, Military, and then; there is the Idealist’s England, the idea of England itself, Habeas Corpus, Freedom of thought and expression, Individualism, Tolerance, Democracy. All too often these imaginings contrast with the reality of England, a place in which we not only fail to build a new Jerusalem but seem to move ever farther from the England of our mind’s eye.

All of you reading this will have your own evocative idea of England and the extent to which it marries with mine is less a measure of your Englishness and more a measure of the fact that England means different things to each of us. If Englishness exists, if England exists in any meaningful sense, then it is the product of our collective psyche, a sum of parts, the national consciousness and self-awareness of the nation of England. The England of today is ephemeral because England is ever changing, transmitted like DNA through the generations and related to, but subtlety different from, the England before.

When I fly home after a long absence and look down upon England’s system of enclosed fields my heart quickens. The quickening is tempered by Gatwick or Heathrow – undeniably the most depressing places in England, and national disgraces both – but as I proceed at haste into England’s green and pleasant land I experience the closest that I will ever come to a religious experience. It is not pride. It is not relief. It can only be faithfully described as love. This is my country, my land. Evidently it is the romantic pastoral idea of England that resonates most strongly in me. It’s difficult for me to describe because my love for England seems to me to be innate, almost genetic; but of course it is not, it is familiarity and nurture, and a lifetime of imbibing English culture that has instilled this in me.

But despite this feeling of love for England I don’t yet feel that I am home. For there is something I’ve missed more than the English countryside, it is the defining English institution. It is The Pub. I never feel that I am truly home until I have sunk a pint of English ale in an English pub, preferably with friends and family, but if needs must without. Anglo-French poet Hilaire Belloc wrote, When you have lost your inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England. It is a quote that that adorns a thousand beams, usually in gold italics, in pubs the length and breadth of England, and its marketing appeal lies in its simple truth. To sit in a traditional English pub is to connect with generations that have gone before. The pub is redolent of Englishness; from its architecture; to its furnishings; to the peculiar etiquette of the inhabitants, the games they play, the way they interact and the language they speak. To understand the importance of the English pub you need only to watch our three main soap operas (Queen Vic, Rovers Return, Woolpack), the pub is the main set in each and the heartbeat of the community.

It would be fair to say that my Canadian wife grew weary – bloody furious actually – over my complaints about Canadian beer, my yearning for “proper sausages” and my frustration at not being able to buy pickled onion flavour crisps or English cheeses. But though I hankered after these creature comforts it was the pub whose absence in my life I most bemoaned. We now live in Lewes, a town and locale renowned for Harvey’s Brewery and traditional real ale pubs. I’m in seventh heaven and the wife likes it too, and not just because I’ve stopped my belly-aching. She also appreciates the aesthetic and cultural appeal of the English pub and enjoys seeking out new country pubs, or popping down the local, to sample their wares every bit as much as me. Sitting with friends outside a country pub on a summers’ day, supping a pint of ale and picking over a ploughman’s: That’s What England Means to Me.

David Rickard

How can I answer such a question?
Can a man truly tell his lover what she means to him,
Or a daughter her mother?

England. There is no other.

Words are not enough,
Not even those English words
Good, honest, simple;
Not always Anglo-Saxon
Even when we think them so,
But English, all the same;
Replete with history and tradition.

And yet in some ways,
There are too many words
How rich our vocabulary!
So many possibilities of expression;
Such a forest of meaning to get lost in
When language extends beyond its roots
And we cannot see the wood for the trees.

It is as if the whole world
Has poured its scattered meanings
Into our dictionary;
Just as now the whole world, it seems,
Has taken refuge on our shores
And seeks to make its home in England
Or is it, makes England its home?

For we are no longer sure
If we invited them – England, that is –
Not even those we truly welcome to our land.
That choice was taken from our hand:
England, the home of freedom,
The Mother of Parliaments,
Is not free to define the limits of its nation,
To have a destiny not just be a destination;
And be truly called by its own name.

England, the one and only.

Instead, the stranger is invited
To view himself as British:
In fact, an alien not sharing common values
But sharing our alienation;
For we, too, are called
To quit the foolish things of youth
In the name of a universal truth
That we are “British”:
Rootless wanderers of the global age,
And strangers in a land that belongs to all
And so belongs to none.

England: there is none other.

Words are meaningless if there is not heart;
And where there is no heart, there cannot be a home.
I have not always loved her, my England,
When I have travelled far abroad;
But I did not love myself when I despised her,
And always I have called her home.
And always, she has called me home.
She is, in so many ways, my very ground of being;
The wellspring that set my heartbeat racing.

Much that defines me defines England, too;
I belong to England and England belongs to me.
The rhythm of her language speaks in me;
I am the product of her history,
A part of her present
And the guarantor of her future.

For as long as my heart beats,
England, too, will not be beaten.
They can take our nation in name only;
But while I live, they cannot take her soul.
And that is what “England” means to me.

David blogs at Britology Watch.

John Warwick

In 2003 British Asian writer, lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik met and interviewed BNP leader Nick Griffin for Malik’s critique of multicultural Britain in the Channel 4 documentary ‘Disunited Kingdom’. He started off by asking Griffin to define ‘English culture’. His reply was ‘You can’t describe it, you just know it….its like being in love, you either are or you are not’(1). Not only is this the mother of all cop outs on behalf of Nick Griffin, a man who attempts to vehemently defend and protect something he cannot even define from dirty foreign influence, but in itself it says something about English culture. English culture is something that is difficult to describe, but not for the reasons that Nick Griffin gives. English culture is indefinable for the very fact that it is an open ended, living entity. The English culture of today is not the English culture of the 50s, as the English culture of the 50s was not the English culture of the nineteenth century.

For Nick Griffin would look at the example of curry becoming the national dish as a sign of weakness within English culture, a sign of loss. However the English are merely doing as they’ve always done. That is seamlessly assimilating something foreign into its entity without losing its own identity, and even reinventing itself in the process. By the time of the mid 1990s the new movement of British musicians were deliberately recreating a form of music that to most seemed as English as Yorkshire pudding, as a backlash to American dominance of pop culture. The irony didn’t seem to dawn on others that while they were trying to ape the Beatles, back in 1963 they and all their ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ were the epitome of Americanization within England.

In fact Liverpool’s ascendancy to being the first city of British rock and roll was no accident. The Maritime city of Liverpool had many sailors who had made frequent trips to America often bringing back records that the rest of the country couldn’t get hold of. Also a major part of Merseybeat that has had a lasting effect on the culture of the city is the adoption of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, number one hit for scouser Gerry Marsden in 1963, as its unofficial anthem. However this Rogers and Hammerstein number originates from the Broadway musical ‘carousel’, not the pen of any Liverpudlian wordsmith.

Also as a direct result of the Britpop movement of the 90s, the ‘Mod’ culture of the 1960s had come to be defined as the archetypal English cultural style. This is despite the fact that it was heavily influenced by black culture, particularly black American and West Indian music and style, which had came to Britain with the migrant populations. As explained by Paolo Hewitt ‘as second generation Caribbeans moved deeper into British society…Braces, pork-pie hats and the return of the Crombie coat were some of the clothing items that were taken from the Rude Boy by his white counterpart’(2).

This is not the only part of English pop culture that has been taken from the New World Blacks. A vital part of the birth of white sock wearing Essex man with his Escort XR3i complete with furry dice was on the dance floors of the Lacy Lady or Goldmine nightclubs. The Essex Soul Boy scene was built with a soundtrack straight out of Black America. As is the case with today’s most famous Essex man – David Beckham. In his 2005 Channel 4 documentary ‘Black like Beckham’, British afro-caribbean journalist Paul McKenzie refers to this modern day icon of Englishness as ‘Britain’s most famous black man’ because of his incorporation of ‘Black’ Urban style and culture within his public persona. McKenzie states that in turn Beckham has ‘got black style and he’s accepted by black people as a hero’(3). Not only is this something that only the soft southern soul boys did, in the 1970s an entire culture of 24 hour party people sprung up across the north of England, playing obscure soul tunes by obscure soul singers. From the dance floors of the Wigan Casino and the Flaming Torch in Stoke came ‘Northern Soul’, an entire genre of Black American music whose sole definition is a geographical reference to the part of England where it finds its popularity. This despite the fact that barely any English Northerners played a note on those records!

This is also not a phenomenon of the 20th/21st centuries, even William Shakespeare did this back in his day. A quick browse through Shakespeare’s complete works shows settings such as Florence and Marseille in All’s Well That Ends Well, Athens in ‘Mid Summer Nights Dream’, Verona in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and of course the self explanatory ‘Merchant of Venice’. Shakespeare had used the imagery of cultures foreign to England, the result of which centuries later is that his work epitomizes ‘English culture’ in the eyes of others around the globe.

The main conclusion that we can come to here is that the English are among the most misrepresented peoples on earth. Far from being the insular conservative reactionaries that we are often portrayed we are among the most receptive of peoples on god’s earth. People often note the rudeness and bad behaviour of English tourists and yet not only fail to note that this is a minority of people who get disproportionate coverage, but also the fact that once a European holiday came within the financial means of most English people a caravanning holiday on Canvey Island or St. Osyth was never going to cut it ever again. In fact over one million people from the British Isles have emigrated around the med, so contempt of foreigners surely cannot run that deep.The high number of people who emigrated from these shores have recently been misconstrued by the right wing press as a sign of decline and, even more ridiculously, because so many foreigners are coming here. Again the English are doing what they’ve always done, emigration out of Britain was higher than immigration into to Britain for over 300 years, England has after all repopulated entire continents in its time. This had only changed in the 1980s because countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the U.S., who had always received immigrants from Britain started to restrict our entry. In essence the English are a people that do not believe that the world ends at the white cliffs of Dover and that rather than shut the world out would rather see what it has got to offer.

This is isn’t the only part of England’s historical culture that the right wing has misconstrued, for when the least pleasant of those who follow the fortunes of our national Football side are singing ‘with St. George in my heart keep me English’, they might want to dwell on who St. George actually was. He was non-white Palestinian born in Modern day Turkey and a soldier of the Roman Empire, who had not even set foot in England. The reason for his sainthood is that in 303AD the emperor of Rome had authorized the systematic persecution of all Christians across the whole empire. George was ordered to participate in the persecution but instead confessed to being a Christian himself and criticized the imperial decision, which in turn lead to his torture and execution. George is also the patron saint of Aragon, Canada, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Russia, Palestine and also the cities of Genoa, Beirut, Ljubljana, Freiburg and Moscow. So why is George the patron saint of England then? The answer to that one is simple – the actions and ideals of the man meant more than his place of birth.

And that Mr. Griffin, is the explanation to the secret to England’s culture, and why that culture is so enduring. If you take into account that an incredible number of the world’s inventions came from these shores, you know that the English have always appreciated the merits of a good idea, regardless of where it came from. After all we would not have been able to have stayed ahead of the game for as long as we have if we did not. Also the title of this site says it all – a doomsday book of the mind. William the Conqueror was not English at all, he was born in modern day France. The fact that he came here and invaded us should fill us with revulsion if we were anywhere near the Daily Mail stereotype of what we are. The fact we took on board a lot of what he brought speaks volumes about the English and what the English actually are.

John Warwick is a Professor of Political Science

1) http://www.kenanmalik.com/critics/tv&radio/disunited_kingdom.html
2) Hewitt, Paolo, The Soul Stylists: Forty Years of Modernism, Mainstream Publishing 2000:76
3) http://archives.tcm.ie/breakingnews/2003/03/16/story91842.asp

Robin Tilbrook

Many English people have probably despaired about the way things have been handled over the last few years. Thousands of us feel betrayed by Labour, misled by the Liberal Democrats and confused by the Conservatives, who have all provided very little in the way of good ideas and leadership over the last 10 years.

But the encouraging thing is that England is awaking.

The English Democrats were launched in 2002 at the Imperial College London. Many of the founding members were also members of the non-party political pressure group ‘Campaign for an English Parliament’ . It was increasingly obvious to the founding members of the English Democrats that the Westminster political establishment was not listening to anyone unless they posed an electoral threat to their careers. This was as true of Labour, as of the Conservative party, both of which has spent years denying that England is a nation, or that a national identity and a distinct culture actually exist. For the Conservatives, the UK consists of Wales, Scotland and Britain – which is news to 55 million English people who find themselves without any effective national representation.

Will there always be an England? Don’t bet on it. One of the sinister plans from the Labour Government which remains is to break England into nine European Regions. This plan is not to give England a vote on devolution but to create nine Regional Ministries, nine lots of bureaucracies, new flags, regional identities, nine different offices in Brussels and generally trying to break England into bits.

They are already beavering away changing the structure of local County based police into ‘Regional’ police forces. They are removing local ambulance and fire brigades to the Regions and have even tried to set up Regional Assemblies, despite the fact they are unelected and have been rejected by the people in the North East in 2004.

The Conservatives have been almost silent on the issue of the break up of England – why? Because it was the Conservatives who designed the Regional blueprint. Labour are busily implementing it and the Liberal Democrats support the break-up of England. Here you see England’s dilemma – all three of the main political parties are pro- European, pro-Union and pro- breaking-up of England. One has to ask the question why?
One intriguing insight comes from the Scottish Claim of Right: “We” Do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberately (the) interests (of the Scottish people) shall be paramount. This was signed approved by Gordon Brown – Prime Minister, Menzies Campbell – Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Alistair Darling – Chancellor, George Galloway – Respect Party Leader, Charles Kennedy – ex Leader of Liberal Democrats, Michael Martin – Speaker of the Commons and John Reid – ex Home Secretary for England. Scots appear to dominate our political life, either as leaders of all of the three main parties, as funders and as senior figures in policy making.

The English Democrats believe that until the English have a parliament of their own within the UK the English nation is not represented. We consider it is an outrage that Scotland and Wales have been given devolution but the English have not only been left out of any consultation on the issue, but now find themselves ’sharing’ the UK Parliament with MPs from Scotland and Wales who regularly vote on English only matters when English MPs are barred from voting on Scottish and Welsh matters. We are also furious that since last September, English university students will be the only ones having to pay £3,000 in top up fees, whilst the Scots and Welsh pay nothing – as their national Governments have rejected fees for their students, but their MPs nevertheless used their votes in the UK Parliament to make the English pay!

England must have her own voice and great strides are being made to reinvigorate Englishness through the celebration of St. George’s Day, English culture and history. But we need more people who care about England to join in this enterprise.

England is a great country and we want to see a rejuvenated and liberated democratic England – and I encourage all my countrymen to ensure that there will really always be an England!

Robin Tilbrook is the Chairman of the English Democrats Party.

Paul Watterson

My England was never really the one of “long shadows on cricket grounds”, “warm beer”, “invincible green suburbs” (Colliers Wood doesn’t really count, I suppose?), “dog lovers” or “old maids cycling to Holy Communion”.

My England was more Carlisle v Rochdale on a freezing November night, early dawn in Liverpool docks, a curry in Rusholme, a pint of Theakstons in a Keswick pub on wet Sunday afternoon and buying sweet potatoes down Brixton market.

Ask 100 Anglophiles about ‘Their England’ and you’ll get answers and images offered as diverse as the ones above…. England is a jigsaw puzzle of many diverse and disparate parts, but any like any jigsaw puzzle, the picture is only truly complete when all those parts are present and fitting together.

Moving to England from Belfast as an eighteen year old was technically speaking a return to my roots, my forefathers left North Yorkshire for Ireland over 300 years ago. But it was also the birthplace and stomping ground of almost all my political, literary and musical heroes and the home of my favourite football team.

More importantly though, it was moving to a place with an atmosphere as far away as could be possibly imagined from the stifling political and cultural homogeneity of my home city. It took a while to get used to the concept of open debate, people pushing ideas beyond the normal boundaries without fear of physical retribution, but once I did, I took full advantage of the intellectual freedom offered by new home.

I’m still fascinated with the conflict of ideas which exists in English life, a “conflict” which exists almost entirely in name only, but one which is continuously taking place in the House of Commons, university debating chambers, newspapers, blogs, pubs, work-places and over the garden fence. But whereas this debate in my teen years centred on political ideology and the issues of class, the chaos of N.Irish, Scottish and Welsh devolution has undoubtedly caused a re-awakening of English national identity and maybe even a questioning of England’s role within the wider nation that is the United Kingdom. For the first time, perhaps since the Home-Rule Bills of the Nineteenth Century, Unionists in the other three parts of the UK can no longer take their English compatriots for granted- this is no bad thing. I strongly suspect the main “conflict” in the years ahead will not be along the old stale conservative/liberal, socialist/capitalist fault-lines, but on matters of national identity; can we, simultaneously, be both British and English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh? I believe so, but I also acknowledge it will not be an easy job convincing the rest of my fellow Britons of this fact; the debate has just begun and I’m looking forward to playing a small part in the future discussions and arguments on this topic.

I’m proud to be an Irishman from N.E. Ulster, I am also proud to be a citizen of the greater British nation. The United Kingdom is a jigsaw puzzle of many diverse and disparate parts, but like any jigsaw puzzle, the picture is only truly complete when all these parts are present and fitting together; I consider England to be the biggest piece of that jigsaw, its focal point.

Paul Watterson, ex-Belfast, now residing in New Europe

Barry Hamblin

To explain what England means to me, I have to begin with my childhood days at school. It was in the days when English history was still taught properly, in my case by an animated teacher who himself was Welsh. I learnt about the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans and the Tudors and, along with field trips, I took a liking to England, its history and its landscape. When I returned from school one day I asked my parents “am I English?”, and when they replied that I was, I became the happiest schoolboy in my street. Even in those days I knew that England’s flag was the Cross of St.George, I knew that St.George didn’t really kill a dragon but symbolized the triumph of good over evil. When I saw England’s flag amongst the plethora of Union flags at events I would often stare with pride in the knowledge that someone else knew they were English as well as me.

Later, as an adolescent and a young man, it could be said that I forgot about my England for the most part of each year except for the day that matters most, St.George’s Day. Every year I would, along with my fellow English friends, don a red rose at work or, if we were lucky and the day fell at the weekend, we would eventually find our way to the pub and celebrate, often with the biggest English flag around.

Having followed my favourite football team all over England, I have met fisherman from Hull, miners from Sheffield, car workers from Birmingham, farmers from Swindon, hop pickers from Kent and dock hands from Portsmouth and although from different backgrounds and each with their own stories told with the twang of the their local accents, we had a common theme. We were all English. No North-South-East-West divide for us, England was England . There was also the ever-changing cities and landscape. In the early days each city and town had its own symbol of industry, be it the tall chimneys of Manchester, the mines shafts of Barnsley, and each was unique. Today this has given way to modernization and a sort of homogenisation, for good or bad who knows?

What of my England today? It was whilst organising St.George’s Day in my local pub that I was encouraged to look into the history of the man, his legend and what his links are to England and from this I renewed my interest in all things English. Little did I know where this would lead to. Where it has led to is a realisation that the England I love is being eaten alive from within and unless I take an active part to stop it, I would be as guilty as each Englishman who sat idly by and did nothing. I learnt of Blake’s Jerusalem, surely England’s anthem? I read G K Chesterton’s The Secret People just two of many pieces of literature to stir the heart and, like the speech in Henry V, to rouse the passion of an Englishman.
What England means to me, then, is the people from north to south, east to west; it is the rolling landscape, the unique towns and villages; it is its history from the Saxons to 1707; it is the Arts from Constable to Parry; it is when you turn a corner and find the Cross of St.George flying when you least expect it; it is St.George’s Day. That is my England, it is your England, it is our England.

Barry (The Elder) is the London co-ordinator of the Campaign for an English Parliament and Director of St.George’s Day Events.

Mike Rouse

At only 24 I can only look back to England in the 1980s, and the late 80s at that. My personal experiences then were filled with being forced to join campaign marches against the Poll Tax by my socialist mother or being dragged to church on a Sunday to get a drilling on why Jesus died for me followed by the nightmarish experience of my dad trying to teach my mum how to drive by going around in circles at the local supermarket’s car park because back then, all the shops were closed on a Sunday. It’s something I look back on with mixed feelings. Part of me wants the fast-paced consumer lifestyle, but then other times I remember how everything being closed on Sunday was a way of slowing the country down a bit – forcing it to take a break, to spend time with the family, to catch up on the household finances.

England today is already a lot different. Even at my young age I feel alienated from the youth that patrol the streets, but unlike older generations that call the police on these kids, I understand that the street is where they feel safe now, where they feel in control and where they are able to express themselves. England, to me, has lost something over the past few years and looking at the generation behind me is a vital clue.
It’s lost that face-to-face communication that was so common even when I was a kid, but in the evolution of the internet it’s gained something else. My generation and the one below are more comfortable with social networking websites than they are with sitting down with their parents over dinner. But, within that domain of cyberspace they are able to develop a range of skills and experiences that will sustain them through the burgeoning growth of the internet-enabled world.

Yet, despite the changes in communication, friendship and socialising that the internet has heralded, there is still something great and old-fashioned about England – our compassion and how we support the worst off in our society.

Look at the recent flooding, for example. Communities came together to offer assistance to their neighbours – probably people they would never speak to on a day-to-day basis. Then, there are terrorist attacks, which cause a great rallying around of collective solidarity.

For me, England is a nation that has so many different vibrant strands in society. There’s my internet-enabled generation, but then there’s also the elderly, those that can’t afford the internet, those that spend all day in tough jobs with little reward and those that face daily neglect and abuse. We’re a nation built of individuals, each with very different lives and cultures, and together we forge a great economy and a free nation. Yet, when the face of evil, or the hand of disaster comes to call we bind together, united in one clear voice that we are a community, we are neighbours, and we are a nation. We are England.

Mike Rouse is the Managing Director of MessageSpace Creative and Head of Technology at 18 Doughty Street Talk TV as well as blogger at www.mikerouse.net

Sharon Ann Glenn

England alone is different, separate yet defining. It is a place of contradiction, a place for the best to meet, to decide, to govern, to rule, to defend, a place which often sets the standards that others follow. It is a place of pride and of strength, a place which frequently assumes that it must be heard and never ignored. That is what its former generations used to call England’s mission and England’s greatness. Coming from Northern Ireland, I find England means travelling without needing to travel far. It is a meeting of many cultures and traditions, all embracing and yet it can be also inward looking and bigoted. England means not only a fast city life but also the most beautiful countryside you will ever see. The glory of England is that it has some of the most impressive historic buildings and wealth in the world and yet the shame of England is that it has some of the worst slums, which house an existence and not life. It has a heart that beats for knowledge and learning for betterment, for opportunity and for celebration of achievement. This is the spirit which has meant that England (despite all the accusations of social conservatism) has remained a dynamic and inventive country. At the same time it also harbours a perverse pleasure in the weakness and failing of others and often in the failings its own people. This is the attitude which has given England the reputation for being perfidious as well as for being philistine. England is all this – a contradiction which aligns it as close as a heart beat with human experience in all its variety, for good and ill. And (here is yet another contradiction) it is all this without in any way diminishing the distinctiveness of English ways of living.

Sharon Ann Glenn is an occupational therapist

John J. Ray

Most unusually for an Australian, I agree with Andrew Ian Dodge about English beer. Australians are used to German-style beer only (Lager) so it was an enormously pleasant experience for me to discover the English alternative: Real Ale. It is over 20 years since I have been in England but I still have fond memories of Ruddles County in particular.

I grew up on English books. I was born in the 1940s and just about the only children’s books available in Australia at that time were imported from England. Additionally, the writers seemed mostly to be from the higher social strata of English society so the boys’ books that I read were mostly about life in English Public Schools (now usually called “independent” schools to allay confusions among Americans). So there I was in small-town tropical Australia among crocodiles, sharks, deadly snakes and insects reading about crocuses and nightingales. And schoolboy cries of “cave” and “pax” had to be understood too. Fortunately Latin was still taught in my local High School at that time so I eventually understood where those cries came from.

And while I always felt that “bounders” and “cads” were excellent terms of disapprobation, it was the man “who goes too far” who best summed up Englishness for me. It was a not uncommon term of disapprobation in my boys’ books and was a particularly final dismissal of anyone. To this day I still think it embodies a central English value and one that I still heartily agree with — although I suspect that I myself may “go too far” on occasions. The concept is of course that there is a broad range of behaviour that can be tolerated but that there are nonetheless important limits that must not be transgressed. It is both a celebration of tolerance and a condemnation of “anything goes”. It means that there ARE important standards that are needed for civility and that some things CANNOT wisely be tolerated.

Does that England still exist? I rather doubt it. Pockets of it no doubt remain but the relentless grinding-down of people by an educational system that transmits as little as it can from the past has left only instinct to guide Brits in that direction these days. I fervently hope that the instinct is strong but I am not optimistic.

John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) is a retired academic. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Andy Staines

Anyone untutored in history would find it inconceivable to learn that a small island, tucked away in the north east Atlantic, had once commanded an empire that spanned the globe, had given the world parliamentary democracy, countless breakthroughs in science, medicine, industry and technology, some of the greatest literature of all time and a language that is almost universally recognised.

That same person, arriving for the first time on the shores of England today would, perhaps, become quickly sceptical of such history for outside of museums there is little sign that we once – and not so very long ago – imprinted the indelible mark of England on the world.

The late 1950’s, as the ‘Empire’ was dissolving into ‘Commonwealth’, saw the rise of the ‘apologists’; it was time to be ashamed of our past. My generation was to carry the burden of guilt for the blood shed in the name of Empire. The conquests of our forefathers were to become the sins of their children.

In parallel, the post-World War 2 dissatisfaction with the status quo saw the rise of a new political class, the ‘common’ man, dedicated to sweeping away the old establishment recruited from the privileged few. With dedicated fervour for economic equality and to wrest power from the elite who had controlled our destiny for so long, England saw the beginnings of a social revolution that is still taking place to this day.

The results of all revolutions are a mixed bag. In tearing up the political and economic fabric of England and in negating our history, much damage has been inflicted on the England we once knew. There are positives: those in poverty fared much worse than today. Educational opportunity was not open to all. The class system was far more rigid and those on the bottom rungs tended to stay there. Healthcare was not so easily come by. But as the bad was being tempered, so the good was being annulled. The very qualities that made up the English character were being abandoned and discouraged by a growing, intrusive and overly interventionist State machine – self-reliance, determination, respect, a national spirit of brotherhood that could come to the fore in times of trouble. The famous ’stiff upper lip’ was allowed, even encouraged, to droop and pout.

The diversity of the English, politically, economically, socially, has been squeezed at both ends in a short-sighted drive for an elusive equality that can never truly exist. The problem with true equality is that it must use the lowest common denominator as its yardstick.

The cost of this misplaced hand wringing and social re-engineering has been enormous. Simple pride in being English, a natural cornerstone of any nation, has been branded as arrogance. Pride is a throwback to Empire and something not to be exercised. The result is a loss of a national identity; promoting Englishness has become a sin yet paradoxically at the same time we were floundering and being bullied into national guilt, people from all over the old Empire were flooding into our country wanting nothing more than to be English. Even our neighbours in the Union, sensing our weakness, have grown more vocal in reminding us of centuries of abuse, cherry-picking their history to suit.

This is not to say that many of the ingredients of ‘old’ England do not survive. The lush, green meadows; the old broad-leaved forests; the summer sound of leather on willow on the village green; the country inn; courteousness; tolerance and respect. They can all, just about, still be found. But our relationship with these symbols has changed as clearly as the social fabric that once bound us as a nation has become unraveled.

Over it’s long history, my country has stood at many crossroads and who knows if the paths taken were for the better. But those paths shaped the land and it’s people to what we have become today. As the twenty-first century starts to bite, England finds itself at another major crossroads and this is, perhaps, the most important we have ever faced. And we face it at a time when our very Englishness has become almost terminally ill.
Do we allow ourselves to be absorbed into a European ‘Empire’, dominated by others, where we will be but a junior state? Do we allow our three hundred year Union with Scotland and Wales to be torn up and consigned to the rubbish bin of history?

Or do we take back what is ours? Regain our inheritance. Re-establish pride in our nation and forge a new national identity to see us through the next century?

These are not questions for our politicians to answer. The new ‘establishment’ is just as divorced from the people as the one they destroyed. These are questions for the English to answer and I fear they are losing their voice.

Andy Staines is a retired software designer stranded on the edge of the Fens who keeps himself amused with Yellow Swordfish.

Simon Maine

England is a land of opportunity with a history forever inter-twining with the people of other lands. The Roman, Viking and Norman invasions have historically contributed to the mix of people that are proud to refer to themselves as English today. More than ever, England is welcoming people whose ancestral heritage stretches all over the planet and it is a source of pride to me that so many from so far away would wish to live in our land.

No national borders are set in stone but nationhood comes easier to those who live on an Island. We should therefore embrace our fellow islanders. Englishmen are not in competition with Scotsmen, Welshmen or Irishmen – we are all from the same stock, just as we are from the same stock as those in Europe and the rest of the world. England has a distinct identity thanks to its history 800-year history as a nation with its own parliament but this should not signal the end of our journey.

England is as artificial a creation as any nation can be. The Anglo Saxon tribes were fiercely separate from one another and if it wasn’t for the Romans, the English boundary-lines may never have been drawn as they are today. We would do badly to forget this. Wales and Scotland grew as separate nations because they were not colonised by foreign invaders. England, before most, knew what it was like to accept foreign cultures and peoples. It was this that helped us to grow together as a nation. When other European nations were mercilessly persecuting Jews in the 11th century, it was to England that they fled, under the protection of our first Norman king William the Conqueror. From that moment to this, England has been a shelter for those in need – a place of refuge in a land where needless persecution is anathema to its people.

But now England no longer exists alone – we have become part of something greater. England can pride itself as being at the heart of the United Kingdom, a union in which our total strength is much greater than the sum of the parts. It is no secret that men stand stronger together. We should not lament the loss of England as a distinct political entity because we are creating something much better. It may be tempting to think that the addition of new cultures can weaken our own but we must always remember that our culture was given to us and not formed by us. We are at our best when we think for ourselves and the variety of cultural norms in England constantly prompts us to re-evaluate our own ideas.

Having discussed what England is I would like to end with what England isn’t. England is not centred around ethnicity or race – it is centred around identity. Resentment of our friends to the North and West is becoming more common because they have devolved politics and we do not. It is pertinent to remind those who might tend to denigrate our fellow Brits that the old English Parliament in Westminster cannot helpfully serve those who live so far away. The alternative seats of power in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh are not there to promote provincial nationalism at the expense of subsuming Englishness into Britishness. It is simply an attempt to bring politics closer to these people. We English (in the South at least) are lucky to have Westminster so near and we cannot know what it feels like to be ruled from a Parliament so far away from your home.

Finally, questions over English identity must never be allowed to spill over into questions of race. The English are not a race. We are as artificially thrown together as any nation. Our strength is that we can still forge a great society without the need for ethnic bonds. We are freed from primal politics and instead can look forward to rational politics. Some on the fringe may argue that Englishness means being of some particular racial background – this I wholly reject. We English are a people but not a race. We are inclusive to anyone who agrees with our basic values.
The great symbol of England that remains is our football team and I am a passionate fan. I expect I will still feel the desire to weep when England are knocked out of the 2060 World Cup Finals. I’m sure that then, as now, I will be cheering on a team with a variety of ethnic backgrounds – all proudly English. England is a land of inclusion, a land comfortable with the idea of mixing various cultures, a land with pride in humanity and not pre-occupied with racial origins.

Simon Maine is a student of politics and philosophy at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University.

Christine Constable

To me Englishness is not a tick box of attributes. It is an enigma, almost impossible to describe but when you see it, unmistakable. Englishness is like trying to describe fish in the ocean, most conform to a broad similarity in terms of fins and gills, but on closer inspection it is clear there are many hundreds of varieties of fish, all conforming to that genus but with so many colours and shapes it is difficult to discern a clear and constant commonality.

Englishness is a rich and complex tapestry, a contradiction and a truism but (to change metaphors), like the lepidopterist trying to capture the English butterfly, it is fruitless to search for quintessential Englishness, for one simply stumbles upon one variety of sub-species after another, each giving a new insight into the complex family whole.

Englishness to me is a state of mind as well as an ethnic identity for I have never believed that Englishness is conferred simply by bloodlines or heredity.

To be English is to carry the burden of a nation that has given more to the world than any nation on Earth. It is to be part of a legacy which has done much to bring the world to its current civilized state, albeit imperfect and flawed – but without England’s leadership could still be languishing in a third world lawless wasteland.

To be English is to know that our history has conferred on the English an unusual and onerous task, which is both a blessing and an unbearable burden. A legacy tainted with exploitation as well as service. Generosity and meanness, excess and poverty – all rolled into one.

English concepts of democracy, rights, justice, parliament, habeus corpus and common law have provided a unique distillation which has resulted in a small offshore island becoming the catalyst for the modern world as we know it. The Language English is the representation of our culture, our living history in the words and phrases we use to convey our many ideas. The simplicity of our language belies a complex and inexhaustable intellect, handed down through the generations enriching our language to encapsulate with stunning clarity our inventions, scientific insights and world changing discoveries.

To be English is to share in our nation’s boundless talent for invention. Whilst our skills of exploitation have always been notoriously poorly developed, we are nonetheless one of the most creative peoples on Earth and the world changing inventions created by the English are a testament to that fact.

Our creativity has also extended to sports and recreation, designing and setting the rules for most of the world’s sports and games. Our penchant for worldwide travel and our ability to adapt and develop ideas from across the globe, has enabled England to remain a vibrant leader in many niche areas and indeed many of our unique innovations have been acquired and built upon by many other nations.

To be English is to shine as a beacon of liberty and fairness within the world, to fight against authoritarianism, to cherish our sovereignty and to learn the painful history of our island race. To be English is to trust only ourselves. No other nation can have our confidence or trust, only the English shall rule the English, this is our right and we will defend that right – always.

To be English is to be misunderstood, undervalued, occasionally abused, often exploited and usually misjudged, for an uncompromising heart beats beneath the stiff upper lip and protective reserve, which simply masks the temper of a raging bull. To be English is not to be confused with being British, an imposed identity which has lost much of its gloss after the Empire and as a consequence of devolution in the United Kingdom after 1998.
To be English is to be an individual, with a fierce belief in democracy and freedom and a healthy suspicion of all things ideological and foreign. As an island race we have been forced to defend ourselves from those who would subsume us and even our invaders have been absorbed into the English fabric, in time seeing themselves as English. That was true of the Romans as it was true of the Danes and Normans.

Englishness is open and sharing, it encourages knowledge and education – yearns to debate and challenge. It is both conciliatory and contradictory, both classy and crass and forever transforming into its next incarnation.

Being English is about freeing the spirit and the mind, thinking the unusual and seemingly impossible, pushing boundaries, evolving and making things happen. Being English is about valuing the under dog, challenging authority, valuing effort and encouraging innovation. It’s about never giving up and going the whole hog, doing the best you can do and never countenancing failure however impossible the odds appear – the ‘Goose Green mentality’ and ‘Dunkirk spirit’. Englishness is about honour, fair play and hard work.

Englishness is about setting trends and capturing the spirit of the epoch, whether in music, fashion, art, politics, or technology. English intellect is often stunning, yet understated and overly modest. Mediocrity is feted in many nations of the world, but only in England could sheer brilliance be treated with indifference and sometimes even contempt. Englishness is an enigma – those that are English rarely think about it, those that aren’t often wish they had it.

Christine Constable is Vice Chairman of the English Democrats and Director of the English Constitutional Convention.

Christine Berberich

When I was a little girl growing up in Germany, I decided that one day, when I was grown up, I would be English, live in England, and be the Queen. This ambition was kicked off by two events I still remember very clearly. The first was the broadcast of James Herriot’s nostalgic memoirs of life as a Yorkshire vet, All Creatures Great and Small. This triggered my love for what I considered to be the quintessential English countryside: green and pleasant fields; rolling and gentle hills; picturesque villages. The other was the fact that my grandmother pointed out one day that my birthday coincided with that of the Queen – and the Queen came to symbolise English traditions for me.

With those credentials, I thought, nothing could go wrong. My family was, at first, bemused by my attempts to become English; later, their attitudes varied from tolerance (my mother) to annoyance (my father) when, during holidays in France, I stood wistfully on the beaches, gazing towards where I thought England was, or when, during England vs Germany football matches, I hung a Union Jack out of the front window. Once I finally started studying English in school, that was it: I refused to go to France or anywhere else other than England where I spent all my summer holidays, and once I started university it was clear that there was only one subject I could really pursue with real passion: English literature which for me epitomised the idea of English history and culture.

Several years down the line and I have fulfilled at least some of my childhood ambitions. I do, indeed, live in England now, and while I am not (yet?) strictly speaking English and I’m not the Queen either, I do consider myself part of English culture as I now teach English literature and culture at an English university. My childhood love of the English countryside is still intact and the Queen still represents English tradition for me. Nevertheless, several years of living here have taught me a more critical attitude. Studying theories of nostalgia I have come to realise that my early feelings for this country fell into the category of ’simple nostalgia’ – albeit a nostalgia for something I did not really know from personal experience but only from hearsay or rather, in my case, from books and films. There are, of course, inherent dangers to simple nostalgia in that it takes things for granted and closes its eyes to reality. A reflective nostalgia, on the other hand, queries the notions of nostalgia in the first place. Why is it that I fell for this country so unquestioningly at a stage in my life when I couldn’t really judge things? When nobody in my family had even ever been here? And, more importantly, how do I cope with the realities of living here now that do not really conform to my childish notions of the mythical England? After all, not all of England equals the chocolate-box village with thatched cottages, content villagers and happy sheep that I came to expect. Living here has taught me that not everything is better here; the Health System, for one, or the fact that the trains generally don’t run on time. But this is counterbalanced by the continuous joy I get from a walk in the Peak District; or by the tolerance, even friendship, I have been met with by people from all walks of life, in particular by my students who do not query at all that they are being taught about their own culture by an ‘outsider’. This tolerance in particular is something that sets the English apart from other people; of course we now hear and read in the media about rising anxieties about increasing immigration; about the alleged disadvantages of a multi-cultural society. But the reality that I have experienced is the exact opposite and that, for me, means that England is still the one place where I want to be.

Christine Berberich is a Lecturer in English at the University of Derby

Andrew Ian Dodge

I may come from a different perspective as I am not English or even British. I am American. I am an American who has probably spent more of his life being exposed to the English and Englishness than ever I have been to Americans. This was especially true during my school years.

My first three years of education were in Manorbier in Pembrokeshire, Little England beyond Wales. I was taught the Queen’s English and my three Rs in a manner that was probably no longer used in England proper and all by an excellent English teacher from London. It would be fair to say that the reason I am a writer is because of the first three years of my education in a two-room schoolhouse. I am proud to say that many years later I visited my teacher to give her credit for my chosen path. My exposure to Englishness did not end when I left Pembrokeshire. I moved with my family to Honduras where I spent my time around English expats and their families. A move north to Miami brought me long friendship with an English-Jamaican family. And during all this time, my family took me back to Britain nearly every year during the summer hols.

Consequently as soon as I was an adult, I endeavoured to spend as much time in England as possible. Its weather suited my constitution along with the beer and English women. I am not quite sure what it is but the water in the North of England lends itself to making the best ale in the world. Culturally I was attracted to the UK because of the great writers it has produced from Shakespeare to William Blake. The music enthralled me and it still does. Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Thunder or Black Sabbath. I would dare not try to count the genres of music that have emanated from this small country (the size of my home state of Maine).

My politics too sprang from this isle. I am a libertarian inspired by the great post-enlightenment thinkers who earlier inspired my country’s revolution. The filter that was English political thought took the ideas of the Greeks, the French enlightenment and turned them into something special. My recent inspirations range from Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher. Men and women of determination are always welcome here in the political realm and none more than these two.

As to the daily joys, it may seem a bit twee that I think of warm flat bitter ale, drizzle, loud music and good women when I think of England. But these are what so enthralls me about the country. So enamoured am I with all these, but especially of one British woman, that I have married my own English Rose and we have settled in North London.

Some may say the England I admire no longer exists, that I am a nostalgic old fool. I would respectfully disagree. I would reply that all those things I admire are still here under the surface of the froth, political correctness and heat that is modern politics and culture. It’s all there if you know where to look.

England still enthralls, inspires, fascinates and infuriates in equal measure. Long may it remain the source for all those emotions. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andrew Ian Dodge is the blogger behind Dodgeblogium.

Tim Daw

The England I believe in is a Taurean, placid, tolerant place – bucolic and green; but when tweaked capable of violence and rage.

It is the England of the countryside, especially of the soft Wiltshire Downs where I live. Gently scarred by our ancestors as they worked and worshiped the soil. Each acre tells its history and its continuity of centuries of use. As the land nurtures us we also give back and make the
landscape.

The strange tarmac and concrete of our cities seem alien but around corners suddenly a small slice of our heritage reveals itself and suddenly I am transported back to the England of our past. I knew our Island Story before I ever knew our cities and so they will always be seen through the lens of history. The new and vibrant are discordant with a sense of belonging. But the wonder of our culture is that what is good and lasting is absorbed and becomes part of it.

We are not a nation founded on race but on a common culture, respects and language. I have been in “England” on the Pacific shore, under the African sky and in the snows of the Rockies. We are not constrained by geography, creed, breeding or birth – open to all who wish to belong.

Our history means we are feared and despised by many but were a benefactor to most. Maligned both abroad and also at home, lied about so much the truth is hard to find. But good people everywhere still like us. We have been put upon and yoked by foreign rulers, but remain strong enough to make it through such times to regain its freedoms.

My England is different to Your England but Our England is a grand place; worth fighting for.

Tim Daw is a farmer, and a long barrow builder, he lives in Wiltshire.

John Redwood

England is a summer’s day by a river in a wooded valley, an afternoon on the cricket field, strawberries at Wimbledon, and well kept gardens in leafy suburbs. It is seeing Shakespeare enacted at the Globe, hearing William Byrd and Handel. It is a way of life and a way of thinking.

At their best Englishmen and women believe in fair play, freedom and tolerance. We want to live and let live. We are Tolkein’s hobbits of the Shire. Our land is fertile, our climate temperate, our island disposition makes us interested in the wider world but beholden to no foreign empire. We are confident of our island, its protecting seas and its traditions. We hold our heads high because we have not been conquered for a thousand years, we are proud of our democratic traditions, we take delight in our past and present enterprise and economic success, we are pleased our ancestors fought to free others on the continent of Europe.

I remember once showing a Russian visitor the House of Commons. I talked to him about the portrait paintings on the walls: the winners and the losers, the establishment figures and the rebels, cavaliers and roundheads, free traders and interventionists, Labour, Liberals and Conservatives, monarchists and republicans. He replied after a while “How wonderful it must be to live in a country which is at peace with its past”. We see nothing wrong with celebrating Cromwell and Charles under the same roof, for their conflict produced the 1660 settlement and in turn the Glorious Revolution.

England has been settled since 1660. Our near neighbours have had revolutions, military dictatorships and radical constitutional upheavals in later centuries. I might have been a Parliamentarian in 1640, but would probably have been more in sympathy with the royalists by 1645 and would have objected to the killing of the King. I like to think I would have been a slave trade abolitionist, a free trader against expensive corn, an enthusiastic advocate of the wider franchise when reform Bills came to the Commons. I want our current Parliaments to further the long march of everyman and woman to be an owner of business and shares, as well as a voter and a property owner. The English story is far from complete. Everyman and woman has come a long way in three hundred years, but there is much further I would like him and her to travel.

The English story is now interwoven with the British story. Some of us are happy with the Union, others now chafe at it. We all agree that the future of our Union will evolve and will be settled by arguments and votes, not by guns and bullets. That is the English way, and is often also the UK way.

John Redwood is the Conservative MP for Wokingham in Berkshire.

Julia Stapleton

I grew up near one of the naval ports on the south coast when Britain could still be described as a maritime nation. The immediate horizon was set by battleships, uniforms, barracks and forts, not the most prepossessing side of the country. By contrast, there was an exotic air about many of my school fellows, born in far-flung places wherever there was a British base. Our enviably thick stamp and postcard albums reflected a certain global consciousness courtesy of a navy that was still on worldwide patrol. In these circumstances it often seemed that England was ‘no place’, overshadowed to a much greater extent than Scotland and Wales by the institutions of the British state and the commitments of an empire, albeit an empire in decline. In the absence of any formal provision at school for addressing such issues, still less cultivating patriotism of any description, the sense of Englishness could easily have gone by the board.

And yet there were historic ships in this midst as well, lovingly preserved and quietly but powerfully suggestive of a proud and heroic past that was as much English as British; this was without the benefit of hard marketing that has made defence, no less than other areas of national life, big heritage business, and all the more effective for being unspoken. Then there were war memorials, sites of commemoration but not bitterness and recrimination – unlike countries whose borders had been overrun in two world wars – nor the smugness of the victor. There was also a tolerance that made those outside the mainstream, i.e. Anglican, culture seem different, but their differences in beliefs and practices were treated as being in no way anyone’s business but their own, a feeling that was fully reciprocated. There was, too, contact with folk songs in primary school evoking English streams, vales and woods and something of what Yehudi Menhuin memorably described as “the infinitely shaded green of the English summer”. The many varieties of fruit and vegetables – each with their own distinctively English names – testified to the fertile nature of the soil. Looking back, the impression can only be one of immense good fortune in being born into a society that enjoyed such natural geographical advantages, and with few hang-ups about itself.

It was of course true that the cohesion of this society was somewhat fragile, on the surface at least, with class divisions that were especially apparent in the armed forces. But the gaps were by no means unbridgeable, and did not preclude mutual respect. Indeed, class might be seen as one of many distance-setting mechanisms which have maintained the liberty of the English nation, and what G.K. Chesterton termed the “sleepy sanity” of its people. Class also made for some of the best English comedy, nowhere more so than in Dad’s Army and the tension between the grammar-school educated Captain Mainwaring and the public-school educated Sergeant Wilson.

Much of this is fast disappearing, especially a lush countryside, given over to developers. But while the erosion of some aspects of England, ‘old style’, may be for the best, there is little now to replace the strong but invisible threads on which a common sense of Englishness hung in the past; certainly not the heavy-handed attempt by government to foster identities based more upon ideals of ‘citizenship’ forged in Europe than indigenous sensibilities.

Julia Stapleton is a Reader in Politics at the University of Durham.

Arthur Aughey

I remember reading the opening lines of Stephen Spender’s autobiography World within World and identifying immediately with the sentiment. “I grew up”, wrote Spender, “in an atmosphere of belief in progress curiously mingled with apprehension”. It appeared to Spender – as it appeared to me as a child – that both of us (in different eras) “had been born on to a fortunate promontory of time towards which all other times led”. The only part of Spender’s Whiggish interpretation of history with which I could not associate was the weight in the scale of human happiness given in his Liberal household to the policy of Home Rule for Ireland. Perhaps an Ulster childhood in a household Conservative only because of that Liberal policy provided the last refuge of such a benign disposition towards history and much of that history was graced (in my mind, at least) by the secret of England’s greatness, that glorious hyphen which joined and buckle which fastened reformed faith, civil liberty, industrial creativity and parliamentary government. The apprehension every Ulster Unionist felt (even at an early age) was that of being banished from England’s embrace by either Irish nationalist cunning or by English liberal guilt and casual political indifference.

I could never appreciate, then, the argument that defined England in terms of an arcadian romance, a nostalgic temperament, a melancholic nature or even, in Tom Nairn’s words, a “dead centre of inertia”. None of this backward-looking, heritage England convinced because what England meant to me, when I looked across the Irish Sea, was something very different. England was progress, England was energy, England was industry, England was the city, England was science, England was motorways and new experiments, England (before the Blairites came up with the slogan) was a young country where amazing things happened. England, in short, was the future. And in those days when families from Belfast went on holiday to the ‘mainland’ by boat and by train, I can still remember the excitement of travelling to London from the docks at Heysham on ‘The Flying Ulsterman’ and being astonished by England-as-modernity. To a small boy, here was the real centre of the turning world, much more immediate than the distant dream that was America. Everything was familiar (this is my world too) and yet strange (in this case I felt of it but not in it).

The critic may say: “Well, that was then and this is now. All of those things were childish illusions”. Of course, a lot of these things are gone. But how we live and how we experience the world does not conform to that sort of linear logic. History is indeed now and England as Eliot wrote and all time is eternally present. What England means to me is an impression of my own past, present and sense of the future and it issues in a set of paradoxes. I can no longer so naively think those things of England, but still do. I can no longer look upon the country with the same fascination, but still do. I can no longer subscribe to the belief in English providence – in which God put the Pennines where He did so that Lancashire could become the centre of cotton production and Yorkshire of wool – but still do. I can no longer support England so unselfconsciously at football or cricket and yet still do. In that very personal sense, England helped to make me, albeit an England profoundly mediated by my own local patriotism. England, their England is also England, my England because I am at home in its imaginative world. And I feel still a gratitude to the openness of that imaginative world because, for all its undoubted pettiness and exclusions England remains open, it remains generous, in its possibilities.
To that meaning of England I consider myself aligned and if it is dismissed as a mere faith, it is a faith I hope one can still find among the English themselves.

Arthur Aughey is Professor of Politics at the University of Ulster