Author Archive for Soapbox
Up to 6,000 people fly to Pakistan from Britain every week. Anwar Akhtar says attitudes in the Foreign Office to working with the Pakistani diaspora in Britain are changing and it could open up great opportunities for the countries to work together.
This matter of being "British" OR "English" has never concerned me. I live in England and my parentage is predominantly English, hence I am "English". England is part of the United Kingdom, hence I am also "British". I see no contradiction in this.
With just one day to go until Refugee Action’s first ever World Food Night, Julia Ravenscroft explains where World Food Night came from and how important the support of celebrity chef Levi Roots has been.
The government is right to want to deport Abu Qatada. He is a threat to community relations in Britain. The Home Secretary is right to want to use her powers to exclude him, say Shamit Saggar and Sunder Katwala.
Scottish independence is not the only question surrounding the future of the Union, says guest blogger Glenn Gotfried. As the United Kingdom embarks on a probable two year discussion surrounding Scottish sovereignty we will likely see questions surrounding the future of England arise out of the debate. A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that devolution is not only a matter for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but may be transcending into the minds of the English as well. Using the results from the Future of England (FoE) survey, an IPPR/YouGov commissioned poll focusing on the English public, the report explores the link between an emerging English identity and its possible consequences on England’s political future.
As 2012 kicks off, new identity, integration, migration and opportunity thinktank British Future held its launch at the Museum of London Docklands.
Ahead of the event, British Future’s State of the Nation launch report Hopes and Fears for 2012 was previewed in The Observer, where they analysed what the poll captured around hopes and fears of the British people in their front-page story and illustrated the story with their info-graphics looking at public attitudes to modern Britain and the year ahead.
Sunder Katwala has written an Observer commentary piece, about his sense of a nation which could be confident about its ability to combine the traditional and the modern – and the Observer’s political editor Toby Helm reports that the mixture of immigration anxieties alongside the recognition of its positive contribution should lead politicians to open up that important debate.
We have now published our full Hopes and Fears report on the state of the nation 2012. This includes more on the future of the Union – and our growing sense of English, Scottish and Welsh identities – and how far where we live across Britain makes a difference to what we feel, including about the Olympics and the Jubilee in 2012.
In its opening debate a panel, including Sunday Telegraph columnist Matthew D’Ancona, Costa first novel award winner Christie Watson and British Future director Sunder Katwala, discussed British past and future with the audience at the historic warehouse museum.
There was also a nod to the iconic nature of the year ahead as the Olympic flame 2012 will take a course past the doorstep of the museum ahead of this year’s Olympics.
The Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee and the British public feelings about the importance of these events formed a thread of discussion at the opening event. The audience were asked how they think their families and friends fit into the jigsaw of British national identity today and in the past.
The audience were asked for their opinions on integration in British society today, and the challenges going forward, and also debated economic opportunities needed.
One of the original 1948 Olympic torches will be on display at the launch of British Future this week, ahead of its display in an exhibition this spring. Below Dr Cathy Ross talks about the importance of the torch as an historic icon.
British Future trustee Shamit Saggar, and a contributor to today's Migration Advisory Commitee report, says robust evidence should help to inform a public debate that recognises both benefits and costs.
When the history of twentieth century North Britain is written, it seems quite possible that the revival of Scottishness will be seen as the overarching theme beneath which all else will be discussed.
Steve grew up in East London and has lived in London his whole life.
British national identity is becoming more and more like the British weather – a mixed bag, changeable from one place to another and on occasion difficult to describe to outsiders not already familiar with it, argues Ipsos Mori's Mark Diffley.
Who are we, the British, today? How well do we understand the history which has made us the society we have become? How confident are we that we want to create a shared future together, asks Sunder Katwala.
Britain has had several major identity debates at once. Perhaps we have been having an extended identity crisis as, across the post-war decades, the focus of our ‘state of the nation’ conversation has frequently shifted from one identity anxiety to another.
The question of whether post-imperial Britain would find a new role seemed the central question in the 1950s, while the issue, arising from post-war immigration, of whether a multi-ethnic society was either possible or desirable was most sharply contested in the 1960s.
The British joined Europe in the 1970s, and then voted to stay in, though anxieties about this reluctant Europeanism, and whether it is compatible with national sovereignty and identity have persisted since, while the 1980s were dominated by a concerted effort to reverse not just relative economic decline, but geopolitical and national psychological decline too. The 1990s saw a major constitutional upheaval reshape relationships between Britain’s four nations, with the quest for a peace settlement in Northern Ireland, and the debate about whether devolution to Scotland and Wales would save the Union or, ultimately, end it.
The world since 2001 saw sharp controversies over security and liberty at home, as well as Britain’s transatlantic links and global role. Long-running debates about multiculturalism, and about how the role of religion was changing in a multi-faith and increasingly secular society, were understandably sharpened, with a particular, and at times exclusive, on the role of Islam and Muslims. Meanwhile, arguments about opportunity and fairness continued to resonate – on issues from immigration to welfare – and inequality at the top was put back on the public agenda by the great financial crash of 2008.
Any of these issues can be debated practically, in terms of the costs and benefits of different options and choices. But what often gives life and feeling to public arguments about these issues is that they all also involve questions of identity – about what the choices we make say about the type of society we are, and the values we want to uphold. And we have probably done too little to join the dots between these different identity anxieties – and to examine how they each offer a different lens on the challenge of deciding the content of an inclusive citizenship and the common bonds that bind a society together.
Every democratic society in this global era is now talking about who “we” now are. Each must seek to secure confidence in an authentic sense of belonging which is inclusive of all of its citizens. That will be hardest where the identities which underpin citizenship are understood, in popular sentiment if not in law, as having a primary or significant ethnic basis, so that it will always be descent, ethnicity or faith that matters most. “Blood and soil” national identities will need…Who are we, the British, today? How well do we understand the history which has made us the society we have become? How confident are we that we want to create a shared future together, asks Sunder Katwala. Britain has had several major identity debates at once. Perhaps we have been having an extended identity
For Stanley Baldwin, Conservative prime minister of the 1920s and 1930s, Englishness was a sensibility, writes Anthony Painter.
Its essence was a series of sights and sounds:
“the tinkle of the hammer on the anvil in the country smithy, the corncrake on a dewy morning, the sound of the scythe against the whetstone, and the sight of plough team coming over the brow of a hill, the sight that has been in England since England was a land … the one eternal sight of England.”
It is a beautifully constructed political speech. Unfortunately, it describes an England that no longer exists: there is no longer a tinkle of the hammer on the anvil; we don’t hear the scythe on the whetstone; the corncrake is on the RSPB’s red alert list, occasionally glimpsed only in western Scotland and Ireland; and the plough team is now mechanised – not so eternal after all (and already a very partial view of England in Baldwin’s day). As evocative as Baldwin’s speech was, it describes an England that we can only now access through the words and art of the past.
When Englishness assumes a monocultural form, when it is idealised and amplified, tightly defined and dissected, it quickly slips from grasp. Soon after, there is little option but to pursue an elegiac course and inevitably declare its death.
Thus Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton has declared England dead – what else is there to do? His England includes parlour songs, the Saturday-night dance, the bandstand, and so on. And yes, those cultural forms and institutions have almost entirely gone. Sir Roy Strong, in an iconographic account of England, locates Englishness – as an ideal – in rural traditions exemplified by landscape and social order. With breath-taking and unjustified boldness, he argues that this is the England we went to wars for: ‘They did not fight for Manchester or Birmingham but for the likes of Chipping Camden and Lavenham’.
England currently faces threats to its economic, cultural, and constitutional order both within and beyond its borders. Scottish nationalism is ascendant and independence cannot be ruled out. British nationhood is being distorted by constitutional change in the EU. Aggressive and violent forms of English nationalism are asserting themselves to a troubling degree. It’s hardly surprising that while Britishness has assumed pluralistic and inclusive form, Englishness has become a toxic dumping site for chauvinism and exclusivity.
The degree to which it is able to confront these threats will depend on a new political settlement and a more honest and inclusive national dialogue. There isn’t a single view of England. It will be a many-faceted thing: different in Yorkshire to Great Yarmouth, Camden to Chipping Camden, Leicester to Lavenham. And yet, Englishness does have meaning beyond just birthplace and waving a flag, supporting a sports team, and the bulldog icon. There are predominant traits. There is shared history and culture. An English political community does exist even if it doesn’t have its own formal institutions. It has an overlap with Britishness but many of…For Stanley Baldwin, Conservative prime minister of the 1920s and 1930s, Englishness was a sensibility, writes Anthony Painter. Its essence was a series of sights and sounds: “the tinkle of the hammer on the anvil in the country smithy, the corncrake on a dewy morning, the sound of the scythe against the whetstone, and the
Dipo moved from Nigeria at the age of ten to go to boarding school in the UK.
“What made it such an amazing experience was because of how welcome I was made to feel when I first came over”
Mary has spent considerable time in both India and England, and now lives in Wales.
Bernadette has lived in England her whole life and has Irish heritage, but considers herself British.