So, what does being an English Liberal mean?

One of the things about being an Englishman by birth, but not by parentage, is that your perspective of what it means to be English can be slightly different from that of those whose English heritage can be traced back through generations.

For me, at least, with an Indian father and a Scots mother, there is a desire to fit in to some extent, and that manifests itself in a generalised belief that people are broadly reasonable, given the opportunity to be so, and that the eccentricities of life here – queuing, cricket, the weather – are things to be treasured rather than replaced.

Brexit has, regrettably, rather given that image of a country broadly at ease with itself a bit of a kicking. The less charming elements of the English persona – a suspicion of others, a sense of paternalism and a general attitude of exceptionalism – have been showcased by prominent Brexit campaigners, and it hasn’t been pretty.

But it’s all well and good being critical of the “English Nationalist tendency”, one has to come up with an alternative vision of what it is like to be English in the modern era, and how liberals might express that.

So, on this St George’s Day, tell us what being English means to you, and what you think an English liberal agenda might look like.

Over to you…

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22 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Apr '18 - 9:24am

    There is a history of cricket as a culture which relates to the Raj in India. Nowadays cricket in India is very competitive as Association football is in the UK, but it was not always so. Cricket was used as a way of persuading people how to behave, hence the phrase “It’s not cricket”. Since 1947 there is also a rivalry between India and Pakistan. Bangladesh are another matter. They lost 99 consecutive international matches and then they beat Australia.
    In South Africa during the apartheid regime playing sports tended to depend on income. Association football was played by blacks, rugby union and cricket by whites. After the elections on a universal franchise West Indians went to South Africa to show that cricket can be played successfully by black-skinned people. President Mandela supported the national rugby union team wearing the shirt of the captain in an international match against New Zealand, who, of course, included some players of Maori background. The “rainbow nation” won.

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 9:26am

    All these questions about what Liberalism is, what is ‘illiberal’, and now what is ‘an English Liberal’ strike me as a sign of some sort of identity crisis. Those who appear to be beating themselves up over their political identity could be argued to be displaying a level for navel gazing that could almost rival that of Narcissus.

    The fact that I had no idea that today was St George’s Day I reckon would make me pretty typical. We English are a funny lot. Fancy picking a Turk (or was he Armenian?) with the gift for telling a tall tail as your Patron Saint! It’s only in recent decades that we appear to have rediscovered his cross as a symbol of nationhood (look at photos of the crowd at Wembley on that memorable July Saturday in 1966 and you will see a preponderance of Union Jacks). Sadly, its use in recent years as a rallying call for hooliganism of the sporting and political nature only reinforces Wilde’s famous definition of patriotism as ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Apr '18 - 9:36am

    The slogan of the British Group of the Liberal International is “If you are Liberal you are International. You cannot be one without the other.” I said this once at federal conference, which may have surprised some people whose liberalism derives solely from local government issues, but the motion (to free John McCarthy) was passed.

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 9:39am

    Sorry about the typo. That ‘tail’ should, of course read ‘tale’! Oh, in answer to Mark’s question, being an Englishman for me means being proud to be part of a group of nations known as the United Kingdom, who at one time led the world in terms of trade, took on tyranny and helped to beat it and which are now struggling to accept that the world we helped to save is no longer the one we were able to dominate for so long. Back in the 1970s Jonathon Miller summed up living in England as like being a caterpillar in a mouldy lettuce – nice and warm with plenty to feed on. He could have added something like “and with the prospect of turning into something beautiful before flying away”.

  • I’ve never really thought of myself as English. But I do like cricket.

  • Andrew Melmoth 23rd Apr '18 - 11:57am

    I find Orwell’s description of Engand – “A family with the wrong members in control” – comes to mind quite often these days.

  • Following from John Marriott’s comments: If we are into displaying flags it can done in a spirit of internationalism e.g. by showing the Union flag along side St George’s and those of the European Union flag and whatever other entities one has a particular affinity or association with.
    Maybe it’s time to modernise the Union flag to recognise Wales and Cornwall?

  • The only reason I know it is St George’s day is because they said so on the radio. However, I can name St Patrick’s day and St David’s day!

    @ John Marriott

    It is impossible for St George to have been a Turk because they were not far enough west by then. He is normally believed to have been Greek, but I suppose he could be any nationality that was within the Roman Empire at the time, so that allows the possibility for him to have been Armenian.

    I do identify as English while recognising my Irish ancestors. Gooding is likely an Anglo-Saxon name (my Gooding ancestors lived in Oxfordshire) while on my mother’s side they identified as being from Denmark or Norway during the age of the Vikings.

    As a Liberal I feel free to be myself and not having to conform, while recognising the British tradition of increasing liberty by reducing economic inequality which restricts people’s choices.

  • I’m a Yorkshireman living in Scotland. I always enjoy Yorkshire beating Surrey Middlesex Kent and Essex at cricket – and particularly enjoyed Mrs Salmond waving the Saltire behind Cameron D. when Andy won Wimbledon.

  • paul holmes 23rd Apr '18 - 3:32pm

    Well I’m a (Sheffield) Yorkshireman who has lived most of his life in foreign parts (Derbyshire). I have no interest in cricket or football however and had no idea it was St George’s day until reading this, so I would fail Norman Tebbit’s ‘Cricket Test’ as well as many other rites of supposed loyalty. It has always puzzled me as to why ‘our’ patron Saint is a soldier from a foreign invaders army who was born and lived on the Eastern Mediterranean shores of that foreign Empire. Not to mention all that ecologically unsound dragon slaying.

    One English trait I do identify with is the support for democracy (‘go’ the Sheffield Corresponding Society and the Sheffield Chartists). In fact I’m just back from leading another Derbyshire raiding force over the border to campaign for the excellent Cllr Gail Smith in the Sheffield City elections.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Apr '18 - 4:09pm

    So Englishness is all about national sports teams…

    In hotels in France I usually write UK or Royaume-Uni. Several times the person on the desk has crossed it out and written Anglais.

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 4:20pm

    @Michael BG
    So it’s Michael B Gooding, then? So, why be shy about your name? And thanks for putting right about old St G!

    @Tony Greaves
    Your Lordship! Just off to France and Belgium with the wife and ex teacher friends for another WW1/2 nostalgia week. I think I might try that. However, it might be a case of “Royaume Uni – nul points,”

  • Phil Beesley 23rd Apr '18 - 4:31pm

    Is it an English trait or a British trait to back the underdog in a race?

  • As an American said to me, you Englishmen with your tea and crumpet.

  • @ John Marriott

    If my surname was Gooding I would post as Michael Gooding, but as my surname is Berwick-Gooding I thought it was too long to use. I was not being shy.

    See my last article: https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-can-we-make-sure-families-have-enough-to-live-on-57022.html and how I am defined Michael Berwick-Gooding is a Liberal Democrat member in Basingstoke and has held various party positions at local, regional and English Party level. He posts on this site as Michael BG.,

  • John Marriott 23rd Apr '18 - 9:47pm

    No offence intended, Michael. It’s just that I find it vaguely amusing that some people appear to feel it necessary to hide their true identity.

  • I never go out in the midday sun by the way.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Apr '18 - 1:55am

    I am an Englishman, born in London of English, Italian and Irish lineage.

    With no interest in sport at all, my nearest to it is my birth in Wimbledon, near the tennis courts!

    I am and feel very British, am a staunch patriot, and yes, am and feel English.

    The Englishness is particularly felt when I have visited in America, not due to not feeling at home there, I do and mostly love it there in the parts familiar, rather it is due to nearly swooning reaction from women , on hearing my accent, particularly African American women in public service or customer service roles.

    I thus play it up and sound like THE Donald, when there, Donald Sinden !

  • Tony Greaves 24th Apr '18 - 3:42pm

    So now answers to the question asked…

  • Tony Greaves 24th Apr '18 - 3:43pm

    Or rather no answers.

  • D*ft questions usually get d*ft answers.

  • Simon Banks 15th Jun '18 - 5:57pm

    What a remarkable idea from John Marriot, that there is something unhealthy about asking ourselves what we mean by Liberalism and being Liberal. Of course, everyone knows what it means to be Socialist: it means backing Jeremy Corbyn’s line whatever it is.

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