I am delighted to announce the return, after an unwarrantably long delay, of Mr Liam Byrne to the pages of this blog. In his latest stunningly wise pronouncement, the Sage of Hodge Hill has proposed that the August bank holiday should become "Britishness Day". On "Britishness Day" people will engage in a "celebration of what we like and love about living in this country", and will hold street parties and carnivals. Sounds fun, doesn't it?
Well, no, actually. Personally I find the idea of participating in some completely artificial celebration of Britishness, instituted by a New Labour apparatchik whose other major contribution to cultural debate has been the prediction that compulsory ID cards will become a "great British institution", thoroughly nauseating. After all, whatever is celebrated on this day, you can be sure it won't be Britishness in any meaningful sense, but rather a watered-down, plastic "Britishness" of empty and meaningless platitudes about "tolerance", "fair play", and the like.
Besides which, I regard all the expressions of patriotism that come from this government as the grossest hypocrisy. This is, after all, the government that has done more than any other to erode the British identity, through its policy of open door immigration, which has transformed large parts of the country, without the consent of the existing population. It is also the government under whose rule perfectly innocuous displays of patriotism have become increasingly frowned upon by those in authority - just consider the number of cases in which displaying the Union Flag and (especially) the Cross of St George has been banned.
To me, Liam Byrne's proposal has the look of a pressure valve. This government, which has done so much to undermine the British (and, particularly, the English) identity, hopes that by giving over one day a year to overt but phoney patriotism, it can keep in check the disquiet engendered by the fact that genuine, albeit often understated, patriotism is taboo the whole year round. Thankfully, I think that the vast majority of people will see through the charade.