For England to be England, she must abandon British illusions
And when Archbishop Stephen Cottrell protests against a certain account in the media that pokes fun at England outside London, calling him backslid and fanatic, he’s also right.
The most striking example is Brexit. In the five years since the referendum, much of the press has collaborated to paint a false picture of the political economy and geography of the event. In fact, leavers were more likely to live in the south of England than in the north, and more likely to see themselves as middle class than working class. And this mundane trope digs much deeper than this single vote.
Read much of the tabloid press, and you might think England is a nation of small-minded fanatics swinging between moral panics about anyone challenging the precarious social hierarchies in which they find themselves.
Read much of the liberal press, and you’ll find acres of misery about this same supposed phenomenon, as well as an endless switch between those who want progressive politicians to capitulate to the fabricated fanaticism of an imagined middle England. , and those who choose to laugh at it.
In the nearly 20 years that I have made regular forays into every corner of the country to talk to people about politics, I have found – as anyone in their right mind would expect – a much more complex picture. As the polls show, in England as in the Western world, most people’s instincts are largely progressive, even though they are linked by currents of racism and sexism.
Yes, some people booed English footballers for taking the knee. But most supported them. Racism colors the way we all see the world, but most of us also aspire to be free from it. And working class people – who tend to identify as English – are certainly no more racist than their ruling class, which more often sees themselves as British.