Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

The left cannot be an anti-English movement.

During the referendum campaign nothing astonished me and Labour campaigners more than left wing English intellectuals embracing Scottish nationalism. It was not that they did not have the right to speak, but that they had so little regard for traditional left wing concerns about the welfare of the Scottish working class.

Rather than thinking about the danger of ever-greater austerity in an independent Scotland, they were possessed by a loathing of England. Here, for instance, is George Monbiot telling Scotland to leave a few weeks ago. His country, Monbiot said, was ruled by a hereditary elite, beholden to a corrupt financial centre, and dominated by speculators and rent-seekers. Its government

‘Spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite that owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations, forces terminally ill people to work and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines?’

I am quoting Monbiot because he is not some demented screamer from the fringe, but the best writer from the green left in Britain by a mile. Leftists are normally suspicious of nationalists for good reasons. Yet an often thoughtful and painstaking commentator sounded like a Bullingdon Club yobbo. “Smash Britain up,” he was saying in effect, “hack at its rotten carcass and don’t worry about cleaning up the mess”.

He might have gone further. Go to the radical theatre or listen to Radio 4, and you will hear reactions to England and the English, which are as predictable as the speaking clock. Daily Mail reading prigs fill the middle class. They are hypocritical, mean-minded, sexist, racist and homophobic. Sun reading bigots fill the working class. They are thuggish and fat as well as being sexist, racist and all the rest of it.

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