We have found an England we can all share – but identity debates can’t be confined to football alone

Posted on 6 July 2018

England’s World Cup run, its young, diverse team and quietly proud manager has given England a voice and showed us a nation we can all share, as the nation gets ready for Saturday’s quarter-final clash with Sweden. But the conversation about English identity must be picked up outside the stadium once Gareth Southgate’s team comes home – and cannot be left to football alone.

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:

“Saturday’s World Cup match will bring people together across England like no other event of the last 20 years. We’ve embraced this young England team and lauded its manager Gareth Southgate as someone who can give voice to an English identity that has long been neglected.

We have realised there is an England that we can all share – a team which naturally reflects the everyday diversity of young, urban twenty-something England, yet one which is celebrated with pride from small towns and shire counties to the big cities.

“No-one wants Harry Kane and his team-mates to come home just yet, but at some point they will. That must not mark an end to this conversation about what England and Englishness means to us all.

“For all the plaudits for Gareth Southgate as a modern English sporting leader, in a very stylish waistcoat too, he can hardly be left to reshape our national identity on his own.”

British Future has been researching public attitudes to Englishness over the last five years – and trying to do our bit to encourage an inclusive celebration of English identity that everyone in England can feel part of. So what have we found out about England and the English?

  • Three quarters of the general public (74%) – and of ethnic minorities (74%) and Muslims (75%) – say that the England football team is a symbol of England that belongs to people of every race and ethnic background in England today (Survation for British Future, 2016).
  • Most people (61%) think that the England flag should be flown more often (ICM for British Future, 2013).
  • Most people in England (53%) see it as a healthy expression of English pride if they see an England flag flying in someone’s home, car, shop or pub. 11% finds it a worrying expression of English nationalism. (Survation for British Future, 2016).
  • But the English still lag behind the Scots and Welsh – while 61% of the English associate their flag with pride and patriotism, for Scots it’s 84% and 86% of Welsh people feel pride in the flag of St David (YouGov for British Future, 2012)

 

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