Is it in the blood?, Peter Oborne and the question of Englishness

Robert Henderson

The political journalist Peter Oborne recently published an article entitled England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/9477566/Englands-South-Africans-are-on-a-sticky-wicket.html). In it he addressed the question of whether South Africans playing for England could be anything other than self-serving mercenaries. Here are the most pertinent quotes from the article: 

“Pietersen is the latest white South African to use his selection for the England cricket team to promote his personal ambitions. In particular, his behaviour is startlingly similar to the conduct of Tony Greig, who came to England to play cricket in the Seventies, a time when South Africa was banned from world sport because of apartheid. Like Pietersen, Greig was a model English cricketer for as long as it suited him.

 “Like Pietersen, Greig was a mercenary. But Greig’s conduct was worse than Pietersen’s because, for a long time, he enjoyed the greatest accolade an English cricketer can receive – the national captaincy. He then used that position to become the recruiting sergeant for Kerry Packer’s international circus, the Seventies version of the Indian Premier League, for which Kevin Pietersen has already played.

 “The conduct of Greig, Pietersen and (to a less egregious extent) Lamb raises an urgent question: is it possible to be born and brought up as a South African and give your full loyalty to England? I believe not. Nationality is not just a matter of convenience. It is a matter of identity. Kevin Pietersen may have chosen to come to Britain. But his attitudes and his cast of mind were formed in South Africa. Ultimately, Pietersen has not much idea of what it means to be British.

Playing for England at any sport is not just about professionalism, it is about national pride. All great England cricketers – from Len Hutton to Andrew Strauss, who notably moved from South Africa to England aged six – have known that deep down they are also ambassadors for their country. This idea seems to baffle Pietersen, as it did Greig.”

Oborne’s article was prompted by the behaviour of a  South African Kevin Pietersen who has thrown in his lot with England for whom he has played for many years. This season England are playing South Africa in England. It is alleged that Pietersen sent texts to the South African team being abusive about the England captain Andrew Strauss and suggesting ways of dismissing Strauss when he is batting. Pietersen was dropped for the Test match which followed  the allegations and has refused to reveal content of the suspect texts.

England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket and the response of the media, politicians and the cricketing world to it are of particular interest to me. In 1995 a well known mainstream sports magazine Wisden Cricket Monthly (WCM)published an article of mine entitled Is it in the blood? This dealt with precisely the same question Oborne addressed, namely, exactly what can it mean to a player who is of one nationality to play in a national sporting side of another country? A copy of the article as I submitted it to WCM is below this article. The editor made some alterations and chose the title Is it in the blood?

The response of the mainstream media, cricket players and hierarchy and politicians to my article was very different to the treatment Oborne’s piece engendered. He has received virtually no censure from media, players and politicians, while I became the subject of a sustained hate campaign by the press and broadcast media, politicians and cricketers both past and present. Tens of thousands of words and hours of broadcasting were devoted to abusing me to which I was denied any opportunity to reply, even by WCM, whose then editor David Frith got in a panic after his management had forbidden the publication of anything else by me. To add insult to injury, Frith published pages of criticism of me in the WCM edition following my article and put the cherry on the cake by denying in that issue of the magazine that he shared my view that foreigners should not be employed by the England side, despite having written to me expressing his agreement with what I had written before the publication of Is it in the blood?

To add to the contemptible nature of my treatment, none of the considerable number of cricketing journalists who had written to me supporting my views after I circulated the article in manuscript form before WCM published it came out in my support. One, Matthew Engel, then editor of the Wisden Crcketer’s Almanack, wrote a Guardian column in which he denied having ever having heard of me despite having written to me a few months before its publication congratulating me on my article. Further details of the affair and some of the letters I received from Frith and various journalists are at http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/is-it-in-the-blood-and-the-hypocrisy-of-the-media/.

After publication several England cricketers of West Indian ancestry – Devon Malcom, Philip DeFreitus and Chris Lewis – raised writs for libel against WCM relating to the article. This was despite being told by counsel employed by the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) that there was no libel in the article. Remarkably for a libel suit, they did not sue me, the author. This though strange was perhaps unsurprising, because I had made it clear to WCM that if I was sued I would take the case to the floor of a court. Put that fact together with the opinion of the PCA counsel that no libel had been committed and it is plausible that the plaintiffs left me out of the libel suits because they did not want their case tested in court. Why did they issue writs if that was the case? The most obvious explanation is they believed WCM would admit the libel for reasons of political correctness – the owner of the the magazine was Jean-Paul Getty who was energetically trying to ingratiate  himself with the British great and the good – and settle out of court. If that was their reasoning, it was correct. WCM settled all cases before they came to court.

Why the difference in response to Osborne and me? The obvious explanation is that Oborne comes from within the magic circle of the mainstream media and is protected by that,  while I was outside it and unprotected. But there are other possible reasons. As is the universal fashion these days with mainstream media types, Oborne attempted to wrap his political incorrectness in a politically correct covering. To this end he came up with the curious idea that white South Africans who have thrown in their lot with England in the post-apartheid era are betraying their country, viz:

“But we should not be surprised that Pietersen has let England down. Arguably, he did the same to South Africa, the country where he was born and brought up. Pietersen is privileged to be among the first generation of sportsmen to come from the new, multi-racial South Africa created by Nelson Mandela. The South African cricketers on the field at Lord’s today, whether black or coloured or white, have been loyal to Mandela’s South Africa. They have done their best to make Mandela’s vision work. Pietersen chose to walk away.”

I say a curious idea,  because in an act reeking  excruciatingly of irony post-Apartheid South African cricket introduced racial quotas. These required a number of non-white cricketers to be in teams in South African domestic first class competitions and in the South African national side. The consequence was the sidelining of white South Africa cricketers. It was this enforced lack of opportunity which was the reason given by Pietersen when he left South Africa and threw his lot in with England. Presumably Oborne thinks that a white South African cricketer’s loyalty would have been shown by meekly accepting the racially dictated discrimination against him.

To the politically correct wrapping can be added the fact that Oborne does not extend his doubts about how foreigners can be assimilated into an England side beyond South Africans and white South Africans only at that. What could be more exciting for the modern British liberal than the idea of white South African mercenaries – a phrase  guaranteed to set liberal hearts into overdrivebetraying the man they worship as Saint Mandela?

The restriction of Oborne’s comments top South Africans would be absurd. If a  born and bred South African cannot understand English culture or be in any meaningful sense English, the same must logically apply to any player of any nationality who has come to England once their childhood is either over or largely spent. Moreover, if cultural imprinting is what is all important in Oborne’s eyes, then even players born here but raised in ethnic minority communities which deliberately keep themselves separate from the English mainstream are placed in much the same position as the foreigner who arrives here as an adult.

At the least, by questioning the position of various white South Africans Oborne has implicitly questioned the position of any other foreign player employed by England who came to England with their childhood almost or wholly spent. Is it in the blood? did not shirk the broader questions as Oborne has done. It raised the question of national identity regardless of where an immigrant came from and considered the position of ethnic minorities growing up in Britain. My article asked people to address the general question of national identity directly: Oborne’s tried to evade the general issue, albeit unsuccessfully, because cricket or sport generally cannot be divorced from society at large.

It is also true that politics moves on. Political correctness may be more pervasive and ruthlessly enforced in Britain now than in 1995, but it has also become more nuanced. In 1995 political correctness as it related to race had no shades of grey. Blacks and Asians from wherever they came were given blanket protection by the politically correct and even immigrant whites had a large degree of protection because by the 1990s racism had been extended to include differences in ethnicity and nationality as well as race.

By the time  Is it in the blood? was published discussion of English national identity was effectively excluded from public debate. These days the liberal elite have cottoned onto the need to provide some outlet for English tribal feelings – vide the bogus British patriotism of the Olympics and elite attempts to control and redefine Englishness to fit the multicultural template, for example, Tony Blair’s English Icons project. This involved the selection of a series of supposedly English Icons by a politically correct panel with the public invited to vote on which should become an official English Icon. However, even the manipulation of the choice of  prospective Icons through their selection by a politically  biased panel proved insufficient for the politically correct ends of the project and the politically correct choices of the Notting Hill Carnival and Brick Lane were chosen as official English Icons even though they garnered very few votes. This was done to ensure that blacks (Notting Hill Carnival)  and Asians (Brick Lane)  were represented amongst the Icons. (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/english-icons-an-exercise-in-anglophobic-nulabour-propaganda/)

This shift to a politically correct version of Englishness  means that the subject of English identity, however fraudulently, is in play so Oborne’s comments about South Africans can be accommodated by liberals comfortably in a way that they could not be in the 1990s.

In the case of Pietersen we do not need to guess at how he views himself when playing for England. The Australian opener Ed Cowan in his book In the Firing Line recounts how during the lunch interval of a match in which both Pietersen and Cowan were playing Pietersen looked at the lunch deserts and ‘asked with expletive inserted, what one of them was. Cowan told him that, as it was the very English bread and butter pudding, he should really know. “I’m not ——- English, Eddie,” replied Pietersen. “I am South African, I just work here.”’ (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/counties/8874839/Tasmania-batsman-Ed-Cowan-eloquently-expresses-the-average-cricketers-lot-in-his-brave-new-book.html). So there you have it.

It is difficult to see how anyone brought up in a foreign country can think of themselves as anything other than a member of that society or, at least, as belonging to an ethnic or racial group within that society. To suggest anyone can feel patriotism for another country is nonsensical because patriotism is engendered through the cultural imprinting in childhood, imprinting which includes being unquestioningly accepted as a member of the national tribe. Anyone employed by a national team other than his own may give their conscious best,  but he (or she) can never have the additional goad to excellence and effort of patriotic feeling.

The difficulty of assimilation is illustrated by the black England footballer John Barnes who came to England at the age of 15 (http://www.football-england.com/john_barnes.html). Here are a few quotes from his autobiography:

I am fortunate my England career is now complete so I don’t have to sound patriotic any more.(P69)

I loathe the fact that the England team embody and foster nationalism. I feel both Jamaican and English. I’ve lived in England longer than I spent in Kingston but my roots are all Jamaican. I feel more Jamaican than English because I’m black. A lot of black people born in England feel more Jamaican than English because they are not accepted in the land of their birth on account of their colour, but they are not approved of in Jamaica because they speak with a funny accent. I am accepted in Jamaica because I was raised there and my father is respected across the island. (P 71)

Was I more patriotic for England than I would have been for Scotland? No. To keep everyone happy throughout my international career, I always said that my only choice was England because England is where I settled, but that wasn’t true. (p72)

When I played for England, I could never declare that nationalism is loathsome and illogical. I couldn’t say that if I played for France, I would try just as hard, which I would. I tried hard for England out of professional pride not patriotism – because I never felt any. (P72)

Barnes was undoubtedly a very talented player at club level  but he rarely played as well for England. Judged by the comments quoted above that may have been because he did not feel part of the team in the same way he would have felt when playing for a club side. Indeed, it would not be unreasonable to ask why he played for England if he felt that way about England in particular or nationalism in general. The obvious venal answer is it enhanced his career and earning capacity.

There is also the effect that Barnes had on his England teammates. Again his autobiography is very revealing:

None of my England team-mates ever questioned patriotism as I did. Overtly patriotic players would talk about how much they wanted to play in Italy or Spain. Now the Premiership has metamorphosed into the ‘in’ place, the same players are probably happy to stay at home. I didn’t mind them talking about patriotism~in terms of wanting to win matches, to be proud of playing for England. But when we sat around talking on England trips, l stirred up arguments by saying, ‘It’s impossible to be prouder of being English than French.  England as a country is not better than France. England’s sense of superiority is irrational.’ I don’t know how that went down with Terry Butcher or Stuart Pearce.  (P72)

Scarcely team building.

Why do national teams matter?

Why does this this matter? There are two reasons. The first is the national sporting side as  a focus of national feeling, something of especial importance to England which, unlike the other parts of the UK or many undevolved foreign states, has no Parliament or Government of her own to provide a focus of national feeling and expression.  In societies where politically correct elites attempt to dilute national homogeneity support for national sides is often the only avenue left to express national feeling, although even here the elites’ attempt to control and manipulate this by re-defining nationality in multicultural terms and going into paroxysms of delight when a national side becomes filled with ethnic minorities and immigrants.

The second reason is as fundamental as it is possible to be. What applies to national sporting sides applies with knobs on to the general state of a society. In England barely a week goes by without the mainstream media pushing a story about ethnic minority complaints alleging that the English are racist and the institutions of the country institutionally racist. The most serious riots in England in the past 35 years have had their  roots in black and Asian antagonism towards English society, most recently the August 2011 riots which anyone with functioning eyes could see from the very extensive media coverage and private YouTube recordings were black instigated and dominated.

The idea that ethnic and racial minorities in England are as imprinted with English culture and mores as the native white population strains credulity a long way past breaking point. A strong sense of victimhood exists naturally amongst those who feel outside the societal mainstream and this is fed incessantly by the politically correct elite of the country  who pass laws enshrining political correctness in matters of race and ethnicity. In addition, the elite ever more ruthlessly suppress native English dissent.  All of this widens the natural divide between the native English and ethnic and racial minorities in England.

The British elite have created a fractured England with their incontinent encouragement and permitting of mass immigration. The extent to which an article in a specialist cricketing magazine about the selection of the England cricket team could cause rage and panic amongst them demonstrates exactly how fearful the British elite are when it comes to someone challenging the received politically correct opinion on race, ethnicity, immigration and Englishness. They know that if there was ever honest and regular public debate about these subjects they would be held responsible for the most fundamental act of treason any person can commit: the permitting of mass immigration of those who cannot or will not assimilate.

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I sent this letter for publication to the Telegraph in response to Oborne’s article but it was not published:

Sir,

 In his England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket Peter Oborne asks this question about Kevin Pietersen: “is it possible to be born and brought up as a South African and give your full loyalty to England? I believe not. Nationality is not just a matter of convenience. It is a matter of identity. Kevin Pietersen may have chosen to come to Britain. But his attitudes and his cast of mind were formed in South Africa. Ultimately, Pietersen has not much idea of what it means to be British. ”

This is precisely the point I made in my July 1995 Wisden Cricket Monthly (WCM) article Is it in the blood? That article produced a media hate campaign against me to which I was allowed no reply, not even by WCM. Mr Oborne’s strictures about born and bred South Africans apply equally to any other nationality . By definition you cannot feel patriotism for that which is foreign to you. The only way to become imbued with patriotism is to grow up in a society in which you are accepted unreservedly as a member of that society.

England’s constant employment of foreigners in national sides makes a mockery of national representation. It is high time it was stopped.  

Yours sincerely,

 

Robert Henderson

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Below is the unedited version of an article published in edited form  as  “Is   it in the blood?” in Wisden Cricket Monthly in July 1995. The  title  was the editor’s.  I submitted it under the  title  of  “Racism and national identity.”

Two letters in the May WCM touched felicitously (because both subjects  are  long overdue for honest discussion)  upon  the   related  topics of racism and national identity  in  cricket.

James  Singh  raised the question of discrimination  by  West  Indian  negroes  against  Asians  and  whites  while  Chanaka  Wijeratne queried my point in ‘Bad selection – a case  study’  (WCM April) that the employment of foreigners in the  England  team  is detrimental per se because such players cannot  have the same commitment as native born and bred players.

Mr Singh asks ‘…why is the Nelsonian eye adopted where  the  policy of the West Indies Cricket Board has been blacks  only  for 15-17 years?’ The answer is twofold. Firstly,   those who  control  the  first class cricket of the white  Test  playing   nations  are  drawn from the  liberal elites  which  dominate  public  life in  England,  Australia and New Zealand (or  are people  who pay lip service  to the liberal elites’  ideology  for reasons of expediency),    with the result that  only one  public  line on racism in cricket is tolerated,  namely  that  only  whites may be racist. Secondly,  none of the  non-white Test  playing  nations has clean hands in  this  matter  and,   consequently,  each  has every reason to  remain  silent.  In   matters of race,  cricketing politics exactly mirrors that of     mainstream politics, both national and international.

How justified is Mr Singh’s particular complaint against  the West Indies? Well, since the appointment of the first  negro,  Frank  Worrell,   to the (regular)  captaincy in  1960,   the  participation  of  white  and   Asian  players  has  steadily diminished  – in the case of whites it might be truer to  say  definitely  ended.  Geoffrey  Greenidge was  the  last  white  player to represent the West Indies (in 1972) and,  until the recent employment of Chanderpaul and Dhanraj,  no player with Asian connections played after Larry Gomes’  final appearance in  1986.  Nor  is this decline simply  at  Test  level.  The  current Wisden shows no white and only two players of   Asian  descent (Chanderpaul and Dhanraj) in the Red Stripe  averages   for the 1993-94 season. (It would be most interesting to know  when  the  last  white man played in the  Red  Stripe).   The  explanation  commonly  given by apologists for  the  lack  of  white  and Asian players in the West Indies –  that  economic     circumstances   have   changed   forcing  Asian   and   white  cricketers  to  concentrate  on  their  careers  rather  than     cricket –  is very implausible.  Are we to believe that there  are  no  gifted white and few gifted  Asian  cricketers  from wealthy  West Indian homes?  Is it to be assumed  that  every    talented  white  cricketer and most Asian cricketers  in  the     West  Indies  finds  a  worthwhile  career  outside  cricket?  Frankly, it beggars belief.

In  truth  racial  and cultural  discrimination  by  coloured  peoples has been the racism which dare not speak its name for  rather longer than Mr Singh imagines.  It has also  stretched  far beyond the West Indies. How many non-Muslims have  played  for Pakistan or Tamils for Sri Lanka?  Precious few in either  case.   How many untouchables have played for India?  Why  do  Indians and Pakistanis of mixed white/Asian ancestry find  it   so  difficult  to succeed?  Nor can the  white  Test  playing  nations  be  wholly exonerated of the charge  of  racism  for  Australia  has  no ASian players in its Test side  despite  a        generation  of  heavy  Asian  settlement  (or,  indeed,   any   Aborigines),  while   Maori involvement in  the  New  Zealand   first  class  game  has  been  sparse  until  very  recently.

Doubtless  in each case there are good  sociological  reasons  for   the  failure  of  these  various  ethnic    groups   to  participate  largely  or at all in first class  cricket.  But          equally,  the old,  white dominated  South Africa could claim  good  sociological  reasons for the exclusion of  non-whites,   indeed  perhaps better,  for there the power holders  were  a  minority who felt threatened by a majority (in all the  other  instances cited above, the reverse is the case).

The question the cricketing world should answer,  but  almost  certainly will not,   is brutally simple. If South Africa was  wrong  to  discriminate on grounds of race and  culture,  why   should matches be tolerated  between other cricketing nations which  do not have  clean racial hands?   Frankly,  I do  not  think   that   there  is  any   reasonable,  practical  or  unhypocritical  answer which would permit most  international cricket to continue so widespread is the practice of racially or  culturally  determined selection.  Nor can I  see  things changing  radically in the future because the  importance  of  the composition   of  national  sporting  sides  in   mixed societies  – particularly in the Third World –   reaches  far beyond  the games themselves,  going as it does  to the  very  root   of  racial  divisions  and   hatreds.   However,   the cricketing  world  should at least acknowledge the  existence  of double standards in this matter.  Mr  Wijeratne’s  complaint  concerned  my  querying  of   the  instinctive   patriotism   (and  its   concomitant   visceral  commitment)  of the  ex-patriot West Indians, Australians and          Southern Africans employed in the recent Ashes touring party.  He  admits  that  the white immigrants  might  fall  into  my  category ‘of those not culturally English’,  but then goes on to  claim that ‘such criticism must be  hurtful to the  likes  of  DeFreitas  and Ramprakash.’ Interestingly,  he  does  not   mention  Malcolm who came to England at roughly the same  age  as Smith and Hick.

If  I were to take the coward’s way,  I could point out  that  DeFreitas  came to England at quite an advanced age (I  think  twelve  or thirteen) and consequently does not fall into  the category of those born and bred here. I could say of course I was not referring to Ramprakash (as I did not in the article)   because he was born and bred here.  But those ould be weasel  words.

To  reinforce my point about  those players aspiring to  play   for  England who were raised wholly or in large part  outside  Britain, let me simply quote Mathew Engel in the 1995 Wisden:  “It cannot be irrelevant to England’s long term failures that  so  many  of  their  recent Test  players  were  either  born  overseas  and/or spent their formative years as  citizens  of other  countries.  In the heat of Test cricket,  there  is  a  difference between a cohesive team with a common goal,  and a  coalition  of  individuals  whose  major  ambitions  are  for  themselves…There  is a vast difference between  wanting  to play  Test  cricket  and wanting to  play  Test  cricket  for  England.”

But  what  of  those  players raised  solely  or  largely  in England?  Well,  liberals tell us this should not matter  one  whit. An Asian or negro raised in England  will, according to    the liberal,  feel exactly the same pride and  identification with  the  place as a white man.   The  reality  is  somewhat  different. Consider the case of Nasser Hussain .  In  an  interview  with  Rob Steen  published  in  the  Daily  Telegraph 1  he said ‘If anyone asks about my nationality, I’m  proud  to say ‘Indian’,  but I’ve never given any thought  to         playing  for  India.  In cricketing terms I’m  English.’   Mr Hussain has an English mother.  He has lived in this  country since he was six. He attended an English public school and an English  university.  Of all the  England  qualified  players with  negro or Asian blood currently playing county  cricket,  he  might  be thought to have had the best chance of  a  full  integration  into English life.  Yet here we have him  saying that  he  is proud to describe himself as Indian.  I  do  not  criticise Mr Hussain or any other player of foreign  ancestry for feeling this way. It is an entirely natural thing to wish to  retain  one’s  racial/cultural  identity.  Moreover,  the energetic  public promotion of  “multiculturalism” in  England  has  actively  encouraged such expressions  of  independence.

However,   with   such  an  attitude,   and    whatever   his  professional pride as a cricketer, it is difficult to believe that  Mr  Hussain  has any sense of  wanting  to  play  above    himself simply because he is playing for England.  From what,  after all,  could such a feeling derive?   If Mr Hussain  has  such  a  lack  of sentimental regard for  the  country  which  nurtured  him,  how much less reason have those without  even  one  English  parent or any of his educational advantages  to  feel  a  deep,  unquestioning commitment to  England.  Norman  Tebbit’s  cricket test is as pertinent for players as  it  is for spectators.

It is even possible that part of a coloured England qualified player   rejoices  in  seeing  England  humiliated,   perhaps  subconsciously,    because   of   post  imperial   myths   of    oppression  and exploitation.  An article in the August  1991  edition  of WCM  entitled ‘England’s Caribbean Heritage’   by  Clayton Goodwin, a white English journalist with particularly  pronounced  Caribbean sympathies,  lends credence to  such  a view.  Mr Goodwin argues  that children born in this  country  of  West Indian parents do not feel part of  English  society and, consequently, tend to identify only with sporting heroes who share their own physical race – significantly,   no white or Asian sporting figure supported by this group is mentioned  in the article,  although many negroes are. A few quotes will     give the flavour:-

“Naturally   those   West  Indians  who   came   as  immigrants  have  a  nostalgic  respect  for  their  ‘home’  region  – longing for the  lost  ‘good  old   days’ is not solely the white man’s preserve. Their  children,  humiliated and made to feel inferior  in  every aspect of their day-to-day life,  will relish  the  chance of using the success of others  sharing the  same physical attribute [blackness] for  which they are downgraded to show,  however  vicariously,  that they do have worth.”

“You  can’t  blame  the put-upon  black  people  of  Britain for feeling similar justifiable pride  when  Viv   Richards   and  his  team,   who   in   other circumstances  might be regarded as  ‘second  class  citizens’  like themselves, have put one over their detractors.”

“The  youth of Peckham, Brixton,  Pitsmoor and  the  Broadwater Farm would want any of Nigel Benn, Chris   Eubank,  Michael  Watson  or  Herol  Graham,  black  Britons  who  have grown up among them  and  shared their  social  experience,  to  beat  the  Jamaican   middleweight   boxer   Malcolm  MaCallum   if   the  opportunity should arise.”

“The ethnic majority [the white population] are not aware  of  how  isolated  and  shut  out  from  the  national cricket game the black population is  made  to feel.  That is not solely to question why Surrey  have included only one regular black player,  Monte               Lynch…”  [In fact,  England qualified players  of  West  Indian  parentage  are  well  represented  in  County  cricket  having more than 6% of  places  on County staffs,  a percentage well above their share  of the national population].

Having, I think, accurately described the generally resentful and  separatist  mentality  of  the  West  Indian   descended  population in England – doubters should cast their minds back  to the riots of the eighties,  take a stroll around  Brixton,  Deptford,  Hackney,  Moss Side,  St Pauls et al and think  of  Haringey  cricket  college which has  had few  if  any  white  members   –  Mr  Goodwin goes on to  claim  that   “…surely nobody  would  doubt that the players [England caps  of  West Indian  ancestry] are proud to represent England.”   Exactly why he is so confident of their pride is unclear. There would  seem  to be no obvious reason why players such as   DeFreitas   and Lewis should not share the  mentality he ascribes to  the  general West Indian derived population. At the very least, it   is  difficult  to  see  how playing  for  England  could   be anything  more  (as  Mathew Engel claims)  than  a  means  of  personal  advancement and achievement  for  players  of  West  Indian ancestry.   Of what else could they logically be proud  if,  as  Mr  Goodwin claims,  they  feel  excluded  from  and  humiliated by English society?

The  obverse  of  the  commitment coin  is  the  effect   the  interlopers  have  on the unequivocally English  players  and consequently  on  team spirit.   The   common  experience  of  mixed  groups makes it immensely difficult to accept  that  a  changing  room  comprised of say  six  Englishmen,  two  West Indians,  two Southern Africans and a New Zealander is  going  to  develop  the  same  camaraderie  as  eleven   unequivocal Englishmen.

The  problem  for the England selectors is perhaps   that  of England  as  a nation.  For thirty years or more  those  with  authority  in education, assisted by politicians and those in  the mass media,  have conspired, in the sociological sense of  creating  a climate of opinion, to produce a public  ideology  designed  to  remove any sense of pride or sense of place  in the  hearts  of  those who are  unequivocally  English.  This propaganda has not been entirely successful, but it has had a  profound  effect  on  the national  self-confidence  of  many  Englishmen.  Indeed,  perhaps even some of the  unequivocally English  players lack a sufficient sense of pride in  playing  for England.  (All the more reason to ensure that the team is unequivocally  English  so that the majority can  infect  any fainthearts with their pride.)

In  summary,  the essence of my case against Mr Wijeratne  is  that  for a man to feel  the pull of ‘cricketing  patriotism’  he   must  be so imbued with a sense of  cultural  belonging,  that  it is second nature to go beyond the call of  duty,  to  give that little bit extra.   All the England players whom  I  would  describe  as  foreigners,  may well  be  trying  at  a        conscious level, but is that desire to succeed instinctive, a matter of biology? There lies the heart of the matter.

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7 Responses to Is it in the blood?, Peter Oborne and the question of Englishness

  1. Oborne iis without a doubt the most odius of mainstream journalists .it shows how far theTelegraph has sunk .His philosophy is largely based on race ,however the targets of his bile are almost exclusively white ,North Europeans .Recent attacks have been on Prince Harry (no doubt with the Swastika incedent in mind),pietersen,the Germans in general ,all German policies are a rerun of the third Riech.However he is not averse to pleading for tolerance,i remember a article pleading for the end of sanctions against none less than Robert Mugabe.He was a notorious appeaser of Saddam Hussien .
    His angle on the London riots was that all the Turks he knew were thouroughly decent chaps so all is not lost and as usual he sidestepprd the obvious racial aspect of the mayhem.

  2. Your remarks apply equally to English politics: how much loyalty can we believe a Jock sitting for an English constituency owes to England? My own MP, a carpetbagging Jock of the most opportunistic sort, parachuted in to a safe seat by a party led by yet another incompetent Jock, has asked just one substantial question since being elected to his English sinecure in 2010, and that was about an issue reserved to the Scotch ‘pairlyment’ (I think that’s how Jock mangles the word – I’m sure McJames will ‘corrairct’ me if I’m wrong).

    We cannot rely on a British parliament rotten with Jock to protect English interests and must prevent the buggers from interfering in and determining our affairs. Only an English Parliament can properly represent the interests of the people of England.

  3. Antony says:

    Most informative. I heard former footballer and noted micro-biologist John Barnes on the radio – the anti-English talkSport to be exact – prattling witlessly about how race was meaningless and how ‘we are all the same genetically’. No one corrected him. If they knew enough to do so they were too frightened.

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