The Socialist Unity blog has a report today entitled “Are the BNP trying to hijack English Identity?” (which I got to via the Witan homepage). It argues for support for an English Parliament from the left to stop the BNP exploiting an English identity neglected by the left.
Good point. While I am a small-state centre-right kind of guy, we should all support democracy and the right of the English nation to decide it’s own future. Those on the left may see it as a way of stopping the racist BNP, I see it as bigger than that, but the BNP cannot be ignored.
The rising support for the BNP is often explained as people having no other choice. Unrepresented by the major parties people turn to the BNP out of desperation. There is no doubt they are the highest profile non-mainstream party, due to their controversial stance on race. This publicity is much more than their electoral success demands and is often due to anti-racists making a bigger fuss than the BNP themselves as at Oxford recently (I do the same myself here I guess). Those of us who believe in a civic English nationalism will probably be addressing a lot of the same voters as the BNP, so what can we learn from them?
Yes, learning from the BNP, controversial I guess. What I really mean is what can we learn from their support, and the reasons people turn to them. Even mainstream politicians have said we must address the issues that BNP supporters may be concerned about. Things such as immigration have started to be discussed in the press without accusations of racism, a step forward. First off we should not avoid any issues for fear of looking racist, we must present a non-racist answer to any problems.
Discussion is the way forward. Rather than ‘no platform’ policies, exposing the BNP’s policies and comparison to more inclusive alternatives can only favour civic English nationalism. For example, with support for an English parliament running high, the fact that the BNP back an English parliament may seem a plus point. But dig beneath the surface and their policy is very different to that of the CEP.
The BNP back an English parliament, but only for the ‘ethnic English’. They propose a British parliament for all and seperate English, Scottish and Welsh parliaments for the respective ‘folk groups’. As Toque points out in comments below the Socialist Unity post, a BNP member has said Englishness could be determined by DNA tests!
Now I am not sure DNA tests exist which can prove English roots. There was a program on Channel 4, called 100% English, a while ago which attempted, using DNA tests to see how English people were. Perhaps a little aside here.
100% English was rubbish. Absolute rubbish. It attempted to portray people who described themselves as English as petty minded racists (rather like our BNP friend). On it were Norman Tebbit, famous for his ‘cricket test’ of an immigrants identity, Garry Bushell, the English Democrats candidate for London Mayor and Carol Thatcher, daughter of Margeret amongst others. However these luminaries hardly got a word or much screen time, could be because they are too busy. I suspect C4 just preferred to concentrate on the people who thought you had to trace your family back 12 generations to be English, or to before the conquest. Then having set these people up as representative of the English, it knocked them down with DNA tests.
Almost everyone came out with huge proportions of foreign DNA. It didn’t do English, only Northern European. Everyone had a surprisingly low amount of N. European DNA. Garry Bushell takes it apart on his site here (about half way down or use the search function in your browser). Turns out the test had an error of 28%! If people can trace their family back they know their heritage. Carol Thatcher would have known well if one of her four grandparents was from the middle east, yet that is the claim they made.
If inconclusive DNA tests can be abused by C4 to promote their ‘nation of immigrants’ PC propaganda, I am sure they can be misused by the BNP etc. I am not sure I want such tests deciding who gets to vote in this country! As Bushell says “Only Nazis, and it appears C4, think of national identity in terms of racial purity”.
But in rejecting the BNP’s ridiculous plan, we must not swing over to the C4 way of thinking. English identity is not determined by genetics, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The English ethnic group has as much right to self-identify as any other ethnic group. I am more of an individualist, but identity politics exist and we cannot exclude certain identities, or the only people recognising that identity will be extremists.
Some English people feel a rightful sense of exclusion from the multi-cultural agenda of New Labour, the BBC and others which often seeks to undermine Englishness and to a lesser degree Britishness out of a misplaced fear over offending ethnic minorities. Calls of celebrating diversity can be seen as calls for removing homogenous societies and smack of social engineering. If immigrants enrich our country, what do natives do, hold it back? I am sure immigrants see themselves as individuals who can do more than add colour to the PC crowds dull ‘hideously white’ lives. A strong national identity can act as a nucleus around which integration can happen.
English nationalism is a sensible place within which Englishness can be expressed politically. St George’s day, Jerusalem and Anglo-Saxon history all play a part in English identity. These things should be celebrated as much as diversity. But a confused notion of racial purity is not part of this. When we get an English parliament, we must not forget that it is English, and here because there exists a shared English identity with a long history. But all citizens of England (or should that be subjects) should and will have equal rights under the laws of an English state.