With the England football team’s improbable winning streak against the Ukraine in the European Championship, media talk has turned once again to that elusive phenomenon, Englishness. Pundits in the Independent and Guardian ponder whether the boost to national pride generated by a mixed-race England football team that begins each match by bending the knee – the woke equivalent of the Haka – might be of a more inclusive form than the tribal patriotism of old. Yet I find a bunch of uneducated inarticulate fashion-bearded celebrity teenagers sponsored by multinational American sportswear manufacturers, bending the knee to diversity, leaves me stone cold. If they symbolise England, then I feel I must be a Dutchman.
Is this because I am a white supremacist fascist who thinks all England players should resemble blonde blue-eyed Bobby Moore? I think not. There have long been black players in the England team – Viv Anderson and John Barnes immediately come to mind. Nor is it that I think England players are notably uneducated, inarticulate, and empty-headed. English football players (and managers) have long been renowned for being unable to utter a coherent sentence, with class having as much to do with it as education. The contrast with their continental counterparts has always been stark. Remember Glen ‘the lads done well’ Hoddle?
Could Englishness not become an inclusive and unifying force, as our media pundits suggest? Kenan Malik explores the idea in a surprisingly thoughtful article in the Guardian and refers to a pamphlet published by Southampton University’s Centre for English Identity and Politics entitled ‘Beyond a 90-minute nation’. The idea that Englishness should be inclusive in the sense that colour need not be a bar is perfectly laudable. One need not be a Left-liberal to entertain it. De Gaulle himself once wrote that a French culture which could assimilate people of all races was all the stronger for that – and surely the same applies to English culture. But (and here was the rub) this only held if newcomers arrived in sufficiently small numbers that they could be absorbed and assimilated. The mass immigration of millions of other races and ethnicities, wrote de Gaulle, would destroy French culture altogether.
No, the problem is that the modern English football team does represent a new all-inclusive knee-bending English identity – an identity necessarily built on, and entailing the rejection and destruction of, the old identity. For the authors of ‘Beyond a 90-minute nation’, English history and culture begins squarely in 1948 with the arrival of the Empire Windrush from the Caribbean. Everything prior to that, encompassing a thousand years and more of English history, English culture, English characteristics, and everything we (the English of old) treasure, has been magically erased in the name of a post-Marxist doctrine of multi-culture, diversity, and deconstruction.
Sadly, the England team’s continued success will only give added impetus to those who would sacrifice Old England on the altar of diversity fuelled by continued mass immigration. And yet, paradoxically, when the Euros are over, the segregation of our nation, the mass movement of the English from the cities to the town and country, in search of the English identity of old, of Old England, will continue unabated.
Better perhaps that Denmark beat England on Wednesday?