Late in 2005 a body called Icons Online launched a website English Icons (www.icons.org.uk -the website is still up but is no longer being actively managed). The organisation was the creation of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). It claimed to be entirely independent despite being funded by the DCMS (to the tune of £1m according to the Daily Telegraph 28 4 2006). The minister with direct responsibility for Icons Online was the black London MP David Lammy, while cabinet minister Tessa Jowell had indirect responsibility as minister for the DCMS.
The ostensible purpose of Icons Online was to provide the English with a sense of nation by celebrating English accomplishments, inventions, events and such forth. The public would nominate and vote on such things and that a number of these nominations would be selected to be official English Icons.
This was an official projection of the liberal propaganda myth that the English have no sense of nation and the Icons’ website unashamedly made this intent clear:” Some people argue that there is no such thing as a shared English culture. They say all those invasions by the Normans and Romans simply left us with a ‘hotch potch’ of other people’s cultures. Paradoxically, this melting pot is what makes England unique. And today’s multicultural communities make this mix even more vibrant and interesting.”
The covert reason Icons Online was created is simple; NuLabour were only too well aware that the English have an immense sense of nation and were growing increasingly restive about their deliberate marginalisation by the British political elite, who besides regularly insulting the English, siphon off vast amounts of English money to give to the Celtic Fringe whilst denying the English any national political voice in an English Parliament having given such a voice to the other parts of the UK.
The Blair Government was trying control this growing English unrest by creating a soviet-style propaganda unit whose ostensible purpose was to give voice to the wishes of the people, but whose real purpose was to produce a preordained propaganda scenario. The preordained propaganda scenario in this instance was to portray England and the English as a happy-clappy multicultural heaven. This intention was signalled not only in the passage from their website quoted above, but also by the choice of The Windrush as one of the original panel chosen Icons. Further evidence comes from the official minutes of the Icons advisory board (available on the ICONS website). The minutes for 13 10 2005 stated:
“JD [Jerry Doyle, Icons’ MD] reported that the Daily Mirror had agreed to be media partner to the ICONS project at launch stage. Efforts had also been progressing to ensure that ICONS’ partners were fully involved in the project. It had been a great success to date, and there was an impressive coalition of support from the National Trust. English Heritage and a range of city museums. Being inclusive was also crucial to the project and JD said she was pleased to report involvement from the Black Cultural Archives, the Jewish Museum and the Muslim Council. Efforts would continue over time to include other groups.”
While the minutes for 8 12 2005 run:
“Partnership news was reported to the meeting by JD. Meetings had taken place with the Football Association, Pride personnel in Brighton and Mencap (re an art competition in 2006). ICONS attended the launch of Islam Awareness Week to build up contacts and Ken Livingstone supplied his nomination at the event.”
According to the Icons website, the official icons were to be chosen by “An advisory board [which] has been set up to help us sift through nominations and decide which will be featured on this site. This group, drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and experience, will consider all your comments and suggestions – as well as the public vote.” “A wide range of backgrounds and experience” eh? The board is comprised of entirely of public servants, members of Quangocracy, mediafolk and academics. The nine members included these three (text taken from Icons website):
“Vineet Lal is currently England Brand Manager with Enjoy England at VisitBritain. Enjoy England is the official national tourism organisation for England, and Vineet has been working with the England team since its inception in March 2003. Originally from Edinburgh, he grew up in Scotland and his tourism career has included roles at Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board and isitScotland… [He] thinks it is a delightful irony that someone with such a strong Celtic background should end up working on a brand strategy for England!”
“Jo Turner is head of Arts Online and International at the Department for Culture Media and Sport. She has worked for the department since 1993 looking after policies concerning sport and young people, widening access to museums (including the introduction of free admission), and broadcasting. She also looks after DCMS policy matters for Culture Online. She has worked as Private Secretary to Ministers dealing with Sport, Broadcasting and Tourism. Jo has a degree in History, and was previously a curator at the Imperial War Museum, dealing with photograph collections, and has published work for the IWM about the contribution made by ethnic minority forces.”
“Sam Walker is director of the Black Cultural Archive and Museum. Based in Brixton, the Black Cultural Archive and Museum was developed during the 1980s to collect and document the history and life experiences of black peoples in the UK…”
The last published Advisory Board minutes (dated 23 2 2006) includes this statement:” The second wave of Icons (for addition to the site late April) was discussed. The editorial director suggested additions to his original list to better represent the results of the public vote. Advisory Board agreed.”
When this “wave of Icons” was announced in April 2006 they included the Notting Hill Carnival and Brick Lane. I used the Freedom of Information Act to get the actual voting figures. The Notting Hill Carnival was chosen by the panel despite 84.5% of the public voting NO. Brick Lane was chosen with a mere 20 people taking part in the vote. The voting figures provided by the DCMS for all 21 Icons were:
Icon name votes % yes Yes Votes No Votes
Big Ben 3321 87.70% 2913 408
Blackpool Tower 1090 65.20% 711 379
Brick Lane 20 65.00% 13 7
Cricket 2650 87.80% 2327 323
Domesday Book 1126 80.90% 911 215
Eden Project 597 30.80% 184 413
Globe Theatre 637 73.20% 466 171
Hadrian’s Wall 1040 74.60% 776 264
Hay Wain 610 70.80% 432 178
HMS Victory 1378 82.10% 1131 247
Lindisfarne Gospels 245 61.20% 150 95
Mini-skirt 933 45.30% 423 510
Morris Dancing 6923 88.30% 6113 810
Notting Hill Carnival 2189 15.30% 335 1854
Origin of Species 727 69.60% 504 223
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen 790 65.80% 520 270
Pub 4353 87.90% 3826 527
Queen’s head stamp
design by Machin 596 68.60% 409 187
St George Flag 2265 87.80% 1989 276
Sutton Hoo Helmet 661 64.10% 424 237
York Minister 735 68.20% 501 234
The Daily Telegraph (28 April 2006) reported that these icons had been chosen as English icons because each was “one of the 21 most voted for icons suggested by the public since the website was set up in January”. Clearly neither the Notting Hull Carnival nor Brick Lane was “one of the 21 most voted for”. They were selected simply to progress Icons Online’s openly declared multicultural agenda: the purpose of The Notting Hill Carnival being to include blacks; that of Brick Lane to include Asians within the concepts of Englishness and England.
Icons Online also censored comments made about Icons, both those nominated and chosen. Here is the project’s director Daniel Hahn writing to me concerning comments made about the Windrush which never appeared on the site: ” Thank you for your e-mail and your continuing interest in our site. At present we have three comments published, and ten which have been submitted and rejected. As you’ll see if you browse through the other icons on the site, we are happy to include debate on our site by publishing comments that don’t support a particular thing’s iconic status; we are not, however, prepared to publish anything we believe to be obviously racist or in any other way offensive, into which category I’m afraid those ten rejected comments fall. ”
In addition to pushing of the multicultural agenda, the Icons Website was manipulating matters in the general politically correct interest. The most notable example of this to date was the fox hunting Icon nomination. This has been changed from “fox hunting” (as nominated by the public) to “hunting and the ban”, something which was never nominated by the public nor voted for. (The Icons website still has it as fox hunting but their press releases have it as hunting and the ban).
Apart from being a great political scandal, the behaviour of Icons Online also has criminal implications because taxpayers’ money was being used for purposes other than those which Parliament has agreed to, that is to fund a project to allow the ordinary Englishman and woman to express their sense of national identity. The further manipulation to prevent non-pc Icons such as fox-hunting being included compounds the offence.
I wrote to Tessa Jowell, my MP Frank Dobson and the then Tory shadow spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport Hugo Swire asking them to take action to expose the scandal and prevent it continuing. Jowell did not reply and Dobson refused to act.
Swire sent me a long letter which dealt in detail with the manipulation of the fox hunting nomination, but failed entirely to mention let alone address the choice of the Notting Hill Carnival or Brick Lane as Icons. However, he did send me an interesting reply he received from the DCMS when he put down this Parliamentary question: “Mr Hugo Swire (Devon East): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture,Media and Sport, whether (a) she, (b) Ministers and (c) an official instructed that hunting be omitted from her Department sponsored cultural icons survey.” (22 5 2006).
The reply was given by David Lammy: “No Ministers or officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has instructed the editorial team at the ICONS project on what to exclude from the list of nominated items. Such decisions are entirely a matter for the projects editorial team governed by an independent Advisory Board…”
English Icons was clearly a politically correct propaganda exercise to “include” everyone living in England. Its effect is of course the opposite: it angers the English and leaves ethnic minorities where they were before: feeling anything but English for the icons celebrate not Englishness but something other.
The fact that so many people (1854) took the trouble to vote “NO, the Notting Hill Carnival is not an English icon”, and only 20 people in the entire country bothered to vote one way or the other on the Brick Lane nomination tells you two things: (1) next to no one thinks they are English Icons and (2) the English are very strongly opposed to this type of political manipulation. The problem the English have is that a lack of any mainstream political voice. Until that is remedied the British elite will continue to manipulate and abuse then. The English Icons project is a prime example of that abuse.