The point of being British is not banging on about being British. But when your country is three days away from being dissolved – in part because the emotional case for the UK has not been made properly – then people do start to say what their national identity means to them. The long list of Spectator readers’ letters was one example, and we were delighted to welcome a bunch of them for tea in the garden of at 22 Old Queen Street this afternoon.
As you can see, we had four younger readers – this kind of captured the spirit of the rally. It was about family, in every way: people like me, who quite like being countrymen with other members of their family and don’t want to see that changed because we live five hours down the road. And even Americans, who know and value the idea of unity and wish for people from all parts of the UK keep that advantage. There were rubber leeks (from Wales), roses for England and all kinds of Scottish objects. The young lady at the front of the picture, above, took her Highland cow to the rally (below).
That rally was, think it’s fair to say, one of the most moving moments of my life as a citizen. It’s fairly obvious why we Scots who have made England our home don’t want to see the partitioning of Britain nor do we want to be made foreigners in our own country. But today was about the English, Welsh and Northern Irish who also came to say they care passionately about the union. They like being British, as well as English. Here’s one woman I spoke to who came down from Oxford:
Jenny Coglan read a list of what she loves about Britain (including 01-811-8055). WH Auden’s poem, The Night Train, was read. Bob Geldof spoke very well: he has an immigrant’s gratitude to Britain, he said, and speaking up for the UK was part of his payback. If Scots are fed up with Wesminster, they should know that England is also very fed up (but he didn’t say ‘very’ or ‘fed up’). England and Scotland should be co-operating rather than competing: the people here want Scotland to stay because this a family – and we love each other.