Peter Hoskin

Happy St George’s Day

Happy St George's Day
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It's St George's Day today, so – if you haven't already – do check out the special articles from the latest issue of the Spectator, and have your say on England in this Coffee House thread.

There's also plenty of relevant coverage in today's papers, including a Jack Straw article for the Daily Mail. Here's what the Justice Minister has to say:

"One of the things which makes me most angry are people who try to claim the St George's flag for the far Right...

...It wasn't owned by any political party - least of all the BNP. It was about England.

Anyone proud to be English is equally proud of St George and what, down the ages, his myth and his flag have come to represent for this nation within the United Kingdom.

For years the far Right have tried to swathe themselves in the Cross of St George and insinuate that they and their kind have an exclusive right to use it, that they could determine what it meant to be English - with the message that if you weren't white, you weren't English.

It was that kind of self-righteous bigotry which motivated the killers of the young black teenager Stephen Lawrence, whose murder exactly 15 years ago was commemorated in a moving service yesterday...'s no accident that a more explicit consciousness about England has coincided with the rise of nationalism in Wales and Scotland.

But part of the answer is not so good. I detest racist language and attitudes as much as anyone.

But, like equalities chief Trevor Phillips, I also have a deep aversion to political correctness, which has meant that debate about some issues like immigration has too often been wrapped in euphemisms which do not connect with the genuine concerns that many (including my Asian and Irish heritage constituents) actually feel.

It's as though we have felt shy about promoting all that is good about England for fear of upsetting people, without any evidence that it would. And if it did, so what?

...That's why it was so good to see some of my Asian constituents watching the St George's Day celebrations in Blackburn.

It doesn't mean that by celebrating England they are somehow denying their cultural background - but what it does do is to help to underline that there is nothing to stop people of all backgrounds sharing pride in their English heritage, and being up-front in doing so."