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Why liberals can’t understand English pride

January 9, 2020 - 11:09am

A YouGov poll for ITV Central has found that people across the Midlands are more likely to identify as English than as British.

In the poll, which covered the East Midlands and West Midlands regions, 33% considered themselves more English than British, and only 18% the opposite.

The sense of Englishness was heightened among those who voted for Brexit (45% more English versus 11% more British) and within the C2DE (mainly working-class) social group (36% versus 14%).

Liberal commentators would have us believe that this swelling perception of English identity is a threat, causing some to prophesy a return to the 1930s if it isn’t checked. But, as with other of the nationalist movements that have emerged in Europe over recent years (and, in truth, the rising sense of Englishness can hardly be described as a movement), it has nothing in common with the virulent, aggressive, expansive nationalism we saw back then, and has its roots instead in a feeling of alienation and neglect, a desire among a buffeted and disorientated populace to protect what they have (or once had). To misidentify it in this way will only serve to strengthen it.

It’s about representation. The disaffected English look towards the other nations of the UK and see that voters in these places have major political parties and democratic institutions willing to speak for and represent them exclusively, whereas those who wield the greatest influence over the political and cultural life of their own country — primarily liberal graduates — positively eschew any notions of English patriotism or Englishness. So, unsurprisingly, the working-class English in the provinces react.

The more removed from the political and cultural establishment the English feel, the more determinedly English they become. Politicians across the piece, so far as they have taken any interest in it at all, have not understood this phenomenon. That’s because increasingly few of them have any true understanding of the lives of those who are its main drivers.

Paul Embery is a firefighter, trade union activist, pro-Brexit campaigner and ‘Blue Labour’ thinker


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Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
4 years ago

This is a great opinion piece. At the risk of being a little too inside baseball, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) previously included the TV licence fee in the Retail Prices Index (RPI), but excluded it from the CPI. Since the February 2012 update of the CPI, it has included the TV licence fee. This makes little sense as the CPI is a macroeconomic consumer price series, the target inflation indicator of the Bank of England. Until December 2003 it was the called the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) of the UK, and it still is, even though it doesn’t go by that name. Eurostat’s 2004 user guide notes: “The HICPs cover the prices paid for goods and services in monetary transactions. So for example some special fees and taxes paid to government for licenses will be excluded (when there is no equivalent good or service received in return).” As Mr. Nahwaz makes clear, the TV licence fee will hit someone “watching any live programme, on any device _ even if not the BBC”. It cannot be construed as a payment for a service received, any should be treated as a licence fee to be excluded from the CPI. By contrast, the inclusion of the TV licence fee, for as long as it continues in the experimental Household Cost Indices (HCIs), is appropriate. These are household-oriented consumer price series, like the RPI, and its scope should include licences and fees not included in a macroeconomic consumer price series.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
4 years ago

Yes, I don’t think English rather than British would have been the case in say the 90s when Tony Blair came to power. Cool Britannia was at least a mark of positive optimism about this country and its people, and devolution had not yet become as toxic.