The return of the English

From an article by Professor Ben Gidley appeared on Politics Inspires based on his research (concise report here):

“The 2011 Census included a national identity question. It showed that, in England, Englishness is the predominant national identity, expressed by two thirds of the population (with 58% choosingonly English identity), while just 29% identify with Britishness (19% choosing only British identity). …

“It is important, however, to note the geographical and generational dynamics of this resurgent Englishness. In analysis of the 2011 Census I have done with Sundas Ali (soon to be published by the Government Office for Science’s Foresight Future of Cities programme), we found a band of “English cities”: cities with over 75% English-only and over 80% English-plus-other identification. These include Barnsley, Doncaster, Grimsby, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Southend, Stoke, Sunderland, Wakefield and Wigan – often ageing, post-industrial cities associated with the demographic Matthew Goodwin and Rob Ford identify as the “left behind”: older, whiter, less educated and more working class than the population as a whole.

“Although many pundits have noted the “working classness” of the left behind, age is actually the most distinctive feature of UKIP’s support base. As Rob Ford has shown in other work, one of the social changes they have been left behind by is a massive generational transformation in attitudes to race, mixing and migration, with younger generations significantly more comfortable with mixed, inclusive, civic identities.

The new British

“If we turn from the white majority, we can see that there are other sections of the population have embraced Britishness. As Lucinda Platt and others have shown, Britishness is especially common among migrants and minority ethnic populations – and in particular those from South Asian and/or Muslim groups – who are far more likely to identify as British than their white British neighbours are.

“The “British cities” in the 2011 Census (with English-only identities at around 20% and British-only identities close to 40%) are multicultural places with long-settled migrant background populations, often with larger South Asian and/or Muslim communities: Blackburn, Bradford, Leicester, London and Luton. Within London, boroughs with long-settled minorities – Brent, Tower Hamlets and Harrow – have particularly high British-only identification.

“And among this British minority, the most British of all seem to be new citizens. In a representative survey of the newly naturalised and failed naturalisation applicants (which I conducted with Dina Kiwan, Alessio Cangiano and Zoe Khor at the end of 2010), we found extremely high levels of national identification. 87% felt British, including 58% of respondents who felt British “a lot”, and only 10% felt “not very” or “not at all” British. A lower (though still significant) share of citizenship applicants (40%) felt English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish “a lot”.

“There are several explanations for this. The migration studies literature consistently identifies mechanisms whereby the first generation invests emotionally in the receiving society, asking little of it and grateful for its hospitality (whereas the second generation, raised with the same aspirations as non-migrant peers, expects more and is consequently less satisfied). Clearly, too, those who apply for naturalisation may be motivated to enter the process partly because of their identification with their adopted home. But there is also some evidence for a policy success story for the institutions of civic Britishness developed in the Blair period. …

Read the whole article here.

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