It’s possible to have long and involved whinges about the English and what we’ve done to the world. It’s also possible to cut to the quick over contemporary whines about English nationalism:
‘Englishness’ was never enough to build a nation on
We’d rather disagree with the Guardian headline writers there. The English nation is defined, by definition, by whatever Englishness is. Just as the Welsh or Scots nations are defined by whatever grab bad of whatevers creates their national feeling.
Can’t really see the thing working in any other manner to be honest. The actual complaint though is easier to discern:
As these last examples underline, there are interesting things to be said about Englishness. But the quest for an authentic national culture is in one sense a form of compensation for the elusiveness of the English nation state. For a host of historical and political reasons – largely the fact that the British empire was an amorphous entity based on transnational trade and government – England simply does not have a strong enough cultural imaginary to meaningfully define itself in the globalised, precarious 21st century.
One useful definition being that in 1066 And All That. We English don’t bother with such definitions simply because we are. We are whatever and everyone else can just lump it.
The only way to counteract the geographical inequalities of the London-dominated capitalist state is by building up the English regions – not continuing the quest for an artificial, unitary Englishness. A revival of the post-millennium movement for regional devolution – on hold since a Dominic Cummings-assisted campaign defeated the yes vote in the 2004 north-east England devolution referendum – would be a very good starting point.
But, alongside the regionalist cause, we should also explore ways of connecting the English regions and the non-English nations, so that the boundary lines of our imagined national communities are transcended rather than reinforced.
The actual whinge being that these lefties who would have power over us don’t actually like us English very much. We’re a bit too conservative, capitalist, right wing, for them.
Note well how the left side of the British polity has very rarely gained a majority in England. A majority in Britain, yes, but that’s because the Celtic nations tend to vote – and presumably are – more than a little leftier than the English.
Which is what the actual whine is. The left can never allow a unified and English England simply because such won’t vote lefty. The sort of argumentation which needs to be met with that most English of responses, the Anglo Saxon two fingered hand wave. Even if historically that originated, so it is said, among Welsh bowmen – for the words associated are most definitely Anglo and Saxon.