Most English people today will agree that there is a certain vagueness about English identity. This vagueness, or lack of interest even, may well depend on many people being somewhat disinterested in extremes of any description.
Historically this has been the case for centuries. A casual attitude towards English identity is quintessentially English and a notable characteristic possibly originating from the security of not having been invaded for a thousand years. George Orwell once wrote – ‘The Lion & the Unicorn’- of an English middle class intelligentsia to whom any form of patriotic show was most embarrassing, shameful even.
But due to a variety of factors which must include a decade or so of high levels of immigration the question of identity is one which is often discussed today by many of the so called working classes in England. That is those who have not already left and gone to live in Spain, Australia or elsewhere.
Immigration is not a bad thing in itself but debate on this subject has been muted under the previous government because of accusations of racism.
Jeremy Paxman wrote a book about the English and tried to find an answer to the question about an English identity. But with Jeremy being a mouthpiece for a left liberal organization such as the BBC it was never, in my view, going to be a satisfactory search.
My reasoning is that for some an English identity hardly matters because they are signed up members of a left liberal global secular world which has decided that subjectivity is truth. Given this world view how is it possible to define anything let alone an English identity?
So being English can be argued to be via negativa rather than via positiva – what we are not, rather than what we are. I happen to agree with George Orwell who once argued that English identity has been shaped by its culture and this is recognisable in many different ways from sport and recreation to buildings, faith and, behaviour. Culture has shaped attitudes. But who or what created an English culture?
If Islamic conquest had expanded beyond France and Spain and into England in the 11th century instead of the Norman French or if Han Chinese had populated English shores instead of the Anglo Saxon or if Black immigration had been in the 14th century at levels similar to what it has been since the 1950’s – the question must be asked, would the history of England have been any different?
My guess is that England would have been very different and that this difference is at odds with prevailing left liberal political fashion.
Having said this I am not suggesting or arguing that England or the English are in any way superior to anyone else. Heaven forbid. Each soul is equal unto God.
Early invaders chose the right island and helped to form a unique nation that has evolved and stood strong against political extremes on the European continent. Our ancestors got something right; a stable nation in the midst of Napoleon or Hitler or Stalin. A nation which enforced the end of the slave trade and has shaped a disproportionate amount of great men and women: Churchill, Newton, Shakespeare, Nelson, Queen Elizabeth 1st et al.
This is not to say that stains have not appeared on the St George or Union flags – Ireland and other nations will always remind us otherwise.
Nevertheless, English history and its beautiful countryside are, as I see it, something to be proud of . Let new immigrants in England find a common purpose and identity by sharing in a unique English history. And, let English schools find both the will and freedom to educate its children accordingly