April 23rd is England's unofficial national holiday - unofficial because, under Blairite devolution, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and selected Muslim neighborhoods of Greater London, Yorkshire and the Midlands are all legitimate nations, but English nationalism is a dark demon that must never be loosed upon the land.
At the turn of the century, Tony Blair's ministry was gung-ho for Celtic semi-independence and pseudo-parliaments in Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, but for England all the government was prepared to offer was a subdivision into artificial regions that commanded no allegiance from the masses and could therefore be safely entrusted with "regional assemblies". Even this was abandoned, and in the years after 9/11 English nationalism was further complicated by the fact that, unlike St Andrew, St Patrick and St David, the patron saint of England had a starring role in the new clash of civilizations: St George's was the crusader cross, the banner England's soldiers took across a continent to reclaim Jerusalem for Christendom.
These days the traffic from Islam to Christendom is mostly the other way, and in the multicultural utopia St George is a problematic figure. In the "Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets" — the heart of London's East End, where one sees more covered women than in Amman, where male infidel teachers of Muslim girls are routinely assaulted, where police turn a blind eye to misogyny, Jew-hatred, and gay-bashing for fear of being damned as "racist" - I noticed a year or two back that one gay pub had attracted particular ire: patrons were being abused, and beaten, and, in one case, left permanently paralyzed.
The hostelry that had so attracted the attention of the local Muslim youth hung a poignant shingle: The George and Dragon. It's one of the oldest and most popular English pub names. Another George and Dragon just across the Thames on Borough High Street has been serving beer for at least half a millennium. But no one would so designate a public house today. The George and Dragon honors not just England's patron saint but the most famous story about him, brought back by the Crusaders from their soldiering in the Holy Land: In what is now Libya, Saint George supposedly made the Sign of the Cross, slew the dragon, and rescued the damsel.
Within living memory, every English schoolchild knew the tale, if not all the details — e.g., the dragon-slaying so impressed the locals that they converted to Christianity. But the multicultural establishment slew the dragon of England's racist colonialist imperialist history, and today few schoolchildren have a clue about Saint George. So that pub in Tower Hamlets turned gay and Britain celebrated diversity, and tolerance, and it never occurred to them that, when you tolerate the avowedly intolerant, it's only an interim phase. There will not be infidel teachers in Tower Hamlets for much longer, nor gay bars.
~For St George's Day, Katie Hopkins reposted a glimpse of the new England from last year's Diwali - a Hindu religious festival being protested by Pakistanis, among whom she was the only female - or, as the young Mohammedans put it, "Zionist bitch":
On #StGeorgesDay - spare a thought for the English.
This is London under Sadiq Khan.April 23, 2020
~There is an element of English nationalism to the Brexit ructions - if only because Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU. True, Wales opted to leave, but The Guardian assures us that's only because perfidious Anglo immigrants to the principality provided Brexit's slim electoral majority there. "Britishness" seems somewhat in decline - and I don't just mean in the sense that the Irish backstop and Sinn Féin's electoral triumphs south of the border have left Ulster Unionism more demoralised and sotto voce than at any time in the last century. Today the English themselves seem notably antipathetic to the Union, and, if the Shinners and Scots Nats were to act on their threat to call referenda, a large number of English would respond with "Go ahead, Celtic punks, make my day." Given the proscriptions on English identity, the quickest way to get it back is for everyone else to assert their identities and push off.
~In North America, the lockdown seems to be proving the final nail in the coffin of the continent's printed newspapers - and good riddance: aside from the political bias, the average US monodaily is unreadable, a wretched combination of blandness and pomposity; in Canada, the blandness predominates, pomposity being harder to sustain when you're dependent on public subsidies from Justin Trudeau. On this St George's Day, however, a great English institution today celebrates its ten thousandth issue. The Spectator is the oldest continuously published magazine in the English-speaking world, and I'm happy to have played my part in its story for just shy of a thousand of those issues.
Unlike eminent contributors such as John Buchan and Graham Greene, I was there mainly for cheap jokes - such as this, from a review of a 1993 film whose title I forget but whose leading player had adopted an extravagantly Latino accent to the point where he kept barking at people, "Choo bastard!"
To which, I wrote, the only polite response is "Gesundheit, motherf**ker."
Aside from such low-hanging fruit, I happened to be at the Speccie during a particularly shagadelic time at Doughty Street. The tabloids exposed an affair the then editor, Boris Johnson, was having with the deputy editor, Petronella Wyatt. This did not come as a surprise to the then Mrs Johnson, but it did to Boris's secretary, who was also in the throes of passion with him and had foolishly assumed that she was the other woman as opposed to merely the other other woman.
Simultaneously, the magazine's strangely glamorous American publisher, Kimberly Fortier, was conducting her own affair with the wine columnist, Simon Hoggart, and shortly thereafter with Her Britannic Majesty's Home Secretary, a blind man called David Blunkett whose seeing-eye dog got used to leading him straight to Kimberly's love nest. Blunkett wound up resigning from Blair's cabinet, to be replaced by a man called Clarke. As I wrote in The Spectator that week:
I don't know anything about Mr Clarke — he hasn't been at the Home Office long enough for any of us at The Spectator to have an affair with him.
In the American media, when your top execs are shagging like minxes all over the gossip columns, a stern memo arrives from some Senior Vice-President of Party-Pooping on the 23rd floor instructing you that on no account are the horizontal mambos of your colleagues to be mentioned even obliquely. I'm glad to have worked for Boris and Kimberly, both of whom took in-house mockery in their stride. Long live The Spectator.
~Almost two decades ago, at the height of Mr Blair's devolution initiative, I wrote a whimsical column for The Daily Telegraph premised on the notion of a St George's Day celebrated like St Patrick's, circa 2050. A lot of topical references - mad cow disease, the then Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine's lavish tastes in taxpayer-funded decor, the Irish Cabinet Minister Hugh Byrne calling England "the leper of Europe", etc - but the gist of it, for a poor suppressed English nationalism, still applies. A small excerpt:
Back then, England was derided as a pox-ridden wasteland infested by simpletons cut off from the mainstream of European civilisation. Comedians mocked them in "English jokes" that to contemporary ears sound shockingly racist:
'An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman stop for lunch at a pub. The Scotsman orders the endive-studded monkfish with a fennel coulis, the Irishman the oyster clafoutis in an aubergine glaze, and the Englishman orders beef on the bone. The waiter says: "Sorry, we don't serve diseased animals." "Okay," says the Englishman, "I'll wait in the car".'
But revisionist scholars now argue that in earlier times England was a great cultural centre, producing many of the world's outstanding scholars and scientists, and that it once enjoyed many of the recognised indicators of civilised society, including primitive units of measurement, its own currency and even a legal system, known as "Common Law", because Lord Irvine found many English solicitors frankly somewhat provincial.
During the meat famine, many English had no choice but to leave their homeland, emigrating to Dublin to take jobs in telephone sales with European car rental firms. But others went to America, where they found they could eke out a living playing psychotic Arab terrorists in Hollywood films.
Etc. English national identity was dormant because for centuries the English assumed theirs to be the default setting - on the same grounds as the oddly profound Ken Dodd joke: "I can't stand the French. They're just jealous of us because we're not foreign." But somewhere Englishness became disapproved of, to the point where a footie fan hanging St George's flag in the window of his council house attracts the attention of the wanker coppers - a terrible transformation wrought while England slept or, in the case of the Speccie, slept around.
~Thank you for your kind words about our recently concluded Tale for Our Time - my serialization of Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year. If you have a chum who likes classic fiction in audio, why not provide a lockdown perk-up with a gift membership in The Mark Steyn Club? He can while away the house arrest with thrilling capers from the heyday of English fiction including The Prisoner of Zenda, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps.
Membership in the Steyn Club does come with some other benefits, too, including:
~Our above-mentioned nightly radio serial Tales for Our Time;
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and other video content;
~My ongoing series of video poetry;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, in the event I'm ever allowed to hold any ever agin;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~The opportunity to join me and my guests on next year's third annual Mark Steyn Cruise, assuming it will be permitted to sail and there's anywhere left to sail to;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
See you tomorrow for the weekend edition of The Mark Steyn Show.