Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Let Blair Ruin It

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Let Blair Ruin It

Article excerpt

LAST June, during the elections to the European Parliament, 78-year-old George Staunton, who was putting up posters for the UK Independence party in Liverpool, painted on the wall of a derelict building the words `Don't forget the 1945 war' and `Free speech for England'. He was arrested by the Merseyside Police and has since been charged with `racially aggravated criminal damage' - an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. The damage was `racially aggravated' on account of the gratuitous reference to England, the country for which Mr Staunton fought in the second world war.

A couple of years ago a district council in the Home Counties refused to extend the opening hours of a pub that wished to celebrate St George's Day, since this would be provocative and jingoistic; the same council automatically grants extensions to pubs that wish to celebrate St Patrick's Day, since that is the expression of a valid ethnic identity. The Metropolitan Police have ruled that London taxis may not sport the English flag, while saying nothing about the Welsh, Irish or Scottish emblems, all of which can be seen whenever a sporting event invites them.

Those are small but significant reminders of a phenomenon which runs through our entire culture. Peter Hitchens has called it, in a book of that title, `The abolition of Britain', and as a result has been exposed to jeering and sneering which fully exemplify what he describes. I would refer rather to `the forbidding of England', since it is not Scotland or Wales or Ireland that is the target, but specifically England and the form of sovereignty, jurisdiction and national pride which have the crown of England as their focus. The phenomenon is manifested in the large events of national politics. We see it in the process of devolution, which has from the beginning been directed not so much in favour of the Scots or the Welsh as against the English. That is why we have ended up with a situation where the English cannot govern the Scots, while the Scots can govern the English.

It is manifest in the whole mendacious business of the Good Friday Agreement and its aftermath, in which the Ulster Unionists are put on a par with a band of terrorist bigots and repeatedly described, on account of their loyalty to the crown of England, as `part of the problem'.

It is manifest in the reform of the House of Lords - which is not a reform at all, being animated by no positive conception - but merely an attack on a venerable institution whose fault it is to have been identified with the old and inherited order of England.

It is manifest in the realms of education and culture, with the virtual exclusion of national history from the school curriculum, except as an occasion for instilling guilt, doubt and repudiation, and with a relentlessly negative portrayal of England and its imperial past in television documentaries.

It is manifest in the `anti-racist' movement, which has led not merely to the invention of `institutional racism' as a crime but also to the accusation that the entire English police force - not to say army, navy, air force, legal and many other professions - are guilty of it.

It is manifest in the small-scale legislative proposals of our Parliament, whether through the government or through its members. Moves are afoot to outlaw men's clubs and hunting with hounds, not because these institutions have been examined and found wanting, but because they are quintessentially English and of fundamental importance to the history and identity of our country.

It is manifest in the machinations of the European Union, which has succeeded in producing a map of the European `regions' in which England is not even mentioned. …

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