Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The call of nationalism

Heffer takes a stand on English nationalism today, arguing that there is political advantage in the Tories creating a distinct English polity.

Take it or leave it as an argument, but what is more interesting is that English nationalism is emerging as a genuine political issue, bolstered by the resurgence of Scottish nationalism and the fact that the current government is in fact, a minority in England, with 8,043,461 votes cast for it in the 2005 election, compared with 8,116,005 for the Conservatives.

What that points up is the strong – even overwhelming – desire of peoples to be governed by their own kind, which is the very essence of nationalism. Thus, after 50 years of the grand experiment in European integration, the "project" is no further forward in creating a "European identity" than it was when it started. If anything, the forces of nationalism are stronger now than they were way back in 1957.

This is an interesting development for the English. Since the Act of Union, England has not been a nation so much as a state of mind. It is that state of mind which allows an Englishman (or woman) to go abroad, to stand surrounded by denizens of that nation and think of them as foreigners.

Now, though, England is re-acquiring its status as a nation and we are seriously thinking of home rule. That our thoughts drift across the Channel - and start focusing on that other set of foreigners, in Brussels, who are also telling us what to do – cannot be far behind.

The genie is out of the bottle and that, as much as anything, is the reason why the European experiment must fail. In our hearts, we are all nationalists and ever more shall be so.


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