There Will Always Be An England

Happy Saint George’s Day to all friends at home or abroad and also coinciding (as it always seems to do) with the Birthday/Deathday of our Bard. In Shakespeare’s own words- “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot; Follow your spirit: and upon this charge, Cry – God for Harry! England and Saint George! (Henry V)
As for the Billy Bragg article on Labourlist, I thought was rather weak (and having seen his pro-‘independence’ piece on Scotland I am convinced he is totally losing the plot). Sure one enjoys reading about historic gains and he makes some good points about what the next Labour Gov’t should do. But as a piece on patriotism it’s pretty pathetic. I have no problem with people getting stonking rich and spending their cash how they please, but I think it is telling that as he rattles around in his gated mansion these says not only is Billy’s song writing ever in decline but so too are his political outbursts that increasingly make no sense, (it was perpetually downhill since he started telling people to vote Lib Dem if you ask me). I think he may be suffering from what Tennesse Williams termed ‘the catastrophe of success.’ Menageries aside, I think you will find Jon Cruddas’ article far more worthwhile –  Afew years back now but Billy Bragg’s book ‘the progressive patriot’ was enjoyable but similarly thin when it came to defining a National story and identity. Essentially I think it limp liberal wank to say ‘I love England but only the rebellious bits!’ It is such trite that means people’s natural sense of belonging and patriotism but disillusionment with the current political class is so easily hijacked and manipulated by vile far-right groups because frankly so much of the modern left doesn’t properly understand or even *feel* the real thing so are incapable of articulating or connecting with most folk. My politics are very much of the Old Left and I am also patriotic. I see no contradiction here and nor do I feel the need to constantly relate the two in an immature and rather desperate fashion not to be seen as ‘offensive’ or ‘jingoistic.’ It is so simple I really don’t know what Billy & co struggle with but as with so many things we must return to Orwell. In the Lion & Unicorn he perfectly sums up a great deal of the modern left (who are now even worse). He writes – “In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanised. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. 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. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the NEW STATESMAN and the NEWS CHRONICLE cried out against the Munich settlement, but even they had done something to make it possible. Ten years of systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the stagnation of the Empire, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process.” Says it all really.

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