Difficulties with St. George’s Day celebrations
It has always seemed something of an irony that the imagery adopted by parts of the far right in the UK has been of a mythical individual, a foreigner, who never visited England. That England celebrates St. George’s Day as its national day has always struck me as somewhat absurd, bearing in mind the number of eminent Saints who graced these shores: the healing St. Cuthbert, the humble St. Thomas Becket who stood up to autocracy, or the learned humanist, Thomas More.
Why we have to have a Saint’s day as a national day is a debate for another time, but suffice it to say that the militaristic St. George complements the vision the political Right have of British history. In particular, it’s easy to see the difference between the Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s day and the English celebrating St. George’s day. As nations, neither Ireland, Scotland or Wales have much history of subjugating other nations to their power. England, on the other hand…
That’s not to say that the ‘loony left’ – that’s me – don’t object to overt and irritating celebrations of other national days. Overt patriotism bugs me, and it’s hardly ameliorated when the overt patriotism is essentially a celebration of several hundred years of butchery. I should be immune, having grown up between two armed camps where green, white and orange, and red, white and blue adorned even the kerbstones, but somehow that makes it even worse.
To the dismay of the hysterical anti-PC brigade in Sandwell, the local council has cancelled funding for a St. George’s Day parade. Suddenly a cause celebre, the issue is discussed on Stormfront, and has become part of a campaign by nationalist nutjobs, the English Democrats. This news has been picked up by our own Bob Piper and has received stinging rebuke from Tory Harry Phibbs of Conservative Home. One wonders if Councillor Phibbs knows what sort of company he is keeping on the issue.
He should do, if he reads his own comment box.
Phibbs, and the various further right commentators, skip over the part where Sandwell council actually organised an investigation into incidents that were reported from the previous years’ events. This included interviews with witnesses, as reported by the BBC. They also skipped over the part where Sandwell council pointed out it would be spending £38,000 on St. George’s Day celebrations, just not on the parade element; this would include a family fun day and a concert at the town hall in West Brom.
Hardly a case of criminalising Englishness, I would think. Phibbs asks, “do the Councl not see that cancelling the event is a gift to the BNP?” It’s a gift only when berks like you don’t report all the facts, nor correct some of the flagrantly ill-informed assertions in your comments post. The same goes for the local media, which had a details-light article on the subject.
Parades are a difficult issue; they tend to bring out the worst in people. In Northern Ireland, ordinary Protestant workers who don’t care about religion for 351 days a year get worked up over the course of the 12th of July fortnight and dangerous things happen. If the council thinks there are better, more family-friendly ways to celebrate St. George’s day, while still actually celebrating St. George’s day, isn’t that to be applauded? Especially by the Right, one would think, since they’re still getting the celebration.
Instead, Phibbs rather short sighted article tries to trumpet the activities of Conservative-run Calderdale….which, significantly, don’t include a parade. Sandwell and Calderdale actually share numerous features, such as entertainment at the city hall and the raising of English flags on April 23rd. If the Conservatives and their allies in the media ever wonder about the inscrutable actions of the ‘loony left’ (me again), perhaps they should first consider how their behaviour and misinformation contributes to the problem, rather than solving it.