Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


I've been meaning to write about "Britishness" for weeks. It's an idea the politicians are pushing. And I just can't get my head round it.

For instance they'd like to establish a Bank Holiday to be known as Britain Day on which we all get to sit down and think about how jolly it is to be British.

It takes me back to school- not my real school but the fictitious Mr Chipsy public school most of us carry round in our heads. The politicians are the prefects and it's their job to drum up some of that good old school spirit thats been so sorely lacking of late. We've been behaving like duffers and we need to show how frightfully keen we are or.... or what?  Are they going to make us run round the lower field in full kit if we don't ?

Gordon Brown- our soon to be unelected dear leader- has been talking up the flag. He'd like us to get all pledge-of -alliegancy about it-  just like you Americans. 

(Which shows how out of touch he is with the public mood. I'm sorry, you guys, but American militarism isn't exactly flavour of the month right now)

And why does he want us saluting the flag? I guess because it would make his job easier. A tight knit body of rah-rah-rahing patriots is so much easier to boss around.

They're losing their grip- the politicians are- and they're panicking.

Britishness is a modern invention. It dates from the yoking together of the kingdoms of England and Scotland by Act of Union in 1707. The Union was  a useful and at times popular creation that enabled us to run an empire and fight world wars but now it's falling apart.  I don't know why exactly but it's clearly part of a worldwide trend and too deep to be rectified by political speechifying. Large political units are breaking up into their constituent parts all over the globe.  Goodbye European empires, goodbye USSSR, goodbye Yugoslavia, goodbye Iraq....

Thankfully we Brits are experiencing it as a peaceful process.

So what is Britishness? I don't know. I think of redcoat soldiers- some of them in skirts- fighting the paynim. Not very helpful or contemporary. What else do we all have in common?  Erm.....

I'm English. When I go to Scotland I feel like I'm crossing into a foreign country- as foreign as France or the USA. The politics are different, the culture is different, the religion is different, the food is different, the geography and climate and architecture are different.  And that's clearly how the Scots see things too. They're the junior partner in the Union and chippy about it. They just had an election which put the Nationalists in power in Edinburgh- leaving the Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster (including the soon to be unelected dear leader- no wonder he's anxious) looking rawly exposed and faintly illegitimate.

I don't know what the future holds, but I know a worn-out idea when I see one and Britishness has flies buzzing all round it.

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