Let's Be Proud to Be English; DAVID BLUNKETT on Why Now More Than Ever England Should Celebrate Its History and No Longer Be Ashamed of Patriotism
Byline: DAVID BLUNKETT
NOW IS the time to be proud of our Englishness.
No one blinks an eye at the celebrations the Welsh, the Scots and, this Thursday, the Irish hold on their national days, but in England, too often we have been apologetic in our approach to patriotism.
In the past, celebrating our identity and sense of belonging as Englishmen and women was seen as the outward symbol of a narrow and dangerous nationalism. This view should be put behind us.
Pride in who we are, our history, our culture and our contribution in the world, should allow us to have renewed self- confidence and self-respect.
We can be English and British, as the Scots and Welsh are British. And we can be Pakistani or Indian and British or American and Canadian and British.
We need to feel more secure in our identity if we are to face the world with confidence.
We live in a world of rapid economic and social change where globalisation is accompanied by large-scale movement of people, instant communication and threats that range from anti- social behaviour in our neighbourhoods to global terrorism.
It is the increased sense of insecurity, instability and the impact of rapid change that reinforce the need for a sense of a common home.
That is why, as part of the renewal of self-respect and selfconfidence, we need to build respect for others.
THE DRIVE to set aside antisocial behaviour and thuggishness should be seen as a national crusade, in which everyone has a part to play, not just the police and local authorities.
So from parenting through to discipline in schools, we should build a reputation for the English that puts behind us forever the image the world grew to know over the last two decades of the beer- swilling holidaymaker who gave our country a bad name.
We need to generate a more civic, more tolerant, but in some respects more demanding, sense of what being British entails.
The citizenship curriculum I introduced as Education Secretary, and the citizenship ceremonies and tests I introduced as Home Secretary, will help.
I'm very pleased that, since February last year, around 45,000 adults have attended these ceremonies.
Seeing off Rightwing extremism is easier if people have the confidence to celebrate their own sense of identity and we are able to welcome others to contribute to what Daniel Defoe described all those years ago as 'from a mixture all kinds began, that het'rogeneous thing an Englishman'.
There are signs that we are succeeding. Perhaps the best evidence of a rising English national consciousness can be seen at sporting venues
- by the thousands who can now be seen waving the flag of St George at football and rugby matches.
As I found when I was in Lisbon for the Euro 2004 football championships last June, there was nothing jingoistic or threatening about those who gathered in the sunshine of the main square and signed a big flag laid across the ground, helped by the 'Fans' Embassy'. …