Tag Archives: English nationalism

England, a sense of Englishness

2 Jun

English ethnic and civic nationalism is growing in England,  however an enemy is hampering their progress, and taking the ground from under them. The enemy ? Each other.

When there is a fight with political parties, when policy gets forged, the public engaged, positions decided there is an absence of English Nationalist ( they are off-screen pulling each others hair). When the press pack melt away, their stories ready to print, the English nationalist are not part of it, our story to the public remains untold.

The reason is both groups have their own ideas and policies, some the same others very divergent. For us to get our message out we need to put aside the differences, and work on the common ground. There are too few of us to have more than one strong camp.

How do we get what we want ? Well how about we look first to our borders at the Welsh immigration experience.

In the mid 1700’s Wales was relatively poor, its population low, its future bleak. However money from the British Empire was finding its way to Wales, the start of the industrial revolution in Britain started to bring opportunities. This led to a need for a new work force

“Such was the rate of growth at this time that South Wales absorbed immigrants at a faster rate than any where in the world except the United States of America. Up until the 1890s, many of the people who moved into the Coalfield were from other counties in Wales… After the 1890s, many more immigrants came from England, particularly from Somerset, Gloucestershire and Cornwall. People also came from further afield, such as Ireland, Scotland and even Australia….Two statistics tell the story: in 1801 the population of Glamorgan was 70,879 – in 1901 it was 1,130,668. In 1851, the population of the Rhondda was 1,998 – in 1911 it was 152,781”

There was at first a lot of friction, integration did not happen. The immigrant populations brought their own religions, customs, traditions and institutions in Paul O’Leary’s book he says

“there was little evidence of Celtic solidarity and the Irish often met with violent hostility from the Welsh. Nevertheless, by the late 19th century the tortuous process of integration was well under way…. criminality and drink… the establishment of community institutions ranging from Catholic churches and schools to pubs and bookshops, from friendly societies to political organizations; the mobilization of support for Irish nationalist organizations”

The Welsh culture and sense of nation is as much a melting pot of ideas and people (from the United Kingdom and parts of Europe) as England today. The people of Wales however have a strong sense of being Welsh, of history and tradition even though many will have very little Welsh ancestry. The success in integrating people into your society is time, and a sense of what your nation is. You can forge a sense of nationhood, it however needs a framework in place to guide the communities and people.

This imagined community of a country is a construct. Even in a small nation like Wales most people never know, meet, or even hear of most of their fellow countrymen. Any concept of national identity is not innate and unchanging, but fragile, contested, and constructed over time… In the decade before the First World War, the rate of immigration into Wales was second only to that of the USA…. Any recognisably separate identity to that of England would have disappeared into the footnotes of history. Over a period of four generations, from the late 18th to the early 20th Century, these immigrants were thoroughly absorbed, creating a melting pot that gave birth to a unique culture. A culture which defines “Welshness” far more keenly than any bardic ceremony.”

England is undergoing population and cultural change unprecedented in our recent history. A sense and culture of Englishness can and will ultimately emerge. We need the institutions of England willing to take their place and help engage and promote this culture. If your own government and institutions do not promote (or actively derail) a sense of nationhood, then there will be conflict and disharmony. The constituent parts of communities fight to stake their own claims, this then becomes a fragmented divisive nation.

Wales once a nation with little future and sense of self, emerged with a keen sense of culture and nationhood. Built on the back of (not held back by) immigration. We now have Welsh descendants of those from other parts of the UK, considering their ancestral nations and people as foreign.

Some Welsh people who would say, actually, that the immigration population is 50% because there are all these English people that have come here who are undermining our communities and pinching our housing and so on…. Cymuned, the pressure group that campaigns for the Welsh-speaking heartlands, welcomed Mr Wolfendale’s comments. “We welcome the fact that the DCC realises that moving so many people from England to Wales does have an impact and that it should beconsidered by the [British] Home Secretary Charles Clarke as part of the government’s immigration policy,” says Aran Jones, chief executive of Cymuned. “The Welsh Assembly needs to act to ensure that people living in Wales learn Welsh or at least have the courtesy to try and understand that we have our language and culture.”Mr Wolfendale says that much of the increase is due to the fact that thepolice are actively encouraging people to come forward and report hate crime of all types, not just race crime.”

English nationalist can create this sense of nationhood in England,  there are specific policies that we can agree on. We need to start this policy of integration into a shared inclusive Englishness and nation hood. The beginning of our journey can be on the same path, we do not have to choose the fork in the road until we safely get there.