English Icons – an exercise in Anglophobic NuLabour propaganda

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.

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4 Responses to English Icons – an exercise in Anglophobic NuLabour propaganda

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention English Icons – an exercise in Anglophobic NuLabour propaganda | England calling -- Topsy.com

  2. John says:

    It’s sad that the truth wasn’t expedient

  3. anatheimp says:

    This is a truly excellent piece of work, a great expose. I get so angry at the cynicism of it all, the obvious manipulation, as bad as anything in Soviet times. It amplifies the point I was making in my Black Myth article.

  4. Pingback: Is it in the blood?, Peter Oborne and the question of Englishness | England calling

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