This Country's Alliance of Tribes Has Always Relied on Amiable English Compromise
Howe, Darcus, New Statesman (1996)
Much to my surprise, I received a greetings card in the post some days ago. It wished me a happy St George's Day and was signed "John". No one came to mind. I thought it might be from Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who had hectored Sun readers about the need for national celebrations on that day. I dismissed the idea because I have never known Trevor to have a sense of humour. It could only be some wag who had seen me on Sky News's Sunday With Adam Boulton explaining why St George's Day has not taken root here despite yearly debates on the subject.
I told the Sky viewers that England is comprised of a loose and sometimes tenuous alliance of several tribes, each deeply rooted in, if you like, its own ethnicity.
For example, there are Geordies, Scousers and Yorkshire folk who constitute the north. The south, though equally varied, is completely different. I once spent a couple of years living and working in Cornwall. I had the same problems understanding the speech as in the north.
To these divisions must be added the central one of class. It is unthinkable that the flag of St George could shelter all these, from Margaret Thatcher and her followers on the one hand to Arthur Scargill and his followers on the other. …