The Labour Party’s genius plan to “unite the nation” by further Balkanising the United Kingdom
The Labour Party and the British Left in general just don’t get it. With the honourable exception of a few Cassandra-like voices warning that the Left must learn to re-embrace patriotism in order to reconnect with millions of lost voters, most on the Left seem intent on screeching “multiculturalism” at the top of their lungs until the United Kingdom (and even its constituent parts) are nothing more than historic entries in an encyclopaedia.
Labour’s latest great initiative is to create four new public holidays celebrating the individual patron saints of the four home nations. From the HuffPost:
A Labour government will seek to create four new UK-wide bank holidays on the patron saint’s day of each of the home nations, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.
The Labour leader said the move would bring together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while giving workers a well-deserved break.
Under the plan, it would mean there would be public holidays on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).
“The four nations that make up our great country have rarely been more divided due to the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative Government,” Corbyn said.
“But where Theresa May divides, Labour will unite our four nations. A Labour government will make St George’s Day – England’s national day and Shakespeare’s birthday – a public holiday, along with St David’s Day, St Andrew’s Day and St Patrick’s Day.”
This is the kind of idiotic idea that could only come from a leader, a party and a political movement which have so lost touch with the idea of what patriotism and national identity mean that they can communicate only in meaningless grunts and gestures, like a parrot mimicking speech without understanding the language. Or perhaps an elephant painting with its trunk.
Right now there is a problem with British national identity, inasmuch as it is increasingly missing from the people who are supposed to possess it. Why is this the case? Well, try the fact that our schools fail to teach students a balanced, cohesive and chronological history of their own country, while any attempts to teach citizenship or civics tend to degrade into leftist agitprop pushed by an almost universally left-wing corps of teachers.
Try the fact that national pride and British exceptionalism had become so embarrassing, gauche and ultimately rare among the left-wing establishment that whole explanatory articles were written explaining to people the peculiar warm, fuzzy and hitherto-unknown feeling they felt in their chests when London hosted the 2012 Olympics.
Try the fact that we just went through a bruising EU referendum in which the Remain campaign spent nearly all their time talking – against all available evidence – about what a small, puny and ineffective country we are compared to the swaggering might of, say, Malaysia or Norway.
Try the fact that Scotland has taken the decision to transform itself into a one-party SNP state despite that party’s jackboot authoritarianism and mind-boggling incompetence at governing, while agitating for independence every three years in the hope that certain childlike adults dwelling there might be better protected from the Evil Tor-ees in England, thus further fraying the bonds of our union.
Or the fact that for decades now, leftists have been insisting that we must observe, celebrate and even exaggerate the smallest of our cultural differences rather than celebrate and strengthen the bonds which unite us. Because multiculturalism.
And now that Brexit has given them a scare, Scottish secessionism refuses to die back down to the angry grumblings of the 1990s and 2000s, English nationalism is increasingly demanding acknowledgement and policemen are being killed at the gates of Parliament by homegrown terrorists, these wise mavens of the Left have decided that just maybe it might be worth throwing patriotism a bone after all. Not because of a sincere rethink of their worldview but because someone at Labour HQ thought it would make a good campaign gimmick and a way to garner positive headlines on St George’s Day.
Unfortunately, Labour’s inexplicable response to the challenges we face is to propose the creation of four new public holidays, saints days, which would further emphasise the separateness and uniqueness of the home nations rather than drawing us together in a common celebration of what we have achieved and will achieve together as a single United Kingdom.
One might think that the Left would instinctively realise that in our increasingly secular age, putting the focus of our national identity and patriotism on historical religious figures otherwise unacknowledged by non-Christians is not the smartest pull factor among subpopulations which have until now been encouraged to do their own thing in terms of integrating or not integrating with wider British society. As a Catholic, the saints and their lives have meaning to me. For millions of others, they do not.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day and Independence Day have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history, not in waning faith. I know that the Left often like to talk down Britain and our substantial contributions in world commerce, arts, sciences, culture and diplomacy, but I’m sure that if they scratched their heads they might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as a day in which all Britons can be proud (but please, not the Fifth of July).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the unique histories, culture and achievements of our four home nations, and indeed we should do so more often. But too often this comes at the expense of celebrating British or UK-wide identity. As this blog has long argued, what we need more than anything is a single day to celebrate our entire United Kingdom, along the lines of France’s Bastille Day or America’s Independence Day.
And this should be backed by a myriad of other policies and gestures, large and small, which together might serve to nurture a positive sense of British identity around which we can all gather – regardless of ethnicity, colour, national origin, gender or any other grouping.
Some ideas that come to mind: a daily or weekly pledge recited by pupils at public schools; a return to playing the national anthem before top flight (and even lower level) sporting events, rather than reserving such gestures for the FA Cup final; continuing the investment in Team GB at the Olympic games and then celebrating their achievements back home after the fact; doing more to honour the armed forces and others who serve in uniform, both in public life and by encouraging businesses to acknowledge, reward and employ veterans; expanding on the National Citizen Service scheme, one of the few positive legacies from the Cameron government. I’m sure there are a thousand other, better ideas to be added to this list.
Instituting four new public holidays where the British people take the day off from work at significant cost to the economy, just to dwell on the fact that we are four rather than one people, is not the answer. One can’t even call it stupid – it is more the product of politicians who have so lost touch with the idea and importance of patriotism and national identity that they are no longer able to engage in sensible policy discussion on the matter. Rather than criticise Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for this cack-handed policy suggestion, one pities the limitations to their thinking.
You don’t unite and strengthen a fraying union by chopping it even more firmly into four parts and then frantically celebrating the differences. And though the word “diversity” is almost branded into the minds of many leftists as an unquestionably good thing, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the British Left in general would do much better to reflect instead on the far more inspiring words “E Pluribus Unum”.
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Just out of interest, what would “a balanced, cohesive and chronological history of [our] own country” look like? I learned a very different version of history from my English peers – not something I realised until university. And of course, the curriculum for years has been mired in the minutiae of 1914-1945 with scarcely a mention of Empire.
After years of being told that lefties don’t “do” patriotism, I have been quietly finding my own form of patriotism which doesn’t involve glossing over large parts of uncomfortable history, and doesn’t involve this weird competitiveness that I keep seeing in the print media, as though our country were little more than a sports team in the game of “which country is the best”. We don’t have to jostle for position in the great league table of countries, we’re good in our own right, and we should measure ourselves against the yardstick of how good we *could* be, not how good/bad other countries are.
Still, at least you didn’t go for the “Great” Britain pun (aargh arrgh arrgh it makes my skin crawl, it’s a LANDMASS not a value judgement!!1!one!)
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It’s a fair question, one which I can best answer in the negative. My history education was what can best be described as “patchwork”. The First and Second World Wars a couple of times, revisited at primary and secondary school. The Tudors. Coal mining in Wales. The Vikings. In other words, an incoherent mess.
To my amateur understanding, one can teach history in a couple of ways – either imparting the skills and techniques of an historian (learning about primary and secondary sources, how to understand context and control for bias etc.) or teaching a narrative arc relating to a particular topic – say, the industrial revolution or the history of a country. At least in my school, I got neither. History was a waste of time, so I dropped the subject as soon as I could. Everything I subsequently learned about classical, modern, industrial and economic history I either gained from university or more often from my own reading.
Contrast this with the history education my wife received, growing up in Texas. There, children take Texas history AND US history. They are taught both the unique history of their state and how it fits into the wider narrative of the union to which all Americans belong. (Incidentally, this is a great way to make Americans out of first and second generation immigrants).
Now, are there problems with the US approach? Yes of course one could say that the treatment of natives by colonists is often glossed over, while some more conservative states try to put a rather laughable spin on the Civil War or Jim Crow. But these are problems specific to local communities or school districts. Looking at the system overall, the average American kid will graduate high school with a reasonably coherent chronological narrative of their country’s history AND with knowledge of that country’s civic systems and government. I don’t know about you, but I received no more than a few hours of civics education when I was at school.
I can’t say in detail what I would like to see replace the current curriculum, but it would certainly focus heavily on a history of the British Isles, from prehistory through Roman occupation, the Norman conquest, British naval supremacy, empire and colonialism, the industrial revolution, the 20th century wars, post-war settlement and Thatcherite revolution through to today. Actually, I might be tempted to stop the clock at 1945, as I don’t trust schools to teach the welfare state or Thatcherism with anything approaching objectivity 😉
My point, I suppose, is that it is possible to teach history in a way that supports a healthy sense of national identity – who we all are, regardless of our corner of the UK or country of our parents’ origin – without lapsing into jingoism. Nor do I think that there should be any shame in focusing primarily on the vast amount of good in our history. Schools should aim to develop students capable of going into the world as active, engaged members of society, not conflicted and turmoil-afflicted young adults riven with anger for was done to their ancestors or pointless guilt for the acts of people who lived decades or centuries ago. At a school level, I see no problem with co-opting the subject of history to help rebuild our fraying sense of national identity.
After all, it’s hardly like making some changes would be ruining the world’s best and most effective history curriculum.
Ultimately, changing the history curriculum should not be about promoting a “Britain is number one!” agenda, but it *should* be about inculcating kids with a sense of who they are and what they belong to. For as long as the nation state remains an important building block in terms of how we order society, we undermine it at our peril.
Haha – and you will get no lame “Great” Britain exhortations from me 😉
Sam, Sam, Sam – what am I to do? Having only recently recovered from Tony Blair coming out as a Catholic, now I discover you are too. (Or at least a Catholic background.) But it still seems to have had enough of an effect on you that you brought it up in your blog about Patron Saints’ Days. Yes, that is a stupid and economically expensive idea but why are you and Jetemy Corbyn even considering celebrating 4 people about whom we know little or what they actually did? I just don’t get it. When will be free of religions which hold us back and cause so much misery and deaths all around the world.? It’s cheap to exploit those religious beliefs because the believers have been indoctrinated for 2,000 years. They should be pitied. I’m also pretty sure that JC (no, not that one – the other;
Jeremy Corbyn) is not really a follower, after all most lefties don’t believe anyway). Remember Alistair
Campbell’s “We don’t do God”. If only he’d known about his boss. And if he did know, made sure the cat was not let out of the bag until afterwards. All I can conclude with, is “Onwards Atheists”.
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Ah, I’m sorry to disappoint you! Yes, I am indeed a Roman Catholic type. Used to be CofE but made the switch when I was eighteen. Just to be clear, the point of my piece was to argue *against* the four new public holidays based on saints’ days. Like that current liberal martyr Tim Farron (irony of ironies) I have my personal religious beliefs but do not seek to inflict them on others. I am for separation of church and state, against the Lords Spiritual, pro disestablishment of the Church of England, and for freedom of and from religion for all.
I won’t plunge into the broader debate about religion here – and I’m pretty sure I would not be able to shift your opinions anyway! – but I can only say that in my own life I have seen religion and people of (various) faiths being an incredible force for good. The ledger is nowhere near as one sided as the news headlines make it seem.
Now, as for Tony Blair…
Reblogged this on michaelsnaith.
Good blog Sam. On the subject of bank holidays I remember going along to a dreary conference on finance. As we walked into the room the projector was showing normal TV news onto a screen. The BBC running a newsflash that Prince William was getting married. It took seconds for someone in the audience to shout ‘another bank holiday boys’.
Sometimes I love being British.
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