Feeble little Celtic countries?

Last Thursday – St George’s Day, in case you hadn’t noticed – Henry V111’s latest historian David Starkey scorned the idea of making April 23 a proper national holiday on the BBC’s Question Time and added: “If we decide to go down this route of having an English national day, that means we become a feeble little country, just like the Scots and the Welsh and the Irish.

Welsh and Scottish MPs were among those who duly rose to the bait – proving Starkey had a point, maybe? Politics.ie noticed the row and drew the comment:

Chip on the shoulder victimhood never looks good, I think the Scots MPs complaining only play in to the ‘feeble’ portrayal. But, leaving that aside, is he right? Are we stuck in a 19th Century romantic nationalism?

Obviously blinkered English folk like the professional controversialist Starkey have no idea what a marketing opportunity has been created by St Patrick’s week as we must think of it now, not only with the diaspora but with home holidays looking more attractive. The Scots are now bringing up the rear with Scottish Homecoming, if you can stand the midges. English identity is a pallid thing, sidelined by self conscious official promotion of Britishness ( now faltering) and only now being rescued from the BNP. Too many English opinion formers went into a sulk when they discovered that the Celts wanted a bigger say in their own affairs. Perhaps the solution is to tell them we love them dearly and then they’ll feel more secure.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London