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For The Left, St. George’s Day Was A Great Chance To Mock UKIP Supporters

St Georges Day - England Flag - Patriotism - Public Holiday - Bank Holiday - UKIP

 

What did you do today to celebrate St. George’s Day?

If you’re like most people, quite understandably, you probably did nothing at all – after juggling work and the stress of daily life, there simply isn’t much time left in the day to celebrate the overlooked and unexciting Feast of St. George.

But of those people who did mark the day, a small but vocal minority were determined to use St. George’s Day not as a day to celebrate Englishness, England and her patron saint, but rather as an opportunity to mock and belittle those people who do try to celebrate our national heritage, and those who are proud (and brave enough) to be openly patriotic in modern Britain.

UKIP, virtually the only British political party that doesn’t view patriotism as something embarrassing or gauche (sometimes, on a good day, some Tories can still make a decent effort), called for all Britons to mark St. George’s Day by wearing a red rose, and lobbied for the day to be made into a public holiday.

From the Daily Express:

Ukip deputy leader Paul Nuttall said the gesture was needed as a way of registering protest against attempts by local councils and quangos to ignore or obliterate English identity.

“It saddens and angers me that this day marking Englishness is so low key compared to how days for the other three countries of the union are publicly celebrated,” Mr Nuttall said.

“The situation has improved over recent years but it passes by unrecognised by many English people. I have long argued that it should be a declared a Bank Holiday and I have not lost my passion for that idea.”

Ukip yesterday released a dossier of examples of public authorities attempting to ban or denigrate the England flag in recent years. They included supermarket staff and taxi drivers being ordered not to display England flags and pennants on their vehicles.

The response from the establishment was predictably scornful, sometimes verging on outright hostility.

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After Another Hard Year, We Need A British Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving soup kitchen SPS

The time has come to institute an annual British Thanksgiving holiday

Take a trip to your friendly local Asda superstore in the next day or so and you will be treated to back-to-back in-store announcements about their upcoming Black Friday sale. “Get ready for Black Friday!” chirps the voiceover, as a cheerful, disembodied man tempts you with sweet promises about this magical event of a retail experience. Yes, Black Friday is coming to Britain.

This is as strong a contender for Tasteless Corporate Act of the Year (Large Retailer category) as we are likely to witness this side of Christmas. Asda, owned by Wal-Mart, has successfully imported the grubby, commercially lucrative, post-coital rump of a cherished American national holiday – Thanksgiving – while neatly skipping over all the pesky fundamentals that give it meaning in the first place: you know, those interminably dull things such as love, family, gratitude and patriotism, tiresome distractions that will never generate a good Return On Investment.

Earlier this year, I took part in a TV debate on London Live, arguing that we should absolutely not make the festivals of Eid and Diwali UK public holidays, for fear of muddying the cloudy waters between religion and state yet further:

 

I was outnumbered, but I made the case as strongly as I could that what Britain desperately needs is a public holiday that can bring us all together as one people – not another cynical, politically correct nod to multiculturalism.

The possibilities for such a unifying British public holiday are endless – after all, what other country has as rich a history on which to draw when trying to choose a new national holiday? I suggested a few potential examples at the time of the debate, but my list is by no means exhaustive. Britain has achieved so many military, scientific, cultural and social victories that continue set us apart as a truly exceptional, indispensable nation, the only difficulty would be narrowing the crowded field to a single expression of who we are and what we have accomplished.

But this year, perhaps more than ever, we need a British Thanksgiving holiday. Despite Britain’s economic recovery, many of us continue to live in the long, cold shadow of the great recession, with squeezed, stagnant or non-existent wages spread too thinly to pay for the basics and comforts of life. As our mainstream political parties scrap over the elusive centre ground and ideologically merge with one another, the British people themselves are becoming increasingly polarised and less able to empathise with or respect those with differing political views. There is a steady trickle of young, disaffected British Muslims who feel so little allegiance to their mother country that they are stealing away to Syria to pose with guns, play soldier and fight for ISIS. And it was less than three months ago that our United Kingdom nearly tore itself apart for good, as Scotland came unnervingly close to voting to secede from the union.

Whatever the improving economic indicators say, all is not well in today’s Britain. Whether you are indignant about ongoing austerity or mad as hell about uncontrolled immigration and its effect on the labour market, chances are that you believe Britain is on the wrong path, and are probably also sceptical that things will significantly improve in the near future. Now, of course giving Britain’s hard workers another statutory day off every year won’t make all of these problems go away. But if we picked the right day, selected the right cause or event to commemorate our shared British civic heritage, it might just shore up the foundations a little bit and help us to ride out the storm together.

Americans continue to faithfully observe their national Thanksgiving holiday in good times and bad, showing the world that it doesn’t necessarily require a fat wallet to get together with loved ones and be grateful for what we have. But perhaps we British need an extra reminder of this fact – we tend to obsess a lot more than our American cousins about what we should be getting from the government, be it benefits or public services, and are consequently more likely to feel continually aggrieved and bitter at the inevitable shortfall. Maybe it would do us all good if we had imposed on us a day where we were strongly encouraged to think about our blessings, and the difference that we – not government – can make in the lives of our fellow citizens.

For the sceptics out there, there is ample precedent for starting a new holiday – Canada has also long observed a day of thanksgiving, though its present position in the calendar was not fixed until 1957. American expressions of thanksgiving were also sporadic and uncoordinated until President Abraham Lincoln fixed the date as the final Thursday in November, while the Civil War still raged. These timings proved wise – contemporary Thanksgiving in North America acts as a bulwark against the encroachment of Christmas, and stores only get into the swing of Christmas once the Black Friday sales are over, a state of affairs which would be very welcome here.

Wouldn’t a British Thanksgiving be the perfect antidote to the incessant commercialisation and forward creep of Christmas, the decorations raised in late September, supermarket mince pies that expire in November, discordant Christmas songs blasting out from every shopfront and the inevitable, vapid re-release of “Feed The World”?

After a long, hard recession, a bruising recovery and a year in which the idea of what it means to be British has become increasingly muddled and uncertain, let’s humble ourselves and dare to take a lesson from our former colony. Let us find inspiration in our storied history, our unsurpassably rich culture and also from within our own hearts. Let us find that elusive common thread of Britishness that should unite us all, transcending race and religion and politics, and cling to that thread in these difficult times.

And even though gratitude does not always come easily and the words may sometimes stick in our throats, let us remember to give thanks for one another, and for our United Kingdom, the guarantor and protector of all that we have.

 

Thanksgiving Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln

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Headline London Debate: Should Britain Make Eid And Diwali Public Holidays?

Samuel Hooper London Live Headline London Eid Diwali Public Holiday 2

 

Yesterday, London Live TV’s Headline London lunchtime news programme covered the Eid celebrations taking place in the capital, and asked whether the UK government should make Eid (and the Hindu festival of Diwali) nationwide public holidays.

The idea was first raised in Parliament last week by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, in response to an online petition signed by more than 120,000 people. I vehemently disagreed with the proposal at the time, for the reasons set out here.

Semi-Partisan Sam was pleased to be invited to debate the issue with poet Mohamed “Mo Rhymes” Mohamed and political activist Peymana Assad on the Headline London panel. The debate was courteous and good-natured, which cannot often be said of debates on religion – but I believe my argument, founded on national unity, church/state separation and the rights of the individual won the day.

London Live’s website only shows the first part of the panel discussion, but the full segment is embedded here, via Semi-Partisan Sam’s YouTube channel:

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TV Debate – Making Eid And Diwali British Public Holidays

Eid celebration london

 

Last week I vociferously disagreed with Bob Blackman MP’s efforts in Parliament to make the religious observance days of Eid and Diwali public holidays throughout the whole of Britain.

This was in no way out of animosity to Britain’s Muslim or Hindu communities; Semi-Partisan Sam acknowledges and appreciates the good that all of Britain’s religions and denominations (as well of people of no faith) contribute to the rich tapestry of our country.

But carving out a new exception, or concession, to minority religions in Britain would be a backward step just as small signs of progress are being made in rolling back the pervasive and anachronistic influence of our own established national church.

Furthermore, if we are to add a new public holiday to our calendar, Semi-Partisan Sam strongly believes that it should be one that unites, rather than divides, the whole of our United Kingdom. At a time when Britain is seemingly fracturing into a loose, uncomfortable coalition of competing interest groups and distinct sub-communities, and when many people struggle even to articulate any sense of British values, any new public holiday should celebrate the history and achievements of our entire nation – the one to which we all belong, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or otherwise – rather than flatter or appease any one particular group marked out for sponsorship by the government.

I will be on London Live TV’s Headline London show today, from 1230-1330 UK Time, participating in a panel discussion in which we will debate this topic.

You can watch on Sky 117, Virgin 159 or Freeview 8 from 1230 onwards.

As MPs Debate Making Eid and Diwali Public Holidays, The Wall of Separation Is Under New Threat

Leicester Diwali celebration

 

The wall of separation between church and state is under threat once again.

Not officially, of course. We in Britain have no written constitution, no final recourse to turn to in the event of gross government or judicial overreach, or the flagrant violation of our natural rights. But nonetheless, just as progress is being made elsewhere in placing religion in mutually beneficial quarantine from government, the parties of God (a term coined by the late Christopher Hitchens) are launching a counter-attack. And this time the attack comes not from the aggrieved Christian plurality, but the Muslim and Hindu minorities.

The BBC reports:

MPs are set to debate an e-petition aiming to make Eid and Diwali public holidays in the UK.

The e-petition is being championed in Parliament by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, after being signed by more than 120,000 people.

It is only fair that Muslims and Hindus have “the most important days in their faiths recognised in law”, the petition argues.

It should be noted that the government has already rejected the petition. But the fact that a Member of Parliament (and a conservative one at that) is willing to publicly go against the grain and argue for greater, not less government enforced religion in the lives of the people is worrying, and a sign that must be watched carefully.

The reasons for not widening the UK’s current public holidays are many, the first being the fact that shoehorning in another two religious public holidays which are set according to religious timetables rather than the economic rhythm and needs of the nation will only further exacerbate the current skewed system. At present, the UK’s bank holidays are concentrated very unequally in the early part of the year: a brace over the Easter weekend, a volley in May, a last hurrah in August and then the long, slow autumnal death march through the rest of the year until the people are saved by the Christmas holidays. This does little to take into account the needs of businesses (who lose their labour for a day), or for people who might wish the days to be spaced out more evenly.

Secondly, unlike many other countries, none of Britain’s public holidays are used for the beneficial purpose of celebrating our entire nation, our shared culture (as opposed to niche interests – a category under which Christianity increasingly falls) or our collective accomplishments as a British people. Unlike the United States, we have no equivalent to Independence Day, when we can all celebrate being British and indulge in an important exercise in positive patriotism. Unlike France, we have no Bastille Day, celebrating pivotal moments in our national history.

Aside from the fact that recognising pivotal days in our nation’s history helps to nurture the ties that bind us all together, it can be a money-maker too – the American economy may lose a day of labour every year on July 4 and Thanksgiving, but how much is injected into their economy through family gatherings, travel and public celebrations? And how great are the non-monetary benefits of fostering a shared sense of collective identity – one which Britain sometimes sorely lacks?

Thirdly, expanding the public holiday schedule to include more religious days would ignore the simultaneous (and popular) campaign underway to make St. George’s Day a national holiday. The saints days for the home nations are not recognised as UK-wide public holidays, which only fosters internal resentment and fuels the nationalist separatist causes which threaten the balkanisation of Britain.

And finally, written constitution or none, Britain urgently needs to raise a wall of separation between religion and our government, a cause that would be significantly set back by bestowing official government sponsorship on even more faiths. That is not to denigrate the great good that many religious congregations, parishes, charities and organisations do every day. But this social good cannot be used as a bargaining chip to blackmail the rest of the country (an increasingly secular one, for good or ill) into following the same lifestyle practices, moral codes or days of observance as the faithful.

Taken to its logical conclusion, ceteris parabus, this would mean the disestablishment of the Easter and Christmas public holidays. But this would not be a good idea. The Christian holidays, by virtue of having been part of our national fabric for so long, now occupy a place in our culture which transcends their religious origin. Many millions of people celebrate Christmas and Easter who have never set foot in a church, and could not name even the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. Furthermore, businesses and organisations around the world – especially in Britain’s main trading partners in North America and Europe – also observe these days as public holidays, making it unwise for Britain to deliberately put itself out of sync. Thus, because the Christian holidays are so embedded in our national life, and are an important reminder to our nation’s history and Christian heritage, there should (and will likely never) be no move to end these holidays.

(This is in no way to suggest that religious festivals and holidays cannot or should not be observed in other ways. The annual Diwali celebration in Leicester, for example, is rightly acclaimed as one of the finest in the world – though such celebrations should at all times be privately funded through sponsorship, and never from public money).

Race, culture and religion often make a volatile, contentious mixture. By granting special rights and favours to some, it can only lead to resentment among the unfavoured, and embolden the beneficiaries to ask for yet further recognition in the future. We already live in an age of religious persecution complexes and exaggerated victimhood – from the mild culture war still fought by the socially conservative Christian rearguard in Britain to the disillusioned British youths jetting off to fight for their so-called faith in Syria – and the very last thing we should be doing is anything that fans the fames of discord at home.

The UK’s Hindus and Muslims (and Christians, and everyone else) are all equally British under the law, and have an equal, important stake in our society, to the extent that they are willing to be British first and foremost. Only recently in the Birmingham schools scandal we have seen the damage that can be done to education and to young minds when religion is placed on a pedestal and sycophantic multiculturalist apologists are too petrified of causing offence to stand up for British values against religious extremism.

Rather than debating the admission of two more exclusionary, religion-oriented public holidays to the British calendar, Parliament should be debating a root and branch review of all our existing holidays as part of a broader effort to make our days off count for something more than a chance for a long weekend and an excuse to jet off out of the country.

What if together we celebrated the Acts of Union which created Great Britain? Or Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in the Napoleonic wars? Victory in Europe day? Or any one of many other days that could plausibly be used to draw us together as people of a United Kingdom rather than a fractured coalition of different faiths, interests, grudges and resentments?

For the sake of our fraying national unity, admitting more faiths into the elite club of state sponsorship and approval must be rejected as the misconceived idea that it is.