7 Jun 2012

Mustn’t grumble: Ed Miliband on Englishness

On the day of a speech designed to “defend the Union” the Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband speaks to Channel 4 News about national identity.

Asked by presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy what he would say if asked by somebody abroad what country he was from Ed Miliband said:

“I think I’d say Britain…my first top of mind answer would be Britain…but I consider myself English as well”

Elaborating on his initial answer, he said “I think I’m English because I was born in London, I lived in Leeds, I represent Doncaster as a member of parliament and… I feel there are certain English qualities. Like stoicism, that I see in my own constituency.”

Asked if stoicism was in fact a quintessentially “British” quality, Miliband said:

“I particularly associate it with England – I saw it in my constituency in the floods .. I consider that a particularly English quality. ‘Mustn’t grumble’ is a very English phase. I’m not saying the Scots always grumble…but I think that’s a very English sensibility.”

Challenged on his own understanding of Englishness, Mr Miliband replied:

“There is a view of Englishness which is let’s get rid of the Scots, lets be hostile to outsiders, our best days lie behind us. Let’s get out of Europe, presumably. That’s not my view of Englishness – and that’s why I think it’s important we join this debate because we’ve got to make a different argument.”

Speaking about the “people like Jeremy Clarkson” he mentions in the speech he said:

“One of my problems with Jeremy Clarkson is that he says, ‘Well if the Scots want to leave then good riddance- we’d be better off without them’. I passionately believe that the United Kingdom would be worse off without Scotland and we’ve got to make the case for the Union as a whole. We can’t just let this debate happen in Scotland, it’s got to happen in England. The real fallacy in this debate is the idea that you can be Scottish or British but you can’t be both. Or you can be English or British but you can’t be both. That’s not the way identity works.”

Asked what difference Scottish independence would make, he said:

“We’d be worse off economically, culturally because of huge cultural linkages. We’re part of the United Kingdom, I don’t want my kids to have to carry a passport when they cross into Scotland. I certainly think that we will be worse off as a country…I think our nation’s past and our nation’s future is much better together.”