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The Left's Oppositional Attitude Towards England

If you want to understand the Left's antagonistic attitude towards England and English identity then I recommend that you listen to this talk by Charlie Kimber and the discussion which followed. They would rather steal from the poor box than embrace their English identity. For them Englishness is a repository of all that is bad, racist, imperialist, conservative, white, reactionary and capitalist about Britain. The sluice gate marked Englishness is what they can open to purge Britishness of anything negative. As one woman put it: "It doesn't matter how many times you wash the English flag you will never wash away the blood of Empire".

During their thirteen years of power the Labour party promoted Britain and Britishness, and Scottishness and Welshness, but did absolutely nothing for England (except attempt to balkanise it into regions against England's will and milk the English taxpayer like a cash cow). But having deservedly lost English votes at the general election there are signs that they are waking up to the debate on the English Question. John Denham has recently given us his views on reclaiming St George's Day, the English flag and promoting a progressive idea of English identity. David Miliband has arbitrarily dismissed the idea of an English parliament and - quite selfishly - suggested that Labour should be leading the national conversation on England that they have studiously ignored for so long in order to win back votes.

On Radio 4's Broadcasting House on 4th July, listeners were treated to Michael Rosen, a popular author and voice of the far-left, informing the audience that England did not even exist.

"We're not giving them the grass roots support but I don't think that's why England failed. England fails because if you think you are a high paid footballer playing anywhere in the world, why would you want to play for this thing called England? It isn't even a nation. Great Britain is the nation. Why would you want to? Let's say you're Rooney, let's say you're Terry - you beat it out for nine months against each other where everything matters day by day, then suddenly you're sent away to a weird camp for three weeks to play for an entity that doesn't really exist. I mean, I'm not blaming them, but why would you want to do it?"

And today Rick Muir of IPPR treats us to the ludicrously titled "The English left needs to reclaim English identity". As if to suggest that English identity was once the property of the left. Rick informs us that "Scottish and Welsh national identity have managed to become inclusive civic identities precisely because those countries have political institutions with which all citizens can identify" and then goes on to argue against an English parliament. His pearls of his wisdom include:

  • There is no comparable crisis [of democratic legitimacy] in England.
  • the West Lothian question is an anomoly, but does anyone really care?
  • There is very little support for this [a solution to the West Lothian Question].
  • An English parliament would likely exacerbate [the weakness of local government].
  • Federalism in a state dominated by one component (England) would likely lead to separation.
  • by trying to solve a tiny anomoly (West Lothian) you end up creating a series of even worse problems.

The usual unsubstantiated rhetoric about the deleterious effects that an English parliament would have on democracy and Britain, it's the sort of thing that we're more used to hearing from politicians like Lord Falconer rather than someone purporting to be a serious academic. I've asked Rick whether he supports the right of the English to decide how we are governed.

Why doesn't the left ask the people that they are supposed to represent what they want rather than arbitrarily ruling out an English parliament. Where's the democratic left?

How do you hope to reclaim Englishness from a position of dictating to the English on what's best for them?

Rick has declined to answer. But in Rick's stead some joker named Peter Jukes has popped up to state: "I don't want popular sovereignty for England". That says it all. I welcome Labour's attempt to discuss the English Question, even if it is for purely selfish and partisan reasons, but in doing so they are going to run up against the problem of exposing their general antipathy towards England, and highlighting a significant constituency of left-wingers that are vehemently anti-English and opposed to the very idea of England itself. They have ignored the English Question for years for fear of exposing the dark racist underbelly of the Labour Party, but now they have to discuss England because their failure to connect with England has caused Labour to lose touch with their traditional supporters, the majority of whom are very happy to be English.

All is not lost. There are people on the left that do love England and are not hamstrung by irrational anglophobia. People like Frank Field, David Dyke and Andy Newman will keep chipping away at left-wing anti-English prejudice. Whether or not their common sense attitude prevails will determine whether or not the left manage to reconnect with England.

Links to Labour List's 'National Identity Day':

Charmed, I'm sure

The Edinburgh Dungeon is marking the 710th anniversary of the Battle of Falkirk by smashing up icons of Englishness:

English visitors will only be allowed entry if they sign a scroll swearing allegiance to Scotland, while those from other countries will be encouraged to bring in items deemed 'typically English’ to be smashed....

“People are invited to bring scones, tea bags, English literature, fine bone china or anything else typically English. We plan to smash them with a sword like the one Wallace carried.”

I was in Edinburgh last month. If only the Edinburgh Dungeon had been doing that then, because I would have gone along with an English flag and a copy of the Common Book of Prayer to film them smashing them up.

Had I been a chippy sort I might then have taken the short stroll from the Edinburgh Dungeon down Canongate and burned the Scottish flag outside Parliament. But frankly why stoop to their pathetic level? Let the philistines have their oil and revel in their anti-Englishness. I wonder if the Scots will be celebrating the Battle of Ronaldsway by smashing up Manx cats and copies of Peer Gynt?

Meanwhile, in a sectarian corner of of our enlightened northern neighbour New Labour are desperate to keep Union flag flying. Good luck.

Anti-English sentiment killing Scots

Des Browne, Secretary of State for Scotland, has claimed that anti-English sentiment is killing Scottish patients:

DES Browne, the Scottish Secretary, intervened yesterday in the scandal over an outbreak of a fatal hospital bug.

He said that "best practice" from NHS hospitals in England – where infections from Clostridium difficile and MRSA have fallen as a result of "deep clean" programmes – may have been ignored north of the Border because of anti-English sentiment.

What an extraordinary claim for a Scottish Secretary of State to make. Unfortunately, due to devolution, he's not elected to represent anyone on health, so even if he's right he can't do anything about it.

Not at the World Cup - my part in its downfall

Back in 2002, before the last World Cup, I was living up in Scotland, working for a large Government research institute. The collaborative international nature of science ensured that there was a healthy mix of nationalities represented - Scots (probably 70%), English (perhaps 10%), along with a mixture of other scientists from around the world, Irish, Spanish, Argentinian, French, German, you get the picture...

With such a smorgasboard of nationalities and footballing pride and prejudices there was obviously some friendly rivalry and canteen banter to be had. One sunny Scottish day I arrived at work and upon turning on my computer I noticed that a screensaver and desktop wallpaper, coutesy of a Tennents' website, had been installed on my computer.

Not at the World Cup

Not wanting to be a bad sport and spoil the joke for my Scottish colleagues I left the foreign bunting up, but, in a covert evening operation with my English colleagues, we made the point of decorating the corridor in some foreign flags of our own - the Cross of St George. And that was that. Lines were drawn in the sand. We all knew where we stood, especially as a large proportion of my Scottish colleagues were resplendent in Argentina strips.

The petty chippiness 'friendly rivalry' from individuals I could take. What bothered me was the Tennents' advertising campaign that was now live on the internet, and on roadside billbords, imploring Scots to support England's opponents. Would Tennents run a similar campaign imploring Scots to support anyone other than Turkey, or Germany, or Nigeria? I didn't think so, and that bothered me. The website in question was and was intended to carry the full range of World Cup flags, each with a witty anecdotal Scottish slogan. But in their wisdom Tennents chose to launch it, and the billboard campaign, with just the flags of England's group-stage opponents (Nigeria, Sweden and Argentina) which gave the impression that it was a distinctly anti-English site. And as far as I was concerned it was.

At the time the Scottish press was in an introspective mood, full of articles about playground beatings that were being dished out to English children, and beating itself up about the anti-English vein that ran so visibly through Scottish life. This was post-devolution Scotland, a proud nation with a new sense of purpose and ambition, looking to the future not to the past. Except that it wasn't.

I decided to get pro-active and wrote to Tennents and the Leith Agency (the creative sparks) to complain about the adverts. The ironically named Robert Bruce of Tennents marketing wrote back and accused me of having 'no sense of humour' and further informed me that he hoped that England got beaten and knocked out at the earliest possible juncture. The director of the Leith Agency, Phil Adams, wrote back to inform me that he was an Englishman living in Scotland and he saw the adverts as nothing more than harmless fun. Neither man would concede that their corporate anti-English advertsing could be in anyway related to the beatings taking place on the streets and schoolfields of Scotland. I deliberately asked each man whether they would ever countenance running a simillar campaign against, say, Turkey; whether they thought such a campaign might make life difficult for the immigrant Turkish population in Scotland, and; why Bass Breweries/Interbrew (owners of Tennents) were only running the campaign north of the border, meaning that most of their English customers were oblivious to their methods. I pressed my case by arguing that their campaign maybe be reflective of Scottish opinion rather than causative but that it was, nevertheless, overly provocative given the prevailing wind of anti-Englishness at that time.

Neither man would concede that they might be held responsible for inflaming or reinforcing anti-English prejudice amongst the Tennents swilling yobbery of Scotland. Robert Bruce became increasingly rude and belligerent, picking out the odd spelling or syntax error in my emails, and refusing to be drawn on any of the points that I raised. Phil Adams addressed my points and informed me that altough the English were a minority group they were considered fair game given the sporting rivalry of the two countries, and that the campaign was only running in Scotland because Tennents was only ever marketed in Scotland

Annoyed, more than anything by the intemperance and rudeness of Robert Bruce, I decided to email Scotland on Sunday journalist Antonia Swinson with transcripts of our correspondence. This was the result.

What a result. To be fair Antonia had already been on the case but the Bruce emails enraged her and my case gave her the 'workplace bullying' ammunition that she needed. Of course, I didn't actually feel bullied or intimidated by the actions of my sniggering Scottish colleagues, and I didn't believe the adverts to be 'racist', but the ends justified the means and it was extremely gratifying to see the arrogant Bruce taken down a peg or two.

When the World Cup actually began I was amused, but unperturbed, to find my office furniture adorned, and my office walls plastered, with the flags of Nigeria, Sweden and Argentina.

The institute had a large lecture theatre with a giant screen and it was there that the multicultural workplace watched the matches. All matches were screened but it was only the England matches that drew a large crowd; mostly Scots, with whom I worked, socialised and played footy, all baying for the downfall of my team and the humiliation of England. It was a slightly hostile environment, even in a Government workplace full of extremely well-educated professional individuals, but after the match we got on with our jobs and resumed our friendships. Just as things should be.

Mercifully I was down in England attending a wedding on the day that England played Brazil, so my Scottish pals didn't get to fully enjoy the schadenfreude to which they felt entitled.

After re-reading this post I decided that there was something further that I wanted to add. As I said I don't think that the Tennent's campaign is 'racist' and, as I pointed out in a previous post, neither do I think that the anti-Englishness in Scotland is a form of racism.

Anti-Englishness may well have the same affects as racism - after all it's a form of hatred that often results in abuse, exclusion and violence - but I do not believe that it is a hatred defined by 'race'. It's a hatred defined by other factors (jealousy, sporting tribalism, nationalism and politics) but even the most vociferous Scottish supremacist would be hard pushed to pick out an ethnic Englishman from a line-up of ethnic Scots.

Insecure ScotsmanRacism to me is something different, something more sinister. To me racism is the belief that you are superior to another because of your race - your genetics. I don't think that Scots hold that view about the English and, likewise, I don't think the English hold that view about the Scots. The use of the word 'racism' to describe the nationalist squabbles between the English and Scottish devalues a powerful word that should be reserved for more appropriate occasions. I myself have been accused of being 'racist' towards the Scots because of what I write on this blog. It's a laughable suggestion, not least because I have Scottish heritage myself and count many Scots as close friends.

This man may be anti-English. He may be an insecure moron. He may simply be a retard. Or he may, in the words of Andy Murray, be just 'a typical Scot'.

However, I would hesitate in describing him a racist. Proudly displaying the flags of England's opponents is not racist, it's just following the mindset of prominent Scottish public figures such as Andy Murray and Jack McConnell.

Let's get this straight. Even if you are foolish enough to subscribe to the concept of 'race' as a taxonomic system for describing your fellow humans, or the delimiting factor that prescribes the boundaries of your nation, the Scots and English are not separate races. It is not racist to say that a man cannot be a Scot because he has an English accent, it is racist to say that a man cannot be Scottish because he is black. The former is discrimination, the latter is racism.

They don't like it up em

The BBC, Scotsman, Herald and Daily Record carry reports on the distasteful and frankly disturbing comments left on Andy Murray's blog.

Hopefully the individual who left a sickening comment about Dunblane will have their IP details passed onto the press by Andy's webhosting company and asked to answer publicly for their comments.

Andy Murray responded to criticism of his anti-English remarks by trotting out a damage limitation exercise:

"Want to say that I’m not anti English! I have supported Tim the last 10 years and he is English! Ricky Hatton is one of my favorite boxers and he is English. I said I think England will beat Portugal in my press conference! I made a joke I don’t mind whether England win or lose! Press blew it out of proportion!"

Despite the few that abuse their right to freedom of expression on the internet I remain fully behind the 'Anyone but Murray' campaign and will continue to support his opponents.

Having been on the receiving end of anti-English violence in Scotland (with my jaw broken in two places) I am heartily sick of Scottish public figures reinforcing this anti-English attitude in the Scottish public psyche. This is a Scottish national disease, not friendly rivalry, harmless banter or a joke.

The irony here is that devolution, which was supposed to instill the Scots with self-confidence and a more mature and confident attitude towards their relationship with England, has, if anything, made the situation worse. Devolution has not made the union stronger. Instead it has resulted in a sense of injustice (real and perceived) amongst the English who are now emboldened and simply unprepared to tolerate this uncharitable and, at times, malicious attitude towards all things English

The moral of this story is that 'if you can't take it then don't dish it out'. Murray would not have made the same comments about any nation other than England. And therein lies the problem; not just with Murray, but with the whole Scottish nation.

I wonder whether, in hindsight, Andy Murray now wishes he had taken heed of the stupidity of Paul Casey and the wise words of the following letter that was printed in the Scotsman during last year's Wimbledon.

A lesson in fair play

The Wimbledon tennis crowd (mainly English) got behind Andy Murray (a Scot) on Thursday and cheered him to the echo.

But what if a sports tournament was taking place in Edinburgh, with an Englishman playing against a Czech, or any other nationality, for that matter? A Scottish crowd would almost certainly have backed the competitor from overseas and been despondent if the Englishman had won.

Scots should take note of the attitude of Wimbledon's English spectators (which is typical of their approach to the endeavours of all Scots) and stop their mean-mindedness when England is playing teams from overseas.

We Scots should get rid of our inferiority complex, cease refighting old battles and treat our southern neighbours with the courtesy and friendliness they show us.


It just won't wash any longer. Scotland: You are not put upon, hard -done-by or victims to England's superiority; you are the precious constitutionally mollycoddled spoiled brats of the Union, handed democratic privileges and a funding largesse that the rest of the UK does not enjoy. Respect has to be earned, don't come bleating or offering lame excuses when England reciprocates in kind to your endless antagonism.

Andy Murray Blog

Andy Murray has a blog. This is the guy who says that he wears a Paraguay top and states:

"I'll be supporting whoever is playing against England. I am a typical Scot."

Why not leave a comment on his blog and inform him that you'll be supporting anyone but him? Be polite though, we wouldn't want England to get the same reputation as Scotland.

Anyone but Scotland logo

Meanwhile, Franz Ferdinand star Nick McCarthy, fellow mealy-mouthed Scot (albeit a plastic one), had this to say to a German magazine.

"I get stick from all the lads in the band but I know how to defend myself.

"If it comes to the two teams facing each other, I'll be supporting Germany definitely.

"When you live in Scotland, you really go off England.

"In fact, thinking about it, after living in Scotland, England's a bit of a sh**hole really."

Don't buy his records, they're shit anyway.

Anyone but Scotland

According to Niall Fergusson Gordon Brown has pissed off to America so that he doesn't actually have to be seen celebrating England's victories. Good idea Gordon.

London on a sunny June evening is an alluringly vibrant place. You forget the pervasive litter and the small but real probability of a knife through the ribs. The crowds spilling out of the pubs into the streets are abuzz with anticipation of the World Cup, hopeful of English victories.

No wonder Mr Brown wishes he were in the United States, the one place in the world that will largely ignore the next month of 24/7 soccer. As a Scotsman, Mr Brown finds himself in a quandary, Scotland having failed to qualify for the finals. He may insist that he is supporting England, but since the rest of his countrymen north of the border will back anyone - even Trinidad and Tobago - against the Auld Enemy, no one believes a word of it.

Meanwhile Andy Murray, Scotland's tennis star has crashed out of the Stella Artois. Here's what Andy Murray had to say about England:

"I'll be supporting whoever is playing against England. I am a typical Scot."

I wonder how he would feel if he turned up at the All England Lawn Tennis Club - Wimbledon - to find an English crowd displaying these posters?

Anyone but Scotland logo

Meanwhile, another Scot with a chip on his shoulder, Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, has launched a 'stinging attack' on the BBC and ITV for being too biased in favour of England. In the abscence of any other British teams does he expect British TV networks to adopt an 'anyone but England' policy along with Scotland? He also informs us that his sister was supporting Trinidad and Tobago too.

"My sister, who lives on Arran has a flag in her garden and she has got a car bumper sticker. Has someone been giving out Trinidad and Tobago bumper stickers?"

Well hoorah for her. No wonder Unionists are lamenting the demise of the Union.

Scotland vs England

It's interesting to see that the Scottish hatred of the English team gets some coverage in the foreign press. First the Canadian press:

Pinned against the grill of a lorry rumbling north up the M1 motorway from London is the English flag, the bold red cross of St. George emblazoned on a pure white background.

The same flag is hanging proudly from apartment balconies in Southampton, decorating shop fronts in Birmingham, taped to bedroom walls in Newcastle, draped over curtain rails in Manchester and affixed to car aerials and windows on all the roads joining those cities. This is not simply the flag of England; this is the flag of English football, this is the lead-up to football's World Cup and the flag is everywhere, almost.

Should that lorry venture far enough north to cross the unguarded border into Scotland, its flag will suddenly be overwhelmed most improbably by the flag of Trinidad and Tobago, one of England's opponents in the competition's first round. Scotland failed to qualify for the world football spectacular in Germany; but, even though they share the same country with the English, most Scots would give up whiskey before they would support England's pride and joy.

This has ignited a controversy over national loyalty between two components of the supposedly United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have separate teams in international football, only the English have qualified for this World Cup and consider themselves to be the U.K. standard bearer in Germany, a view not shared in the Highlands.

And second the US press:

"My car would be pelted with eggs if I drove around Glasgow with the St. George's flag fluttering from my car," said Maggie Shiels, a radio personality from the Scottish city. "You'd be hung, drawn and quartered."

We've been getting similar articles in droves over here in the UK too; many from Scots arguing for or against supporting England, and others from English columnists bemused at the level of Scottish anguish on the subject. An example of the way that Scots are beating themselves up over the subject comes from the letters pages of the Edinburgh Evening News:

I TRAVELLED through various parts of Scotland on Saturday June 10 and I was disgusted by the number of Trinidad & Tobago national flags being displayed either in private homes or in the windows of various business premises.

To the Scottish people who are unable to support England during this World Cup I would like to say this: what is wrong with you? Why are you so full of hate?

There is too much of that in the world today and we have all seen the result of that in one way or the other over the last few years.

Scotland are not in the World Cup, so please get behind the only home nation that is - or remain neutral.

Supporting any team that is playing against England is pathetic! You are bringing shame upon this nation and your fellow citizens. The world is watching and your behaviour will convince other nations that Scotland is a nation of small-minded individuals who have one very large chip on their shoulders.

I would also like to ask the Scottish people who are displaying the flags of various other nations this question: could you pinpoint these countries in an atlas?

James Urquhart, Stenhouse Mill Crescent, Edinburgh

Personally I couldn't care less who the Scots support but I am getting rather bored of the attitude that says that the Scots should support England. Certain people seem to be of the opinion that the acid test of the Union relies on extending support to age-old sporting rivals. The acid-test of the Union is not whether the Scots support England in sport, no more than whether the acid test of the European Union is whether Brits will support an EU team rather than the US.

Should the boot be on the other foot however - in the highly unlikely scenario that England looks on whilst Scotland goes it alone as Britain's representative in the World Cup - it will be most interesting to see just how many England fans support Scotland. The English used to support Scotland but I don't think that they would do again. Not because the English object to Scottish hatred of English sporting success (we're used to that, the Scots never did support England) but because of devolution and the political strain that it has put on cross-border relations.

There are those that opinion that the Scottish hatred of England is 'racism'. I tend to laugh at those people. I used to live up in Scotland and regularly went out supporting the English football and rugby teams around the pubs and bars in Scotland that showed them (which was most - the Scots prefer to support 'anyone but England' than their own teams). My best non-Scottish friend up in Scotland was an Englishman of Sri-Lankan decent who used to accompany me down the pub to watch England games. He suffered some terrible abuse at the hands of the Scots. Not because he was Asian, but because he was English. The anti-Englishness of the Scots is not a question of race, it is a question of affiliation.

John Prescott, one of the keenest architects of devolution, stated "Devolution has strengthened Britain because it has allowed the different parts of the UK to give expression to their diversity whilst celebrating the values that bind us together as a nation."

So surely the Scots are just celebrating Britain's diversity, by hating England and the English. The Scots hated England prior to devolution and they hate us after devolution. Where's the story? Let's just leave it at that and enjoy the World Cup.

Just for the record my favourite England-supporting moment was watching England win the Rugby World Cup in the Oz Bar in Edinburgh. Can you imagine the joy of watching England lift the trophy in a room full of crest-fallen Aussies and bitter resentful Scots? Schaudenfraude they call it, and it was the prospect of schaudenfraude that caused the Oz Bar to be packed with Scots. You cannot enjoy moments of sporting glory without some poor souls suffering envy, dejection and heartache. As an England supporter I know those negative feelings only too well.

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