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Beyondthe
Constitution?
Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain
ByMichaelKenny,RichardEnglishandRichardHayton

February2008
©ippr/ipprnorth2008

InstituteforPublicPolicyResearch
Challengingideas– Changingpolicy
2 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

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‘TheFutureoftheUnion’ Abouttheauthors
Thispaperformspartofaseriesofcommissionedresearchpapers MichaelKenny isProfessor,andHeadofDepartment,inPoliticsat
foripprnorthandippr’s‘FutureoftheUnion’project.Tomarkthe theUniversityofSheffield.HeiscurrentlyalsoaVistingResearch
300thanniversaryoftheActsofUnion,ipprisexploringthestate Fellowatippr.HehaspublishedseveralbooksonBritishpolitical
oftheUniontoday,thechallengesitfacesanditsfuture.Weare thoughtandpolitics,includingThePoliticsofIdentity (2004,Polity),
lookingattheeconomic,constitutional,socialandculturalaspects TheFirstNewLeft (1995,Lawrence&Wishart),and(withR.English)
oftheUnion,aswellaschangingpublicattitudestowardsit. (eds.)RethinkingBritishDecline(2000,Macmillan).Heiscurrently
undertakingresearchinto‘Englishness’inBritishpoliticalthought
ipprwouldliketothanktheEnglishRegionsNetworkandThe
andcontemporarypolitics.
NorthernWayfortheirgeneroussupportforthiswork.
RichardEnglish isProfessorofPoliticsatQueen’sUniversity,
Belfast.HehaswrittenwidelyonIrishnationalism,includingthe
Acknowledgements booksIrishFreedom:TheHistoryofNationalisminIreland (2006,
TheauthorswouldliketothanktheBritishAcademy(Grant Macmillan)andArmedStruggle:TheHistoryoftheIRA(2003,Pan
No.44212)andtheNuffieldFoundation(GrantNo.33586)fortheir Books).HehasalsowrittenonBritishdecline,thestate,intellectual
generoussupportinfundingresearchwhichthispaperdrawson. historyandthepoliticsofterrorism.
WewouldalsoliketothankGuyLodgeandAndrewGamblefor
RichardHayton isadoctoralstudentandtutorintheDepartment
commentsonanearlierdraftofthispaper.
ofPoliticsattheUniversityofSheffield.Heiscurrentlycompleting
hisPhDthesisoncontemporaryConservativepolitics.
3 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

Introduction ofculturalreawakeningwhichismoreakintothemodelofthe
Thenotionthatwearecurrentlywitnessingagrowing nationasaprimarilyculturalconstructespousedhistoricallyby
commitmenttoEnglishnationalismanddeeperandwider figuressuchasHerderandcriticallyanalysedmorerecentlyby
identificationwithEnglishness,asopposedtoBritishness,is scholarssuchasJohnHutchinson(1987,1994).Someofthe
becomingpartofthepoliticalwisdomoftheage.Anincreasingly argumentsemanatingfromthesequartersstruggletoprovidea
familiarideainthevillageofWestminsteraswellasinthe convincingaccountofhowEnglishidentityinthepresentrelates
London-basedmedia,thesuggestionthattheEnglishare tosomeofthegrandnarrativesthathaveshapedEnglish
beginningtothinkofthemselvesasanationwithaclearly perceptionsofthepast.Butthisparadigmprovidessomeuseful
separatedidentityfromtheotherconstituentnationalitiesresident pointers,wesuggest,towardsthekindofengagementwhichthe
withintheUnitedKingdomfeedsintoanincreasinglyvexed politicalclassneedstodevelopinrelationtothisphenomenon.
debateamongpoliticiansandcommentatorsaboutthe
Thirdwepointtotheemergenceandinfluenceofapowerful
constitutional,politicalandculturalstatusoftheUKandthe
counter-discoursetothoseaffirming,orseekingtoexploit,current
identityandfutureof‘Britishness’itself.Thisthemeismost
emphasesonEnglishness.Thisperspectivetendstopresentnew
obviouslylinkedinpoliticaltermstothelandmarkreforms
culturalshiftsasutterlythreateningincharactertothetraditions
associatedwiththegrantingofdevolutiontoScotlandandWales
andvaluesofBritishnessandtheBritishstate.Insodoing,it
in1999,thoughagrowingcommitmenttoEnglishnesspre-dated
tendstounderplaythenatureandscopeofthechallengesfacing
thislegislation.AnewmoodofEnglishnationalismwasdiscernible
thelatter,and,wesuggest,overlookthecomplexitiesand
asfarbackastheearly1990s,andwasgatheringmomentumwell
ambiguitiesofnationalaffiliationandidentityinBritain.A
beforeNewLabourcametopowerin1997.
commitmenttoastronglyheldsenseofEnglishnessandthedesire
Quitehowwidespreadisthisstrongeridentificationwith toarticulateandexploreEnglishnationalidentityisbynomeansa
Englishness,andhownewistheideaofbelongingtoanEnglish novelfeatureofBritishculturallife,norisitnecessarilyan
ratherthanaBritishnation,representimportantquestionsthat indicationofthedemiseofBritishness.Thepoliticsofnational
havebeenratherburiedbeneaththesoundsofthetrumpetingor identificationandculturalattachmentinBritaindoesnothaveto
denouncingofthispurportedlynewphenomenon.Whileafull beseenasazero-sumgame.
examinationofthehistoricaldimensionsanddepthof
identificationwithEnglishnessisbeyondourremithere,thispaper
1.ThepoliticsofEnglishnationalism
seekstoputthecasefortheadoptionofagreatersenseof
TheLabourgovernmentelectedin1997hasoverseenthemost
historicalproportionaboutthesechanges,andchallengesthe
far-reachingreformofBritain’sconstitutionoverthelastcentury.
widelyheldpresumptionthattheriseofEnglishnessnecessarily
Whetherthisprogrammerepresentsacontinuationofthesupple
signalsthedeath-knellofthevaluesandidentitiesassociatedwith
andadaptivetraditionswhichsomecommentatorshavelong
BritishnessandthelegitimacyoftheUK’spolity.Weengagethese
celebratedasthehallmarkofgovernancefromWestminster,or
questionsbyseparatingoutandprovidingsomecriticalreflections
amountstoashorter-termpolitically-drivenefforttobreathenew
uponthreeofthemaincharacterisationsofEnglishnationalism
lifeintotheailingUnion,orrepresentsadefensiveresponsetothe
thatdominatethinkinginelitepoliticalandculturalcircles.None
declininglegitimacyofBritain,remainsthesubjectofconsiderable
ofthese,wemaintain,isadequatetothetaskofprovidingan
debate.Thepoliticalreasonsgivenforthedevolutionofsome
intellectuallyrobust,historicallyproportionateorpoliticallywise
executiveresponsibilityto,andthecreationoflegislativebodies
frameworkforpolicymakersandpoliticians.Inconclusion,we
in,ScotlandandWales,relatetothedesiretoheadoffsomeof
pointtowardsthemeritsofaratherdifferentreadingof,and
thelong-heldgrievancesthathadfirednationalistmovementsin
approachto,EnglishnessforthepoliticaleliteinWestminster,a
bothcountries.Labour’s1997electionmanifestopromisedto
paradigmcharacterisedbyacommitmenttoadaptivereform,
‘meetthedemandfordecentralisationofpowertoScotlandand
constructiveengagementwithEnglishidentityandanawareness
Wales,onceestablishedinreferendums’andarguedthatdoingso
ofthevaluesandbenefitsstillattachedtoBritishidentity,and
wouldstrengthentheUnionandremovethethreatofseparatism
someofthecorepoliticaltraditionsandinstitutionsoftheUK.
(LabourParty1997).
Thefirst‘narrative’weconsideristheincreasinglyprevalentidea
VerylittlewassaidaboutEnglandandtheEnglishwhenthese
thattheEnglishareassertingthemselvesbecausetheyare
changeswereintroduced.However,intheyearssincedevolution,
resentfulattheinequitiesassociatedwithpost-devolutionfiscal
threedifferentgrievanceswiththesenewarrangementshavebeen
andconstitutionalarrangements,andduetothevacuumcreated
airedontheirbehalf.Theseconcern:theapparentinequityof
bythedemiseofBritishnessasahistoricallymeaningfulcultural
ScottishMPsatWestminsterbeingabletovoteonmattersthat
identity.Theseviewscorrespondtotheintellectualmodelofthe
onlyaffectEngland–thecontinuingconundrumknownasthe
nationthatmobilisesandcomestoasenseofitsownself-
WestLothianQuestion;increasingdisaffectionaboutthemarkedly
consciousnessinthecontextofpoliticalgrievanceand
differentproportionsofpublicexpenditureincurredpercapitain
constitutionalchange.
EnglandcomparedwithScotland;andtheemergenceofmarked
Second,andsomewhatdifferentincharacter,wesuggest,isthe differencesofattitudeandpolicytowardthepublicfundingof
senseofEnglishnessthathasbeenpromotedandexploredbya education,healthcare,andotherservicesinScotland.Thedefacto
hostofculturally-orientatedcommentarysincethemid1990s. subsidisingofScotlandbytheEnglishtaxpayerisactuallyalong-
Thisratherdisparatebodyofwritingpositsandpromotesasense standingfeatureofthepolicylandscape,andhassurfacedbefore
4 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

asanissueinBritishpolitics.FearingarevivalofScottish 76percentofEnglishrespondentsfavouringthecontinuationof
separatism(whichreacheditselectoralpeakin1974)the theUnion,and61percentinfavourofanEnglishParliament(BBC
ConservativesshieldedScotlandfrom‘thefullrigourofthe News2007).
Barnettformula’1 (McLeanandMcMillan2003:54),and,contrary
Whenconfronteddirectlywiththeissue,significantnumbersof
topopularbelief,fromthefullforceofThatcheritepolicies(Gamble
respondentsarticulatesympathyfortheviewthatthecurrent
2006:27).ThisdifferentialhaspersistedunderLabour,while
arrangementisunjusttoEngland,butlittleevidenceexiststhatthis
devolutionhasservedtomakeitmoreapparent.Consequentlythis
constitutionalanomalyfigureshighintheirownpolicypreferences
inequityhasbecomeakeytargetforavociferousbandofcritics
andvotingintentions.Thepoliticalfall-outfromthisrisingsenseof
whoregarddevolutionasanaffronttoEnglishsensibilities(for
disgruntlementremainsfluid.NowconfrontedwithaScottishPrime
instanceHeffer2005a).Asanothernoted,theScotsmightbe
Minister,andatighterpublicspendingsettlement,theUnionmay
regardedasbuildingtheirNewJerusalemwithEnglishmoney
faceagreaterlegitimacycrisisintheformofheightenedEnglish
(Johnson2001).
resentmentthanhashithertobeenthecase.
Yet,whethertheincensedcharacterofthewritingsofright-wing
Ratherthanassumingthistobeso,however,weneedtoask
EnglishpopulistslikeBorisJohnsonandalliessuchastheAssociate
whetherEnglishnationalismnecessarilypointsinthisconstitutional-
EditoroftheDailyTelegraph,SimonHeffer,accuratelyreflectsthe
politicaldirection.Forastart,itisworthnotingthatforallits
sentimentsoftheEnglishishardertoassess.Specifically,thereis
imperfections,thepost-devolutionconstitutionalpositionmayhave
littleevidencethatthegreaterself-identificationwithEngland
somemerits,andprovemorelong-lastingthanmanyassume,asthe
whichsomeopinionpollshavetrackedacrossthisperiodmeansthat
least-worstoptioncurrentlyavailableinconstitutionalandfiscal
thenewEnglishnessisasdefinedbygrievanceandpolitical
terms,inthisdebate.Theothermainreformscenarios–either
resentmentasthesefiguresassume.Fiscalinequitiesbetween
reorganisingthebusinessoftheHouseofCommonssothatonly
EnglandandScotlandhavenotassumedanyconsistentpolitical
EnglishMPsvoteonEnglishmattersorthemoreradicalideaofan
priority,thoughforobvioustacticalreasons,theConservativesin
Englishparliament,tomatchtheScottishParliamentandWelsh
Parliamentarebeginningtopressthisissuemoreforcefullynowthat
Assembly–comewithatangleofpoliticalandconstitutional
theGovernmentisheadedbyaScottishMP.Moreimportant,
complexitiesandrisks(LodgeandSchmuecker2007).Afew
perhaps,isthepotentialforgrievanceabouttheseissuestobecome
‘mainstream’commentatorshavebeguntotoywiththecreationof
conjoinedwithothercontentiousissueswhereasenseofEnglish
anEnglishparliamentwithinanoverarchingnewconstitutional
traditionisinvolved–theissuesmobilisedbytheCountryside
system,buthavesaidlittleabouttheimplicationsoftheseismic
Alliance,orhostilitytowardstheEuropeanUnion.
shifts,andtheirimplicationsfortheUnion,whichsuchaproject
Fewmainstreamfigureshaveassociatedthemselvesunambiguously implies(Marr2000,Wheatcroft2007).
withthepoliticsofEnglishresentment,whiletheConservativeParty
Infact,thereisevidencetosuggestthatintermsofpublic
asawholehasbeenwarysince1997ofmakingcapitaloutofthe
endorsementforavailableconstitutionaloptions,thestatusquohas
WestLothianquestion.Howeverelectorallyattractivetheideaof
beenthemostpopularchoiceoftheEnglish.AsJohnCurticehas
stoking-upEnglishcomplaintsabouttheburdensofdevolutionmay
shown,thishasbeenthemostconsistentfrontrunnerintheopinion
be,itsownhistoriccommitmenttotheUnionhastendedto
pollssince1999(Curtice2007).Indeed,theabsenceofagitationin
dampendownConservativeradicalism.Astheparty’slastnational
Englandaboutasymmetricaldevolutionisarealcauseoffrustration
electionmanifestodeclared,‘ConservativesbelievethattheUnion
forseparatistssuchasSimonHeffer,forwhomtheEnglish
ofEngland,Scotland,WalesandNorthernIrelandbringsbenefitsto
‘constructthepretence,rampantatthemoment,thatallthe
allpartsofourUnitedKingdom’(ConservativeParty2005:21).As
devolutionthatisnowtakingplaceneedhavenoimpactonthe
such,withtheexceptionofafewfringecampaigngroups,thetiny
Union’(Heffer1999:31).HepaintsapictureoftheEnglishasa
UKIndependenceParty,andthefar-right,Englishpost-devolution
decent-mindedpeople,sufferingfromboth‘anincipientfearof
grievanceshavenotyetfoundahomewithinBritishpartypolitics.
assertingthemselves’,and‘anationalcharacteristicoftakingtoo
Whetherthisisagoodorbadthingremainstobeseen.Certainly muchforgranted’(ibid:105).The‘secretpeople’2 hailedbythe
thereisevidencethatsomeoftheissuesraisedbydevolutionabout iconoclasticearlytwentieth-centuryauthorG.K.Chesterton,are
therepresentationandgovernanceofEnglandmightberipefor simplytooprivate,unpoliticalandcontenttogoinforthekindof
mobilisation.ArecentYouGovpollreportedthat76percentof mobilisationthatEnglishpopulistsanticipate.
respondentsthoughtitunfairthatScottishMPscanvoteonmatters
Others,fromleftandright,seetheriseofpoliticalEnglishnessasan
thatonlyaffectEngland,and68percentthoughtthatitwasunfair
unavoidableconsequenceoftheinexorablewaningofthevalues
thatScotspaythesameratesoftaxastheEnglishbutenjoyhigher
andtraditionsthatunderpinnedthedominantsenseofBritishness
publicspendingperheadofpopulation.Thosepolledwerelessclear
(Marr2000).TheEnglish,RichardWeightargues,‘investedtheir
abouthowtheseinequitiescouldberesolved,although51percent
EnglishnessalmostwhollyintheideaofBritain’(Weight2002:10).
agreedwiththeideaofpreventingScottishandWelshMPsfrom
AsthetraditionsandvaluesofBritishnessceasetohavethecultural
votingonmattersthataffectonlyEngland(YouGov2007).Another
pulltheyoncedid–withGordonBrown’sgenerationperhapsthe
poll,conductedfortheBBC’sNewsnight inJanuary2007,recorded
lasttofeelanuncomplicatedandproudsenseofbeingBritish–itis

1.TheBarnettFormulaisthemechanismusedtoallocatespendingblocksfromtheTreasurytothedevolvedadministrationsinScotland,WalesandNorthernIreland.
2.ThetitleofChesterton’sfamouspoem,availableat:www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/secret-people.html
5 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

suggestedthatEnglishnessemerges,confusedanddisorientated, Englishnationalismwillquietlysubsidehavebeentheabiding
intothelightofday.ForsocialtheoristKrishanKumar,‘havingforso watchwordsofthepoliticalelite.WiththeascendancyofGordon
longresolutelyrefusedtoconsiderthemselvesasanationorto BrowntoPrimeMinisterialoffice,andhisapparentwillingnessto
definetheirsenseofnationhood[theEnglish]findthemselves deliverafurtherphaseofconstitutionalreform(particularlyin
havingtobeginfromscratch’(Kumar2003:269).Britishnessandthe relationtotherelationshipbetweenexecutiveandlegislature),the
defunctBritishstateshouldbeabandoned,assertsWeight,notleast ToriesmayedgeclosertomobilisingEnglishnationalism.Atthe
because‘theUnitedKingdomwasprimarilyestablishedtofurtherthe sametime,DavidCameronhasbeenkeentoemphasisehisUnionist
questforEmpire,andwiththelossofEmpirewentitsraisond’être’ credentials,andtodistancehimselffrom‘sourLittleEnglanders’
(Weight2002:727).SeparationwouldhelptofreeEnglandfromits (Cameron2006).Hedoesnot,however,looklikelytodropthe
imperialpast,andaffordthelefttheopportunitytodeveloparadical Conservativepledgeof‘EnglishvotesforEnglishlaws’adoptedby
alternativevision,wrestingpatriotismfromtheright. thepartyunderWilliamHague3,eventhoughsomesuggestthat
suchamove‘raisestheprospectofaUKgovernmentbeingunable
Suchanargumentgetsitsbearingsfromtheinfluentialanalysislaid
togovernEngland,itslargestconstituentpart’4 (Stirling2007).
outinTomNairn’slandmarktextTheBreak-upofBritain (Nairn
1977).Onthisview,devolutionrepresentsalastdesperateattempt Englishnessis,then,bynomeansabsentfrommainstreampolitics.
toappeasetheforcesofCelticnationalismandsavethecreaking Indeeditsmotifs,anxietiesandgrievancescontinuallyrecurin
structuresofthepost-imperialBritishstate.Ithasalso,Weight Britishpoliticallife,andfindtheirwaysintoahostofdifferent,
argues,‘forcedtheEnglishtodowhattheirpartnersdidinthe apparentlyunrelatedpolicyissues.Buttakenasawhole,the
secondhalfofthetwentiethcentury–toreconsiderwhotheyare politicalparties,andtheirmostproximatemediacommentators,
asapeople’,ataskmadeallthemoredifficult‘becausetheir appeareitherundulyoptimisticorundulyworriedaboutthe
nationalidentitywassubsumedwithintheUnionforsolong…and likelihoodthatEnglishnationalismwillmutateintoasmall-nation
becausetheyaredoingitbydefault’(Weight2002:731).The resentmentatitspositionwithinalargermulti-nationentity.One
notionthatEnglishidentityhasbeensunkinorsubsumedby importantexplanationforthelackofproportionadoptedtowards
Britishness,popularwithwritersfromacrossthepoliticalspectrum, thisphenomenonisthatpoliticalcalculationsaboutEnglishdisquiet
fitsawkwardlywiththeequallypopularideathattheEnglishwere havewronglybeenseparatedfromthecultural-cum-historical
thedominantpartnerswithin,andindeedshapersof,thecultural dimensionsofcontemporaryEnglishness.
valuesandtraditionsassociatedwithBritishidentity.Itisstillfar
fromuncommontofindcommentatorsfrombothrightandleft
2.Englishnessasaculturalidentity
slidingbetweenthesetwoverydifferentpropositionsinthesame
AlongsidethepopularcelebrationofsymbolsofEnglishnessinthe
argument.
theatresofinternationalsportingcompetition,amoreconsidered
Asmallbutperhapsgrowingbodyofpoliticalopinionisbeginning re-examinationofEngland’scultureandhistoryhasbeenunderway
tocallforacarefulre-engagementwithEnglishnessinthecontext sincetheearlymid-1990s.Thisisaprocessthathasbeenmost
ofdevolution,primarilytooffsettheperilsofpopulistnationalism. visiblydevelopedbyleadingpoliticalandmediacommentators,
FormerMinisterDavidBlunkett,forexample,seesthechanceto includingfigureslikeJeremyPaxman(1998),AndrewMarr(2000)
developanewprogressiveformofEnglishnessthatisnotseenasa andBillyBragg(2006);andhasfoundexpressioninanumberof
threattoScotlandbutis‘compatiblewithacivicvalue-ledsenseof landmarkpopulartelevisionseriesandbookspublishedbyabandof
Britishness’and‘isstrengthenedfromitspositioninamulti-national publichistorians.FigureslikeSimonSchama,DavidStarkeyandNiall
Union’(Blunkett2005).Blunkett’sconfidencethatarejuvenated Fergusonhavereachedawideaudiencethroughtheirpolishedand
ideaofEnglishnesscanbeaccommodatedwithinaUnionist popularTVhistoriesoftheEnglish/Britishpast.Thisthemehas
frameworkissignificantinthisregard.Thiskindofsentimentclearly surfacedtooinpopularfictionandcinemainthisperiod5,and
playedaroleinanimatingthedevelopmentofplans,inthefirst stretchesaswellintotheacademy.Englishnessandtheideaof
Blairadministration,tograntsomeexecutivepowerstoregional Englishnationalidentityhavebeenthefocusofmajorhistorical
authoritiesinsomepartsofEngland,notablytheNorthWestand studiesinrecentyears,andarenowestablishedasthemesofgreat
NorthEast.Withthedemiseofthisproject,followingthe‘No’vote interesttohistorians,literaryscholarsandsocialscientists(Kumar
oftheNorthEastreferendumin2004,thereremainsapolicy 2003,Stapleton2001).
vacuumattheheartoftheLabourParty’sthinkingaboutthe
Thisculturaloutpouringismarkedbyitsparticularcombinationof
governanceofEngland.
sharpenedanxietyandlingeringculturalself-confidence–revealing
Beyondinterventionsonsomesymbolicallyimportant,butasyet characteristicsofthecurrentstateofEnglishnationalidentity.In
ratherisolated,issues–callsforStGeorge’sDaytobecomeapublic combinationwiththeapparentweakeningoftheholdofthe
holidaybeingoneexample–noneofthepartiesdisplaysanykind nationalmyths,narrativesandvaluesassociatedwiththeonce-
ofconfidenceorwillingnesstobringEnglishnessintotheheartof mightyBritishnation,thesedevelopmentshavepromptedan
itsstrategicandpolicythinking.Fearfulnessandthehopethat extendedmomentofculturalintrospectiononbehalfoftheEnglish.

3.InFebruary2006Cameronestablisheda‘DemocracyTaskforce’toreviewConservativepolicyonarangeofconstitutionalmatters.ChairedbyKenClarke,ithasyetto
submititsfinalreport.
4.SuchasituationmightariseifthepartycompositionofthemajorityofMPsforEnglanddifferedfromthatfortheUK(seeRussellandLodge2006).
5.SeeforinstanceJulianBarnes’sEngland,England (1998;London:JonathanCape);andthefilmThisisEngland (2006;directedbyShaneMeadows).
6 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

Whilethereisclearlyanoverlapbetweenthisextensiveenquiryinto valuesrelatingtothesupposed‘character’oftheEnglish.Thesecond
theEnglishpastandthecharacterofitspeople,andthepolitical relatestomoregeneralisedattributionsofcharacteristicstothe
nationalismdescribedabove,thetwoarealsoquitedistinctinkind. peopleofEngland,typicallyidentifiedinrelationtothepre-modern
Politicalnationalisminvolvesorganisedstruggletowardsthe past.Alongsidethesediscoursestherehasemergedagrowing
achievementofsomeformalgoal,usuallyconstitutional, disquiet,expressedinliterature,filmandsong,aboutEngland’s
institutionalorstate-centred.Culturalnationalismmaybelessgoal- currentinhabitants’increasinglytroubledrelationshipwiththese
orientatedandmorereflectiveofasenseofcommunalidentityand versionsofthepast.ThusJulianBarnes’ssatiricalnovelEngland,
self-image.Whilethesetwophenomenaare,historically,often England (1998)takesasitscentralthemetheparadoxthatthe
entwined,theythuspossessdifferentemphasesanddynamics Englisharetornbetweenthehankeringtoreconnectwithamythical
(English2007). understandingoftheirhistoryandthetawdrykitschthat
characterisestoday’smarket-ledeffortstorecreatewhatwentbefore.
Here,itisthecultural-nationalistnotionofEnglandasacommunity
unitedbysharedcultureandadistinctivehistoricalstorythathas Incomparisonwithearlier‘moments’ofEnglishness(notablythatof
beencentral.Theattempttocapturewhatissupposedlyessentialor theendofthe19thcentury,andthatassociatedwiththecrisisof
distinctiveinthenationalcharacteroftheEnglishclearlyarises 1940),latter-dayattemptsatitsculturalcharacterisationaremore
againstabackdropofahostofsocio-economicandgeo-political shotthroughbyanxietyaboutthepossibilityand/ordesirabilityof
changes,aswellassomeongoingpressures,notablytheimpactof developinganimaginativeframeofreferenceforEngland’scurrent
Americanvaluesandculture.Butthegenretowhichthesecultural inhabitants.Forsomethisisbecauseofchangesintheethnic
commentatorsandnational-historiansarecontributingisperhaps compositionandsocialcharacteroftheEnglishpeople,whonow
bestunderstoodasaverylong-standing,ifoverlookedone.Thisis requireamoreinclusive,lessmilitaristicandmoreavowedlymodern
thetraditionofspeculationaboutthenationalcharacterofthe senseofthemselves.OthersconcurwithBarnesthattheEnglishare
English,alineagethat,asPeterMandlerhasdemonstrated, engagedinatragicandsometimesfarcicalattempttodefinetheir
assumedaparticularsignificanceinthelate-eighteenthandearly- identityintermsthataresimplynolongerappropriatetotheearly
nineteenthcenturies(Mandler2006).Itwas,heablydemonstrates, 21stcentury.Inhisimportantre-examinationofthemajor
interwovenwith,butincertainrespectsrelativelyindependentfrom, contendinghistoricalthesesaboutwhenasenseofEnglishnational
ideasaboutBritishcultureandidentity.Amoresymbioticandsubtle identityfirstdeveloped,Kumar(2003)arguesfortheimportanceof
senseoftheirinter-relationshipisconveyedthroughthisworkthan thelate19thcenturyasthedefining‘moment’whenEnglishculture
issuppliedbythelargelyself-servingmythsabouttheEnglisheither andsenseofhistorywasfixed.Attheveryzenithofimperial
subordinatingthemselvesto,ordominating,Britain. strength,whenasenseofBritishnesswasatitsheight,andBritain’s
institutionsandprestigewereprojectedinternationallythroughits
Importantlytoo,Mandlerremindsusofthepatchworkofdifferent
powerfuleconomyandcolonialpossessions,Kumarproposes,
versionsofEngland’shistoryandcharacterthathavebeeninvoked
somewhatcounter-intuitively,thattheEnglishbegantofindthe
acrossthisperiod.Someofthesehavelongfallenoutofuse.
needtodefinethemselvesseparatelyfromtheirnational
Others,however,remainverymuchaliveinthecontemporary
counterparts–theWelsh,ScotsandIrish,havingpreviouslybeen
culturalconsciousness.PatrickWrightobservesthedurabilityofa
largelycomfortablewiththeirrelationshiptoBritishness.Thisthey
senseofEnglishnesswhichisdeeplyconnectedwithanidealisation
didthroughthearticulationofadistinctivelyEnglishliterary,poetic
ofthelandscapeoftheSouthEastandwhichischaracterisedby
andpastoralsensibility,generatingastructureofnationalfeeling
aversiontomodernity(Wright2005).
thatwastosurfacethereafterintheworkofkeyintellectualfigures
NotallofthefragmentsofEnglishnessthatgetrecycledinlater throughoutthelastcentury.
timestravelwell.AsWrightagainobserves,Baldwin’sploughteams,
Whethertheseperspectivesoffereitherplausiblehistoricalaccounts
or‘Orwell’smorestaticlistofsmokytowns,clatteringclogs,red
orpoliticallyusefulresourcesfortheEnglishseekingtocometo
pillar-boxes,autumnalmistsandbicyclingoldmaids’,seem
termswiththeirnationalidentitynow,arequestionsthatdeserve
‘threadbareandsadlyexhausted’whenrevivedinadifferentera
morescepticalenquirywithintheacademicandpoliticalworlds.
(Wright2005).ThisparticularvisionofEnglandhasalsoinformed
DespitethemultiplicityofaccountsoftheEnglish/Britishpastthat
theheritage-industryEnglishnessthatWrighthasrailedagainst
havebeenpropoundedfromwithinthemediaandtheacademy,
elsewhere,maintainedbytheNationalTrust(‘anetherealkindof
Englishhistoricalunderstandingremainstiedtoaremarkably
holdingcompanyforthedead(butnotgone)spiritofthenation’
selectivesetof(largelymythical)storiesandicons.Therecurrent
[Wright1985:56]),andwhichWrightregardsasbothasourceand
mythologyoftheEnglishdestinedtobeanislandracedefinedby
reflectionofthenostalgicmisuseofhistoryforpoliticalends.But
hostilitytorivalEuropeanpowers,withNaziGermanyplayingthe
Wright’sEnglishnessisitselfreliantontheideaofcharacteristics,
rolepreviouslyfilled,fromthelate18thcentury,byCatholicFrance,
particularlythepersistenceofthepropensitytonostalgia,whichhe
remainsremarkablyprevalent– andtotallyill-equippedasan
seemstoregardasthedefiningtraitofcurrentEnglishidentity.
intellectualtemplateforapeopleseekingtocometotermswithits
Thequestformeaningfulanswerstoincreasinglypressingquestions statusasonenationinamultinationalpoliticalstructure.
aboutwhotheEnglishareandwhattheyhaveincommonalmost
ThetwodifferentrelationshipswiththeEnglishpastthatthiswave
invariablytakesahistoricallyinclinedform.‘England’iscontinually
ofculturalself-assertionoffersushavesomeworryinglimitations.
re-imaginedthroughtwogenresofhistoricalrecollection.Oneof
Narrativesthatseektodrawmoralsandpointtolessonsfromthe
theseinvolvesamelangeofmemoriesofleaders,battlesandperiods
heroicdeedsornarrowescapesofEngland/Britainoftenprovide
fromthepast,whichembodyatangleofdifferingnarrativesand
7 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

shrillandunder-developedaccountsofwhotheEnglishshouldand oftheUK’ssmallernations’andtheconcurrentturnfrom
couldbeinverydifferentcircumstancesofthepresent.Equally,the Britishness(Hitchens2000:xxiii).Hisconcernwiththistrendis
lingeringsuspicionsofintellectuals(ofbothrightandleft)towards partlycultural–EnglishidentityhasbeentarredforHitchensbythe
theideathatEngland’scurrentinhabitantsmightengageinfruitful ‘mobsoffat,beerymen’whowaveStGeorge’sflagsatEngland
dialoguewiththeirnationalpasttypicallyrestsontheconviction footballmatches(2002)–butitisalsopolitical.Callsforgreater
thatEnglishnessisinescapablyparochial,exclusionaryand sub-nationalautonomyarenot,contraHeffer,achancetorevivea
chauvinist. deeper,ancientEngland,butpartofacontinental/left-wingplotto
‘abolish’BritainandcreateaEuropeansuper-state.TheUnited
Butthediversityandlingeringresonanceofthehistoricaland
Kingdomasawholeis‘fartoobigandpowerfultobeswallowed
culturalmanifestationsofEnglishnessobservedbycommentators
wholeintotheblandblendofthenewmulticulturalEuroland’,so
suchasWright,MarrandMandlersignalthepotentialformore
mustfirstbebrokenup(ibid:347).TheissueofEuropean
pluralisticandadaptivepoliticalresponsesinthe21stcentury.The
integrationistheultimatebogeyman,asit‘unitesallthethreadsof
presumptionsthatEnglishnesswasessentiallyexpressedthrough
theculturalrevolutionintoone.ThethingswhichmadeBritain
Britishnessuntilrecenttimes,andinitscurrentformsbearsthe
differentwerethethingswhichmadeitdifferentfromthecontinent’
imprintoftheculturalandethniccharacteristicsoftheEmpire,have
(ibid:364,originalemphasis).
beenextensivelyassailedinthehistoricalscholarshipofthelast20
years(Mandler2006,Stapleton2001).Justasotherimagined FormorecentristcommentatorssuchasMarr,suchshiftsarenot
nationalcommunitiesandculturessubsistedwithinandalongside necessarilycausesoflament,butmayoffertheopportunitytoforge
Britishnessforseveralcenturies,sotoo,itcanbedemonstrated,did amorecivicformofBritishnessbettersuitedto21stcenturylife.
arelativelyautonomousandorganicallydevelopingsenseof Britishness–despiteitscurrenttravails–remainsformanyliberal
Englishness.Thisprovidedsustenanceforsomepowerfulpolitical writersamoreattractivenationalidentitythanEnglishness.Inpart,
identitiesandvisionsoverthesameperiod.Disallowingahealthy thisisbecausemembersofvariousethnicandimmigrantminority
dialoguewiththerichtreasureofwritings,thoughtandpolitical groupshavefoundspacewithinthebroadsetofvalues,lawsand
deedsthatweredoneinthenameofEnglishnessoverthelasttwo attachmentswhichtheBritishidentityencompasses.Moregenerally,
centuriesisjustasunlikelytocementarobustandflexibleidentity thisapproachreflectstheshiftinperceptiontotheideaof
fortoday’sinhabitantsasisthenostalgicidealisationofaselect Britishnessasasetofvalues,asopposedtosubstantivemoraland
numberofepisodesfromthispast. culturaltraditions,withinliberalcircles.Forsome,theabstract
qualityandrelativeausterityofthesurvivingvaluesofBritishness–
tolerance,pluralism,andfairplay–arepotentiallysuitabletoa
3.Britanniainperil?
contextinwhichmanydifferenttraditionsandcommunitiesarenow
LocatedacrossthepoliticalspectrumisanotherviewofEnglishness
apparentinitsculturallife,andneedtofindtermsonwhichthey
whichregardsitasathreatnotonlytotheUnionbuttothe
cancometoco-existwitheachother.Forothers,somethingmore
commonvaluesandsharedidentitythatonceanimatedBritishness.
ambitiousisinvestedintheideaofBritain.ThusforJonathan
Traditionallythisstandpointismostcloselyassociatedwiththe
Freedland,thequestioniswhetherBritishnessmightbedeveloped
ConservativeandUnionistParty,butinmorerecentyears,
andreinventedinawaythatprovidesamoresubstantiveparallel
particularlysincedevolutiontoScotlandandWales,ithasbeen
withthecivicpatriotismassociatedwithnationalidentityinthe
voicedmoreregularlybyaLabourPartythatisevermoreawareof
UnitedStates,thatsimultaneouslyignitesandrequiresprideinthe
itselectoraldependenceonWalesandScotland.Whilein1997it
nationalcommunityandallowsspaceforone’sowncommunityto
wastheoutgoingConservativePrimeMinisterwarningthatthe
berecognisedasofworth(Freedland2007).
Britishpeoplehadjust‘72hourstosavetheUnion’,in2007itis
theincomingLabourPrimeMinister,goadedbyConservativejibes OthersarelessconvincedthatBritishnessshouldbeviewedasquite
abouthisScottishness,whoisforcedtoarticulatehisBritishness. thisaccommodatingorindeedvacuous.Foranumberofpublic
Fromthisperspective,the‘newEnglishness’isassociatedwiththe historians,retellingthehistoryoftheBritish,andindeedcallingfor
‘Little-Englander’populismofMrsThatcherinhermostEurophobic the‘nationalstory’tobetoldmoreforcefully,coherentlyand
form,andisregardedasacontingent,opportunisticandpotentially unapologeticallyinBritishschools,isavitalprerequisiteofarenewal
dangerouspoliticalforce.Britishness,bycontrast,ispreferredeither ofnationalidentity.Thoughsometimesarticulatedinvery
forthecivicand/orinstitutionalvaluesascribedtoit,orforthe recognisablynostalgicorconservativetones,thiskindofperspective
senseofmoraltraditionwhichitisseentoembody. is,interestingly,oneonwhichhistoriansofvaryingpoliticalhues
agree.TristramHunt,forexample,arguesthat:‘Weneedschoolsto
ThisnotionthatBritain,andavariablydefined‘Britishness’,are
teachahistorysyllabuswhichinculcatesasenseofidentitybeyond
underthreatisamisguidedandratherunsatisfyingresponsetothe
raceandreligion;somethingofacommonculture;andasenseof
(re)emergenceofamorevocalEnglishidentity,andisprobablybest
ownershipintheinstitutionsandfunctionsoftheBritishstateand
seenasafurthersymptomofthedeclinistmentalitywhichthe
civilsocietytogetherwiththeidealsandhistorytheyembody’
Britishpoliticalelitehastendedtoadoptsincethelate1960s
(Hunt2007).Fromaratherdifferentangle,DavidStarkeyconcurs
(EnglishandKenny1999).ThecolumnistPeterHitchensmakesa
ontheimportanceofacollectiveculturalmemory,withoutwhich
gloomyassessmentlinkingthepassingoftheimperialagewitha
‘anynotionofcommunity,valueorstabilityvanishesandwe
decliningsenseofBritishness,and–hisgreatestconcern–the
becomemerelyindividualisedflotsamandjetsam’(Starkey2005).
moraldegenerationofthenation.Hitchensisuneasyaboutthe
Theproblem,hesuggests,stemsfromthefactthat‘wehave
recentmovementtowardsidentificationwith‘thenarrowerloyalties
overdonethecriticalelementofhistory…Withourperpetual
8 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

questioningofhistory,partlyfromaTorypointofview,partlyfrom globalisation,andterrorism.Inthecurrentpost-devolutioncontext,
aMarxistpointofview,partlyfromapostmodernpointofview,we however,wesuggestthatsuchissuescanonlybefullyaddressed
havereallylostasenseofthelargergeneralisationsaboutourpast’. throughapoliticsthatisnotonlyframedintermsofBritishness,
Allofthesecommentatorsmakeapowerfulconnectionbetween butiswillingtoengagepositivelywithanincreasinglyself-
theahistoricalmindsetthatprevailsinBritishculture,andthe consciousEnglishness.Merelyfocusingontheprospectsof
importanceofhistoryasasourceofnationalidentityandbelonging. Britishness,whetheralongthelinessuggestedbyGordonBrown,
Whatpervadesthesecallsforamoresonorousgrandnarrativeisan JonathanFreedland,orPeterHitchens,failstoacknowledgethe
anxietythatBritishidentityisindecline,andafearthatitsabsence transformativeeffectofthenewEnglishnessonBritishpolitics.This
willbefilledwithanunsettlingmixofatomised,consumerist isapparentintermsoftheincreasingsenseofdisaffectionamong
individualists,withnoloyaltytotheirnation;andthekindof Englishvotersaboutthepost-devolutionconstitutionalsettlement,
grievance-fuellednationalismdescribedabove. theincreasinglyexplosivepotentialofcontroversialissuesthatcarry
astronglyEnglishculturalorhistoricaldimension,andthegrowing
InJanuary2000,thenHomeSecretaryJackStraw,warnedofthe
interestofcommentators,punditsandpoliticalactorsinconsidering
‘potentiallyveryaggressive,veryviolent’natureofEnglish
alternativestoextantconstitutionalarrangements.Failingtoaddress
nationalism,whichhefearedwouldbeincreasinglyarticulated
thisnewfaultlinemaywellhavetheconsequenceoffortifyingthe
followingdevolution.Inthesamedebate,theleaderofthe
kindofgrievance-fuellednationalismdescribedabove.
ConservativeParty,WilliamHague,describeditas‘themost
dangerousofallformsofnationalismthatcanarisewithinthe Whatprinciplesandvaluesshouldinformsuchapolitical
UnitedKingdom,becauseEnglandisfive-sixthsofthepopulation engagement?Belowwesketchthreedifferentideasthattogether
oftheUK’(BBCNews2000). couldgiveshapetoanimportantpolitical-cultural,andnotjust
constitutional,agendaontheseissues.
Suchfearshaveinformedtheunwillingnessofpoliticianstoengage
withEnglishness.ButthisconceptionofEnglishness,andtheidea First,andmostpressingly,engagementwithEnglishnesssuggestsa
thatwhereitapparentlydivides,Britishnesscanunify,deservesto readinesstocontemplatethenextstagesofconstitutionalreformin
bescepticallyreceivedfortworeasons.First,itisbasedonan amannerthatengageswithEnglishness,eveniffromwithina
unjustifiedpresumptionthatthemainforcesofBritishidentity– broadlyUnionistperspective.Labour’sprogrammeofconstitutional
Empire,Crown,warfareandparticularculturaltraditions–haveall reformhas,asnotedabove,hadverylittletosayabouttheposition
nowdisappearedordwindled.Infact,amoresophisticatedhistorical ofEngland.Theonlyseriouslydebatedproposal,forelected
perspectiveregardstheseasamongthemanycontingentfeatures regionalassemblieswithverymodestpowers,hasbeentabooin
of,andinstitutionalsitesfor,Britishness.Someofthesehave politicalcirclessincetheNorthEastregionresoundinglydefeated
undoubtedlywanedyetnewsitesandagentsofnationalidentity– theideainareferenduminNovember2004.Yetitwouldbequite
thehealthservice,forexample–havearguablyrisen.Thepossibility extraordinaryiftheradicaltransformationoftheUK’sconstitution,
thatchangeratherthandeclinemaybethebestwaytocapturethe fromitshistoric,uncodified,organicpasttoafutureform‘created
shiftingcomplexofBritishculturalidentity,isalltoorarely bydeliberatehumanagency’(Bogdanor2005:73)weretotake
considered. placewithoutseriousconsiderationofthestatusofthelargest
constituentpartwithinit.Justifiedintermsofacallfordemocratic
Thesecondreasonfordoubtingstronglypessimisticnarratives
renewal,anysuchprogrammewouldneedtoaddressnotonly
aboutBritishnessarisesfromtheresilienceofthevariouspolitical-
Westminsterconstitutionalquestions,buttheemasculatedstatusof
constitutionalattachmentsandtraditionswhathavealsogivenit
localgovernment,andthepowersexercisedbythequangocracy
life.AstheeminenthistorianDavidCannadinerecentlyobserved,6 a
bequeathedbytheConservativesin1997andexpandedbyLabour
ratherhard-headedsenseofthebenefitsthatcomefromtheBritish
since.
state–intermsofsecurity,economicstability,sharedcultural
interests–hasprovedremarkablydurable,evenifsomeofthe InhisearlydaysasPrimeMinister,GordonBrownhasdemonstrated
sentimentsandsenseofbeingthatculturalnationalismprovidesare arefreshingwillingnesstopickupthetorchofconstitutionalreform.
nolongeravailablefromBritishness.Theremaybe,therefore,a Yetforallofitsscope,theGovernanceofBritainGreenPaper(Cm
goodcaseforaconcertedre-evaluationoftherelationshipbetween 7170,2007)betraysadegreeofuncertaintyabouttheEnglish
BritishnessandEnglishidentity,andaconsiderationofhowa Question.InhisaccompanyingstatementtotheHouse,Brown
positivevisionofEnglishnesscancomplement,ratherthanthreaten, clearlyexcludedasunworkablethecurrentConservativePartypolicy
arejuvenatedcivicBritishness. ofEnglishvotesforEnglishlaws,butmadelittleprogressbeyond
thiscondemnation(Brown2007).Onlythetentativestepof
MinistersfortheEnglishregions,tobescrutinisedbythecreation
Conclusion:EngagingEnglishness
ofnewregionalselectcommittees,isproposed.Inanintriguing
Twoyearsago,GordonBrownnotedthat‘almosteveryquestion
paragraph,theGreenPapernotesthat,‘Alargepartofwhatwe
thatwehavetodealwithaboutthefutureofBritainrevolves
describeasBritishnesstracesstraightbacktoourowncivilwar,its
aroundwhatwemeanbyBritishness’(Prospect 2005:20).The
ultimateresolutionintheDeclarationofRightsof1689andthe
identitydebate,Brownsuggested,hasimplicationsfarbeyond
ActsofUnion.Ourrelativestabilityasanationisreflectedina
merelythequestionofconstitutionalreform,butaffectspublic
relativelackofprecisionaboutwhatwemeantobeBritish’(Cm
policyissuesasdiverseasimmigration,theEuropeanUnion,

6.InterviewwithRichardEnglish,June2007.
9 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

7170,2007:para.184).Theconfidenceandperspectiveprovided Third,asthebriefsurveyabovedemonstrates,acornucopiaof
bythisinvocationofBritishhistorycouldwellbeextendedintoa historicalandculturalaccountsofEnglishnesshavebeenproffered
paralleldiscussionoftheprospectsforareviewofthesystemof overthelastdecadeandmore.Bythemselvesthesewritingsdo
Englishgovernance(providingareviewofthedemocratic notamounttothebasisforanewEnglishidentity,buttheydo
credentialsofthecomplexbodyofpublicauthorities,elected providesomevaluablestartingpointsfromwhichthedevelopment
bodiesandinstitutionsthatcurrentlywieldauthorityoverthe ofamorepositiveandpluralisticpoliticalEnglishnessmaybegin.
English). Suchanoutlookwouldreach,forexample,beyondtherather
bucolicandnostalgicimageryofEnglandthathaspervadedmuch
Therearepotentialhazardshereforsure,butadoptingapurely
oftheliteratureinpreviousdecades(see,forinstance,Scruton
defensivestancealsoentailssignificantrisk.Brown’sadministration
2000,2004).Engagingwiththemultiplicityofhistoricalnarratives
mightwellconsiderincludingwithinanyconstitutionalconsultative
ofEngland,andbeingopentolessfamiliarandnewerones,offers
processaCommissionexaminingthegovernanceofEngland,from
thebesthopefortheemergenceofaprogressiveEnglishnessthat
centretolocality,andengagingtheEnglishinaseriousdebate
canprovideameaningfulsenseofbelongingforthosewho
abouthowtheywishtobegoverned.Againstalltheobvious
identifythisastheirprimarysourceofnationalallegiance.This
potentialpitfallsofsuchamove,astrategybuiltaroundpromoting
commitmenthassomeimportantpotentialimplicationsforthe
aconsultativeprocessfromwhichgovernmentitselfwasseveral
Historycurriculataughttosecondary-schoolchildren.Butitisnot
stepsremovedmightwellprovideanimportantbulwarkagainst
justintheclassroomthatamorepluralisiticandliberalsenseof
seductivelypopulistproposalsaboutanEnglishparliament,or
Englishnessneedstoberevivedandpromoted.Attemptstore-
votesonEnglishlawsforEnglishMPs.
engagethecomplexityaswellasintellectualandculturalbreadth
Second,itisworthbearinginmindthedurabilityandadaptability oftheEnglishpastoughttobeactivelypromotedbyliberalsand
thathavebeencharacteristicsofBritishnesssinceits‘invention’in progressives,inparttooffsetthepresumptionthatconservatism
thelate18thcentury(Colley1992).Againstthepresumptionthat andEnglishnessarenaturalhandmaidens.
theendofEmpire,theriseoftheEuropeanUnionandthemajor
Theshadowsofthepastshouldnotdrownoutthetensionsand
changesinpersonalmoralitythathavesweptacrossBritishsociety
debatesassociatedwiththistopicinthepresent,either.The
sincethe1960snecessarilymeanthedemiseofameaningful
politicalclassneedstobecomefarmoreattentivetothemany
Britishidentity,itisperhapsworthrecallingthatformany
differentideasofEnglishnessandtheculturalsingularitiesofthe
inhabitantsoftheseislessomesortofdualpatternofidentification
manydifferentinhabitantsofEngland.BringingEnglishnessinto
tonationandstatehasforalongtimebeenthenorm.Andwhile
theopeninthesekindsofways,andgainingasenseoftherange
someofthepropsofBritishcultureandnationhoodhave
ofpoliticalperspectivesandculturalambitionswithwhichitco-
undoubtedlywanedinthelate20thcentury,thisdoesnot
exists,representsoneimportantwayofchallengingthedangerous
necessarilysignalthedemiseofanappreciationof,asopposedtoa
myth,fuelledbyradicalsoftheright(andafewontheleft)that
deepattachmentto,themeritsoftheinstitutions,traditionsand
Englandisadominatedminoritynation,destinedtoachievefull
governanceprovidedbythemultinationalstatethatistheUK.The
recognitiononlywhenithasthrownofftheshacklesofan
possibilityworthretaininghereisthatadualsenseofidentification
imaginaryoppressor.ThisleitmotifiswelldescribedbyAndrew
–proudlyEnglishandhappytobeamemberoftheUK–maywell
Marr:‘…unlessEnglandisrecognisedandgivenanewsenseofits
beddownasamorenormalpatternofpersonalidentificationthan
ownsecurity,thenallthehopesforaliberal,open,democraticand
thejeremiadsandcheer-leadersforEnglishnationalismtendto
tolerantfutureareindanger’(2000:230).
imagine.AsRobinCohenhasnoted,having‘anelaborated,multi-
layeredidentityisnotthesamethingasnothavingoneatall’ SinceMarrwrotethosewords,thepressuresonthosewhowishto
(2000:582). promoteasenseofBritishnesshaveonlyincreased.AsPhilip
Nortondemonstrates,devolutionhasbynomeanskilledoffthe
AlthoughtheUKattractslittleoftheemotionalandfashionable
impulsetoindependenceamongasignificantproportionofthe
enthusiasmcommonlyassociatedwithScottish,Welsh,Northern
Scottishelectorate(Norton2007).ButproponentsofBritishness,
Irish/IrishorEnglishsentiment,itcontinuestopossessanappeal
fearingtheuglyfaceofEnglishnationalism,have,byandlarge,
tomanypeoplewithineachofthesenationalconstituencies,often
failedtoengagewiththeriseofmoreself-consciousidentitiesin
forverypracticalandeconomicreasons.Andwhilemanyofthe
theconstituentnationsoftheUK.Whileanincreasinglypolitical
elementsoftraditionalBritishidentityhavebeenerodedorgreatly
Englishnesscomeswithattendantrisks,thebesthopeforthe
altered–Protestantreligion,monarchy,empire–thiscouldbesaid
survivaloftheUnion,andthepolitical-legalconceptofBritishness,
tohaveproducedarefashioningratherthandisintegrationofwhat
istobefoundinthepromotionofthetwoascomplementary,
itmeanstobeBritish.Here,theexampleofNorthernIrelandmay
ratherthanconflictual,identities.Suchlayeredidentitieswithin
beinstructive;specificallyattentiontothechangingpolitical
moreflexiblestatesmightevenbeseenasapracticalmeansof
characterof,andculturalidentificationwith,Britishnessinthat
reconcilingthetensionsofpoliticalorganisationandcultural
context.Inthesixcounties,thedeclineofeachoftheseelements
identitywithinaliberalframework.Amodern,vibrant,English
ofBritishidentityhasnotresultedinthedemiseofUlsterunionist
identityneednotbeaBritishloss.Indeed,thefuturestrengthof
Britishness,butitsslowreformulationinadifferentbutequally
thedemocratic,civicBritishnessthatGordonBrownwishesto
committedform.
advanceissubstantiallydependent,wesuggest,onthenatureof
theEnglishnessaccommodatedwithin.
10 ippr|BeyondtheConstitution?Englishnessinapost-devolvedBritain

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