Danny Boyle has tapped straight into the heart of the national psyche, and what makes Britain distinct, with his colourful countryside concept of the Olympic opening. British Future polling shows that across Britain, not just in England as some sceptics argue, there is immense pride in our green pleasant lands, from the Lake District, to Snowdonia and the Highlands.
Tag Archive for British
Trevor believes that how we treat each other, and a civic sense of fairness is at the heart of Britishness.
Englishness is finally finding a voice, after more than a century. Why has it been muted this long, and is it time now for a strong civic nation, or will an England of blood and soil emerge? By Sunder Katwala
Video journalist Daniel Lloyd created a film and interview package from the British Future launch. This includes interviews with British Future director Sunder Katwala and panellist Promise Campbell, as well as Trevor Phillips, who was in the audience.
The British Future state of the nation poll found that 50% of people in the north-east feel that they belong to Britain. The figure is 66% across Britain, 67% in England, and 60% in Scotland, making the north-east the place where people identify least with a British identity.
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
Bernadette has lived in England her whole life and has Irish heritage, but considers herself British.