Tag Archive for national identity

Immigration and the BSA: reaching the ‘pragmatic middle’

Cultural polarisation over attitudes to immigration could generate long-term political headaches for politicians who adopt a tough anti-immigration agenda in search of public support, writes Sunder Katwala.

Clegg-Farage debate shows limits of using facts over stories

If Nick Clegg takes one lesson from the first debate against Nigel Farage into the BBC second leg next week, it should be to spend less time on "what the real facts show" and more time on anecdotes to illustrate his arguments, argues Sunder Katwala.

English should learn from St Patrick’s and celebrate own saint

Liberals who still fear that the St George’s flag is associated with far-right groups should take a lead from the Irish and celebrate their patron saint, writes Steve Ballinger.

Public prefer Cameron-Merkel EU deal over UK exit

As David Cameron meets Germany’s Angela Merkel this Thursday, the spotlight is once again being cast on the future of Britain’s EU membership. But most people are more in than out, according to recent research conducted by Ipsos MORI for British Future.

Why national identity matters

2014 will be the Year of Identity, argues Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, in his Ralph Miliband memorial lecture at the London School of Economics. Addressing the theme ‘Is there a progressive case for national identity?’, Katwala looked at how identity will help to shape key choices about the future of the United Kingdom, Britain’s place in Europe, identity and immigration. Below is the full text of his lecture.

REVIEW: Sunshine on Leith captures energy, optimism of Scotland

News that The Proclaimers discography had been mined as the inspiration for a jukebox musical left me with mixed feelings. Could the movie adaptation called Sunshine on Leith, which the BBC has been calling ‘McMamma Mia’, ever be anything more than cringeworthy, asks Duncan Stewart Muir.

Appetite to discuss Englishness alive and well in north-east

The Discovery Museum in central Newcastle was full with over 100 engaged local people who had travelled from Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough on a cold night to debate what – if anything – it means to be English in the 21st Century north-east, writes Matthew Rhodes.

M25 poppy bikers encapsulate values of freedom and respect

On 10th November thousands of bikers dressed in red rode around the 117-mile clockwise carriageway of the M25 to pay tribute to the war dead on Remembrance Sunday. Anton Shelupanov was one of the participants. Here he tells British Future about what it was like to join the so-called M25 poppy and why commemorating the first world war remains important today.

What’s the future for England?

The final panel at our Festival of Englishness with IPPR looked to England’s future and concluded with a positive vision for the nation, writes Steve Ballinger.

Many different textures of Englishness from north to south

This Wednesday 20th November I am going to the People’s History Museum in Manchester. The reason for the visit is to explore Englishness in the north at an event hosted by British Future and IPPR North. As a student of anthropology and a born-and-bred Midlander living in the north, I am fascinated to hear thoughts on whether a national identity pervades across England’s regions, writes Sarah Dickson.

1993 to 2013: How has Britain changed since Stephen was killed?

Britain is a fairer and less racist country than it was when Stephen Lawrence was murdered 20 years ago. But there is good sense, too, in the public wariness of over-claiming how much has changed, says Sunder Katwala.

Photo: Aliya Mirza

Why do non-white Brits feel that little bit more British?

New research shows a strong sense of minority patriotism. Might it be time to stop being surprised, says Sunder Katwala?

Photo: TempusVolat

Boyle’s vision taps British pride in countryside

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.

Photo: Paul Foot

“Everybody has two flags”

The upsurge in belief in an English identity over the past five years is not the threat to modern Britain that many English believe it to be, says British Future director Sunder Katwala in a new interview.

Photo: The Laird of Oldham

Flying all our flags

Sunder Katwala argues that the population has a strong sense of what they are proud of, but also more needs to be done to extend our pride in our flags and the modern, inclusive Britain they represent.


Muamba: Symbol of refugee struggle and success

The plight of footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest while on the pitch on Sunday, has brought his dramatic life story into public view, says Sunder Katwala

Reviewing Bradford’s message of hope

Channel 4's Make Bradford British defied the expectations and took risks to explore how we want to live together or apart, but left Sunder Katwala feeling more hopeful about a Britain that we want to share.

Grasping the thistle

Sunder Katwala reviews a week of thorny debates over the Union, human rights and the role of faith.

Welcome to dotdotdot

So, why dotdotdot? Dotdotdot picks up the ellipses in the British Future logo. What I hope those dots are saying is that our future is unwritten, that it is up to us to shape it, and that we want to extend an invitation to you to join our conversation about how we could choose to shape it together.


National Conversation: Britain

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