It's not racism that makes me feel uncomfortable celebrating St George's Day

England is a great place to be, but unlike our neighbours we have enjoyed centuries of independence



Nationalism -  from the separatists in Scotland to the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, everyone seems to be at it. But what about England? Here, public displays of affection towards our mother country only ever crop up around football matches and diamond jubilees.

Today David Cameron marked St George's day with a speech reminiscent of Hugh Grant's patriotic flourish at the end of Love Actually. According to the PM, it's great to be English because Newcastle Brown Ale is big in America, everyone cheers for Arsenal in China, and South Koreans love a bit of Downton Abbey. Oh, and don't forget The Beatles.

However, despite all its crowning glories, Cameron also said that St George's day has been overlooked for too long. Whatever your politics may be, it's hard to disagree with him.

The Irish all take to the streets to celebrate St Patrick's day, yet in England we don't even get the day off work. Looking at the programme of events for today, it seems like the best the English can do is organise an asparagus run in Worcestershire.

Most of us don't even know when St George's day is. In 2012, a survey by the think tank British Future (BF) found that only 40 per cent of English people placed it on April 23.

According to BF, the English are "too nervous" to celebrate their patron saint, as they think that flying their flag could come across as racist.

Unsurprisingly, the St George's cross has always been the symbol of choice for far-right English nationalists. My guess would be because it's the national flag.

In the last several years, however, the cross has become increasingly more associated with far-right groups such as the EDL. It's not surprising - whenever you see a EDL march on TV it's hard to even spot a bald head against the sea of white and red.

And in a society where appearances are everything, why would anyone want to risk the association? Although it's nothing to do with the flag itself - if the EDL started waving copies of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, I'd probably think twice before getting out my copy in public.

But waving a flag doesn't make you a racist, just like shaving your head doesn't make you Edward Norton in American History X. What makes you racist is when you say or do something racist.

My reluctance towards displays of national pride goes beyond today's bigots. I can understand why the Irish go for it on St Patrick's Day, and the Scots get a bank holiday for St Andrew's.

But Ireland only saw some form of independence in 1922, whereas the Scots are still fighting for theirs. In comparison, England has been free to do as it pleases for centuries, and often at a heavy cost to its neighbours (or as it used to call them, "subjects").

So when it comes to celebrating St George's Day, I don't think I'll ever be waving the flag and blasting out the National Anthem. But not because I don't enjoy being English, or hate The Beatles. I just don't think we have as much reason to shout.

Correction: This article has been amended, as it originally stated that Ireland became independent in 1937. In fact, this was when the current constitution was introduced; the country became a republic in 1922.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits