EIGHTY per cent of English identify strongly as English, says a survey on The English Question commissioned by the BBC. The BBC seems to find this fact embarrassing – on which more in a moment – but I don’t one bit.
I think it’s something we should all celebrate, preferably with a nice proper cup of tea, brewed for four minutes.
Or better still, with a viewing of that marvellous wartime propaganda film I caught on TV the other day, “Went The Day Well?”
Adapted from a story by Graham Greene, with a score by William Walton, made, of course, by Ealing Studios, the film perfectly evokes what England, Englishness and English culture mean – and why we’ve fought so hard through the centuries to preserve them.
It is set in the sleepy English village of Bramley End (in fact Turville, Bucks), where every cliché is duly realised: long shadows across the green, the benign, elderly vicar, the manor house, spinsters on wobbly bicycles, the cheery postmistress, the crafty poacher…
Then the Nazi paratroopers arrive (disguised as English soldiers), only to give themselves away with their arrogance and the suspiciously continental way they write the number seven.
The villagers unite as one to repel the invaders – even if it means having to bludgeon them with a hatchet (as shocked Mrs Collins finds herself doing) or sacrificing their own lives for the greater good.
Though much has changed in the 80 years since – housebuilding, the decline of churchgoing, a less rigid class system – it’s still impossible for an English man or woman to watch that film without a shiver of pride and a smile of recognition.
Read the rest in the Express.