Properly Honouring St. George

St. George’s Day, falling today, will not be officially celebrated. It would be farcical if it were, as governments seem to do all they can to deny our national character.

It will of course be celebrated in the hearts of millions of loyal English men and women. Some of these men and women come from old stock. Others have newly arrived to make their lives in a land of their choice.

What sort of land do we now have? The present government thinks it is doing us a favour by endlessly prattling on about Britishness.

This is a fatuous exercise. What our rulers do not seem to understand is that no new sense of Britishness can inspire our different nations until the English Question is settled.

None of the young people growing up in Birkenhead are given any sense of what is expected on them to be a citizen of England. Not one official minute is spent in schools setting out a guide to being a good citizen.

The first requirement is that everyone should feel honoured to be a part of this country, to respect it, and hopefully grow to love it. Second, we need to learn again that the cardinal English value of freedom can all too easily be abused.

Fifty years ago a refugee gave his opening lecture at Cambridge. This great historian, Geoffrey Elton, spoke of why he had come to our shores after living in most other European countries.

He said that the English were not without their faults. But they had discovered the great secret of how people in a crowded country can live together peacefully. We naturally exercise respect to our neighbour knowing that our neighbour exercised respect back to us.

Geoffrey Elton could not make that statement today. Freedom not voluntarily policed with respect quickly degenerates into anarchy. We urgently need to relearn how to respect one another.

Over time we English have been a pretty brutal sort of race. Then, a little over a hundred years ago we began to change. A culture of respectability swept through the country.

This culture and respectability made England the country that Geoffrey Elton wanted to join. Crucial to this transformation of our character was how families raised their children. We were taught how to control the nastier side of our nature.

We need to reinvent good parenthood. We need also to reinvent all those events which once marked out rights of passage.

Of course lots more work needs to be done in a country rediscovering the wonders and beauties of being English. But that task is being made impossible by the government’s open doors immigration policy.

Most of the newcomers to this country have settled in England so immigration is largely an English question.

Not one of the new people here has been required to sign up to an English contract that should also be taught in our schools. Our political class has been criminally negligent on this front.

This does not mean that people have to deny views that they hold dear. What is does mean is that our first loyalty has to be to England.

We can have other loyalties – I might be a Christian or a Muslim, and to hold a number of identities – but we simply cannot go on thinking it does not matter that an increasing number of people have never thought that their primary loyalty has to be to this country.

And we will never regain our sense of identity by pretending there isn’t a big problem here.

So on this St. George’s Day true English men and women, from whatever country they have originally come from, will want to celebrate our national day quietly in their own hearts. But let us pledge ourselves that we do want a government that helps us to recover our sense of national identity. This will not be a Herculean task but one, when it is finally achieved, that will have been well worth it.

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