The EDL’s English problem

Matthew Collins - 16 11 11
The EDL: Last night's brains trust meeting in Wallsend

The EDL: Last night’s brains trust meeting in Wallsend

There’s obviously been an early start on the alco pops over at the EDL bunker today.

Shortly after dawn up went one of those infamous diary entries that throws up more of those conundrums for the group’s elite thinking unit to work on. And if they can’t do that, perhaps they’ll have to delete it before Herr Yaxley-Lennon sees it.

“In the last 66 years we as a nation, as a race have had our national identity stolen from us by politicians who have forced us to accept multiculturalism”, wrote whichever Womble was first up (or perhaps late to bed?)

Obviously, someone also had a fair go at stealing English spelling and grammar while this alleged invasion was going on. But it does bring me nicely to the ongoing but rather quiet of late, debate about Englishness. Who or what are the English, and as Billy Bragg points out, why don’t they even have a national anthem?

I was at Wembley last night and they quite clearly played the Swedish national anthem before the generic song that none of the England footballers seem to know the words to, was played.

In essence, the EDL are complaining that there are too many “Johnny Foreigners” in Blighty or “cultural genocide” as they prefer to call immigration. And it is England and not Britain they’re talking about. For some time now the EDL has been the self appointed judge of all or what is English. It’s developed from initially being anything not Muslim, or perhaps degenerated, to anything apparently not white, racist, vulgar, drunk and capable of acts of violence at the drop of plastic pint pot. “You’re not English anymore” is one particular favourite chant of theirs, normally aimed at people working, integrating, shopping and generally going about their civil, decent, every day lives.

For those of us who would happily and proudly describe themselves as English, it is the EDL that represent a greater “cultural genocide” than any of the so-called “cultures or ways of life imposed on us by legislative, administrative or other measures”.

The reason for this? Well, one does tend to see more foreign Nazi salutes at an EDL demo than one sees examples of our national dance for instance.

And further to that, I would also like to query the time frame that the EDL puts on this “genocide”. For a “non-racist” organisation it looks remarkably like one that pinpoints this genocide as beginning about a week after the Second World War ended and Britain, on her knees, gratefully welcomed people to her shores to help rebuild the great country, the great country that many of those arrivals had served with pride and distinction in the defeat of Nazism.

So, of course it is racism and the EDL do not even deny it or hide it either. It is the colour of people’s skin and not a comment about current immigration and migration trends. Fewer and fewer of their former black or Asian collaborators are paraded around on the shrinking EDL demonstrations any more. They left or were hounded out of the organisation as the EDL’s demonstrations became smaller and smaller and more pointless and directionless.

Any fool who believes the EDL’s early (or even recent) claims that they were not racist may struggle to find any way around this latest all enlightening proclamation that the EDL is anything else other than a self defining, racist and reactionary gang.

Interestingly, the EDL writer puts the blame for England’s supposed demise at the feet of the “British elite”, which is probably a dig at the Scottish and Welsh, those devious “Brits” with their ideas about self governance and independence. They’re not blaming the banks, bankers and globalisation. Not even the fall of the Berlin wall and the eventual shrinking of England’s manufacturing base and the growing waste of the English seed, indeed the “bulldog breed”. The EDL attacks instead, anything progressive or intelligent. When is the last time they did anything to stop a hospital closure or even a library being closed? There’s not even a small whimper in defence of Blake’s Jerusalem. They’re more likely to burn copies of Shakespeare’s Othello than save it.

In England’s defence, she never needed or wanted the EDL. Poor old “pernicious Albion” was lumped with them. And all the EDL know about England and Englishness is some rather rudimentary geography and a crude grasp of history.

But a “race”? We’ve never been a race, ever. Changing the rules the way the EDL does may allow them to steal Monty, Kitchener, William Joyce and a few others. But what does it deny us? A look around Wembley at England’s finest footballers and indeed footballing future the last two home games should make clear to them what folly this is. Or perhaps a trip to the Doctor’s by riding a bus or train or by taking a taxi (if they can avoid assaulting someone).

We’ve had these arguments about Britain with the BNP and the NF for over forty years, and we have defeated them. But funnily enough, I actually welcome the EDL’s proclamation this morning. It’s racist and stupid. So was their proclamation. We English have never been a race, never will be a race, not scientifically the way the EDL think we are. My father came to this country in the 1950’s and I was born here as were my brothers and their children.

Englishness is about being from a country not hating another country. We have more than one national dish because we are an old country, a new country and a cultured country. So are our neighbours and we do not have to hate them.

EDL leader Stephen Yaxley Lennon claims a lot of pride in his Irish heritage, when it suits him. I do not deny him either his Irishness nor do I or would I deny him his Englishness. But it seems this morning that his depleted army of Stormtroopers would seek to do just that.

And while the EDL are doing all this, their former friends in the Scottish Defence League are once more planning on invading the English town of Berwick, a town that they claim belongs to Scotland.

To quote another Bard, “what do they know of England/if only England knows”.


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