Today is St.George’s Day, the patron saint of England. The World does not share this with us like say St.Patrick’s Day, St.David’s Day or St.Andrew’s Day. Do they dislike the English? Well probably, there is a considerable amount that the World can dislike about the English, and yet much of that included or was equally perpetrated by people from the other regions which make up Great Britain. To be nationalistic about England has become very worrisome. The last few years has seen a rise in ‘little Englanders’ in the form of UKIP a sort of ‘bloke in the pub’ party which in some ways is more worrying than the unthinking hatred of the old NF, BNP and all its scummy offshoots. It feels that now it is ‘acceptable’ amongst many people to pursue a nationalistic and racist agenda in the name of standing up for ‘our rights’ against the ‘evils’ of Europe. But it is just the same racist in a nice suit and tie rather than bovver-boots. It is not unlikely that the next British government will be a coalition of Conservatives and a couple of UKIP MP’s, whose sway will be much stronger than their actual numbers or support.
Am I being a miserable old bugger on what should be a day of celebrating all that is good about England, such as Shakespeare whose birthday it also is? Maybe.
The arguments over the upcoming vote for Scottish separation are being swayed towards a ‘Yes’ vote by the misery with which the ‘No’ supporters are putting their views. I am against nationalism, even the liberal forms in Wales and Scotland, though I think that far from getting rid of the Tories as many who will vote ‘Yes’ will be voting for, they will just get tartan Tories in the SNP. All that I can see in their arguments are that they want to make their own decisions and yet keep sterling and good facets of GB. However the Tory majority, which will last at least a generation in what is left of GB, will tighten things and there will be a knock on to Scotland, the socialist paradise some wish for will be strangled at birth. So am I now sounding like the ‘No’ supporters!?
What should be being promoted to all nationalists is how vibrant the combination of all the cultures which make up Great Britain are. I would happily see Northern Ireland become part of a united Ireland, but that won’t happen for at least another 40-50 years when the population naturally changes. But for the rest of GB, each of the countries is stronger for the ties. I have worked all over GB, worked with people from all the countries and in many of the communities, the English will lose as much as the Scottish will, the insularity that nationalism brings creates dead inward looking cultures. Great Britain would be the same with any break away from Europe, I would (probably quite unfashionably) like to see a much greater political, cultural and economic integration with the rest of Europe. I voted for GB to join what was then the Common Market, against the stance of many in the political party I support. I felt even then as a 20 year old that we needed greater co-operation, closer ties as much as anything to stop any repetition of the madness of the first half of the twentieth century and even more so to combine what is best about the rest of Europe with what is best about GB. For all the mistakes which have come from greed and selfishness, that is still important, more important in fact.
In many ways a much more sensible break up of GB would be the forming of a middle country, starting just north of Glasgow and Edinburgh and ending around Birmingham. Cities like Swansea, Stoke-on-Trent and Dundee have much more in common with each other than they do with the mega city around London; the false Scottish border created by the Romans cuts through a very similar rural life of the south of Scotland and the north of England. These sort of districts with similar needs could be created by a regionalisation of a stronger united Europe. We can see this in many other countries, just go to Nordrhein-Westfalen and Bavaria, to see an equally similar contrast. So what does St.George’s Day mean to me, well nothing actually. I am English by birth and nature, but I’m not a patriotic or nationalistic Englishman, there are a myriad good and exciting things about England and its part in Great Britain, but equally, there are as many bad things, like any other country or nation. We should quite rightly celebrate the great things like the writing of Shakespeare, the paintings of Ben Nicholson, the unbelievable influence of popular music, sewerage systems, trains, inventions, novels and all that makes up what is a part of a greater whole. So if you want to celebrate England, flush your toilet rather than go out in some stupid crusader outfit, our town planning did a lot more for the World!
Today’s photograph is one I took last year in Brighton.