Who speaks for England?

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in 'The Voice of Terror'

Listening to an LBC phone in on immigration earlier this evening, one caller went too far. It wasn’t that he argued that there was too much immigration or that uncontrolled immigration causes problems, a sentiment which is voiced commonly enough, but that he claimed that whole areas of East Anglia had ceased to be *******. Naturally, the host of the show, Ayesha Hazarika, former advisor to Ed Miliband, reacted angrily. This was deeply insulting to all those, like her own parents, who had come to Britain to find a new home, to work hard, to contribute to society. He was promptly cut off.

Relaxing last night in front of an old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film, The Voice of Terror, I was startled to come across the ‘E’ word used, not once or twice, but repeatedly. Holmes has been fast forwarded by Universal Studios to 1942 and is helping save our country from the Nazis. It is a bit creaky at times, as one would expect of a wartime B movie, but deficiencies in plot and dialogue are more than compensated by the spectacular camera work, the dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, the atmospheric pools of soft and hard light, characteristic of film noir.

The scene in question takes place in a cavernous tavern – more reminiscent of a Bavarian beer hall than an East End pub, but never mind – in Limehouse, East London, where Holmes tells the glamorous fallen Kitty that her boyfriend, underworld informant Gavin, has been stabbed by the Nazis and tries to enlist her support to avenge his death and join the struggle to save her country:

Holmes: I’m not asking this for myself. Our country, England, is at stake. Gavin was killed not by his own enemies, not even mine, but by the enemies of England.

Holmes persuades Kitty; and Kitty, finding her friends reluctant to help the authorities, makes a rousing speech:

Kitty:  I’m not asking this for myself, England’s at stake. Your England as much as anyone else’s. We’ve got no time to think whose side we’re on. There’s only one side – England!

Fighting for England? What outrage greets the use of this expletive in our culturally diverse, inclusive and regionally aware times! Yet its indiscriminate use was once the norm, not only among the English themselves but among all those in Britain and its dominions who recognised that it epitomised, politically, culturally and emotionally, a common cause.

Writing in 1965, H. W. Fowler, the doyen of arbiters of modern English usage, explained under the heading ‘England’ why the resentment aroused at the use of ‘England’ for ‘Britain’ among other nationals of the UK should not always be deferred to:

How should an Englishman utter the words Great Britain with the glow of emotion that for him goes with England? … he talks the English language; he has been taught English history as one continuous tale from Alfred to his own day … and he knows that England expects every man to do his duty. ‘Speak for England’ was the challenge flung across the floor of the House of Commons by Leo Amery to the Leader of the Opposition on 2 Sept. 1939. In the word England, not in Britain all these things are implicit.

But who would fight for England now?

9 Comments on Who speaks for England?

  1. Good question that.
    Who would fight for England now?
    Who would fight for the Anglosphere, and Western Civ, more generally?
    A modest stand would be this:
    Join the local Tory branch, along several thousand of your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and passers-by.
    Then work on two fronts:
    One, hammer the local branch executive, and MPs and candidates to get straight.
    Two, run for and win membership of the branch executive.
    Fight like the Old Contemptibles.
    Now, if you seek adventure with danger:
    Join the local Labor branch, stay undercover, and discover all that is needed to disrupt their activities and scatter their resources.
    Costly to the Plain Citizen?
    Yes.
    But the generations who fought in the Big Wars of first-half C20 did it -they sacrificed mightily.
    Our turn now.
    Thing is, even if we do try to rectify matters by way of electoral politics, the probabilty of future bloody fighting on the streets, in the fields and in the hills, grows higher as the the days go by.
    Yes, who would fight for England, now?

    • I admire your can do spirit Harry, I really do, but I fear that something more is needed. A few years back I joined the party and made a sincere effort to exert an influence, only to find my persistent pleas for the introduction of sane policies to be repeatedly ignored. Worse still, I came to suspect that my party membership was interpreted as an endorsement of the prevailing folly. I finally resigned my membership, having tired of waiting for the several thousand like minded patriots, I hoped would join me, to materialise.
      Writing this I’m reminded of a Ray Mears documentary on the Wild West, which I viewed last night. Ray recounted how the Native American resistance to colonisation, focused on the famous Geronimo, eventually dwindled to just 30 men, women and children, leading to even Geronimo throwing in the towel. I think I know how he felt.

      • In the mid 70s I was a young engineer and family man in England. I was appalled at the population displacement policies being enacted by the political class of both major parties and the Whitehall nomenklatura. In vain I implored my family and friends to recognize and act against the impending ruin. My activities caused severe friction in my family and a split with my elder brother who campaigned vigorously for CAMRA. Disbelieving my eyes I confronted him repeatedly, how could he campaign for bloody beer but not be bothered with the destruction of his country!
        Anyway, thoroughly disheartened, I got out, as thousands of others did. I honestly feel that perhaps the greatest achievement of my life is that although I was born working class English in a dreary London suburb, my grandchildren are Americans!

  2. The people like Ayesha Hazarika who are offended (usually on behalf on some unknown person who has neither been offended nor asked for defence), never seem to realise or care that the England her parents and others wanted to come to was desirable for certain reasons. Perhaps it wasn’t just full of “racists” and “islamophobes”, but rather had a cohesive, generous, settled and traditional society that others wished to be a part of, and not wreck as their succeeding generations have done and continue to do.

  3. If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

    All gone.

    • So appropriate! And our Brexit Bill was paid in two wars – the bodies of English (and Scottish and Welsh and Irish) soldiers lying in their graves on French and Belgian soil attests to that.

      Take up or struggle against our foe.
      To you with failing hands we throw
      This torch – be it yours to hold on high;
      If ye betray those who die
      We shall not sleep tho’ poppies grow
      On Flanders Fields.

      Major John Macrae RCAMC.

      England for ever!

  4. The use of the name ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ instead of ‘England’ or ‘English’ can be often detected in television programmes. It’s become like the displacement of miles with kilometres. However, the use of the name ‘England’, meaning the whole country, is probably more commonplace still in the USA.

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