It delivered a free tabloid to 22m households in England. Friends, disgusted, circulated an address to send the rubbish back- unstamped- but if it ever prints something which does not disgust me, it will challenge anyone content to suck at its poisonous tit. Is there anything worthwhile in this free Sun? What does it find to love in England?
The front is 117 faces. Almost all are white, though there is Mo Farah and Daniel Sturridge, a footballer. Ed Miliband looks like an idiot, though so does Nigel Farridge. The Queen and Duchess of
Cornwall Cambridge are prominent. There is Brian Cox, the astronomer, and Johnson Beharry VC. It promotes Noel Gallagher to National Treasure status. I am suspicious, but find it unobjectionable.
Page 2 and 3- What makes us proud of England? HM the Q, and three women voted “favourite English rose”- pretty women, oddly enough with their nipples covered. Our greatest historical figures are Churchill, Brunel and Shakespeare.
What a Sunderful world, it says: “Grab your copy of Saturday’s Sun and get behind our boys as they take on the world’s best in Brazil”. I would hardly associate The Sun with Englishness, though I suppose it is English- the “Scottish Sun” has a couple of pages different, insulting the Scots.
This being the Sun, there is of course something to disgust me: Rod Liddle writing Obviously, the best thing about being English is not being French. Or Belgian. He probably wrote the column more quickly than some would read it, this lazy confection of prejudice and cliché. “Downbeat irony” is very English, he says. There are some white middle-class liberals in London who think it is a bit much to be proud of being English, and would dob you in for committing a “hate crime”.
No, actually. Nationalism is being proud of stuff you have not achieved, and hating people you don’t know, but I take delight in being English (and Scots, and European, and Quaker…). It is part of my identity. The Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution are my heritage. I find enough to admire, in the past and now, to be able to face the world with cautious optimism.
Anything which gives human beings something in common, the start of a common interest and common good will is a good thing. Englishness is as good as any other thing, for this.
The picture is Britannia Pacificatrix, painted by Sigismund Goetze just after the First World War and hanging in the Foreign Office. Looking at all that imposing architecture in London- the galleries, the British Museum, Whitehall- it seemed that if I identify with this Britishness it gives me confidence, but if I did not I would find it oppressive, and feel tiny and of no account here. I want to identify my own Englishness, to take pride in what I take pride in, and not to be dependent on others’ views- certainly not The Sun’s.
Still, I can use it to protect my laminate floor from muddy shoes.