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23 April 2012

The politics of English identity

24 per cent associate the St George's Cross with "racism and extremism". How can this be changed?

By George Eaton

Sunder Katwala’s new organisation British Future has an important poll out today on national identity in England, Scotland and Wales. The key finding is that only a slim majority, six out of ten, of the English associate their national flag with pride and patriotism, compared with 84 per cent in Scotland and 86 per cent in Wales. Worse, 24 per cent, including one in three of the under 40s, think of racism and extremism when they see the St George’s Cross. As Katwala writes, this suggests that “the extreme street hooligans of the English Defence League have toxified our national flag, but should share the blame with the democratic politicians who have failed to speak up for the inclusive patriotism of the English majority.”

In response, as well as arguing for a resolution of the West Lothian question and reform of the Barnett Formula, Katwala calls for “important symbolic steps” such as greater public recognition of St George’s Day and the adoption of an English national anthem (he proposes Jerusalem) for sporting and national events.

This is fertile territory for all three of the main parties but most notably Labour, as David Miliband and Jon Cruddas have previously argued in the New Statesman. Indeed, if Ed Miliband wants to steal a march on David Cameron, he should make a speech on this subject sooner rather than later.

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