In defence of Englishness

The idea that English identity goes hand in hand with racism is a myth.

Rakib Ehsan
Columnist

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

Sending both the liberal-left and far right into a tailspin, recent survey figures show that support for a more open and inclusive English identity has strengthened in recent years. Now around 90 per cent of English people say that being English is not about skin colour or ethnicity.

According to British Future and the Centre for English Identity and Politics, just over 10 per cent of people believe ethnicity is an important factor in determining Englishness, compared with 20 per cent from a 2012 study. Interestingly, the drop has been particularly sharp among those over the age of 65 – a section of the population often smeared as backward and regressive. From 2012, the importance of ‘whiteness’ to English identity among this demographic has dropped from 35 per cent to 16 per cent.

For most people, Englishness is far more about doing your bit, with over 70 per cent feeling that paying taxes in England, and contributing to English society, were important to being English. The data challenges the perception that the UK’s decision to leave the EU reflected the rise of a xenophobic English identity, framed in exclusivist, ancestral terms. The findings actually show that people increasingly view Englishness in ethnically inclusive terms.

The association often drawn between British Euroscepticism and xenophobia is dubious to say the least. Indeed, a 2018 study found that people of black African descent faced ‘widespread and entrenched prejudice and exclusion’ across the EU. Debunking the highly speculative connection between Euroscepticism and xenophobia, the UK in fact had one of the lowest levels of reported race-related harassment and violence in the 12-country study.

Roughly one in three of the respondents to the study said they had experienced some form of racial harassment in the past five years, while only 21 per cent of respondents in the UK said they had. To put this in perspective: the corresponding figure in Finland was 63 per cent. With regards to racist violence, the highest rates were reported in Finland (14 per cent), closely followed by Austria and the Republic of Ireland (13 per cent each). The figure among UK respondents was three per cent.

These survey figures strongly discredit two deeply questionable claims that are often peddled by the chattering classes – that English identity is increasingly being framed in ethno-racially exclusivist terms, and that English xenophobia itself drives British Euroscepticism.

The figures are a huge blow to both the liberal-left chattering classes who depict Englishness as an exclusionary, narrow-minded identity, and also to an increasingly diminishing far-right faction who believe that having a certain racial and ethnic ancestral background is integral to Englishness. Neither, it seems, are actually representative of the views of the English public at large.

Commenting on the new findings, former Labour MP Professor John Denham, a leading authority when it comes to research on English identity, said: ‘The idea that English is an ethnic identity is widely repeated in the media and politics… Ethnicity is clearly much less important outside a small hardcore of residents. The further development of an inclusive Englishness would benefit from positive engagement by leaders across the political spectrum.’

The Guardian has repeatedly produced disparaging pieces about Englishness. The consistently outlandish Paul Mason once declared that he did not want to be English, and ‘any attempt to create an English identity will fail’. This attitude is visible in our politics, too. Who could forget when the queen of the North London metropolitan elite, Emily Thornberry, snobbishly tweeted out a photo of a house in Rochester draped in English flags with a white van parked in the drive.

On the flipside, we have organisations such as the English Defence League, which has tried its utmost to take ownership of the English flag through its divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. We are subjected to the incoherent ramblings of rabble-rousing frauds such as Tommy Robinson, who advertise themselves as ‘true patriots’ but are ultimately focused on stoking community tensions in the name of individual gain.

Interestingly, the subject of Englishness brings together an unlikely alliance of the liberal-left and the far right – neither is remotely interested in cultivating a positive, uplifting, optimistic Englishness, based on shared values and common purpose. One which is family-oriented and community-spirited, emphasises the value of hard work and promotes equality of opportunity – an Englishness which understands the importance of human relationships and encourages social responsibility. And most crucially, one which firmly rejects the divisiveness that comes with group identity politics.

But this is precisely what has developed. I was raised in Luton and spent my entire spell in further education at Royal Holloway in the village town of Egham. I have interacted with both working-class, dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters and middle-class, socially conservative Tories in decent numbers – two constituencies that are generally bound by their dedicated work ethic, strong family values, and deep sense of patriotism. Being of South Asian origin, I have never once encountered hostility or funny looks when expressing my love for England.

In fact, it is the opposite – it is those shared bonds of affection and the comfort found in common values which are integral to tying together England’s people.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a spiked columnist and a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on twitter: @rakibehsan

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

James Clow

10th July 2019 at 8:22 pm

“Interestingly, the subject of Englishness brings together an unlikely alliance of the liberal-left and the far right”. I thought an alliance is where you share a common interest, not common lack of interest. Me and the cat next door have no interest in the evolutionary history of worms or building a giant “laser” to hold the world to ransom. Do we have an unlikely alliance? A current poll (5 minutes old) says no.

Amelia Cantor

6th July 2019 at 10:46 am

“The idea that English identity goes hand in hand with racism is a myth.”

Ha, ha, ha! How anyone can say that with a straight face is beyond me. Just open your eyes, folks. The prouder someone is of being “English”, the more likely they are to be racist. Fact. The more likely they are to have voted for Brexit. Fact. The more likely they are to want an end to so-called immigration. Fact.

But don’t let facts get in the way of your fantasies.

Lee Floyd

7th July 2019 at 12:03 pm

Ermmm……..sources? Or hyperbole?

Eras Bonus-Mus

10th July 2019 at 3:58 pm

“The prouder someone is of being “English”, the more likely they are to be racist.”
To the extent that I am English, I am quite proud of being so. I also think that people should not be evaluated on the basis of their race.

“The more likely they are to have voted for Brexit.”
I certainly did vote for Brexit. But that doesn’t make me racist.

“The more likely they are to want an end to so-called immigration.”
Only the lunatic fringe want an end to immigration. The vast majority of us merely want immigration controls, because of the pressure which exponential population growth is exerting on housing and other social resources.

“But don’t let facts get in the way of your fantasies.”
I don’t. I am myself the immigrant son of a refugee, so this is very important to me.

Crutch Bender

5th July 2019 at 12:04 am

The details of the survey and the questions asked, the context of the questions, etc etc, has not been released. Thus it stinks. Very fishy indeed. Just more fake news.

Steve Roberts

4th July 2019 at 7:31 pm

Ehsan makes a contribution to an important issue here, however there is too much reliance on data from polls and indeed his own personal subjective experience, while useful as information it only reflects the normal daily lived experience of most people in this nation for decades now.
We are not a nation where there are undercurrents of xenophobia and racism below or even on the surface , nothing is further from the truth. Except that is in the ideas of two sides that converge as Ehsan points out, the racist far right – an infinitesimally small bunch of no social relevance – and the “left” who like dreamers search anywhere and everywhere for any sign of victimhood they can attach on any section of society that they can then use to justify their own reason to exist as a political force, they stand for little else, certainly nothing positive or progressive.
The issue of Englishness is also too narrow, although Ehsan does make some useful effort to suggest some meanings and common values it could actually be helped if any discussion addressed citizenship within a democratic and political framework first and attached to it the specific question of Englishness that more directly relates to the specifics of this particular nation . This need not distract from achieving a universality of meanings and values or a common shared understanding of history and traditions but it will involve contestation and clarification which Ehsan seems in the article to alludes to have been settled to a large extent and i think that is not the case. If one needs but one example the question of class is not mentioned at all .
We are presently living in momentous times where democracy itself let alone citizenship are been disregarded and supported as such by a section of our society so there is much work to do but there seems no better period to begin this than the present when many of these issues are definitely on the agenda directly or tangentially, it will not help if it is believed that many fundamental issues have already been settled ,they have not.

Eric Praline

4th July 2019 at 8:17 pm

What better way do you have to gauge the “normal daily lived experience of most people in this nation for decades now”? I’m sure we all want to believe the silent majority out there agrees with us about everything, but do they really? As it happens, I agree with what you say about racism/xenophobia.

Steve Roberts

4th July 2019 at 9:03 pm

Eric, the evidence is everywhere in almost every town and city, despite imposed multiculturalist engineering that is extremely divisive there are hardly any issues that are alleged by the “left” and extreme right, we are an extremely tolerant and generally accepting and respectful bunch of citizens, we express our humanity under trying conditions.
Yes some bad and appalling attitudes and sometimes behaviour persist , it will always be thus i suppose, that is not what the left /right converge are saying , they say the opposite.
You lost me with the silent majority and agreeing part, did i write/imply that, sorry i don’t understand your point.

Winston Stanley

4th July 2019 at 9:45 pm

That is what you say/ experience, Steve. You should try going around looking like a Muslim with long hair/ a beard, stuff that once upon a time was associated with “the left”/ the IRA, and see how the people on the streets react to you. Anti-Islamo-hatred is the most obvious fracture line in our society and spiked have done nothing but promote that, with their Zionism and the anti-Muslim propaganda. We have got zero intention of conforming to your status quo or your propaganda narrative, and we will always know in the end, who betrayed us and why.

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 1:01 pm

Are you a muslim?

Winston Stanley

7th July 2019 at 9:54 pm

Hana, I is inglish. I trimmed my hair to a half length acid house curtains. We will still likely have much to resist from the nibs and nobs like SR with his big mouth, hoping to bet published. I will never conform to some soldier look just to please SR. I am not a member of the British army and I have zero intention of looking like one. If the BS do not like that then they can go f/ themselves and all of their fanboys with them.

Hana Jinks

8th July 2019 at 5:31 am

Published? Are you sure? I’ve already outed Peeved Gobbett’s as a proponent of “facile burblings”…just last month actually, so I’d have to take your word for it. Anyway, l heard he was putting a punk band together called “Turgid Urgency”.

Inglish. That’s the first time I’ve heard that expression. I lived as a racial minority for fifteen years as an adult. It was ok at first, until l began to realise that they’d been conditioned to humiliate me because l looked different.

I was able to escape, and can only imagine being born into it and to not be able to escape.

gershwin gentile

4th July 2019 at 2:02 pm

“Indeed, a 2018 study found that people of black African descent faced ‘widespread and entrenched prejudice and exclusion’ across the EU.”

Whaaaaaaaat? Racism exists in other parts of the EU?

“I have interacted with both working-class, dyed-in-the-wool Labour voters and middle-class, socially conservative Tories in decent numbers”

Aren’t all the “working class, dyed in the wool labour voters” dead? Years ago. It’s all Public Sector middle class voters. Also, why couldn’t you find any working class Conservative voters (there are a lot more of them than Labour voters).

You know what we need? Shelby Steele in the Hour of Chaos.

Jonnie Henly

4th July 2019 at 2:55 pm

“Also, why couldn’t you find any working class Conservative voters (there are a lot more of them than Labour voters).”

No there isn’t.

Since when has a place like Luton been full of middle class voters?

gershwin gentile

4th July 2019 at 3:36 pm

How many are in Islington (which has a larger population)? BTW I’m defining working class as people who do working class jobs… Not unemployed post grads (who make up a large % of the MIDDLE CLASS left).

Jonnie Henly

4th July 2019 at 4:34 pm

Is everyone in Luton an unemployed post grad then?

I think not.

Doesn’t matter how you define working class, there are not more Tory voters amongst them.

Joe Van-roy

4th July 2019 at 1:07 pm

“frauds such as Tommy Robinson, who advertise themselves as ‘true patriots’ but are ultimately focused on stoking community tensions in the name of individual gain.”
_

Spiked doing here exactly what it accuses others of doing in its articles.
Others have smeared Robinson so bad that even Spiked is on the bandwagon.

Prior to setting up EDL. Robinson was just one of many people enraged by leaflets being handed out in Luton to counter the welcome home parade for British troops.
I doubt Robinson for one minute, when he jumped into the protesters ripping down an ISIS flag, expected to 1. Be wrongly acccused of beating up 5 Police officers who pulled him out of the crowd. 2. Gain such a large backing and support to enable him to then form EDL.
I doubt he also thought youtube would go on to have the impact it’s had.

‘The individual gain’ part is quite common once people aquire a large following on youtube. Everyone from young girls making $200k showing kids how to make slime, to pranksters all take these opportunities as they arise.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 2:14 pm

Spiiked is generally worthy of high praise.

The State has wrongfully imprisoned Mr Robinson, and continue to harass him. His political rally in Oldham was “disrupted” by the muslim defence-league. 300 of them endangered the lives of the supporters at the rally, including many children. The mdl caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to property and vehicles as they reasoned that a fussilade of half-bricks was the answer.

Why have acts of such political significance not been reported on? I’m an outsider, so I’m obviously missing something.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 2:16 pm

They wrongfully imprisoned him dudes. Wtf. You all mark urself out as…whatever, l guess.

Why isn’t this injustice…acknowledged?

Marvin Jones

4th July 2019 at 11:51 am

Insisting that ethnics born here are English, is claiming that all white Australians are natives and are Aborigines. The lefty liberal grass chewers are trying to radicalise 4 year olds to doubt their genders, pretend that they could cure racism from the human psyche, doctrinate everyone into believing that a beggar in Mumbai is equal to anyone in the Royal family ETC. Pure and utter utopian fantasy.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 10:55 am

SOUND THE TRUMPETS!!!!!

IT’S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE!!!!!

So nice of you to come on and confirm that you acknowledge what I’ve been telling you, even through red herrings.

Backward and regressive?

HAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

“Representative of the views of the public at large.”

I’ve spoken to thousands of people over the last forty-odd years, and not one of them had a positive word for islam. Not one. There is no possible way for anyone to. Every single person l speak to these days absolutely hates it. Hates it. Absolutely fucking hates it.

(Just while I’m here, are you guys so oblivious to the irony of using the likes of the guardian and Thornberry as reference points? Or is that a “British” thing?)

Incoherent ramblings?

AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! FARK!!!!

Tommy Robinson stoking community tensions, you say?

The only community he makes tense is the muslim community, and that’s because he’s a wake-up to it. Poles don’t form rape gangs. Hindu’s aren’t blowing our daughters up.

Shared values, yeah? How many shared values with the west does sharia have?

Islam does not belong in the west. It’s completely incompatible with western society and values.

Herr Ehsan. Unless you can come up with a way to convince us that islam is capable of being able to integrate into western society,…

Is it that we both know that it’s not possible that preventsyou from writing about this? Because it’s just that it would seem to be the done thing by now…seeing as how we is British n’all.

Winston Stanley

4th July 2019 at 2:17 pm

Sadly the churches have acted practically like r/pe gangs, covering it up and moving priests around, and it is not confined to just the RCC.

> Almost 400 people in ‘positions of trust’ with the Church of England have been convicted of child sex offences, inquiry hears
Inquiry probes the Church of England’s response to child sex abuse allegations
Victims who made complaints were ‘discredited or belittled by congregations’
Some clergy accused of abuse were allowed to keep their jobs and get promoted

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7202917/Almost-400-people-positions-trust-Church-England-convicted-child-sex-offences.html

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 2:54 pm

I wish we were close friends. I really do.

I’m so glad that you can’t delete now. I have nothing but complete and utter love and respect for you. It still baffles me as to why you’d ever want to delete your posts.

The point you make is obviously completely valid.

Or is it?

Do you think that a Catholic paedophile is any closer to The Truth than a muslom paedophile?

We all do wrong. And this in no way negates The Truth.

Nick Cotton

4th July 2019 at 3:10 pm

And the Catholic community condemned it so damn hard that you’d struggle to find a committed Catholic these days. It really shook a lot of people’s faith and has had a huge effect on how seriously people take the authority of the church.

Has a similar thing happened within Islam? Fuckity nope.

Winston Stanley

4th July 2019 at 7:20 pm

Hana, yep, the child abuse in the RC in particular, though not them alone, has done massive damage to the churches. I remember chatting with some bloke who was quite attracted to traditional Catholicism, he liked the cut of the jib or whatever, and it looked like he was on the brink of doing a conversion. Next thing he was saying about how his young boys asked him about the child sex abuse, and his point was that there was no way that he could excuse that to his kids and that was the end of it.

And he had a point. At the end of the day, religions are religions. One may ask oneself why one would convert or stick with a religion, and very often it eventually comes down to the fear activated by the claim that the religion/ church is the “one true” religion and that one will “go to hell” or whatever if one dissents, if one does not “believe”, and give over one’s mind and will to the religion.

The RC go lightly on the liberal dissenters these days, because liberalism is the dominant social narrative in this society, so it suits the RC politically to take on a liberal appearance – but not so much the traditionalists, who are “looking for what they get”.

But the claim of being the “one true” religion, and of eternal punishment, is not unique to any one religion or church, they all tend to claim that stuff.

So, when the churches have literally been saying “f/ you, cope with it” about child abuse, covering it up for the sake of their institutional reputation, and ultimately for money and status, it takes a reverse “leap in the dark” to say, “ok, well f/ you too.” And that can naturally get extended to “and btw. f/ your religion and your god too.”

The churches, and the “true believers” then go out of their way to destroy the credibility and the reputation of dissenters, to keep the collection plates coming in, not any one church but all of them.

There is no detergent like the light of day. We should think ourselves lucky that we have a free press as much as we do. The Boston Globe deserves a heads up, who started it by taking on the heavily Catholic local pollical institutions, police, media, courts etc. in Boston to out what the hell was going on. The reportage has spread to the rest of the world from Boston.

If only we had a freer press without allegiances to institutions and parties, but that is likely one for the coming decades or centuries, the states cannot all expect to do a China-style clampdown indefinitely, and neither can the churches.

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 8:29 am

Winston.

Jesus is God, and some of His churches serve Him. You can’t apply your generalisations to those churches.

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 8:31 am

Do you think that l stick with it through fear? I know Him.

Winston Stanley

5th July 2019 at 5:13 pm

“Do you think that l stick with it through fear? I know Him.”

Hana, you are going through that phase, personal and direct encounter with the deity, no worries. Hardly anyone sticks with Christianity these days, of course you will be the exception. Out of thousands of converts to RC per year, statistically not a single one will last seven years. The protestants, “born again” or whatever, seem to be the same, judging by their age profile. Christianity tends to be a “phase” in the modern day, obviously not saying you, but it tends to become a massive cringe in retrospect.

If you are into the personal, direct encounter thing, then maybe check out Quakerism, by which I mean the early literature, not that you should go near any meetings, they tend to be heavily liberal and PC these days. “The inner light, that Christ Spirit within that guideth everywoman, whether they call it God or not. All will be saved in the end, even if at the last hour. The light that lighteth everywoman that cometh into the world.”

We probably agree that churches tend to be earthly institutions based on ego, money and status. There is only one “church” of all guided by the light, and Christ himself is the only priest and minister. No Christian needs to bother with any other “church”. The personal inner light is the only bishop needed, all else is usurpation and pretence.

Hana Jinks

6th July 2019 at 3:54 am

HEBREWS 10:25

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

I appreciate that people have a negative view of Christianity; and while l would agree that many churches worldwide are doing the wrong thing, …it’s still important for Christians to find a good church.

Hana Jinks

6th July 2019 at 3:56 am

* not doing..

Hana Jinks

6th July 2019 at 1:46 pm

Winston.

I know for a fact that Jesus is God, and made us to live with Him as His family – in Heaven for eternity. It’s a 100% fact.

I know that you don’t believe that.

Eric Praline

4th July 2019 at 3:40 pm

I doubt you speak to anyone outside your own head.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 4:26 pm

Eric Praline.

Would you care for a wager on that?

Eric Praline

4th July 2019 at 8:18 pm

@Hana J – I’m up for it. Let’s see if we can keep William Hill afloat a bit longer.

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 8:16 am

Come on Eric. You don’t think that there aren’t at least a few people that agree with me?

If l had my way, legislation would be enacted to prevent corporate “bookmakers” from banning winners. They’d then have to be an actual bookmaker, as opposed to parasitic, party-backed leeches.

I only use betfair.

Neil McCaughan

4th July 2019 at 10:32 am

“English identity goes hand in hand with racism”

Every other national identity in the world does.

Thomas Smith

4th July 2019 at 10:18 am

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was quite a “60s Anglophile” when I was a young man–and I still am. John Schlesinger, Julie Christie and Terence Stamp, the Fairport Convention, Pentangle, the Kinks, Alan Bates, Tom Conti, the Beatles and the Stones–there was something there. Nothing to be ashamed about. tt’s good stuff. Screw the Guardian, for this and many other egregious sins (i.e., their treatment of Julain Assange).

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 12:17 pm

Hendrix, Who, Troggs, Traffic?

It’s extremely distressing to see how they’ve treated not only Assange, but Snowden, Manning and Greenwald as well.

We’ll never, ever agree on anything else l suspect, so I’m glad that there is something.

Nick Cotton

4th July 2019 at 10:13 am

I must say, I’m concerned that the common viewpoint is that English identity MUST be separated from whiteness. We have this fear around saying that there’s such a thing as the native population. You’d never have this fear with any other country, we know what an ethnically Japanese person is, or Nigerian, or Mexican, or whatever. Why can’t we admit that ‘the English’ exist as distinct from, say, British-Pakistani. One is a civic identity, one is an ethnicity. Even this website, which kicks against the PC orthodoxy, can’t admit this basic fact.

Brandy Cluster

4th July 2019 at 10:13 am

A study? You’re kidding me; racism is practically a jailable offense and you believe people are going to give aTRUTHFUL account on a “survey” about whether they think Englishness depends on whiteness? Somebody is putting somebody on!! If they were really able to tell the truth without the fear the results of this ‘survey’ would be much more accurate.

I watch a reality program out of Manchester – police and ambulance, “What’s your emergency”? I think it’s called. Anyway, last week’s program was all about race on race violence.

Survey. Phooey.

John Holmes

4th July 2019 at 8:32 am

It’s a convenient distraction for the regressive left to bash white people over the head with. I recently spoke to an Indian friend of mine and he stated that if you want to see racism and identity politics in their violent and divisive outcomes, go live in India. He stated he would much rather raise his family here, than in a country that allows for such blatant division as his place of birth.

Nick Cotton

4th July 2019 at 12:17 pm

Indians are ridiculously based. If you consider the history, it’s pretty easy to figure out why.

christopher barnard

4th July 2019 at 7:56 am

Being ashamed to be English/British is nothing more than a virtue signalling posture by some lefty ‘liberals’, misanthropes who don’t like the people around them, especially the working class, while they idealise those from other countries and cultures.

Danny Rees

4th July 2019 at 7:59 am

This piece never mentioned about being ashamed to be English/British so dunno what you are going on about.

Neil McCaughan

4th July 2019 at 10:31 am

You dunno what anyone is going on about.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 12:24 pm

Jonnie Henly

4th July 2019 at 2:07 pm

Being proud of being English/British is often little more than virtue signalling for right wingers so they can pretend to care about something other than themselves.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 3:35 pm

Jon Hen/ Danny Rees/ David Whatisname

It’s barely credible that you are actually three different people, and l owe you all an apology for doubting it.

Eric Praline

4th July 2019 at 3:38 pm

There’s no doubt pride in Englishness is treated different from pride in being French or Finnish or Somalian or Ecuadorian. Seems to be partly at least because we had an empire and didn’t treat everyone very well.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 4:34 pm

Eric Praline.

Stop being such a virtue-signalling soik Eric. You’re better than that.

Hana Jinks

4th July 2019 at 4:34 pm

* sook

Jonnie Henly

4th July 2019 at 4:35 pm

Of course you’d be amazed that more than one person has a different worldview to you.

Apologise to yourself.

Eric Praline

4th July 2019 at 8:14 pm

@Hana J – you don’t know me. I might not be better than that.

Anyway I wasn’t agreeing with this phenomenon, just making an observation about suspicion of people who express pride in England.

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 8:18 am

Jon Hen.

Errr.ok.

Brandy Cluster

6th July 2019 at 1:17 am

Stop with the projections, if you please.

Hana Jinks

6th July 2019 at 8:33 am

I’m sorry Eric. I shouldn’t have spoken to you in such a disrespectful way.

Winston Stanley

4th July 2019 at 3:12 am

The recent “poll” was commissioned by John Denham, a Labour MP who runs “Centre for English Identity and Politics” at Winchester University. He is a politico who has built his career around an agenda to use “Englishness” in a certain “progressive” cause, and he is working in concert with the BBC. He has not released his data, so there is no way to see the questions or to evaluate the context in which answers were given. The research is worthless unless the data and the methodology are available to the public for full scrutiny.

Actually published polls by YouGov show that “Englishness” is increasingly negative and incoherent, especially to the younger. * Less than half of the under-25s (45%) see Englishness as anything “to be proud of”. Nor is there any consensus about what cultural “qualities” are features of Englishness, and the young consistently tend not to associate positive qualities with Englishness.

Also the factors considered to be most important to Englishness are to be born in England, and to two English parents. (80%) ** Only 54% consider a single English parent to suffice, while 57% consider growing up in England to be important, though it is not clear that the question distinguished between, for instance, a person of English parentage who grew up in America from a person of other parentage who grew up in England.

None of that will concern spiked. They professedly do not do “indentity politics”, so they obviously do not do “English identity” or “British identity” either.

There is a danger that pollsters, especially when commissioned by the BBC, just obtain the answers that they are looking for, with vague questions rather than probing for information. For instance, if someone is asked whether “whiteness” is important to Englishness, are they thinking of/ prompted to think of “white Poles and Bulgarians” who migrate to Britain or of “non-white” immigrants born in England? Only clear questions can provide clear information, and it is just not on to deliberately ask vague questions to then spin to one’s own narrative. One would not normally expect to pass a school course with that methodology, let alone head up a “Centre” at Winchester.

More probing questions could reveal a further collapse of national identity, as for instance in France. Denham however has his own political and career agenda, in concert with the BBC, so it is possible that he is limited in the “negative” information that he is looking to present on the BBC programme.

“An Ifop poll released last February that Fourquet was not able to include in his essay, but on which he commented in an interview with Atlantico, shows that 67 per cent of the French don’t believe anymore in such things as “the Republic” or “Republican values”, and that 66 per cent are not moved by such concepts as “national identity” — even among Marine Le Pen’s National Rally sympathisers.” ***

Rakib, please try to give us balanced and insightful information, do not try to spin us with selective propaganda for your own political purposes. That means reading widely and critically around your subject and not just representing the claims of one MP with his own agenda, and who has not released his data or methodology. We are responsible and critical adults who value objectivity and impartiality, we have no desire or intention to be spoon fed propaganda narratives.

* https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/06/18/young-people-are-less-proud-being-english-their-el

** https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/01/24/what-makes-person-english-according-english

*** https://www.meforum.org/58603/france-is-dead

Hana Jinks

5th July 2019 at 8:21 am

Outstanding post.

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