National Identity

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Experience & Identity

This week David Cameron has said that he plans to toughen welfare rules for EU migrants, saying he was sending a “clear message” to people that the UK was not a “soft touch” for claiming benefits. He also hinted that there were great public concerns that we would be overrun with Bulgarians and Romanians next month. They would overpopulate our schools and burden our NHS! 

Are the doors to Britain closing? Is this the only way to protect our National Identity? This is odd when just over a year ago we were welcoming the world to Great Britain and one of the most amazing Olympic ceremonies ever seen. I have to say, I was so proud to be British that night. I watched as the history of Britain was laid out in front of me, from the farms and countryside of long ago to the leaders and workers of the Industrial Revolution, to the rather strange celebration of the NHS, the Beatles, The Spice Girls and even Mr Bean! Danny Boyle said that the show would create “a picture of ourselves as a nation.”

I know that, once again my national identity and how I feel about it, is linked to my gender, my class, my ethnicity as well as where I live and study and the cultural capital given to me by my parents. My parents have always been keen travellers. I was travelling around America before I was one and over the years I have been to many different countries. In the future I am looking forward to a free world where I can travel and work. 

I have always thought I was open minded about my National Identity. Living on the Gloucester Road in Bristol, you can meet people from all over the world. In fact I live next door to a Vietnamese supermarket, an Italian barber and a polish café opposite. Maybe I should be feeling that my national identity is under threat but I don’t. I don’t feel any less British and in fact I think it’s great that people can come to this country and enjoy the privileges I have. I don’t need to walk around wearing a bowler hat to keep my sense of identity. Our history doesn’t lose its power or its influence on the future because there is an Indian restaurant on the corner. 

I agree with Sunder Katwala’s piece in Our Kingdom magazine about ‘Britishness’ as the ‘warm ability to adapt, to absorb, and to include’. I think the sign on the door to Britain should read “Welcome – but just give us a minute to prepare!”


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