Progress for the English Community
by Tony Linsell
The English Democrats Party magazine English Voice carried an article calling for members of the party to embrace an inclusive Englishness. I was given the opportunity to reply to the article and that reply is printed below. There is no need to print the 'offending' article - you will get the drift of it from my response.
I was surprised that no one responded to the piece in The English Voice by Matthew Aldridge, Englishness …in the eye of the beholder? Perhaps, like me, others thought someone else was bound to challenge him.
Matthew Aldridge adopts the usual approach of progressives in that he assumes that all descent and right thinking (PC) people share his somewhat confused and ultra-inclusive notions of Englishness - it is clear that he believes anyone who has a different view must be rightwing and extremist.
After an appeal to emotion and authority (Trevor Phillips and the Queen) rather than any discernable rational argument, Matthew urges members of the EDP to promote a more inclusive and plural English identity. It seems that he is one of those who would agree with the progressive slogan, 'Whatever your ethnicity you can be English if you want to be.' He seems to suggest that Englishness has such little substance that anyone can identify themselves, or someone else, as English - as if it is a matter of personal choice - or even whim.
In my view, an ethnic group is an extended family - a group of people who share an ancestry, history and culture. Which means that they share a language and a unique mix of values and perceptions. They have a way of life (a mix of customs, attitudes, and beliefs) that is expressed in such things as architecture, clothing, dance, song, and the food they eat and the way they cook it. Perhaps the most important aspect of ethnicity is that it is an instinctive community of the mind, a place where no foreigner can go. Thus when we are asked what are the characteristics of English ethnicity - or 'what does it mean to be English?' - we need only reply that it is indefinable - there are no firm boundaries and no columns of tick-boxes.
In addition to the above, membership of an ethnic group is dependent upon acceptance of the individual by the group. If I am a Francophile, speak French and live in France it does not mean that the French will accept me as one of them. If I go to live in Scotland, drink whisky, wear a kilt, and eat porridge and haggis it's probable that I will still be called an English bastard. When, as often happens, someone tells me that they have an Italian / Asian / Jamaican / or whatever friend who is in many ways more English than the English and ought to be accepted as English, I simply reply that if he was English he would not be described as an Italian / Asian / Jamaican / or whatever friend, and there would be no need to make a case for him because he would be accepted as part of the English community and he would naturally feel that he belonged. Likewise I am often asked, "But surely Ian Wright is English? He supports the England team and says he is English." No he is not a member of the ethnic-English community. His communal history is not that of the English community and it is probable that his ancestors have played no part in English history except perhaps as outsiders. Put simply, his origins and family history are not in England or the English community. This does not mean that I do not respect him, like him, and think he was a great footballer.
It might surprise Matthew Aldridge but in English law an ethnic group is defined in much the same way as I have above. The House of Lords, in Mandla v Lee, defined an ethnic group in the following way.
An ethnic group is a group that regards itself or is regarded by others as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics that will help to distinguish the group from the surrounding community. Two of these characteristics are essential:
a. a long shared history, of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it keeps alive; and
b. a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance.
Other relevant characteristics (one or more of which will commonly be found) are:
c. either a common geographical origin or descent from a small number of common ancestors;
d. a common language, not necessarily peculiar to the group;
e. a common literature peculiar to the group;
f. a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups or from the general community surrounding it; and
g. being a minority or being an oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community. Both a conquered people (say, the inhabitants of England shortly after the Norman conquest) and their conquerors might be ethnic groups.
As can be seen from the above, many of the groups mentioned on ethnic monitoring forms, such as Asian, Black, White, are quasi-ethnic groups which have been invented by the race relations industry for political and ideological reasons. In short, ethnic monitoring forms do not monitor ethnicity as defined in law. All becomes clear when census and ethnic monitoring forms are seen as political and ideological tools.
The quasi-ethnic groups have been created by an administrative sleight-of-hand so that favoured racial groups can be granted the privileges enjoyed by ethnic groups - such as the right to discriminate and the right to gain access to government funding. The census form is important because it serves as a model for the ethnic monitoring forms used by businesses, government departments, and other organisations. Little if any statistical information is collected about ethnic groups that are not specifically included in ethnic monitoring forms. One of the consequences of this is that excluded groups, such as the English, become invisible to officialdom. In short, it is difficult for excluded groups to demonstrate their special needs and the discrimination they face, or to demand resource allocation and policies which tackle that need and discrimination. It is no accident that the ethnic-English are an excluded group.
The Good News
The 2011 census form for Scotland is to have an ethnic-English tick-box but until very recently the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has resisted the idea of doing the same for England. They announced earlier this year that on the next census form for England respondents would be able to identify themselves as English. This mislead many (as it was probably meant to) because the intention was not to include the 'English' tick-box under, 'What is your ethnicity' but to ask a separate question, 'What do you consider your national identity to be'. The tick-box options being 'English', 'Scottish', 'Welsh', with 'Other - write in'. This question and the tick-box options seemed designed to meet the wishes of people like Matthew Aldridge by encouraging people who live in England to identify themselves as English. In other words, it is possible for a Somali or Kurd or Palestinian or whoever to retain their 'ethnic identity' and, for whatever reason, choose to adopt an English 'national identity'.
After lengthy correspondence with ONS it seems that they 'might' also put an 'English' tick-box under the ethnicity question but we will not know for sure until they publish the 2007 Test Census for England on their website in September. I have also been in lengthy correspondence with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and you might be surprised to learn that they support the idea of an ethnic-English tick-box. Further, CRE has recently suggested (on its website) that organisations include an ethnic-English tick-box on their ethnic monitoring forms. I feel that we are making real progress and that official recognition of the English as a racial group and as a quasi-ethnic group for monitoring and other purposes will have very important consequences.
In addition to claiming an English 'national identity'(inclusive) and 'ethnic identity' (exclusive) the English are one of the few groups recognised in law (for the purposes of the Race Relations Act 1976) as a 'racial group' (exclusive). There are therefore three English identities. If Matthew wants to assert and promote an inclusive English national identity based on place of residence or birth he is free to do so. I am also free to assert and promote my English ethnicity and take proper advantage of the fact that I belong to a recognised racial group. Those who mock or otherwise insult me and others for asserting our identity might be thought guilty of racial harassment. No I am not a right-wing extremist, merely an unhyphenated Englishman who wants equal treatment with the members of other ethnic groups.
Like any community the English have no easily definable borders but in law the English are defined as what is known as a "racial group" by reason of their "national* origins", which means that they are members of a community whose members share a history, culture, ancestry and communal name, and are identified with a territory ie England.
There are legal definitions for what it takes to be part of any particular racial/ethnic group but in reality people do not need a legal definition to be told what they are because it is something that they instinctively know.
Because of this as a charity we just define our main beneficiaries as being the people who would describe their ethnicity on the new ONS monitoring forms as being English (you can see the new form on our website). For the purposes of the charity we use the term English in it's ethnic sense ie the charity is for the benefit of the people who would classify themselves as being ethnically English as opposed the ethnically Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Polish, etc.
*a nation is not a geographical area of land, it is a group of people if you like - a large extended family
The Courts have set out the following test for membership of a racial group (the English in the terms of this charity are a racial group and have a racial identity in law) for purposes of the Race Relations Act –
a) you have a reasonable belief that you are a member of the group; and
b) other members of the group accept as a member.
It is possible to be a 100% member of an ethnic or nation racial group if one is not also a member of another similar racial group by virtue of the application of the tests at (a) and (b) above.
The English are also an ethnic group for ethnic monitoring purposes. The Office of National Statistics use the following definition for an ethnic group as set out by the House of Lords.
“An ethnic group has a distinct identity, based on recognising a long shared history and having distinct cultural traditions, which may be related to one of the following chrematistics:
- Geographical origin
- Country of birth
- Cultural traditions
In his summing up of a court case involving claims of discrimination by BBC Scotland against an English journalist (BBC versus Souster), Lord Cameron of Lochbroom stated that:
“a racial group may be defined by reference to it’s communal origins and traditions, which may be either “national or “ethnic”…I observe words such as English..are used in common parlance both as nouns and as adjectives in what can only be described as a racial sense…Thus to speak of…“the English” is to denominate a group having a particular historical identity in terms of their origins”
A non-legalistic definition of what it is to be ethnically English –
“The English gave their name to England and have lived in it ever since. People who have since come to England , and merged into the English population, and are indistinguishable from the English, and claim no identity other than English, and are accepted by the English as being one of their own, are English”
Extracts from CRE’s paper ‘Citizenship and Belonging: What is Britishness?‘ (pdf).
"In England, white English participants perceived themselves as English first and British second, while ethnic minority participants perceived themselves as British; none identified as English, which they saw as meaning exclusively white people. Thus, the participants who identified most strongly with Britishness were those from ethnic minority backgrounds resident in England.
There is a difference between being British and being English. English is being indigenous, being white and from this country. But being British, the primary thing that comes to mind is that you have a British passport. The second thing is that you live here and you function here, in this society […] I am British. I am not English (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, London)
For many ethnic minority participants, in particular, maintaining the difference between the English and the British was crucial, because this provided them with some space to belong."