Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gathering The Tribes

As Sunder Katwala concludes:

There are different ways to express your pride and patriotism in Britain today. Some love a street party; others find the monarchy an embarrassment; the multi-ethnic story makes more sense in Birmingham than in Cornwall, Cumbria or Dundee.

So the patriotism tribes of modern Britain tell a story about place, class and education (and politics too). The north mostly has a stronger sense of national identity than liberal London, but doesn't always recognise its patriotism in the official version of the governing classes.

Most Scots want the English to keep the angry rejectionists, while their referendum argument between two varieties of liberal patriotism is still being led by those who are proudly Scottish but wish to stay British too.

There is an enormous gulf in worldviews between the most and least liberal tribes. Yet both are tiny niches of the population and, curiously, the hyper-cosmopolitan tribe, who see no need for national identity at all, and the angriest rejectionists, with nothing to be proud of since their country was stolen from them, turn out to be curiously linked when they share an allergic reaction to those forms of patriotism and pride which do bring together most people in modern Britain.

Increasingly, the biggest divide is less class but age. One of the things that annoys Mr Grumpy Nostalgic is that his children aren't annoyed enough about the pressures they face. That is largely because the next generation grew up with the diversity that the over-60s experienced as new and unsettling change. Women are a little more optimistic too: Mrs Jam and Jerusalem, though often married to Mr Grumpy Nostalgic, thought young men in love being able to get married was rather nice, not a threat to civilisation.

So, no culture wars please, we're British. It is because we are a plural, changing and sometimes fragmented society that there is a growing popular appetite for things that bring us together.

Politicians and commentators may divide between a liberal celebration of the NHS and the BBC versus a traditionalist lauding of Shakespeare, the army and the monarchy, but most people embrace them as shared institutions that all represent the best of British. Only a small minority found Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony, which included them all, politically contentious – and they would have enjoyed the Queen's jubilee more, anyway.

This surprising ability to unite traditional and modern will define next year's centenary of the first world war. Eight out of 10 of us believe it will be good for integration to commemorate the sacrifice of all those who died for Britain, including the Commonwealth soldiers who represent the forgotten, shared history of our multi-ethnic society.

Our patriotism tribes should talk to each other more. If the metropolitan patriots could embrace an inclusive Englishness too, they would find more common ground with most people who live outside London. Of course, the tribes want to argue their different visions out: we all agree that free speech is a big part of being British. But each of us could learn something if we sat down and listened to the tribe next door. Cup of tea, anyone?

A cup of tea would be lovely, thank you.

Of the tribes listed in the link, the Post-National Cosmopolitans are not only tiny in number, but also have nowhere else to go, especially now. They could always vote Green, I suppose. But would they?

The Metropolitan Patriots are more than reachable, if they even need to be reached.

The Northern Soul are already core Labour voters, with more reason every day to be so.

The Jam And Jerusalem are probably hopeless, which is a pity, because they are very hard and reliable workers, and everything that they treasure is in fact being dismantled by this Government, no less than everything that is treasured by the Metropolitan Patriots and by the Northern Soul. Indeed, those are very largely the same treasures.

The Grumpy Nostalgics are like the Jam And Jerusalem, only more so. But there are fewer of them, and most of them live in safe Conservative constituencies. They claim every penny to which their age entitles them, they would not really want something like the NHS to go away, they would be hard pushed to argue that privatisation had improved the trains, and just wait for their views once the Royal Mail has been sold off. But we are dealing here with tribal politics; with political tribalism.

The Angry Rejectionists are completely impossible, but no one would want them, anyway. And they are no more numerous than the Post-National Cosmopolitans.

The Southern Pride, also quite small, are superficially close to the Angry Rejectionists, but in truth are not very much like them. They are not remotely "uncomfortable with the multi-ethnic team" fielded by England at football (the sheer number of foreign players in the Premier League might be a different matter, if pushed), and while "These southern cousins of Northern Soul are a bit more about "me" than "we"," they are all for the "we" that benefits their own families and localities, which would be pretty much all of it if you sat down and worked it out.

There is no inherent contradiction, but the very reverse, between the things valued and celebrated by any two of the Metropolitan Patriots, the Northern Soul, the Jam And Jerusalem (it has to be worth a try), and the Southern Pride, and many of those valued and celebrated by the Grumpy Nostalgics (although there is electorally no point trying there).

Those things are endlessly dependent on each other, when they are not simply the same things, as they very often are. They are all under an unprecedented level of attack, which is why Blue Labour, back in evidence this week with Lord Glasman's intervention, has emerged out of Southern Pride while capturing Metropolitan Patriotic, Northern Soul and even Jam And Jerusalem imaginations, and which is why People's Assemblies have, often to the astonishment of the national organisers, sprung up spontaneously as much in the heartlands of Jam And Jerusalem and of Southern Pride as in the heartlands of Northern Soul and of the Metropolitan Patriots.

Upon and around all of this can, may, must and will be built a solid majority for at least three terms.


  1. "So, no culture wars please, we're British."

    There's been a culture war in Britain for the last 50 years-it's been a one-sided Left-wing war against Britain, fought in our school history curriculum, our Local Authorities, our post-Macpherson 'multiculti' police force, our creeping 'equality and diversity' legislation and Labour's policy of "rubbing the Right's nose in diversity" (as Andrew Neather put it) through open-border immigration.

    Sunder Katwala simply hasn't a clue what's been going on.

    Danny Boyle's Olympic ceremony was, as Peter Hitchens wrote, an anti-British victory parade for the 1960's Cultural Revolution.

    There is no patriotism whatsoever among the British Left.

    Sunder plainly needs to read George Orwell-who explained that the British Left have always despised Britain.

    Orwell famously wrote that the Left in Britain would rather "steal from a poor box than stand to attention during God Save The Queen".

    Ralph Miliband and his ilk have always hated Britain.

    It's been an open secret, long before the Daily Mail revealed it.

  2. "The Angry Rejectionists are completely impossible, but no one would want them, anyway. And they are no more numerous than the Post-National Cosmopolitans."

  3. I've no idea what you're talking about.

    Sunder writes ""a traditionalist lauding of Shakespeare, the army and the monarchy""

    And, in one sentence, proves he doesn't know what traditional Britain is, or was.

    The thing that separated us from the Continentals is precisely that we have never "lauded" the Army (Orwell wrote that soldiers were afraid to be seen in their uniforms in the street and were ridiculed and pelted with eggs whenever they appeared).

  4. He is describing people who certainly do exist. He would agree with you that they are not at all what they think that they are. But they certainly do exist.

  5. The only person straddling Blue Labour and the People's Assemblies is David Lindsay, the best Deputy Leader the party does not have.