As a part of the build-up to Two Nations, last week Rosalyn and I went to meet Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future a new organisation supporting open conversations about identity in Great Britain. We had a fascinating discussion.
Sunder raised the interesting point that everyone in the UK already has the right to two identities: we can be from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland as well as being from Great Britain. Interestingly he sees the resurgence of English Identity over the last ten years as an opportunity for a plural, multi-ethnic story of British Identity, rather than a threat to it.
‘English identity is the right to a plural identity…the right to be English and to be British. To be British and be English. They want a plural identity. Well that’s quite interesting, because you can ask; are you allowed to have two flags as long as it’s one of the English, Welsh and Scottish flags, or could you have the Jamaican Flag? Would that work as well?’
We asked him specifically about the Tebbit Test – which he said inadvertently made cheering for the English cricket team about whether you supported the conservative government or no! More broadly, Sunder thinks that the debate about who people want to win, tells us more about the predjudices of people ask that question, rather than then where different groups in Britain feel they belong. He notes a long history in Britain of searching for ‘the enemy within’ and hopes for a time when we’re as comfortable about all groups in British society turning up and cheering for other athletes as we are about people with roots in Greece who have been living in London cheering for the Greek football team at Wembley.