The Daily Mail’s ideology can be vaguely reduced to a simple sort of syllogistic equation:
Logical and correct analysis of Capitalism’s mystifications is Evil
British really should mean English
Thinking is un-English
Not being English is Evil
But a response to its recent journalistic attacks on Ralph Miliband needs a broader brush, canvas and palette when we start to look at the heterogeneous nature of English identity – as opposed to the Mail’s imaginary one dimensional one. Ralph Miliband’s writing, along with that of Raphael Samuel, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and EP Thompson, helped generations of students better understand the tectonic plates of our national identity. They helped so many people understand what it truly means to be English. They helped so many people develop a love of England, its history and its landscape.
They reminded us of our radical heritage: the Peasants’ Revolt; Lollards; Tudor Rioters; Levellers; Diggers; Enclosure Rioters; Food Rioters; Luddites; Chartists; Trades Unionists; Socialists; Marxists; Christian Socialists; Republicans; Suffragettes; Hunger Marchers; Radical Councils; Anti-Fascists; Imperial linkages; Slavery, Anti-Slavery, and so on and so on.
They reminded us that there is more to being English than Queen and Country, King and Empire, Class and Deference. They reminded us that so many of our so called national timeless traditions are but recent upper class inventions. They reminded us that it is possible to sing: “It’s the same the whole world over, It’s the poor wot gets the blame, It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure, Aint it all a crying shame” and yet realise that this music hall ditty contains within it an analysis of profit as stolen wages. They reminded us that we should all read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and The Great Money Trick.
These historians follow a long line of writers from the sort of canon the Daily Mail would like: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Swift, Defoe, Dickens, Orwell, Gaskell, Bronte, Elliot, Equiano, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Clare, Brooke, Thomas, to name just a few. These are people who have helped define our identity.
This is a picture of English identity with a lot of different colours, shades, pigments, light, shade, shadow and figures. It’s not just a Daily Mail black and white one is it?