‘England, the land of my birth. means nothing to me.’
That is the declaration made by George Monbiot a very well-known campaigning environmentalist writing in the Guardian newspaper Tuesday December 30th 2008. It is as good an illustration anyone can get of the prejudice England experiences from the UK Establishment as England slowly but surely grapples with the realities and implications of the 1998 Devolution legislation which gave Scotland and Wales their own parliament but did nothing, nothing at all, for England. That legislation gave constitutional and political recognition to the distinct nationhood and national identities both of Scotland and Wales. It gave them self-rule thorugh having their own parliaments. But not England. Unlike them politically and constitutionally England does not exist; and that is because of the attitude towards England of the UK cultural and political Establishment to which George Monbiot belongs
It is an Establishment that is not at ease with England, with the idea of England as a nation, with Englishness and English identity. The great majority of them are English of course, but it is the sort of English who are itchy and unhappy in their English skin. The mere mention of England brings them out in all sorts of strange political and cultural goose-pimples. They duck and dive to avoid anything that might seem like a normal human attachment which love of one’s country is. They just cannot be English in the same relaxed and easy way a Scot is Scottish or the Welsh are Welsh. George Orwell recognised the type over 60 years ago. “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. (The Lion and the Unicorn).
‘England means nothing to me’ states George Monbiot. Yet if anyone has benefited from the very best England has to offer it is him. In every possible respect England made him. He was brought up in a big country house in affluent Henley with a garden that backed on to Peppard Common. His father was the managing director of Associated Biscuits Ltd., Chairman of Campbells Soups UK and a deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. His mother is the daughter of a Conservative MP for an English seat. Both parents were leading members of the Oxford Conservative Party. He was sent to board at Stowe public school, he got a scholarship into Brazenose College, Oxford. His first job on leaving Oxford University was with the BBC. He is now a regular columnist with the Guardian newspaper, founded in England, printed and published in England, read overwhelmingly in England. Two years ago he moved to Wales and now boasts that he feels ‘an irrational impulse in supporting Wales in rugby, football and in all its competing claims against other nations’. Yet he says ‘I despise nationalism’ -obviously in the same way as on environmental grounds he condemned travelling to America by plane which he does, and to Australia too.
Unlike Wales, and even more so Scotland, England has no political or constitutional existence or recognition or self-rule. The people of England pay for prescriptions and hospital parking charges, which the Welsh do not. Unlike the Scots their students pay university tuition fees and their elderly people for personal care. They do not get free eye tests, their council tax has not been frozen. And each Scottish and Welsh man, woman and child receives £1600 more per year from the UK government than any English man, woman and child for education, health care and social services.
‘It is because of the indifference and hostility of such UK Establishment figures towards England as George Monbiot, because of their lack of concern for it, that its people are so discriminated against,’ Michael Knowles, media spokesman for the Campaign for an English Parliament, has said in his New Year message to CEP members. ‘Yet England made people like Monbiot. England gave them every advantage they now have. Culturally and politically they are its ruling class, a position they exercise to the full. In 2009 we must campaign even harder against them and their attitude to get for England what the UK has given to Scotland and Wales. If the United Kingdom is to continue, then each of its constituent nations should stand in the same relationship to both the Union and to each other’
Michael Knowles Head of CEP Media Unit. Tel: 01260 271139 Email: email@example.com
Scilla Cullen, CEP Chairman. Tel: 01438 833155 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org