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My name’s Kate, and I’m English.
It’s like admitting a shameful secret, isn’t it? I’d much rather tell people that I was British, or Mancunian, or a communist, for that matter. Thanks to Ed Miliband and his new diatribe about “Englishness”, I’ve been thinking about why it is that being English doesn’t matter to me. Why it doesn’t matter that whilst I sit and drink gin and tonic, eating fish and chips, arguably a tradition of my homeland (though I’ve never been sure if I was meant to do both at the same time, I struggle to find evidence of this in literature), whether I’m in England or the Congo.
And then it hit me.
It doesn’t matter to me, because it doesn’t matter at all. Being English isn’t something that matters to anyone or to anything. National identities rise out of oppression and uniting in the ability to be free. This is why the national identity of the Scottish and the Irish is so strong – the English pinned them down for so many years that they want to separate themselves, and I congratulate them for it. But, really, my cultural history doesn’t carry with it any similar oppression, and not nearly as recently.
The truth is, England ruled the world for a while. But that’s nothing to be proud of. We engineered a huge part of the slave trade. And that’s nothing to be proud of. We fought off the shackles of an oppressive mona- oh wait, never mind.
Although I realise the EDL would hunt me down and kill me for this, I don’t think there’s anything to be proud of in English history. There is much interest to be found in it, but I don’t have to paint a red-and-white flag on my face and scream about how Kate Middleton is an inspiration in order to know that.
Plenty of English men and women have done great and inspirational things; Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, Emmeline Pankhurst, Jane Austen even, William Shakespeare, Barbara Castle, the list goes on infinitely. But I can admire the actions of these people without having to put them in a box designating them as “English”, as opposed to the rest of the world (who I expect we will start referring to as the Xenos).
Perhaps Ed Miliband should maybe stop thinking about things that mattered when William the Conqueror came to the throne and instead consider more important items on the agenda; the NHS, disgusting welfare cuts, the situation in Syria, the fact that one of his councillors called another member a “shirt-lifting gender-bender”. Englishness doesn’t matter to anyone but Nick Griffin and the EDL, and I’m quite happy for it to stay that way.
I’m Kate, I’m English, and who gives a toss?