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Thursday, July 12, 2018

England doesn't deserve to win

For those who insist that sportspeople just want to practise a profession that has nothing to do with politics, and that politics should be kept entirely separate from sport, consider this. As “England”, the football team, exited the World Cup last night, one of the many overpaid football gobshites who substitute verbal diarrhoea for clarity of speech, told 37 million ITV viewers that, despite losing, they had done “the nation” proud and that “the nation” will honour their achievement etc etc. Be in no doubt that the main match commentator, Clive Tyldesley, was being archly political in his propagandist nonsense, whether he quite realised it or not.

There is no nation called England. The nation that he was mixing it up with was one that rejoices under the internationally recognised, legal, title of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. That’s the UK, for short, not Britain and most certainly not England. Only the spatch-cock nation that is the UK could concoct a situation where it doesn’t have a national football team. Instead three constituent countries and one “province” (Northern Ireland) compete against each other on the international football stage as if they are nations.

Of course nations are subjective things, some exist only in the fact that some people feel an affinity to them, whether a “nation” has national independence, statehood, or not e.g. Palestine, Kurdistan etc. In the same sense Scotland is arguably a nation: there are enough Scots who profess to be Scottish (whether they actually want their country to leave the UK or not). The Welsh ditto, most of whom most definitely do not want to leave the bosom of the UK family. Northern Ireland is most definitely not a nation, nor can you give the term 'country' to an artificially concocted place that nearly a century ago was carved out of Ireland to appease a then overwhelming majority who wanted to continue to politically identify with the British state against the wishes of a minority who identified with a nation called Ireland.

That leaves us with the “nation” that the ITV football commentator may have thought he was referring to:  England. England has no political or governmental status, within the UK or internationally. Unlike Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, it has no government, no formal national apparatus. There are laws that apply only to the territory of England, and there is definitely a legal corpus known as English law. But that’s it.

At the start of the match you could hear the Russian stadium commentator, whose serial verbosity periodically interrupted every live World Cup game, say “and now the English national anthem”. The England football team almost sung along as they once again appropriated the UK’s turgid national paen to political quiescence and anti-democratic sentiment. There is no English national anthem. How could there be? ‘English nation’ is an oxymoron. Despite the proliferating born-again Cross of St George enthusiasts, whose empty-headed embrace of the ultimate imagined nation has boomed since England’s second greatest World Cup performance (1990), and a little thing called Brexit (2019?), there aren’t many English men and women who have a clear idea of what their nation actually is. There was no national ambiguity in Zagreb last night though among the fans going ape-shit in a nation of 4m born out of sectarian horror just two and a half decades ago.

If you cannot unavowedly name your nation, then it doesn’t exist (yes, it’s true, a tree falling in a forest doesn’t make a sound if nobody is there to hear it). If, like Tyldesley, your nation is a confusion of England, Britain and, I suspect, some half-cocked rewriting of wartime history, and the role of a few German royals and a half-American half English toff called Churchill in it, then maybe this doesn’t matter. But the reason why people get killed in your name without anybody you elect having any constitutional authority over it, and why the tiresome parade of unelected aristocrats propping up the head of state and her church, continues is because the “English” can’t tell their national arse from Rice Krispies. God Save Us indeed.


Nature Strikes Back said...

Ha ha Ha ha ha..... Top ranting!!!

TW. said...

Did you write this just after your birthday? Full of cheer, very valid points and ranty humour. Love that you've not waited for the "national" wounds to heal from last night! Well done xx

Unknown said...

Well done indeed! I had to post this immediately on my Facebook timeline! Each point punched home with bitter humour - a true rantfest. I think of the United Kingdom as a stitched together Frankenstein of nations. God save us indeed!

Pete Sadler said...

Bang on target and succinctly written, Neil. I could not bring myself to support or watch England this time because of the television claptrap, the moronic, racist chanting of the ‘fans’ in Russia and the inevitable use of a victory for justification of Brexit. It’s sad because I am a true Englishman, by which I mean 38% Swiss/French/German; 20% Scandinavian; 24% British Isles and 17% Greek/Italian/East European, oh and 1% East Middle Eastern (Romford , I think.) Your article is refreshingly accurate and should be on the front pages everywhere. Well done.

William said...

Bit strong on the language: overpaid football gobshites ! I think that weakens your argument considerably. England is a nation Neil. So is Wales. The United Kingdom is not. It is a nationality. It is not a nation. I am not overly fond of the British national anthem. But we are stuck with it. I think the English team could do better to choose "And did these feet . . . (the English cricketers do that) which is actually and paradoxically called "Jerusalem". Actually the Cornish are not English either whilst we're at it. But I'm not calling for independence yet.

Cmdr Biggles (ret) said...

what have you got against spatchcock? it's an important technique

Nature Strikes Back said...

Ha Ha ha... And congratulations on your retirement Commander.

Neil Partrick said...

The following comment was written by John Anthony MAYES: "As the blog is about football, specifically soccer and the FIFA World Cup, it is logical to accept the current conventions in the international football (soccer) world. Football is a competitive game as it only works with one team playing against another. It is therefore logical to organise competitions (i.e. matches) on local, then "national", then a global level ("World Cup"). FIFA organises this, and has a list of "members" that it lists as "countries" (their definition) who are entitled to field a team to play in the competition. Undoubtedly there are rules and varying levels of "qualification" in order for a team to be entered into the final stages of the "World Cup". By FIFA's definition, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland (Eire / The Republic of Ireland / Irish Free State as was) are all separate "countries" and are entitled to enter their own separate teams. According to the internet, there are even individual "national Anthems" for each "country" :-

England: God Save The Queen
Scotland: Flower of Scotland
Wales: Land of my Fathers
Northern Ireland: Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Eire: The Soldier's Song (in Gaelic Amhrán na bhFiann)

I think that the other point comes from our present political / legal devolution. Scotland, Wales, and Ulster (although this is presently suspended as the Northern Irish are fighting amongst themselves again) - have separate parliaments / assemblies so the "main" UK parliament in Westminster, London is concerned with international relationships (Foreign policy) and government of the non Scottish / Welsh / Northern Irish parts of the UK. For convenience we seem to call this remaining part of the UK "England" (although Cornwall (Kernow) seems to keep making noises about being separate as well). Historical, when James VI of Scotland became James I of the United Kingdom the St.Georges flag of "England" and the St.Andrews flag of Scotland were combined to give the Union Flag of the UK (it is only the Union Jack if flown from the Jackstay of a British Ship !). I think that Great Britain came later (but I am not sure), however if we are "UKish" or Northern Irish we hold a British passport and describe our nationality as British (not UKish etc)."

Neil Partrick said...

I would like to thank ALL of the people who made comments on my blog article, both "critical" and humorous.

To John Mayes (posted by me, immediately above) and to William specifically, I acknowledge, and greatly appreciate you for highlighting, that England historically has, at the least, been a kingdom, even if I still think that it can be disputed if that qualified England to be regarded as a nation when the first and second Unions were made (by England) with Scotland in 1707 and (by Great Britain with Ireland) 1800 respectively. A "nation-state", a more contemporary, "modern", notion admittedly, connects its citizens with their perceived national soil; NOT a ruling family's subjects with their rulers. A nation that is occupied, or in some sense not sovereign or independent, and therefore is not a state, can still embody the aspirations of a national people. But if a people's aspiration or identification is a pre-modern one of loyalty to a family as opposed to a territory that they as citizens have authority over, they're residents of a kingdom. This it seems is what many in the English "nation" wish to return to being after Brexit.