Beyond St George’s Day: Why Labour must shape England’s national story…

We’d like to thank all those who contributed to St George’s Day this year, particularly by posting photos on #MyEngland and sharing our articles.

It was encouraging to see more Labour members engaging with England’s national day. But – as Rabbil Sikdar points out in this excellent article – Labour must spend more time developing England’s national story all year round. When Labour ignores Englishness the only winners are the Far Right.

Why should Englishness matter to Labour?
Boris Johnson’s majority was won amongst voters who identify as English more than they do British, as demonstrated in our recent report on the 2019 election. And whether individual Labour members feel a strong sense of English identity or not, 80% of people in England feel strongly English.

James Kirkup has written for Unherd, highlighting academic Paula Surridge’s excellent analysis showing how economics, values, and English identity tend to combine. Access Paula’s presentation here.

You can also read John Denham’s remarks on how English voters have left Labour over the past 20 years.

What are the solutions for Labour?
At our recent event in Parliament we heard some excellent contributions on what Labour can do in practice to reconnect with English voters and shape England’s future. Byline Times journalist Hardeep Matharu summarised the event.

Tottenham MP David Lammy spoke about why Labour should promote a civic nationalism to counter the ethnic nationalism of the far right, and put forward the idea of a compulsory national civic service to help people from different backgrounds connect.

Elsmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders talked about the party needing to promote more Labour voices outside of London, how local parties need to involve themselves in local civic life, and why we should show we are proud to be English.

Ilford South MP Sam Tarry set out how Labour should draw inspiration from radical English history – from the Levellers to the Tulpuddle Martyrs, from the Chartists to Barbara Castle – and drive forward a progressive sense of English patriotism. He also pointed to excellent modern examples of civic action in Lewes and Doncaster.

Labour’s next challenge: can the party shape English identity in the post-pandemic world?
Covid-19 will reshape England’s national story, much like the Second World War and the 2008 financial crash. But Labour will need to win the argument about what type of country we are. Read more on this from Joe Jervis on Left Foot Forward.

John Denham has written in the Byline Times exploring whether Covid-19 will bring a new sense of Englishness, pointing out the ways that our national story might change. Will we believe we were all in it together during the pandemic? Will we celebrate the role of a diverse front-line workforce? Are we seeing a re-emergence of the importance of the nation state?  John has also written about similar issues for the New Statesman.

An England made by all, for all
Our new #90secondEngland pays tribute to our amazing front-line workers, and reminds us that England belongs to all who have helped to shape our nation – whatever their background. Watch our own contribution towards shaping England’s national story post-pandemic…

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