Who speaks for England?
THE Archbishop of York has criticized the London ‘metropolitan elite’ for treating people who are proud to be English as ‘backwardly xenophobic’. The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell called for ’an expansive vision of what it means to be English’ and for the country to rediscover a sense of ‘national unity’.
Writing exclusively in The Daily Telegraph, he also questioned why it had become taboo to be patriotic.
His comments come in the wake of a visit to Scotland by the Prime Minister aimed at boosting support for the Union, and after last month’s European football championships revived debate around English patriotism.
The Archbishop said: ‘Many English people feel left behind by metropolitan elites in London and the South East, and by devolved governments and strengthened regional identities in Scotland and Wales. Their heartfelt cry to be heard is often disregarded, willfully misunderstood or patronized as being backwardly xenophobic.’
The government is keen to stress the strengths of the UK as a whole, rather than the individual nations. Last month, Michael Gove, who is in charge of union policy, said that the system of “English Votes for English Laws”, which means only English MPs vote on matters which affect only England, should be scrapped.
The Archbishop, in contrast, suggests there should be greater devolution to the English, not less. ‘What we need is an expansive vision of what it means to be English as part of the United Kingdom. It is this that will help us rediscover a national unity more fractured than I have ever known it in my lifetime.
‘A first foundation would be a more developed and strengthened regional government within England. This would enable Westminster to be the government for the United Kingdom, holding on to those big issues to do with our shared sovereignty, while empowering the separate nations and regions to have powers at the local level to serve their own localities better.’