Sunday, June 20, 2010

'Anyone But England' isn't anti-English, let alone racist

Sunny Hundal has written a couple of posts berating HMV's decision to stop selling 'Anyone But England' World Cup T-shirts in their Scottish stores, following a complaint from the Campaign for an English Parliament. The gist of his argument is that by regarding "anti-Englishness" as "racism", the CEP are defining the English as a race, and thus implicitly suggesting that people from ethnic minorities cannot legitimately hold an English identity.

I know where Sunny is coming from, but it has to be borne in mind that there are serious instances of anti-English prejudice in Scotland (and of anti-Scottish prejudice in England) that ruin lives and even end in violence. There has to be proper legal protection for the victims - and if we can't call it racism because of problems of definition, what do we call it? Is a beating inflicted by a thug who hates English or Scottish accents really less worthy of note than a beating inflicted by a thug who hates Asians?

The issue here isn't so much that anti-Englishness is not racism, it's that wanting England to lose at football is not an example of anti-Englishness, let alone racism. This nonsense comes round every time England play in a major international tournament, with even Andy Murray being outrageously branded a racist by Tony Parsons in one of the most offensively misconceived newspaper columns ever written by someone not called Jan Moir. The 'anyone but England' impulse is in truth perfectly natural given the hopelessly unbalanced media environment we live in. If English people were only able to watch the World Cup via a Europe-wide German TV network, and the commentators and presenters insisted on talking at those English people as if they ARE GERMAN (because, after all, there's not that much to choose between 'Germany' and 'Europe'), what do you think the reaction would be? If people are to be branded bigots simply because they've had a gutful of the insufferable Clive Tyldesley and his ilk...well, it looks like I'll just have to live with being a bigot.

What's really revealing about the HMV incident is what it tells us about the true nature of the Campaign for an English Parliament. Can you imagine the old Campaign for a Scottish Assembly - let alone the Scottish Constitutional Convention - wasting its time over such froth? It sounds suspiciously like the CEP are more interested in wounded English pride and petty score-settling than they are in pursuing the noble aim of a national parliament for England.


  1. Good post. I wondered why on earth the English parliament campaign was getting involved in such a trifling matter.

    I've suffered problems in England because of my Scottish accent... and problems in Scotland because of my so-called English accent, most of it reasonably light hearted.

    But on one occasion, in Scotland, a group of friends from France, Spain and Scotland were sitting in a pub, and we were all mixing the languages a bit, as each of us spoke all three, to greater and lesser extent... and this guy at the next table started having a go at me, because I was supposedly English.... He had no issues with French or Spanish people, just English.

    Now that's anti-English, albeit mistakenly.

    T-shirts? Grown up guys!

  2. Quite. The CEP show themselves up for the joke they are. If this act is what they define as campaignin fer an English parliament then it shows just how far they are fae their goal. They need tae get serious an' quick.

    The whole ABE thing's been twistin ma heid somethin awfy. Ah tried tae blog umpteen times, an' ah wis makin even less sense than ah usually dae till ah had tae gie up. Well done fer makin some sense oot o' it.

    Roll on Wednesday teatime, when the entire World Cup will disappear, an' we'll be telt it nivver existed in the first place.

  3. I can't see England failing to beat Slovenia, Sophia (although come to think of it I couldn't imagine them failing to beat the USA or Algeria either...)

    Tris - it's interesting you should say that, because I was randomly called an "English b******" on the street a few months ago. No idea where that came from - I don't even have any English relatives! I certainly took that as a worrying sign that we do have an undercurrent of a problem, although I still think it's vastly exaggerated by the likes of the CEP.

  4. I've lived and worked in Scotland for nearly 20 years and I have to say being English is not a good thing north of the border. I cannot say I have met all the Scots there are but a great majority of the ones I have met strongly dislike me simply because I am English. I have spent all my life doing my best not to give offence or to upset anyone, I do not knowingly do harm to people, yet even if I was a saint I would still be vilified here simply due to being English. Yes there are Scots who I am friendly with, but get a drink down them and it's all the bloody English's fault. No offence meant yeh right, not you your ok, yes but I am English. I truly think I would have to travel far and wide to meet a people so small-minded, bigoted and racist as I have come across here. Especially here in the Highlands I'm almost given to think that the clearances happened only a week last Tuesday at that my parents were entirely to blame for them. Just the way it looks from here.

  5. I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences, Anon. Most of the English people I've spoken to who live in Scotland don't seem to have had much problem other than a bit of banter, although of course a lot of people turn ugly once they've got a few drinks down them. That's not a phenomenon confined to Scotland, although of course our drink problem is proportionately worse than most countries.

    The flip-side of what you're talking about would be the growing grievance in England - fuelled by the right-wing press - that everything is Scotland's fault because the hard-pressed "English taxpayer" has to "subsidise" us.