Billy Bragg: Fighting for England's soul?

Gareth Young
13 April 2010

In his Chancellor's Speech to the University of Hertfordshire on the 3rd June 2008, Frank Field reeled off a list of English grievances and asked Gordon Brown to deliver justice to English voters.

The dangers for Labour of failing to lead the debate are perhaps even greater. That conclusion may come about not simply by the Tories being generally accepted by voters as the English Party. An even worse outcome would be for Labour to concede to the BNP yet another issue – along with immigration – with which to appeal to Labour’s core voters. If this was allowed to happen we would then begin to witness what a future historian might call The Unnecessary Death of Labour England?

Predictably Frank Field was ignored. A year later the voters of England elected Andrew Brons and Nick Griffin to the European Parliament. Fast-forward to the General Election of 2010 and we find Billy Bragg helping Labour MP Margaret Hodge to win in Barking: "I’m fighting for England’s soul against BNP", he says. Balderdash. Bragg may be fighting against the BNP but he is not fighting for England.

It was Margaret Hodge who revealed that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had spent the grand sum of £230 on St George's Day, over five years! That is precisely the type of headline that the BNP feed from. It was Margaret Hodge who criticised the Proms and declared her support for redesigning the Union Flag to reflect diversity. Now frankly I couldn't care less about the Union Flag or the Proms. But - and this is an important 'but' - Margaret Hodge is precisely the type of idiot politician who has driven working class Labour supporters into the arms of the BNP with such distracting irrelevant opinions.

Billy, by all means fight to defeat the BNP, but do not kid yourself that you are fighting for England's soul when you allow yourself to be co-opted by the Labour Party. It is the policies of the Labour Party - a party that is clearly prejudiced against England and has ignored its traditional supporters - that have bolstered support for the BNP. You are not fighting for England, you ceased to do that when you stopped calling for an English parliament and jumped aboard Brown's Britishness bandwagon - you too are now part of the denial of England from whence the BNP draws succour.

As Tom Nairn wrote, "Democracy is constitutional or nothing", and under the Labour Party that you support democracy for England will be nothing, a fact that will only help to fulfill Nairn's prophesy.

Blair's Project makes it likely that England will return on the street corner, rather than via a maternity room with appropriate care and facilities. Croaking tabloids, saloon-bar resentment and back-bench populism are likely to attend the birth and to have their say. Democracy is constitutional or nothing. Without a systematic form, its ugly cousins will be tempted to move in and demand their rights -- their nation, the one always sat upon and then at last betrayed by an elite of faint hearts, half-breeds and alien interests. - After Britain

The BNP are a political problem that requires political solutions. And until the Labour Party are willing and able to provide those solutions they - and by association you - are part of the problem. One possible solution to one superficial attraction of the BNP is an English parliament, which, a recent poll suggests, 60% of England would vote for if offered the chance to do so in a referendum.

The BNP support an English parliament. The Labour Party do not support an English parliament. Be sure to tell the voters why Labour do not support this democratic and populist measure on your travels and travails around Barking and Dagenham.

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