England Arise!

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By Dave Taylor

“England Arise!” was a socialist hymn written by Edward Carpenter in 1896.

People of England, when
Will ye rise like men?
Rise and be freemen, for the day is here!
Hear, England, hear! Deliverance is within you

Of course, when he wrote that, few thought that there was any meaningful difference between Britain and England.

By Dave Taylor

“England Arise!” was a socialist hymn written by Edward Carpenter in 1896.

People of England, when
Will ye rise like men?
Rise and be freemen, for the day is here!
Hear, England, hear! Deliverance is within you

Of course, when he wrote that, few thought that there was any meaningful difference between Britain and England.

100 years on, and little had changed in England.

In 1996 , England was paying little attention to the arrangements for a far away country, of which they knew nothing and 59% described themselves as British, as against 34% saying English. At the same time Scots were getting ready to vote overwhelmingly for the restoration of the Scottish Parliament and 70% described themselves as Scottish, with only 20% saying British.

Today, the identity of the English as a people compared to identification with the multi-national state is the 3rd highest of any of the “subordinate” nations in Europe that were surveyed in the CANS study.

  More Nation than State Equally Nation and State More State than Nation
Scotland 
60% 26% 11%
Catalonia 45% 37% 12%
England 40% 34% 16%
Wales 40% 33% 25%
Galicia  
31% 57% 10%

On Monday’s Newsnight Scotland, John Redwood argued that English nationalism was fuelled more by resentment of the EU than Scotland, yet the IPPR poll suggests that their “idea of Scotland” has got under the English skin – in much the same way that our “idea of England” got under ours in the 70s.

The development of a people from dependency to independence goes through stages, just like the development of a child to adulthood.  In adolescence, we redefine ourselves and, in the process, frequently behave petulantly – lashing out that adults are “unfair”. As adults, we remember our adolescence with embarrassment, or pretend that it never happened.

40 years ago, I used to get a little embarrassed by some of the anti-English rhetoric that was quite commonly used in Scotland – just as much by unionists as nationalists.  Now I’m thoroughly embarrassed by it.  Looking back, our obsession with sporting success, especially against England, seems strange.  We’ll all be supporting Scotland in the Calcutta Cup next month, but if we lose it won’t be the damaging loss to our self-esteem that it would have been 40 years ago.  The Tartan Army exhibit a glorious talent for self-parody (as well as a remarkable capacity for the peaceful consumption of alcohol).  Having the ability to laugh at yourself only happens when you are confident about who, and what you are.

Today, I read the anti-Scottish comments on various blogs, and the English identification of sporting success as a substitute for confidence as a people, and see the immaturity and self-doubt that we once displayed.  An English national politics is beginning to emerge and, like the Scottish national politics that emerged many years ago, is dominated by “adolescent” grievance.

Scotland has become aware, and there are signs that the English are beginning to learn, who we should be legitimately aggrieved against – and it isn’t each other.  The authors of the IPPR report describe the problem group rather well.  “In our view, the main problem is not that the English question is now finally being asked by the country’s electorate, but rather the failure of the British political class to take it, and them, seriously.”

In Scotland, we are aware of the homogeneity of the British political class.  They are the Con/LD/Lab politicians at Westminster, and their clients here.  They are those who make personal gain, in wealth or power, from the British state.  Cameron, Clegg and Miliband personify that class.  Few here, even if they vote for their parties, would have trust in the UK government to work in the best long-term interests of Scotland, as opposed to their own interests as a power elite.

In England, most don’t believe that the UK government acts in their interests either.  Only 35% now think that the UK acts in English interests, “a great deal” or “a fair amount”, while 59% see the UK as acting for them not “very much” or “at all”.

Just as many Scots see the self-interest of the British political class geographically, so do the English.  79% of the English see London as getting preferential treatment, and 63% of Londoners think that too.

The British political class has always used “divide and rule” to maintain its power.  Setting Protestant against Catholic, or English against Scots has allowed them to do that.  Controlling every large political party made that easy.

No wonder that they loathe the SNP.  It is the rise of the SNP to dominance in Scotland that has broken the mould.  Attitudes in England remained generally stable until the election of a minority SNP government in 2007.  Since then, and even more so since 2011, English attitudes have changed and they are beginning to remember who they are.  England lacks a vehicle for their ambition without an equivalent to the SNP, and the rather white-racist English Democrats are certainly not that.

After Scottish independence, the British political class will morph effortlessly into an English political class.  England doesn’t have much time to arise and save itself from them.