A slogan you might not expect from the Lib Dems

 

When a political party is struggling for attention, or even to establish in the public’s mind what it’s actually for, it needs to do something that catches the imagination. Something that fits with the party’s ethos but still manages to take the country by surprise. I may have just the thing for us Liberal Democrats.

When I look at the reasons for the Leave vote in last summer’s referendum, I see a lack of identity as a central factor, certainly in England. However irrational it may seem (on a pragmatic level the whole vote was irrational), people feel the EU has eroded their sense of who they are. Globalisation has robbed them of a sense of national belonging, so slogans such as ‘Take back control’ and ‘I want my country back’ appeal to a sense of who we once were, regardless whether the golden olden days really existed.

That analysis goes for England, but less for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Scots seem very happy to know that they’re Scottish, and as the likes of Andy Murray and Chris Hoy have shown, they’re sufficiently proud of their Scottishness that they’re happy to be British as well. Even the Welsh seem happy with their Welsh identity, despite voting a different way to the Scots and Northern Irish in the referendum.

But as by far the biggest nation in the UK, many English people have the sense that they’ve lost their sense of being English.

They’ve even lost control of their flag, as the cross of St George is not flown by certain patriotic Englishfolk for fear of it indicating an association with xenophobic views. The biggest manifestation of ‘England’ comes in sport, and that’s not always positive, as the England football team’s woes at Euro 2016 rubbed in (and an English man still hasn’t won Wimbledon since 1936!).

So why don’t the Lib Dems become the standard bearers of celebrating Englishness among the English? We would have to emphasise the patriotism over the nationalism, and that we’re not trying to show that the English are the greatest people on earth, just that we exist, we have a certain cultural heritage, and we’re proud of our identity. We could do with a new anthem as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Jerusalem’ don’t strike the right note, but that ought to be possible. The question of an English Parliament is a bit trickier, but nations can exist without parliaments as long as there are icons and role models around which to celebrate the identity.

And such a campaign would dovetail nicely with our belief in federalism, indeed it could be used as a powerful tool in keeping the UK together. The UK makes sense as a union of four nations who, in certain areas, are stronger together than apart, a situation that will become more pronounced after Brexit. But our belief in devolution and localism means we should support as many powers being devolved to regional and local level as possible, so we could strive to make the UK a level of government not dissimilar to that which the EU currently occupies, and celebrate the distinctiveness of the four member nations.

‘We’re English and we’re proud of it’ is an unlikely slogan for a liberal party to adopt, and voters wouldn’t expect it of us, but it might just strike the right chord. As long as we can link it to our ideas on localism and ensure that ‘English’ means values we are proud to share rather than those we feel embarrassed about, it might just be a masterstroke.

* Chris Bowers was a two-term councillor on Lewes District Council

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70 Comments

  • The analysis is correct, the English have a very undeveloped sense of their own identity, a problem not experienced by the other members of the Union. I suspect that the answer lies in history. The smaller countries developed their identities while resisting domination by their larger neighbour.

    The proposal is an interesting one but I find difficulty in taking it seriously. Perhaps the opening sentence is the reason. It makes the idea sound like something dreamt up in a brainstorming session on PR gimmicks.

    The other problem I have with this is that to me, the Lib Dems are always promoting multiculturism, mass immigration, political correctness and criticising any hint of xenophobia. That is my perception. I confess that in spite of my cynicism, I would prefer the option described by Mr Bowers.

  • I’ve long thought this would be a good idea. As a party that believes decisions should be taken as locally as possible, and celebrates diversity, I think there’s a real argument for what you’re saying.
    I think in certain regions we might want to go further, Cornwall and Yorkshire spring to mind.

    I suspect UKIP will now attempt to become the SNP of the North at the expense of Labour. It would be nice if we could take the wind out of their sails by pushing a pro-England /North message ourselves but, unlike UKIP, one to be proud of.

  • paul barker 12th Jan '17 - 1:47pm

    To me this comes across as too clever by half, it sounds hollow. I certainly dont feel Proud to be English, I just am English.
    How about “We love England” instead ? Or if thats too milky -“We like England” ?

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Jan '17 - 2:01pm

    From early English times we can find a value system and culture base on the 9 English values. They provide strength of: Self, Respect for others and your Community. The values below are as relevant today, as they were back then:

    1. Courage 6. Hospitality
    2. Truth 7. Industriousness
    3. Honour 8. Self-Reliance
    4. Loyalty 9. Perseverance
    5. Discipline and Duty

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Jan '17 - 2:19pm

    “However irrational it may seem (on a pragmatic level the whole vote was irrational), people feel the EU has eroded their sense of who they are.”

    Two questions:
    1. Why were people irrational in feeling such?
    2. Why was the referendum itself an irrational act?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jan '17 - 2:23pm

    Chris

    This is a theme I have advocated for years , and on here several comments , regularly backing the approach.

    I do favour an English parliament , as someone from London who has been in Nottingham for many years , I favour this city as the ideal one for an English parliament.

    I believe, and if you want to back me , I have advocated it before, we should support a national holiday on St. George’s and Shakespeares Day , uniquely and , wonderfully , both on that day .

    We should very much oppose the nonsense of English regional assemblies replacing English national feeling , or participation on those lines. Fine as an alternative to county councils , a non starter as an alternative to Scottish parliaments, Welsh , and Northern Ireland assemblies.

    And more than anything, we must realise that the English , and England , is by far the most multi cultural , within shared culture, within the UK. London is the capital of England . I would happily favour an English parliament there, but for it also beng the political capital of the UK.

    The range of diversity in England , and our great English towns , and cities, makes shame at Englishness, a gift to the worst of UKIP values.

    Simon Hughes was regularly a supporter of this agenda. We need to revive it along Liberal lines.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Jan '17 - 2:58pm

    Nice to have a English Libdem twitter account appear: @English_Liberal

    https://twitter.com/English_Liberal

    From words to action….

  • Tony Greaves 12th Jan '17 - 3:44pm

    Oh dear.

  • Sit down have a nice cup of tea and some crumpet, afterwards go for a nice walk along the Cuckoo Trail.

  • Chris Bertram 12th Jan '17 - 4:19pm

    “We could do with a new anthem as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Jerusalem’ don’t strike the right note, but that ought to be possible.”

    I get that about LOHAG – though funnily enough no country’s name is mentioned in the words sung at the Last Night – but I can’t see a problem with Jerusalem. It expresses the desire for a better future for the land, and even names England as the country concerned. It’s also a stirring tune, by a fine and still underrated composer, setting a poem by one of our most notable poets. And it’s possible to interpret Blake’s words in many ways, both religious and otherwise. What is the objection, please?

  • For those who have the time, this is a very interesting watch (hour and a half).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gZ5UD1hFM4&t=3295s

    Jonathan Haidt makes some very interesting points, but I think you have far to many people in the Party who wouldn’t be willing to change (see some of the comments above).

  • @Chris Bertram
    I agree with you that ‘Jerusalem’ is really a song of hope, strange that their are some who find it disagreable, yet IRC even Billy Bragg thought it would be a good choice.

  • Chris Bertram 12th Jan '17 - 4:48pm

    @chris_sh – I do wonder if some are put off by the title and the mention of Jerusalem in the poem, taking it as in some way endorsing the status of the modern city of that name. Of course, it does no such thing – Blake’s Jerusalem is a metaphorical holy city, possibly inspired by the holy city in the book of Revelation. But some fools will always get the wrong end of the stick.

  • I think the lib dems would struggle to promote any such views with integrity, there is a perception that the party has a tendency to support almost any cause other than pride in ones country, or acceptance that ones country has any inherent, meaningful values. How many times do we see something on this site along the lines of ‘ British values, whatever those are…’
    Although I agree that it would be great to see the party move towards expressing some pride in the country, it’s values ( obviously which have changed over time), people. history, and role in the world today, the great weight of your own history means it will be some considerable time before people will take such a move as anything but temporary, opportunistic and slightly cynical.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jan '17 - 5:52pm

    Englishness without an English parliament won’t mean much. If the United Kingdom ever breaks up then England offers us in England some protection and prestige because of its size.

    I’m not really sentimental about England. I wish we had a British football team instead, but for sheer practical reasons I want England to carry on existing and with its own parliament as long as Scotland and the other UK nations have theirs.

  • I find the idea in conflict with the EU dream of having a country of Europe, complete with flag, anthem, army, foreign policy, and the rest. The idea was to crush the concept of the nation state, we would all become Europeans, as EU officials will tell you if you ask for their nationality.

    Remember the attempt to have EU regions in which fragments of the UK joined with bits of continental Europe? Free movement was also seen as a way of diluting and eventually removing the notion of nationhood. The single country idea has given way to federalism, but I’m sure that Juncker still clings to the original dream.

    Nick Clegg has claimed that patriotism and EU membership go together. I think the majority of people in this country have serious doubts about that.

  • I doubt if I am along in having a British rather than an English identity.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Jan '17 - 7:36pm

    MY ENGLAND (written by: English songwriters Dave Freeman and Chris Morris)
    Weblink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU123EhCjBA

    Born and raised in Old England
    The guardian of the Islands,
    Where the rolling hills and the mountain streams
    Meet the sweet, sweet peace of the highlands

    O how I love my motherland
    This blessed land of freedom
    Where every heart that shares her peace
    Feels the glory her winning

    CHORUS
    And she left up my soul
    Like a bright sunny day
    And she stays my life like a song
    There’s a place in my heart
    For this green sacred land: My England

    For beyond each passing day
    Defended by my homeland
    I would lay down my life
    To protect her right for the
    Blessed rose that is England

    CHORUS
    And she left up my soul
    Like a bright sunny day
    And she stays my life like a song
    There’s a place in my heart
    For this green sacred land: My England

    All through the night in the passage of time
    Safe in her arms and secure by her waters,
    Her sons and daughters are held on a wind
    Just before she lets them pass.

    CHORUS
    And she left up my soul
    Like a bright sunny day
    And she stays my life like a song
    There’s a place in my heart
    For this green sacred land: My England

    Fills up my soul
    Like a bright sunny sky
    And she stays my life like a song
    Makes me soar on the wind on an ocean breeze: My England

    CHORUS
    And she left up my soul
    Like a bright sunny day
    And she stays my life like a song
    There’s a place in my heart
    For this green sacred land: My England

    FADING CHORUS

    My England……

  • “But as by far the biggest nation in the UK, many English people have the sense that they’ve lost their sense of being English.”

    According to census 2011:

    “English identity (either on its own or combined with other identities) was the most common identity respondents chose to associate with, at 37.6 million people (67.1 per cent). English as a sole identity (not combined with other identities), was chosen by 32.4 million people (57.7 per cent).”

    We’ve not lost our sense of Englishness. What the English have lost is any meaningful say on England. Consider 9 referendums between S/W/NI on devolution & home rule. To England’s zero referendums on England. Ever. Indyref2 seems more likely than the English getting their first referendum on England.

    Survey after survey shows a majority in favour of an English parliament. But UK political parties like the LibDems & Labour would rather England was divided against itself than have a national voice. While the Tores balkanise at will, slaughtering English local govt in the process.

    We’ve not lost Englishness. But we are losing UKishness. UK establishment institutions are failing England and payback is on the way.

  • The best bit is the fading chorus.

  • I recognise Mavarine’s list of English values, but they are not a sufficient definition of Englishness. When I became politically aware the state still executed people in England; homosexuality was illegal; otters were hunted with hounds; racial prejudice was the norm; women were second class citizens; and so on. I have spent my life campaigning for Liberal values because I do not live in a country where they are necessarily the norm. We have made progress, certainly, but the best I could say is that I love some things about England and dislike plenty of others.

  • IndependentEngland 12th Jan '17 - 8:54pm

    The Lib Dems believe that England should be broken up into regions and that England is too big to have her own English Parliament. Alongside this they believe in the EU and the surrender of power to European institutions. Very muddled contradictory thinking.
    This constant denial of England as a nation and opposition to institutions at an England level goes very much against the mood in England. That is why the Lib Dems have become virtually irrelevent to English politics.

  • I am a proud Scot, no less proud than when I moved South 50 years ago. I am also proudly British, and if I may say so, I think my English neighbours have no idea of a similar sense of belonging or patriotism.

    Our roots define us to a degree, though many other factors shape our character. As we grow older, we tend to cherish our ancestry. It gives a feeling of belonging, of standards, values and achievements.

    I feel that our multicultural world pays a false appreciation to diversity while it seeks to suppress and completely demolish our natural connections to our origins. It is time for a rethink of the priorities that fundamentally matter to our psychological needs.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Jan '17 - 9:50pm

    @ Sesenco – “I doubt if I am alone in having a British rather than an English identity.”

    No, not alone.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Jan '17 - 9:53pm

    @tonyhill: the best definition I could find on Englishness is this:

    “Be England what she will,
    With all her faults she is my country still.”
    (Charles Churchill)

    Which fits with the Libdems non-conformity in our constitution.

  • Charles Kennedy used to say “I am a Highlander, a Scot, British and European. All four of these things run together in my blood. I couldn’t separate them out even if I wanted to – which I don’t. That is my identity, and I am proud of all of it.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jan '17 - 10:37pm

    Mavarine

    I have enjoyed your comments way back , you are not here as often, glad to see you again.

    Would I be correct in thinking , that from your name, you are of an origin, not just English? The reason I ask it , is , like a lot of Americans of first or second generation, I sometimes ask myself if having had an Italian father and half Irish mother, has made me more patriotic for Britain and England , than many ?!

    I admire your attempts here to assert similarly , and wondered if the background of some who are liberal or left and in their origins all English , suffer from complacency ?!

    The stories my father told me of living under Mussolini and the desire of many of his era to see Britain win against the Axis powers made me love Blighty !

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Jan '17 - 11:00pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jan ’17 – 10:37pm
    Would I be correct in thinking , that from your name, you are of an origin, not just English?

    Hi Lorenzo,

    Thank you for your compliment. I do read many articles on Liberal Democrat Voice, although I don’t comment much, I do like to keep abreast of others views.

    My Origin: born, raised and live as a Londoner, from England, within a British culture, with a European bloodline.
    My heritage mix is: Jamaican/Irish-German.
    My name is: Irish-German (hyphen in surname denotes European nobility.)
    1st generation.

    I agree with your comments on complacency from the liberal left.

  • ‘… even the Welsh …’ ??
    Tsk

  • Frank Bowles 12th Jan '17 - 11:21pm

    The issue I think for those of us in the UK outside England is that England is vastly larger than the other nations of the UK and people in England and abroad easily confuse the two. England and the UK share the same Parliament, Government and capital city. The Secretary of State for English Education or Health shares the same Cabinet table as the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. There is a very real debate to be had about how we create a future UK where people in England are more cognisant that they are one of four partner nations and if they respect that then they will understand the things they value as English as well as the things we share as Brits.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Jan '17 - 11:41pm

    Mavarine

    What an absolutely marvellous response , your background as fine and exciting as your name !

    Do comment more often as you used to more, your contributions are very individual and different .

  • Identity is the consolation prize for people who are not part of the group that has power.

  • Jonathan Brown 13th Jan '17 - 12:25am

    @Chris – you beat me too it. Although I think we should champion an English Parliament.

    Firstly, because I think you need to hang the call for ‘power for the English’ around something constitutional and liberal to avoid the danger of it becoming nothing more than a rallying cry for the far right.

    Secondly, because while England would still be much bigger than most federal units normally are, it would still amount to a considerable degree of devolution over what we have now.

    Moreover, by demanding the same powers as Scotland has, we could use two words ‘English Parliament’ to make the case for PR for the parliament and STV in multimember wards at local level.

    I don’t believe anyone’s likely to find a ‘federal sized’ unit in England that would work. Existing regions (counties, etc.) are too small, and inventing larger areas would work in some places but not others. Holding out for an idea kind of devolution is going to lead to nothing.

    An English parliament would also reassure the other nations that they were fully equal – in constitutional terms. Okay, they wouldn’t have the power that comes with size and wealth, but they wouldn’t be worse off than they are now. The UK parliament could be shrunk and all MPs could be made equal as none of them would be considering matters of relevance only to certain nations.

    Finally, we should be aware that many people – particularly so among ethnic minorities – find it easier and preferable to identify as British than English. We need to be very wary about championing an identity that some already find excluding.

  • My idea of Liberalism is that one’s cultural identity should be one’s own business as decisions should be taken at the lowest level possible. In this case the individual is quite capable of deciding whether they consider the region of the UK that they were born in or are resident in to be important to their own identity.

    We are to believe that people are being stripped of their national identity because of our membership of a free trade zone? That couldn’t possibly be a bit of xenophobia?

    We shouldn’t be championing any particular identity. I’m not particularly patriotic, I don’t mind if other people are. What business is it of central government?

  • This makes me nervous because one reason the Union endures is the willingness of the English, who make up most of the population, to play down their sense of nation. I can see there’s a need for a way to talk positively about Englishness but it needs a lot of care.

    I’d rather see liberals talking about British patriotism. Britishness is wonderfully liberal: as well as many other things, it’s all about hewing to two national identities at once, both loved and neither superior.

    The Conservatives talk about British patriotism while their every action speaks of English nationalism. I’d love to see LDs standing as the proudly British choice, and making that central to any position on Englishness.

  • @Jonathan Brown
    “…particularly so among ethnic minorities – find it easier and preferable to identify as British than English.”
    Didn’t that apply in the other nations though? Was that considered when setting up the local devolved governments?

    @Andrew T
    “… membership of a free trade zone?” The EU, just a free trade zone?

    @RBH
    You seem to be saying that the English must be supressed for the good of the Union? Surely that isn’t really treating the people of England as an equal partner in the Union?

  • @chris_sh

    I’m not saying the English should be suppressed at all. I’m just observing that English national consciousness is much more threatening to other nations in the Union than, say, Scottish national consciousness is to the English. For centuries, parties on the left and right of British politics avoided talking about English identity for exactly this reason.

    I agree we need a positive way to talk about England and save it from the clutches of nationalists. But I think it’s difficult and needs a lot of care. Politically, as well, both the Tories and Labour are now largely English parties and act that way. Is there not a greater gap in the market for more Britain rather than more England?

  • @RBH
    Thank you for the reply at this late hour 🙂
    “I agree we need a positive way to talk about England and save it from the clutches of nationalists.”

    I would agree 110%. As someone who has spent most of his life living in Wales (I’m not UK born, so I probably do class myself as British), I am rather dismayed that some in politics seem to treat the English as a sort of nasty infection that must be kept in check (for the sake of the other nations).
    So hopefully you’ll excuse me for wondering if some one who is English may scratch their heads if they see a phrase such as “I’d rather see liberals talking about British patriotism.”, it seems a continuance of policy of not talking about it that you identified in your last comment.
    Personally, I feel that their should be an English Parliament and then the UK Parliament could be shrunk as per the comments by Jonathan Brown.
    And on that note, I’d better sign off for the night.

  • Antony Watts 13th Jan '17 - 8:55am

    I came back to England five years ago after living all over the world, but the last 10 years in France.

    I am sorry to say I did not recognise England, nor identify with what I found: the degree of “I’m all right Jack, blow you” and sheer apathy on the other side was disturbing. I am not yet used to it, but have found some peace in an old village.

    So if we want to swing England behind a banner headline, I think we have a lot of bit by bit persuading and educating to do. For that we need both banner tweet headlines AND a strong philosophical essay.

    LibDem seem to have some headlines, “A fair, free and open society”, “Liberty, equality and community” “internationalism, democracy and human rights” etc. But what is lacking is the background essay and lots of policy specifics people can identify with… isn’t it?

  • Antony Watts 13th Jan ’17 – 8:55am….I came back to England five years ago after living all over the world, but the last 10 years in France….I am sorry to say I did not recognise England, nor identify with what I found: the degree of “I’m all right Jack, blow you” and sheer apathy on the other side was disturbing. I am not yet used to it, but have found some peace in an old village…..

    I found almost exactly the same thing on my return from15 years in France…
    I was not surprised by the Brexit vote… I encountered an almost pathological distrust/dislike of ‘foreigners’; England seemed to have retreated into an almost ‘siege mentality’ regarding our European neighbours and I was amazed by the ignorance displayed about how the EU really works…
    The ‘Leave’ campaign played on fear but offered hope; the ‘Remain’ tried to outdo them in the ‘fear’ department but offered no hope…

    I think the last slogan we need is, “We’re English and we’re proud of it”…What we need is to lay out our values and accept that THEY are what will unite a United Kingdom’..

  • There needs to be a greater voice for English people on English matters as currently the void in which they feel unable to be proud of their country has lead to an English dominance over what it means to be the British people.

    Think back to the last GE when one of the Tories greatest weapons was the suggestion that Scotland could have a much greater say on the future of the UK, or how Cameron only seemed to mention Wales when attacking Labour’s reputation or (perhaps worse) how Labour barely mentioned Wales at all. Think how the campaign for keeping Scotland in the UK was instead a campaign about Scotland and England’s relationship where action took place in Scotland and London only.

    Culturally, Team GB had two official homecoming parades which both occurred in England while the English cricket team in fact represents English and Welsh cricket and even Graham Norton commented that it would be great to see England do well in Eurovision.

    “so we could strive to make the UK a level of government not dissimilar to that which the EU currently occupies, and celebrate the distinctiveness of the four member nations.”

    Please recognise that even on this most British of political forums a post about Englishness has more than a dozen comments whereas a post about the Welsh branch of the Lib Dems (the only area of the UK where a Lib Dem holds office) is lucky to get three.

    Perhaps the English dominance of the UK has lead to a nationalist and anti-union feel which lead to the referendum moreso than the lack of Englishness.

  • Stephan Breban 13th Jan '17 - 10:39am

    The fight against slavery came from the principal that it was “unEnglish” to hold one man above another.

    I’m not English and I will gladly adopt the slogan. I’d prefer “We’re British and proud of it”

  • Katerina Porter 13th Jan '17 - 11:13am

    When I was young, a long time ago, people said Anglia, Angleterre, not Grand Bretagne o They still do. England or English covered it all, and the English rarely said British if at all. Perhaps it has left us a bit confused?

  • I appreciate where the O.P.is coming from, but no, no…and no.
    Of course we must oppose the more bland forms of `politically correct` Brit bashing (where they truly exist) and if a local councillor wishes to promote Saint George’s Day by laying on warm beer, cricket and Morris dancing then that’s all fine (I’ll take the warm beer, but stuff the rest!) I also think that some of the proposals for an English parliament need to be taken very seriously. Furtthermore, Liberals have always favoured cultural devolution – in supporting minority languages, such as Cornish within the British Isles, for instance – and this could apply to English regionalism too.

    However, if what is being proposed is a kind of cultural Little Englandism where England is somehow seen as standing in for `liberal values` then this must be firmly opposed. What Liberal values does England embody that are not, or cannot, be shared by our European brethren? Are you telling me that, because of Magna Carta, an English born person believes in freedom of speech more than (say) a Belgian? If not, then what is your case based on?

    A large part of the reason why there has been so much ant-EU feeling in the U.K (which eventually culminated in the Out vote) is that pro-EU advocates just didn’t stress the cultural aspect of it enough: that is to say, that Britian (and England) is culturally a European nation through and through, and always has been.

    A key value of Liberal Democrats is Unity – and on a national level that means defending the Union and on a social level means opposing identity politics. This idea is both a form od identity politics and something which would imperil the Union – and hence is anti-Liberal Democratic.

    The appeal of the Liberal Democrats lies in its modernity – and the future, one way or another, is going to be a global one. If the Liberal Democrats were to become some kind of English patriot party (or be it a liberal one) then we would look silly, twee – and opportunistic.

    Anyway, it has been tried before: anyone remember the Albion Party?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Jan '17 - 11:41am

    To those worried about English patriotism ,interfering with British, the Scots in favour of the uk, ie the majority , have no problem with it !

    This is not about flag waving or the like. It is about democracy and unity. Based on shared culture and togetherness, that is real and understood, not imposed or made up, like the already , rejected, thankfully, regional assemblies.

    As someone from London, who has lived in Nottingham, for well over a decade , how do I get excited about an East Midlands regional assembly ?! Meaningless.

    It is also about recognising that we are a state of four components , not one big federal unit with three mini satellites. The USA, have no problem respecting both Rhode Island and Texas, size is not everything !

    And why do some Liberals and socialists ,not love the country ,and with genuine feeling, that gave us some of the greatest contributions to both philosophies or ideologies ?! A land that yet does contribute more than many to humanity and decency. It is not saying anything of superiority. It is a crying out for legitimacy !

    It really is time to be popular , and that is not populist !

  • Simon Banks 13th Jan '17 - 1:39pm

    Actually, the cross of St George is less of a racist flag than it was since all England football supporters, irrespective of colour, have adopted it.

    I broadly agree with Chris, except I think the loss of a sense of identity has very little to do with the EU. The EU was a convenient scapegoat. Worldwide there is a general unease and loss of secure sense of identity, to which many react by shoehorning their selves into rigid and extreme identities – hence IS, hence belligerent, intolerant right-wing nationalism of the Trump and UKIP type. This confusion is tied to globalisation – not just the sort attacked on the left, but a welter of often confusing and scary information from all over the world hitting us at breakneck speed. Younger people are often able to adapt to this (those that aren’t become the terrorists or street thugs). Older people often can’t and seek reassurance.

    I think we’ve hardly started exploring a political response, but celebrating inclusive identities is a start.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 13th Jan '17 - 3:12pm

    Stephan Breban 13th Jan ’17 – 10:39am
    The fight against slavery came from the principal that it was “unEnglish” to hold one man above another. I’m not English and I will gladly adopt the slogan. I’d prefer “We’re British and proud of it”

    Slight disagreement here. As your view is a distortion. I will re-frame it a little:

    It was not slavery that was not only un-English during the 18th to 19th centuries but was used as a way as forging of a British Metropolitan identity by those who were left-wing liberals and nothing to do with principle of “not holding one man above another” as you claim. (Source: White Creole Culture, Politics and Identity During the Age of Abolition By David Lambert)

    But what can be also pointed out that later on it was again the political identity was shifted “…in the general weakening of imperialism, and to some extent of the whole British morale, that took place during the nineteen-thirties, was partly the work of the left-wing intelligentsia, itself a kind of growth that had sprouted from the stagnation of the Empire. In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In England patriotism takes different forms in different classes, but it runs like a connecting thread through nearly all of them. But it plays its part in the English mystique, and the intellectuals who have tried to break it down have generally done more harm than good.” (Source: The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism & the English Genius, Part 1)

    And it’s happened and happening again by the socialist/liberal left. It is about time that Modern Liberalism spoke for England too and leave the days of pimping England.

  • @Chris_h: If I had to summarise my view of the EU I’d describe it as a free trade zone. It’s certainly more than a customs union but the “4 freedoms” are all about allowing free trade.

    For what it’s worth I think devolution was a bad idea, at least in the way it has been implemented. We seem to be in real danger of losing the UK as a single nation. We are pretty much stuck with it unfortunately.

  • I find it interesting that many lib dems will embrace any other culture, insist that it must be celebrated, anything other but our own, which is obviously….

  • @Chris_sh

    I’m English, and proud of it, but happy without a lot of noise (very English characteristic). I recognise English quietude may not work any more, though, so I agree with what you’re trying to achieve.

    My concern is what you say may not be what people hear. They may hear “we’re English and we’re proud of it” as “even the Lib Dems say we’re English, not British”. I think it’s best to talk about England (or Scotland or Wales) in the context of Britain, as Charles Kennedy did in the wise remark cited above.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '17 - 2:15am

    Mavarine du Marie et Maverick

    You really must get on here more , you , your attitude and brio, are music to the ears ! We need a range of views well expressed , and mavericks too. Of which you are one!

  • The kernel of goodness within this debate lies in: (a) the need – in the interests of unity and diversity – to discourage the shaming of English culture where such occurs, and (b) to think about an English parliament or other forms of regional assemblies.

    But to those who feel that their English identity is not being acknowledged I ask: What English thing is there that you would like to do that you are currently being prevented from doing? What aspects of English culture are bing undervalued and what heroes of England have been besmirched? I’m genuinely curious. I myself am a straight-down-the-line Englishman – and I live and work abroad so that I am reminded of my En glishness pretty much everyday – so there’s no loss of identity at my end! (So, perhaps if you suffer from this sense of identity loss, the solution is simply to go abroad for a while!)

    The kind of things that Mavarine and Lorenzo seem to be coming out with really do worry me. I am hearing an old petty chauvinist fallacy about England as somehow being ahead of other European and Commonwealth nations in terms of its values and its liberalism. Let’s examine this further:

    What about the French? Unlike (alas!) us, they had an anti-monarchical revolution from which sprang the slogan `Liberty, Fraternity , equality` which is symbolised in their very flag (and which is echoed in our party constitution. Could not they claim to be the standard bearers of the liberal ideal?

    The Dutch are so liberal that they have three main Liberal parties which stand for elections.

    The Canadian Liberal party is often refered to as `tha natural party of government ` there.

    Of two great Liberal philosophers: Jose Ortega Gasset was Spanish and Karl Popper was a Hungarian.

    One could go on like this, but the point is that it is one thing to honour one’s national culture – especially the liberal aspectd ot it – but quite another to claim that it has intrinsic values which the rest of the world needs to learn. If we were ever to take that position then this would be a capitulation to the trendy neo-rightism that is currently in ascendancy, presicesly at a time when we need to be standing up to this.

    This whole notion needs to be politely shot down in flames.

  • Jane Ann Liston 14th Jan '17 - 1:54pm

    A respected Kirk minister once described the words of ‘Jerusalem’ as ‘jingoistic and theologically unsound.

    The trouble with such anthems (and I include the invariably badly-sung ‘Flower of Scotland’ amongst them) is that it portrays the singers as taking themselves too seriously.

    The late Michael Marra penned a ditty ‘Hermless’ for Scotland, very much tongue in cheek. May I humbly suggest that England could do no better than either ‘He is an Englishman’ by Gilbert & Sullivan or the more inclusive ‘The English, the English, the English are best’ by Flanders & Swann.

  • Peter Arnold 14th Jan '17 - 3:09pm

    If the Liberal Democrats go down the line of advocating an English Parliament, then I, for one, will leave the party I have belonged to for nearly fifty years. I was born in north-east England, I have always lived in England, but I do not regard myself as English. I am a Northumbrian, a relic of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, which was an independent nation state centuries before England or Scotland ever existed. Please remember that identity is chosen by the individual. It is not given by any state, or nation. Liberal and Liberal Democrat policies have always advocated a fully federal system for the nations and regions of the UK. This recognises that England is far too large to be a single unit in a multinational federation. And never forget that there are as many people of Scots, Welsh and Irish extraction living in England as live in their respective nations. The only way to strike a reasonable balance between all the differences, religious, racial, and linguistic in the UK is to adopt that well-known liberal mantra of “Home Rule All Round”. The Scots and the Welsh may wish to believe that they are homogenous nations, but they are not, and never have been, and the best way to recognise these differences is by a system of self-governing regions covering the whole of the UK, with a federal parliament dealing with defence and foreign affairs. Such a system has been part of our policy portfolio for as long as I can remember, and when the day dawns that we adopt as current policy those principles of devolution to the whole of the UK, then we will begin to restore our credentials with the public. We have been driven by focus groups and opinion polls for far too long. We need to get back to promoting our fundamental principles as set out in the Preamble to the party’s Federal Constitution, and working out our practical policies for implementing them. Anything less is simply cowardly avoidance.

  • David Allen 14th Jan '17 - 6:15pm

    How on earth can “the Lib Dems become the standard bearers of celebrating Englishness among the English”, given that we don’t want an English Parliament, we don’t want the break-up of the UK, and we don’t want to leave the EU? What, precisely, is there left for us to become the “standard bearers” of?

    Let’s be less over-ambitious about this. We do need to correct the false picture, that the Lib Dems are an unpatriotic party, which our opponents often seek to paint. So yes, we love our country. We sing the national anthem, drink real ale, and cheer (if we are English!) when England win medals and competitions. We are as patriotic as the next man, or next woman. But we’re not zealots, we are not UKIP or the English Democrats, and we don’t need to try to kid anyone that we are.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '17 - 8:37pm

    Edward C.

    With respect , which would be even more forthcoming were it not for how wrong I think you are, I have rarely in months and years contributing here, read anything on this site, that has so perplexed and infuriated me as what you write above . You find my views and those of our colleague , Mavarine worrying . You label them “an old petty chauvinist fallacy about England somehow being ahead of other European and Commonwealth nations in terms of it’s values and it’s Liberalism.” As you say , let me explain.I shall not attempt to do so for Mavarine , but , if as she might , she comes back to this , I am sure she would , from what I write , share in my response.

    I have not written one word that says anything of the sort , of what you interpret it as. If you can extrapolate what you do from what I say it says more about your views than mine . Both I and , Mavarine , are of mixed European and , in her case , the mix includes West Indian origins , the latter I discovered on this thread by doing something too few do, including you on here , by asking in a friendly way not judging in a patronising one !

    This ethnic and background mix, hardly make for chauvinism, quite apart from the fact we are Liberal Democrats.

    If you bothered to read properly what I say , it is the experience of my father in dictatorship led Italy that , along with many things, instils Liberal love of Britain , and , yes , to your horror, England, my country ! Because my father saw partisans hanging in the streets. Because he had to salute Il Duce himself in parade. Because he and his fellows in Trieste, knew the accuracy of the RAF precision bombing would mean his community would not be destroyed, but Mussolini who many detested , would be defeated.

    You decry little England attitudes, I joyfully sing of Englands green and pleasant land!

    You quote Y gasset and Poplar , fine , I quote Mill and say he was extraordinarily ahead of his and their time.

    You extol the virtues of the French revolution, which instigated the Terror, I say Terror is iliberal.

    I need no lectures from others to help me stop loving the best of this country . And in doing so that does not mean it is always the best in the world. But it is a great Liberal success story. Or was until it was shameful to be considered thus !

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 14th Jan '17 - 10:13pm

    Edward C. 14th Jan ’17 – 11:16am
    “an old petty chauvinist fallacy about England somehow being ahead of other European and Commonwealth nations in terms of it’s values and it’s Liberalism.”

    As Lorenzo has remarked, I’ll not add much in addition. Except for a few words and quotes.

    It is always seems to be the indigenous English that seems to think that only their view of English counts and anyone not indigenous is somehow a fallacy. Those whom are are like Edward act autochthonously, literally ‘native to the soil’ therein the problem.

    The indigenous English were born of their time, stuck way back then, and not of the movement of Englishness into the Modern era of how we live now. It isn’t about home or abroad, but the identity, culture and the social-political of England.

    And the indigenous act in an insidious superior fashion to other types of Englishness be it from the descent of European or Commonwealth who were also born here in England. Those who are born from either European or Commonwealth cultural 1st generation have an appreciation and a sense of English as in her purpose than those who are stuck within a time-warped sense of agnosticism/nostalgia.

    So there is nothing petty nor chauvinist in my view of England. Where did you get that from? Or are you pulling adjectives out of thin air because there’s nothing else to back it up.

    English and England isn’t that preserve of one group but of the community who serve her justly.

    So why compare England to other countries who aren’t anything like her? Why use other countries as the measure when England has her own qualities that are valid. England isn’t being the standard bearer to Liberalism, she is being herself within the Liberalism that are equally hers to claim. Your worldview denies England her place on the liberal scope. Would that be pardonable treason?

  • @Andrew T
    Thanks for the reply, I think we’ll need to disagree on the EU being just a free trade zone, but at least I can see why you think that is the case.

  • Lorenzo, good point ,very well made, if I may say so.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '17 - 11:42pm

    Mavarine

    Very glad you did come back for that fascinating response !

    Tynan

    That’s very kind of you, thank you for that comment !

  • @RBH
    Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply (again),

    ‘They may hear “we’re English and we’re proud of it” as “even the Lib Dems say we’re English, not British”.’

    Perhaps that is some of that “quietude” you mentioned coming into play there? 😀

  • You seem to be advocating that, at the very least, the Scottish Parliament should be desolved and at least 2 regions within Scotland being created (after all, it is at least twice the size of Wales).

    As a matter of interest, why didn’t the creation of governments in the other Countries of the UK cause you to leave the Lib Dems?

  • @Jane Ann Liston
    “A respected Kirk minister once described the words of ‘Jerusalem’ as ‘jingoistic and theologically unsound.”

    Out of interest, has anyone in the modern era actually tried to claim that it is theologically sound?

    Jingoistic – would that be because England did “dark satanic mills” better than anyone else? 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Jan '17 - 1:21am

    Enjoying but not entering into this debate, I simply want to say ‘Great posts, Lorenzo!’ And that I will happily sing along with Jane Ann Liston’s choices any day.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 15th Jan '17 - 10:50am

    Some history here: The “Little England” movement originated among manufacturers in Manchester and found support among journalists such as Goldwin Smith. The movement objected to the protectionist stance of Canada exemplified by the tariff increase of 1859.

    The Little England stance was adopted by a wing of the Liberal Party typified by William Gladstone (1809–1898), who opposed many of Britain’s military adventures in the late 19th century.

    After all, when all is said and done most left writers on nationalism, and English nationalism particularly, identify its roots in order to understand it and ultimately, undermine it. Little England was about capitalism and progress rather than protectionism.

    However, what is also lacking is a sense of national self-awareness, and the continuation of the ‘Little England’ movement.

    Whatever problems these other nationalisms have, be it Scotland or Abroad, insurrection and insurgency are part of their national narratives. No such content is present in English nationalism, so small wonder the left, the metroleftyism, aren’t keen to embrace it because they haven’t taken into account the Little England movement that was in Gladstone’s time.

    Voices outside the Liberal political right – whether you call them “progressive”, “liberal”, “on the right” or whatever else – have long been dealing with questions about England.

    Another view was dispensed by Irvine Welsh who said: “England had a mission to be an inclusive multicultural nation and this old-fashioned imperialist UK has stopped it from fulfilling its national destiny.” But, in my little Englandism I don’t want to dismiss the past, nor some enforced multi-culturalism, because that is organic in the nature of the social-political, but a shift towards the industrious nature that has ran through England and capitalize on this because we haven’t explored this fully to celebrated this inheritance from the past and transition it into modernism.

    Although, on the other hand, a great sifting of the national identity is taking place, the discourse is being dominated by fundamentalists. And also hindered by those on the political Left who think, wrongly, that they have to stand in vanguard fashion and articulate a correct Englishness that can be taken up. However, the English that is inclusive are doing it for themselves but I think it should be constructive and progressive. For Little England deserves better.

  • Jane Ann Liston 15th Jan '17 - 7:12pm

    @chris_h
    I think the worthy reverend was concerned about the use of ‘Jerusalem’ and by whom. The context in which he made the remark was people requesting it as a suitable wedding hymn. No idea whether anybody within recent times considers the words to be theologically sound. I’m no divine, but what struck me at an early age was that it began with ‘And’, which I had been taught was a no-no!

  • Edward C
    (So, perhaps if you suffer from this sense of identity loss, the solution is simply to go abroad for a while!)
    But you might go native.

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