A response to the Guardian article written by Alex Niven.

Alex Niven writes that he is surprised that the latest YouGov survey showed a third of Englands population want English independence. This percentage rises to more than 50% among the over 60s.

If only he had looked at the 2011 census data he would discover that 61% of the population in England considered themselves English, and 9.9% considered themselves English first and British second. That is 70% of the population of England considered themselves English.

He writes: “these findings point to a key problem with the seemingly endless recent debate about English patriotism.”

What endless debate? Politicians and mainstream media refuse to talk about it or, if they do, it is only to put it down or deride it. Between 2013 and 2018 the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) sent out over 3000 Press releases. Very few were published, 10/15-minute radio interviews were reduced to three second soundbites.

Niven asks: “which Imperial yoke would these hypothetical yes voters be throwing off in an English independence referendum. The United Kingdom, a nation state centred on, led by, and overwhelmingly dominated by England?”

The answer the CEP would suggest is: the yoke of an inequitable devolutionary system which has exacerbated the suppression of all things England and English in favour of Britain and Britishness. The yoke of the United Kingdom that is deliberately trying to eradicate England and Englishness.

England does not dominate the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have varying degrees of self-government. You would be hard pressed to find an English person in any of those assemblies, but there are plenty of Scots, Welsh and, from time to time, Northern Irish sitting as MPs for English constituencies in the UK parliament. England’s taxpayers, whether they like it or not, subsidies the lifestyles of the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish courtesy of the Barnet Formula.   

John Denham, a former Labour government minister, has said that the whole ethos of the British political elite is the presumption of unionism, which has five parts.

  1. England must be governed by the UK government.
  2. The UK should govern England from Westminster.
  3. That the national identity of England should be British.
  4. That this state of affairs is so perfect that it cannot be changed.
  5. That the maintenance of the Union requires that England is denied its nationhood.

Alex Niven also states: the 2016 Brexit vote and its aftermath, the ugly scenes involving far right demonstrators in Trafalgar Square last month.”

This is typical of so-called mainstream media, seeing English patriotism to be far-right and ugly. Whereas the far-left demonstrators who were actually rioting, burning and looting in several English cities at the same time were seen as “largely peaceful”.

Niven writes: England is such a confused, confusing entity, a country but not quite a nation, a territory but not quite a sovereign state.”

In answer, refer back to John Denham’s points given above. The English are a nation, it is just that nationhood is being denied by the UK political elite.

Mr Niven says: one of the major problems with contemporary debates about Englishness is that England does not really exist as either a coherent idea or a concrete political reality. Because it has so few political institutions that are truly its own, no Parliament, no legal system, few cultural references to distinguish it from Britain as a whole.”

Earlier in his article Niven was saying England dominated the UK, now he is saying England does not really exist. – so which is it?

He is correct: England has no parliament, unlike the other 3 nations of the UK it is wholly governed by the UK Parliament.

He is wrong: England does have its own legal system – as does Scotland, Northern Ireland and increasingly, Wales. English Common Law is also the foundation of the legal systems of the United States and the vast majority of Commonwealth countries.

He is partially correct: England’s culture is increasingly hard to distinguish from British – that is due to a deliberate policy of the UK governments, UK parliaments and the mainstream media.

The likes of the BBC say Robbie Burns was Scottish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Oscar Wilde was Irish but William Shakespeare was British. The Wars of the Roses is described as a war for the British crown. Former prime minister Gordon Brown calls the English Channel, the British Channel. Celebrating St Patrick’s Day (patron saint of Ireland) is encouraged but celebrating England’s patron saint, St George, is deemed to be racist and actively discouraged.

According to Mr Niven: the historian Benedict Anderson famously argued that all countries are imagined communities that develop their own fictional narratives over the years to create a sense of shared belonging.”

Who is Benedict Anderson, you may well ask? He was born in China of Irish parents with dual United States and UK nationality, studied at Cornell University and Cambridge. He died in Java. A true internationalist, you might say. Anderson argued that in countries that are so large that the citizens do not know each other individually then they have to imagine a sense of community. He did not argue that nations were fake. 

It is a tool of subversives who wish to destroy a society that they first attack its roots and beliefs. That is what is happening to England today, the very bedrock of its past is being undermined. 

Niven writes: when we consider how ridiculously long ago it was since England was an autonomous nation, and how completely its sense of identity was replaced by Britishness in the several centuries since the foundation of the UK its not much of an exaggeration to say that England barely exists at all. At the very least, feeling any kind of nationalism or patriotism for a nation that effectively disappeared a century before the invention of the steam engine seems deeply weird.”

Up until the disappearance of the British Empire – say around 1970 – it was England and English that was used to refer to Great Britain and the British. Post 1970, the increasingly nationalist Scots were at pains to point out that this was not accurate. So, since then, the UK politicians and media have done their hardest to reverse the narrative. 

Mr Niven goes on: what, we might ask, does a modern ethnically diverse population of 56 million really have in common with the 5 million or so white people who lived in England prior to its mutation into the United Kingdom. I would suggest very little.”

If suppression of England and Englishness continues then the current population may well have less and less in common with the England of the past. But, if England and Englishness is set free from the yoke of UK-ism the vast majority will accept it, embrace it, and develop it.

Niven further writes: nationalism has a dubious history when it comes to progressive causes. But a half nation like England cannot even begin to form a part of a discussion about the reform of our cultural identity before it is backed up by the hard political reality of a fully sovereign English state, or at least the imminent prospect of English devolution. But increasingly it seems that until England is forced to reinvent itself in radical constitutional ways we need to stop talking about the chimera that is English identity and focus on more urgent more tangible political projects.”

Nationalism may have a dubious history but it is on the rise everywhere. The Irish wanted their independence and got it. Most Scots are passionate about Scotland and Scottish-ness. An increasing number of Catalans want independence from Spain. The Chinese are nationalistic to the detriment of the rest of the World. But apparently the English, unique amongst the nations, must accept that they cannot be nationalistic.

The whole tenure of Niven’s article is anti-English. English history and culture are, at the same time, considered to be both bogus but also dominant, non-existent yet needing reinventing. Polling evidence shows that the English are alive and well, if a bit downtrodden due to the likes of Alex Niven and the UK political elite, who are desperately trying to erase England and the English.