Saturday 24 April 2010

St George's Day

Yesterday lots of people were displaying the St George's Cross in one form or another. I wonder what they felt they were celebrating?

Some years ago, in response to a demand from Gordon Brown that immigrants should adopt "British values" someone with a foreign-sounding name wrote to the Guardian saying:

"Yes, certainly. Which British values would you like us to adopt? The highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe; putting our elderly relatives in homes and forgetting about them; rampaging around the continent boozed up on lager and vomiting in the gutters at football internationals? "

Since St George is the patron saint of England I'll concentrate on the alleged English values which were propagated by the novels of such writers as Percy F Westerman and W E Johns which, along with the weekly Wizard and Hotspur, formed the unelevated reading of my boyhood: honesty, modesty and fair play.

  • Honesty: "My word is my bond" was (is it still?) the motto of the Stock Exchange and was supposed to apply to all the "clean limbed English."
  • Modesty: all English boys (and girls?) were all supposed to be self effacing, self deprecating, but of course highly competent in an understated way.
  • Fair Play: epitomised by cricket but a virtue which applied to all aspects of life.
Senior civil servants being "economical with the truth," extravagant gestures whenever a footballer scores a goal, and the Tories' disproportionate expenditure in elections compared to the other parties all illustrate that there's not a lot of these values about nowadays.

I shouldn't mind a day put aside to revive them, and should be interested in any additional worthwhile values others might like to add.

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