Boris – for He is an Englishman, for better or worse

Boris – for He is an Englishman, for better or worse

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 10, July, 2018

BORIS Alexander de Pfefel Johnson, has done it. He's finally resigned. It is a shame that Downing Street and Northumberland Avenue issued statements on this before he did, but the usual manners seem to be lost on the party at present. 

A Brit of American birth, of Turkish heritage (with a bit of French and German thrown in) has done this for many reasons personal and political but I think because of more than anything else we cringe at at times, he is English. There, I said it. He is an Englishman.

Should this matter in the 21st century? Why should being distinctly English in identity make him write with such language of us being a colony, of flying white flags, of steadfastly refusing any foreign control over a rule book even if that foreign rule book serves us well.  It just isn't... cricket? 

Notwithstanding the Scottish team's recent success in that sport there is something essentil and core to the English psyche which Englishmen such as myself struggle to admit.

We scare easily. We always have. We don't like foreign influence beyond a convenient sprinkle. We do not and never have surrendered to a foreign power. When Singapore fell, when Hong Kong has handed back (to tyrants) it hit us exceptionally hard. Likewise Suez and Gallipolli. 

It drove our dominion over the foreign tribes, as they were known, the Welsh. Later Scotland's union with England locked down our island, making invasion essentially impossible for almost three centuries. "Walls upon the water and men onshore" as Burns wrote. 

While the English have long feted the finery of Europe, from the Renaissance, the Enlgihtenment and the Grands Tours it has always been from a sense of control and superiority. We can go where we please and they can come here as we please. Double standards? Of course, and those worthy of an island nation last conquered a millenium ago.

This may seem grandiose but it is important. Read out the Declaration of Arbroath and you come close, only close. Magna Carta limited the power of a European (Angevin) monarchy as it was. The next 800 years from 1215 to 1815 was England and later Great Britain and the UK against the Continent. It hardly ever stopped. 

600 years of English history was about control and about safety. It ensured our laws diverged from Europe's, likewise our language and philosophy of liberty and later of free markets. That the monarch may not marry a Catholic stems from this time, of ensuring no monarch bowed to a foreign prince.

Anyone feeling brave can read the Fox's Prophecy of 1871 which is as resolute and outlandish as English nationalism is allowed to be. http://www.genesisny.net/Art/FoxProphecy.html

For those for who the above is a little spicy for taste we can look to Gilbert and Sullivan who penned that beautiful comedy, HMS Pinafore:

ALL. 
He is an Englishman!
BOAT. 
He is an Englishman! 
For he himself has said it, 
And it's greatly to his credit, 
That he is an Englishman! 
ALL. 
That he is an Englishman!
BOAT. 
For he might have been a Roosian, 
A French, or Turk, or Proosian, 
Or perhaps Itali-an! 
ALL. 
Or perhaps Itali-an!
BOAT. 
But in spite of all temptations 
To belong to other nations, 
He remains an Englishman! 
He remains an Englishman! 
ALL. 
For in spite of all temptations 
To belong to other nations, 
He remains an Englishman! 
He remains an Englishman

This matters. Eccentric as it appears the truth is beyond any sense of economics is a sense of an absolute need for safety within and without our shores. This is why immigration has such significance in the psyche, it is why common law and free trade are cornerstones of the English identity. It is why we built castles in Conwy and in Edinburgh and anywhere else we felt frightened.

It is where our sense of politeness comes from, contrived as it may seem. We jolly well do not like conflict unless it is on our terms. For better or worse that is a very large part of our heritage and forms the backbone of the restraint and moderatism and reason that led to liberty and fair play and justice and so many other institutions. That may not seem the most noble of stables in which to raise a national identity.

Nonetheless it is ours and is free from historical influences in the Celtic nations for our pre-industrial history. It is that industrialism that refined the British along class and economic lines rather than kinship and security and so helped forge a more united identity based on solidarity and pooling of histories.

Today an Englishman is a Brit, as much as a Scot or Welsh or Irishman. Make no mistake though. He remains an Englishman.

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