CAMPAIGN CORNER - THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND
"There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other. That word is ENGLAND." - Sir Winston Churchill.
TO be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life. To be English is to be part of the world's richest culture. From this sceptred isle sprang talents as diverse as Orwell and Chaplin, Kipling and Shakespeare, Nelson and Joe Strummer. In every field, in every era, the evidence of English greatness is there for all to see, from the enduring genius of Elgar to the magic of Michael Owen's goal against Argentina. As Ian Dury once sang: "There are jewels in the crown of England's glory, too numerous to mention, but a few." OK, not many of us know more than the first two lines of There'll Always Be An England, but we do know that our country gave the world football, cricket, rugby, tennis, the Beatles and Dickens. As a people we are not given to chest beating. Reserve and restraint are as much English qualities as inventiveness and enterprise. But we do resent the way Englishness is put down at by the chattering classes. For them, the cross of St George is tainted by memories of empire (even though the Royal Navy smashed the slave trade). It has been like this for decades.
What does England mean to you?
My England is bubble and squeak and foaming pints of Boddingtons. It is Les Dawson and Barbara Windsor, Max Miller and Page Three. My England is pie and mash and Aston Martins, Derby day and Arfur Daley, Mods and Rockers, Skinheads and Suedeheads, Lennie McLean and Carry On films. My England stretches from Dennis Skinner to Roger Scruton, from Peggy Mount to Beki Bondage, from Constable to the Bryant & May match-girls' strike. It's Blackpool beach, Ray Davies, Charlie Drake, Charlton Athletic FC, Casuals, roast beef, imperial measurements and vindaloo. It's defiance.
Whether your England is summed up by a bowler hat or a pit helmet, punk rock or Morris dancers, there are few national tapestries as rich as ours. And of course it is a national disgrace that TV gives St George a blank. But what do they know? How often do they get anything right? If you are English turn off the TV on April 23rd and get down the pub, preferably in a fine Longshanks shirt. As Chesterton wrote: "St George he was for England and before he slew the dragon, he drank a pint of English ale out of an English flagon." Enjoy yourself this St. George's Day. And remember, there will always be an England.
(St George's Day speech, 2001)
HOW would it play in Dublin if a senior Irish politician demanded that the country stopped celebrating St Patrick's Day because of the shame brought on Catholicism by paedophile priests and indiscriminate bombers?
What would they say in Paris if the boss of TV channel TF1, Gaston de Garlic, said that Bastille Day should be abolished because of the shame of Vichy or the crimes of French imperialism in Algeria and Indo-China?
Imagine how it'd go down in Holyrood if some stern-faced son of the manse called for the abolition of Burns Night celebrations because of Scotland's long history of bigotry, obesity, lousy food, gloominess and heroin addiction. The reactions would, you'd imagine, run the gauntlet from hilarity to apoplexy.
There isn't a country in the world without some kind of stain on its national character. The Spanish torture cattle, for God's sake. The Yanks blunder from one overseas disaster to another. And let's not get started on Columbia, not without a razor blade and a large supply of straws at any rate.
All of these nations manage to have at least one day a year where they can make a song and dance about their cultural identity. The one nation that doesn't is England.
The English are the only people in the world who are repeatedly told that it is wrong to celebrate our history and heritage and whose major cultural institution, the BBC, thinks its achievements are shameful and its customs are somehow distasteful.
Tony Blair, who was born and privately educated in Scotland, gave the Sweaty Socks a Parliament stating rightly that they are a "proud and historic nation". But his Deputy, John Prescott, who was born in Wales, is on record as saying "There is no such nationality as English."
No such nationality as English. Presumably you and I are merely dutiful citizens of North West Europe, whose main purpose seems to be to subsidise "proud and historic" Scotland.
Prescott and Blair, you may recall, even tried to chop England up into nine regions, with expensive talking shop assemblies, regional flags and identities. They wanted to Balkanize us; to do away with England altogether in order to ram us more efficiently into the Euro-mincer.
In his ten years as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown handed £60billion more public money to Scotland than to England – enough to build 238 hospitals. He couldn't have rubbed our noses in it more if he'd lined up every English MP in the House of Commons and poured congealed porridge oats down the front of their pants while a platoon of pipers repeatedly knocked out that rotten dirge, O Flower Of Scotland, in the background.
OUR rulers are infected with a disdain for everything English that runs as deep as one of our many derelict coal mines. George Orwell, the great patriotic socialist, detected it back in the 1930s when he wrote that "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their nationality."
Partly this was down to the guilt of Empire; partly it stemmed from the influence amongst the Oxbridge elite of a powerful group of traitors who preferred Stalin's Russia to their own country. Now their descendents want to dissolve us into the EU after falling out of love with a succession of foreign tyrants from Castro to Mao to Osama Bin Laden via the Irish Republican Army. It's the Guardian mentality: England is always in the wrong, no matter what murderous rogue we are up against. But are they right?
In fact the English have far less to be ashamed of than other European nations. We aren't as militaristic as the Germans or as xenophobic as the French. The Royal Navy sank the slave trade and the British Empire is remembered with a degree of affection everywhere it touched.
When it comes to patriotism, though, the standard response of the urban intellectual is the mocking sneer. This is true of many on the Right as well as the Left, but it's the self-loathing of the left-wing intellectuals that irritates me most. These sniggering fools don't even know the roots of their own radicalism. For every Francis Drake in English history there was a Wat Tyler. For every Wellington there was a Captain Swing. Military achievement understandably shaped our self image. The stout Yeomen of England have been beating off invaders for centuries. We saw off Bonaparte and smashed the Spanish Armada. But England gave the world parliamentary democracy and the trade unions too.
Every child should learn the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six farm labourers from Dorset, who founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to fight wage cuts after their nine shillings (45p) a week wage was slashed to six shillings (30p). In March, 1834 these good, hard-working men were arrested for unlawful assembly and charged with 'administering unlawful oaths.' The six were found guilty as charged and sentenced to seven years transportation to the penal colony in New South Wales, Australia "not," said the judge, "for anything they had done, but as an example to others."
They were an example to others all right. The men became popular heroes and the inspiration for the new trade union movement.
Just over a century later, our belief in democracy, liberty and social justice made English-speaking civilization the rock that broke the tidal wave of continental fascism. Our openness, our belief in tolerance, free speech and the rights of man, was the living proof that the totalitarian state with its secret police, censorship and slave labour was neither "infallible" nor inevitable.
But these qualities that made us different are now increasingly under threat.
THE English are a strong-willed people, rightly proud of our traditions and freedoms. Keith Waterhouse wrote that our defining national characteristic is "constructive bloody-mindedness", illustrated by the phrase "thus far and no further." Many of us who love England, and see how carelessly our rulers have surrendered our liberties and sovereignty, while encouraging phony nationalism in Scotland and Wales, feel that we have reached the "thus far" point. I certainly do. Labour's regionalization proposals pushed me over the edge. It was clear that the creation of elected regional assemblies in England were simply an attempt to break us up and destroy us – as Charles Kennedy said to "call into question the idea of England itself."
I'm not a politician but in 2005 General Election I stood for the English Democrats in the Greenwich and Woolwich. Why? To help kick up a stink about the mess Labour's devolution botch-job has made of democracy in the UK. I was campaigning, in short, for equality for the English. I'm not anti-Scottish. I merely demanded the right for the English to run our own country as the Scots do theirs (while pointing out that an English parliament wouldn't mean a light if we remained under EU rules.) Inevitably, this was painted as an "extreme" cause. We had no money and little campaigning time, yet 1216 South Londoners took the time to turn out and vote for me. Not a great result (although we beat UKIP) but you have to fly your colours from the mast to get noticed. From little acorns the might oak of English liberty will grow. A year later a Daily Telegraph poll showed that 68 per cent of English voters backed the cause. That's very nearly seven out of ten people, and subsequent polls have not produced a figure under 60 per cent. Compare that with the vote for the Scottish Parliament of 44% which was described as the "Settled Will of the Scottish People"; or with the 21% who voted for Tony Blair's Government at the last General Election... .
Even without regionalisation, the English get a raw deal under the present set-up. Scottish citizens have £1,500 more per head spent on them than do their English counterparts. In England, the Government spend £6,762 per person a year (on health, education etc); in Scotland that figure is £8,265. The Scots get free dental and eye checks, free personal care for the elderly, and free central heating installation for pensioners. They get life-saving cancer drugs; their students pay no tuition fees, their school children have more than double the budget for school dinners and some Scottish children between the ages of four and seven get free school meals - with plans to extend that to children of all ages.
All that stuff, free, free, FREE! Except none of it is free, of course. We're paying for it.
Why? Back in the 1970s Lord Barnett came up with his Barnett Formula, which divvied up the national cake unfairly. It was meant to apply for a short period, no more than two years, to kick start the Scottish economy. But thirty years on it remains in operation. Some Scots say it costs more to provide services in their rural areas. But England has rural areas too – Northumbria is just as under-populated as anywhere North of the Border. (North Sea Oil is no argument for the imbalance either because if we were separate countries, by international law England would have a claim to one third of the oil and most of the gas.) There is no coherent defence for why the Barnett Formula is still going; even Barnett himself says it now needs to be scrapped.
Successive Governments have kept it going simply to bribe the Scottish electorate not to vote for the SNP.
They bought them off for three decades. But finally English voters are waking up to the injustice. More and more of our people are asking: why do we put up with the Jocks spending so much of our money? Why should the English continue to fund better public services in the other nations of the UK?
To counter the new mood of English nationalism, our new unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown has wrapped himself up in the Union Jack. "Britishness," is Labour's new mantra – ironic when you think Labour was responsible for breaking up Britain in the first place. And doubly so if you ever encountered a flag-hating 1980s Labourite, the kind who ended up as social workers, councillors, college lecturers and school teachers.
The response of left-wing teachers to Labour's new red white and blue offensive was predictable. A survey published early in 2008 found that nine out of ten of these sandal-wearing weird-beards and their husbands opposed Gordon's plans for the teaching of British history in schools. The Left-leaning Institute of Education suggested that patriotism should be covered as a "controversial issue." Britain's history was, they said, morally ambiguous. "Are countries really appropriate objects of love?" asked the report's author Michael Hand. It would be funny – Brown hoist by his own petard – if these fools weren't busily engaged in educating our kids to feel guilty about our past. Teaching Britishness, argued one, would encourage "BNP-type thinking."
An alternative interpretation would be that patriotism is a natural, health emotion that only turns ugly when it's suppressed...
And why incidentally are we urged to forgive Germany for invading Poland while we flagellate ourselves about the Opium Wars?
Strangely, Brown's 'Britishness' lessons are only taught in English schools, not in Scotland or Wales. Having unleashed the beast of Scottish nationalism, Labour now seeks to blind us to its consequences.
But where do Gordon Brown's true loyalties lie? He was one of the signatories of the Scottish Claim of Right which says 'in all our actions and deliberations (the) interests (of the Scottish people) shall be PARAMONT."
This was also signed and approved by Menzies Campbell, Alistair Darling, John Reid and George Galloway.
Is it a coincidence that Brown's last act as Chancellor was to cut the English NHS building budget from £6.2 to £4.2 billion, while the Scots and Welsh budgets were left intact?
Brown's Britishness offensive is a con-trick designed to distract us from the inequalities and injustices created by Labour's wonky devolution strategy. Tam Dalyell called it the West Lothian question. The left-wing Scot asked "For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate... at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on British politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?" It's a good question, for which the Government has no answer.
Gordon Brown, who represents a Scottish constituency, is imposing Labour policies on English voters, with the help of the votes of Scottish MPs. And he is doing it in areas where he has no authority to make law in Scotland.
How can that be right? Why should Scottish MPs have a vote on purely English matters while England's MPs can't discuss Scotland?
The English put up with a lot (too much, frankly), but there is a limit to how long the people of the UK's biggest and richest country will suffer being treated like second class citizens.
So many issues are now devolved in Scotland and Wales that we can't talk about British education, transport or health policy any more. The current arrangement is unfair to English voters. Scotland and Wales have their own Parliament and Assembly but they are still over-represented in the House of Commons. Scottish and Welsh MPs preside over English matters. English MPs have no reciprocal right. As we've seen, the Barnett formula gives about one third extra spending to Scotland for EQUAL need. This set-up is completely out of kilter, and the only constitutionally workable solution is the creation of an English parliament.
An English Parliament would ensure that legislation affecting England was proposed and implemented by MPs accountable to the English electorate. It would allow for proper parliamentary time to be allotted for the debate of English matters and scrutiny of English legislation. It would kick the West Lothian Question into touch. An English parliament would ensure that ministers were directly politically accountable to the constituency that their department serves. It is wrong that Scottish constituency MPs are given English portfolios, like Douglas Alexander at English Transport last heard trying to impose an England-only road pricing scheme (which was 'accidentally' reported by the BBC as if it were a UK-wide issue.)
An English parliament would create a more inclusive, civic sense of English identity and national purpose. An English parliament would give England political leadership. Scotland has a first minister, England does not. Why then should Gordon Brown become in effect first minister of England? Gordon Brown has no democratic mandate on important matters such as Education, Health and Transport – his constituents in Scotland don't elect him to represent them in these areas, and neither does any voter in England. An English parliament would kill off Labour's plans for unwanted regional assemblies in England. And it's the only long-term hope of preserving the United Kingdom, which, to exist at all must be independent of the European Union.
Our future doesn't lie in Europe, to being over-regulated and bossed about by petty-minded Continental bureaucrats. Let's fight for an independent England shaping its own destiny and trading with whoever we please as part once again of a greater anglosphere of English speaking peoples dedicated to freedom, liberty and enterprise.
When he was sentenced in 1834, Tolpuddle Martyr George Loveless wrote: 'God is our guide, from field, from wave, from plough, from anvil and from loom; we come our country's rights to save, and speak a tyrant faction's doom. We raise the watch-word liberty; we will, we will, we will be free!'
Now is the time to echo those words and fight to win back the freedoms we have lost. Once again lets us raise the watch-word, liberty.
We will, we will, we will be free.
BACK in the early 1990s I asked why our television networks never celebrated St George's Day. The response was phenomenal, and overwhelmingly supportive, although Kelvin MacKenzie thought at the time that I was being "extreme". But as an Englishman I don't hate other nationalities. I just wish to preserve and build on my heritage.
In 1996, I dedicated one of my ITV shows to St George's Day; Chas and Dave played in my back room, and I delivered various bits to camera. Again the public response was positive. On two separate occasions cab drivers refused to take any money from me, and strangers started buying me drinks in pubs. That same year, Euro '96 reflected this new mood of English patriotism. The terraces were awash with the flag of St George. Thirty years before, as England won the World Cup, all you saw were Union flags. Now the English had adopted a new symbol, and this demand for something of ours was coming from the grass roots up.
I carried on asking why TV did nothing for St Geo, especially when the BBC regions never forget St David's Day or Burns Night. Finally, in response, in 2000, BBC2 decided to debate Englishness; and although they did it in a typically condescending and sneering way it was a start. In 2001, Channel 5 devoted an evening to English films. BBC1 remained reluctant though. Their top-rated show, EastEnders, had managed to hold parties for St Patrick's Day, American Independence Day and even for the Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, without ever mentioning England's patron saint. I invited readers to place bets on what foreign country would get the Queen Vic seal of approval next. Possibly I suggested a knees-up for migrant Albanian peasants loyal to the memory of Enver Hoxha to drink to the golden days of tractors and austerity before the fall of Communism.
In the real world, the day was increasingly celebrated not just in genuine East End pubs but all over the country, with breweries getting in on the fun. The situation was becoming so absurd that even Ally Ross, The Sun's England-hating columnist, picked up on it. And eventually in 2005, Alfie Moon finally had a St George's Day "Russell Harty" in the Vic, if only to shut us up.
That same year, Red Ken Livingstone, who'd been happily donating huge chunks of public money to St Patrick's Day celebration organisers for years, hastily endorsed some feeble St George's day events to take the steam out of a planned mass walk on the GLA. And I organised a Variety Festival of England which was screened on April 23rd by the satellite channel Sound TV. This took place at the Queen's Hotel, Blackpool, with the great Yorkshire funnyman Johnnie Casson topping the bill and guest appearances from Richard Digance and Bobby Ball. Punters queued round the block and we had to turn a third of them away. The night ended with the 500 strong capacity crowd enjoying a mass sing-song of patriotic songs led by club singer Joe Wildey, an immaculately tailored Irishman who could see nothing wrong with the English having one day a year when we can celebrate our identity with good-humour as other peoples do. It took me back to my own childhood when we'd always have St George's Day parties at Charlton social clubs, with women wearing red roses on their lapels.
The following year, we doubled the size of the venue. Nearly 900 turned up for a rock and variety show at the Circus Tavern (home of darts) in Essex. The bill, which I put together, was a schizophrenic mix of acts ranging from Brian Conley to the Cockney Rejects, via Right Said Fred, Rick Wakeman, the Artful Dodger and Neville Staple. Mad but exhilarating...
By now people from all over the country were contacting me with their own St George's Day events; the most impressive was an unofficial motorised parade organised by the 1066 Motorcycle Club in Solihull. While the Stone Cross St George Association (just outside of West Bromwich, West Midlands) assembled the largest St George's Day parade in England.
In 2007, I had my English party on TalkSport radio and the switchboard was jammed by appreciative callers. The only exception was a surly Scot who believed that being English was in itself "racist". He wasn't best pleased to be reminded that the Ku Klux Klan had been kreated by Sweaty Socks.
This year – 2008 – I know of four major St George's Day bashes already, including a punk and ska night in The Garage, in North London.
More and more bands are bringing out patriotic anthems. West Country folk band Show of Hands released Roots (See the full video on YouTube by clicking http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5h4PFBuzvw) which included the lyrics: 'I've lost St George in the Union Jack, it's my flag too and I want it back'. While Sarah Vezmar is releasing the haunting anthem 'England My Land' on i-tunes. English clothing companies are sprouting up everywhere, none as stylish as Longshanks, a company founded by various West Ham herberts who made their money on the 1980s wave scene.
The message is clear: the Market is there. And St George's Day can become a major event if everyday English people want it.
It really is up to us to make a stand for England's green and pleasant land. We can't rely on British TV to mark England's day. Old Albion is too tarnished with the 'guilt' of empire for the usual suspects (Lefty intellectuals, Tory euro-traitors) to endorse. We can't rely on local councils, either. In half the country you can't even get a pub extension. And we certainly can't expect Red Ken's approval. We don't need any of them. They're the freaks. Being patriotic is normal and healthy; hating your own country is perverse. So what can we do?
Take St George's Day off for a start. If enough people treat the day as a national holiday, eventually they will have to make it official. Bombard radio and TV stations (especially BBC ones) with letters and petitions calling for English theme nights to mark our special day. And SWITCH OFF any channel that doesn't include English programming this and every April 23rd. But just as importantly, celebrate St George's Day yourself. If you can't get to one of the big gigs, organise your own in your street, your pub or your social club. Get together with people who feel the same way as you and get something going.
It's time for the English to wake up and reclaim their birthrights. As Shelley wrote (and the Gonads set to music): "Men of England, rise like lions from your slumber, in unvanquishable number; shake to earth your chains like dew, that in your sleep has fallen upon you. We are many. They are few."
From 'The World According to Garry Bushell'
The Top Ten Modern English Anthems
1) England Belongs To Me – Cock Sparrer 2) England My Land – Sarah Vezmar 3) The Power & The Glory – the Cockney Rejects 4) England's Glory – Kilburn & The High-Roads 5) Roots –Show of Hands 6) Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks 7) World In Motion – New Order. 8) (What's The Story?) England's Glory – The Gonads 9) Hurry Up England – Motty's Sheepskins 10) England – the Angelic Upstarts