Far too many people talk of the British Isles as ‘England.’ English do it as a matter of course. Foreigners do it. It’s endemic, a recurrent howler, and a colonial mentality.
Scots take it for granted English speak with pride of their country but don’t mean Scotland. They mean the United Kingdom as if England. Or England alone.
If Lord Nelson can get it wrong, “England expects every man to do his duty” then we should expect others will make the same egregious error – five ships were captained by Scots, his crews Scots, Welsh and Irish. The unthinking presume Britain is England.
It’s one thing to have pride in your country’s heritage, to be patriotic, quite another to think your country so superior to other countries you demote them, or forget they exist. Under the terms of the Treaty between Scotland and England, Scotland keeps its own law system, education, and ultimately national health service and training of medical staff, as well as its police force, (and some institutions) yet these institutions are frequently assumed by the media to be part of England’s social systems.
The confusion begins with what to call the United Kingdom without demoting England’s place in it – Britain, Britannia, Great Britain, British Isles, the United Kingdom, ‘this Sceptre’d isle’, or if drunk on patriotism, Albion. Residents are Brits, imbued with that abstract, nebulous thing called ‘Britishness’, but exactly what is a “Brit?”
Here are everyday examples of Britain spoken of as if England. When readers find any examples please send them in – most recent entries are at the top of the list.
THE INFAMOUS LEDGER
“Britain is unique among modern developed economies in sucking the creative juices from provinces to capital.” Simon Jenkins in the Guardian discussing where the UK parliament could be cited while the old is renovated at billions of a cost. We’re all part of Greater England, or perhaps he means Greater London, like Watford. Cities most mentioned as temporary sites are Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, but as a UK parliament ne-er a word about Scotland or Wales. It is, after all, seen as an English-only possession, but a UK parliament when it suits them to keep the Scots happy.
“The UK and Spain have been partners and allies for over 500 years.” An official tweet from the UK Foreign Office. Yes, the actual Foreign Office, not a parody account. The UK only came into being in 1707, and there is the small matter, you could say skirmish, of the Spanish Armada (1588) the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) and Gibraltar to take into account.
“Britain gave us [the Tory Party] a mandate to leave the EU.” Theresa May and almost every other empire loyalist who sings Rule Britannia in the bath. Only middle-England voted to dump Europe.
“Scotland has every right to call a referendum, but we Brits see things differently.” Lord Heseltine, Tory grandee on BBC radio letting us know Scots are Scots, but by god, sir, Brits are English through and through! This defines precisely the ambiguity once and for all, answering my question in the preface, “What is a Brit?”
“The Kremlin loving SNP cannot be allowed to break our United Kingdom.” Multiple felonies here: Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence editor and Churchill fan, simultaneously smearing Scotland’s elected administration, asking readers to leave their brains at home to accept only SNP’s membership vote for them not thousands of Scots, English, Italians, Polish and the like, and as is the tradition of a colonial mind, he’s pretending the UK is England. His shrill diatribe is normally called a first draft, the one the rest of us junk to write something better considered.
“The SNP is playing political games with our country.” Theresa May, UK Prime Minister letting the world know England owns the United Kingdom. Unwittingly, she also implies the ‘union of equals’ she and other hypocritical Tories talk of, doesn’t exist.
“Tell Salmond Scotland have been given 200.000.000 millions today from hard working British English people, so don’t keep being a Arse.” [sic] John Mahoney, racist and failed grammarian, making his feelings felt on Twitter after an LBC radio interview with former First Minister, Alex Salmond, now an MP. Mahoney doesn’t identify what the sum is that he refers to: flue jabs, bees, a murmur of starlings; it could be anything. What it is not is Treasury hand-outs.
“Britain is a nation with the right to rule itself…faced with the contemporary resurgence of regional or tribal uprisings it’s the ancient British Isles that must hold itself together…” Melanie Philips writing her usual bilge in the Times newspaper assuming Britain is England, and Ireland not really a nation, she quite unable to throw off her colonial mentality in this ‘contemporary’ age. Scotland was a nation centuries before England existed.
“Those who love their country would never seek to divide it!” Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party to a straggle of disaffected supporters in Perth, confusing England with Scotland, oblivious to the fact Scots have no wish to divide England.
“For thousands of years Britain has ruled in a wonderful way, we’ve been a light into the world” says a deluded woman who tends chickens and has a picket fence around her cottage, living sometime in the early 1920s. She was commenting on BBC Television’s weekly pundit gabfest, Question Time broadcast from Torquay.
“Tonight the NHS collapsed. Red cross have been called in due to the ‘humanitarian crisis’ facing the UK. Seriously.” Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader (kinda) in England, reminding people that he still can’t accept there are two nations in the UK, each has its own health service.
“We shall soon be landing in Her Majesty’s United Kingdom.” British Airways pilot. Well, there you go; as if she is not wealthy enough. (Supplied by Owen Jones.)
“The Top Ten Festive Pubs in the United Kingdom,” goes the Guardian’s Christmas headline showing photographs and some description of good honest pubs for a decent pint of beer or ale, not one in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
“[England’s] NHS beds crises exiles children to Scotland for specialist care.” The Guardian assuming UK is England; to go beyond is to be ‘exiled’ to a foreign country.
“The UK represents the best possible way to redistribute wealth across the country.” Kezia Dugdale, the intellectually challenged leader of Labour’s Scottish group, in an interview with BBC Scotland’s Gary Robertson. According to her logic that makes the UK the third country in the UK, after… erm… Scotland and England.
“Murray England’s Best Hope in Games.” Daily Express headline on tennis great Andy Murray playing for Great Britain.
“You know, I always like people [racing drivers] who race for their country. Stirling Moss always drives English.” Jay Leno, former talk show host and car nut on Stirling Moss who raced predominantly Germany’s Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
“You have a wonderful British accent.” American interviewer to actor Hugh Grant. For the record, Grant has Scottish grandparents, wealthy ship builders.
“Your wonderful Queen of England.” French politician of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, a frequent error. Her title is not ‘Queen of England’.
“The UK economy needs HS2.” David Higgins, Chairman HS2, selling the High-Speed Train proposal that will travel only as far as Manchester from London.
“Familiar British Modernists at Kettle’s Yard.” Andrew Lambirth, normally accurate art critic of The Spectator, on a Cambridge exhibition in which not a single Scottish modernist was represented.
“Of course Cameron [UK Prime Minister] will have to resign if there’s a Yes win. He can’t say, “But I can keep my job?” He will be told, “No, you lost the country we are supposed to control.” Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, and a Scot, speaking on the Andrew Marr Show; a Freudian slip admitting the existence of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons does not constitute a democratic balance – England still controls Scotland. Fraser pronounces parliament as ‘parley-a-mint’, hence, a man not to be trusted.
“Can a fruitcake represent British interests in the European parliament?” Stewart Lee, stand-up comedian, an Observer column on the traditional “English” festive fruitcake … “since Dicken’s day.”
“Quarter of asthma sufferers receive unsatisfactory care.” Report from the Royal College of Physicians relating only to England’s health service broadcast as if UK-wide. A common occurrence. Scotland has its own NHS, and its own asthma sufferers!
“Too many foreign players are ruining the national team.” Greg Dyke to SKY newscaster about the Premier English football team. (Scottish teams Rangers and Celtic were refused admission to the English premier league.)
“Now that planning regulations are relaxed we are addressing the need for new house building.” Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury, a Scot, confusingly talking about the English system of house building not Scotland.
“Tomorrow is ‘Great British Sale Away’ day- free Union Jacks for all!” Burser’s announcement, complete with rousing English national music, on P&O mediterranean cruise ship of non-“Brits” as well as English passengers.
“Heathrow is the airport for the capital city of our country! Be proud of it.” Piers Morgan again, this time on BBC’s Question Time, demanding another runway for England and more planes.
“England’s great for sports. We invented football, tennis, golf, water polo, table tennis…” Idiot radio sports commentator narrating off-the-cuff.
“We must promote British values in our schools!” Michael Gove, MP, UK Secretary of State for Education, talking about English schools in an English educational system, and without defining exactly what are ‘British’ values.
“I’d be sorry to see you lose Scotland.” Hillary Clinton, her howler of a remark altered by most of the dishonest British press to read, “I’d be sorry to see Britain lose Scotland.” (It should be United Kingdom.)
“I am confident it’ll be another spectacular performance by Team GB.” William Hague, Foreign Secretary on the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in which no such team as ‘Team GB’ competed.
“Well, England is out of the cup but at least we’ve got Murray at Wimbledon. He’s English.” “No. He’s British.” SKY Television newsreader ‘correcting’ TV pundit.
“If Scotland became independent it’s inconceivable the British Navy would ever place orders there again.” UK government spokesperson on why the UK Parliament is hostile to the spread of democracy in the ‘English’ isles, better known as the British Isles.
“Are Britons Really the World’s Worst Tourists?” Guardian headline that goes on to discuss only English tourists.
“Britain’s mortal enemy – the French.” Narration in BBC TV series, ‘Shipwrecks: Britain’s Sunken History.’ Scotland has never ever been at war with the French. “Penelope Keith on a journey quintessentially British – English villages.” BBC Television trailer for yet another ‘Best of Britain’ series wholly restricted to England.
“It was Churchill’s genius to find the words that spoke for England.” Former BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman wiping out Scotland’s sacrifice in World War II.
“A Bulldog, the national dog of Great Britain.” Presenter at Crufts 2015 Dog Show. “It’s concerning for democracy, and the safety of our nation.” Anna Soubry, Tory MP, like many another Tory before her confusing the United Kingdom with England. On the Andrew Marr show she ranting at Alex Salmond for Scotland daring to expect to share democratic power at Westminster if duly elected by enough voters.
“These are unlikely to make much of a cross-continental impact and, ironically, might see a little recovery by the now leading pro-European mainstream party, the Liberal Democrats.” The Independent newspaper (1 December 2016). A subtle one this – for “mainstream” read English – an article looking at key elections of 2017.
“And now, welcome Ed Miliband, the next prime minister of England!” Delia Smith, cook, introducing a man who has never held a job in his life.
“Why is the Cabinet Secretary seeing Nicola Sturgeon on Friday? She’s not running for parliament. A regional MP dictating to the country.” Andrew Pierce, a regional political hack, and garrulous SKY pundit.
“A secret task force has been set up by the Bank of England to research the economic shock England would experience if it chose to leave the EU.” Telegraph newspaper. Scotland gets a ‘shock’ too.
“We want England to get douze [twelve] points!” Twitter feed to Eurovision Song Contest presenter, the Irish Graham Norton, when it’s United Kingdom participating.
“Tax cuts [we] voted for in the last election.” BBC television reporter, dishing out more propaganda while ignoring Scotland voted against them.
“We can look forward to a rousing match England versus Australia” Sue Barker making the umpteenth tennis faux pas commentating on the Davis Cup – it’s Great Britain versus ‘separatist’ Australia.
“It’s an honour to be elected leader of the Labour party. The honour isn’t about holding office – it is about the opportunity to serve you in the fight to get a better government for our country.” Jeremy Corbyn on being elected Labour leader and reminding Scots he talks of England.
‘On The Brink’ – what are the UK’s top 10 at-risk buildings? The BBC at its best, talking exclusively of Victorian buildings in England and Wales.
“Wales and Scotland are smaller than other parts of England.” Kezia Dugdale, verbally accident prone ‘leader’ of Labour’s increasingly inept Scottish (branch) office speaking on EBC Welsh Radio.
“Surely England and France can sort it out?” SKY newsreader to SKY journalist about immigrant ‘problem’. The journalist replied, “Yes, the government of Great Britain will have the answer.
“The Scottish nurse who survived Ebola has been found to retain the virus, but it’s not transmitted by touch.” BBC newsreader making sure we understand she’s not English, and its an unusual complication of the infection. The English nurse cured was always referred to as ‘British’. Newspapers carried the same bias.
“If you want to know what England will look like under Jeremy Corbyn, the answer would not be far off what the SNP is doing in Scotland.” ‘One Nation’ article written by arch Tory, Professor Adam Tomkins, doing his loopy best to scare the crap out of English.
“The things I do for England.” James Bond in too many Bond films, and Daniel Craig lately in ‘SPECTRE’. Can’t wait for a 007 to say, the things I do for the UK., but am not holding my breath.
“The Scots no longer think it worthwhile belonging to England.” Peregrine Worsthorne, New Statesman interview.
“This is not about us leaving and turning into some horrible foreigners.” The infamous English suspicion of what they themselves call, ‘Johnny Foreigner’ on the lose once again, discussing the UK leaving the European Union. Andrew Gimson on Jeremy Vine Show.
“The Sealand Gazette (est. 1707) is the newspaper of record for the modern-day United Kingdom, for people who increasingly wish they could retreat to their own country in the middle of the North Sea.” Gazette advert. So there you are; you’re not hip or fashionable or indeed one of us, unless you want complete isolation from the rest of the world. And those expats living cheap in sun kissed Spain, come home!
“Why are we even contemplating this division and madness?” Aging rebel George Galloway on the Scottish Referendum. And only a few months later: “We don’t want to be dictated to by other countries. We want our people to choose our government and thus our direction.” Galloway on England’s European Referendum. Miraculously he manages to face both directions at once, but the fedora hatted poseur will never question the glaring contradiction. He is not self-critical.
“Are we really too small, too weak and too powerless to make a success of self-rule?” Michael Gove, Unionist, arguing the case to isolate the entire United Kingdom from those Euro types, and throw up barriers and walls. Familiar?
“Our sovereignty of the seas is at stake.” Heading over a Sunday Express article on England’s In-Out referendum on Europe. Note the plural “seas”. Next to the heading is a photograph of the White Cliffs of Dover, plus Britannia with a Union Jack on her shield, a lion at her feet, Scotland nowhere to be seen.
“I ask the question: Is Europe ‘them’, or ‘us’? Nick Robinson, BBC in-house journalist speaking and thinking as only an isolationist Englishman can, for England, not Scotland.
“The British are doing well at the Open. Five Englishmen in the top ten.” BBC Breakfast Show presenter happy to see the golf tournament populated only by English.
“England is an island, and we should be proud.” And also, “England should be England”, Ian Botham on referendum to leave the European Union, former cricketer, weed smoker, and breakfast cereal and foot massage salesman.
“I believe in England, and I believe we shall go forward.” Old Etonian, novelist and essayist, George Orwell, writing in 1941, on ‘Britain’ accepting refugees.
“Once you say you can’t govern Scotland unless you have a majority in Scotland that is equivalent to saying Scotland should be a separate country.” Disgraced Tory MP with the strangled vowels, Malcolm Rifkind, ever the arrogant one, pontificating on why Labour lost power in Scotland, forgetting Scotland is a separate country but ruled by England.
“I read the news today, oh boy. The English army had just won the war.” From the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s album, the song “A Day in the Life.” (Submitted by J. Mckay)
“Actually, the English generally mean the UK when talking about our country, and yes, that includes Scotland, as that’s part of the country we live in.” Deluded contributor on a social media site criticising this very topic whilst simultaneously proving the point of it by making the same dumbass error. “Our” country – which country is he referring to? There are two countries in the UK in a Treaty, and four nations in the Union. You can argue Northern Ireland is an artificial nation, but it enjoys an almost autonomous role in the UK, unlike Scotland.
“There is still too much lingering truth about Britain losing an empire and not finding a role. The more reluctant our embrace of our Europeanness, the more exceptionalist colonial-era British habits of thought and culture linger on, still subtly influencing the way parts of this country think about defence, hierarchy, schooling, foreigners – and Britishness.” Columnist Martin Kettle in the Guardian thinking he’s being forthright and candid about the ‘British’ character, unconsciously referring to the English malady of colonialism, when the Scots make plain time and time again they wish to remain a full member of the European community. A case of “What do you mean ‘we’, Kemosabe?”
“You don’t even want to be part of my country, England… So why the hell should I listen to you???” ‘Kerry’ railing at Nicola Sturgeon on Twitter, and showing how dumb a blonde can really be to fit the stereotype.
“British soccer fans and locals clash in Marseille as Euro 2016 opens.” Reuter’s headline describing English supporters for the England team in France.
“Protect England. Vote LEAVE. The EU is trying to break up England.” Banner on a van in London blasting out Vera Lynn songs during the UK’s referendum on Europe, implying England will be broken up in shires if the dastardly foreigners get their way.
“Today the Mail asks a question of profound significance to our destiny as a sovereign nation and the fate of our children and grandchildren. Who will speak for England?” An editorial from the UK tabloid’s far-right editor, Paul Dacre, against EU membership, the same who orchestrated a campaign against Scotland’s civil rights, coincidentally forgetting to mention his personal land investments in Scotland. He’s almost certainly instrumental in getting dropped serial womaniser and part-time circus clown Boris Johnson as a candidate for Tory leadership, he and Rupert Murdoch.
“I voted out because I think it’s good the country want to stand on its own two feet. Scotland’s another thing. If they want to stay in it they’ll have to join up with the EU, go to use their Euro, and then we can just put a fence right across, and then they can get their own passports. I thought Scotland was part of England, but it’s quite obvious they don’t want to be, do they?” Vince from Hull, owner of a car tyre shop, interviewed on SKY News about why he voted to leave Europe, apparently proud of a colonial mentality.
“I don’t feel British. I am French. I don’t have that association with England.” Nicole Farhi, (Lady Hare) former dress designer now sculptor, wife of English playwright David Hare, guest on BBC radio’s Desert Island Discs.
“Scotland was one of only three major regions to vote to stay in the EU.” Daily Mail drivel reducing a nation to a region. Scotland voted to stay European. Most of England – except London – voted to leave Europeans free of English.
“This evil referendum [Brexit] has driven a wedge between me and my partner. We’re in midlife and have no children. My parents were immigrants – my mother Scottish, my father a British Indian soldier who came to the UK after the war. I was brought up to be open and accepting of other cultures.” A confused wife writing to Mariella Frostrup’s agony column, explaining how tolerant she is of Scottish immigrants to England.
“The riots started in Tottenham, spread throughout London, and then Liverpool, Coventry, Manchester, and the rest of the country”. Documentary maker on BBC Radio implying the ‘rest of the country’ includes Scotland where there were no riots. The BBC radio announcer repeated the error.
“Well, well, Andy Murray is our flag bearer at Rio on Friday.” ‘Tarli’ on Twitter, misleadingly claiming Murray will hold aloft the red cross of St George at the start of the Olympic Games, and not Team GB’s Union Jack.
“The English team can learn a lot from these other countries.” Colonial minded English commentator on 2016 Olympic Team GB (meaning all nations) hockey match.
“It’s basically the English team.” Brazenly colonial minded English commentator on 2016 Olympic Team GB’s Rugby Seven. And so the insult continues unabated….
“England is an island.” The headline under a photograph of the White Cliffs of Dover on Babbel’s foreign language site.
“Fiji are giving a demonstration of pure class. England dispatched New Zealand.” Guardian newspaper sports journalist, no doubt presaging a ton of similar Team GB howlers emanating from the 2016 Olympics.
“And Murray coming over to a little band of English supporters”. The gift that keeps on coming; a BBC commentator at the Olympics as Murray playing for Team GB wins again. The ‘little band’ was a group of Scots.
“To shoot grouse you have to be exceedingly rich: it costs around £7,000 per person per day. The owners of grouse moors, who are also exceedingly rich, justify these fees by ensuring that there are vast numbers of birds to shoot. This requires, across great tracts of our uplands, the elimination of almost everything else.” “Our uplands” [my emphasis] the possessive shorthand description of the Scottish Highlands coined by the Guardian’s resident intellectual and independence supporter, the normally precise conservationist George Monbiot.
“The end result is collective triumph, driven by familiar success in the sports that combine engineering, equipment and execution. Team GB has now effectively hit its target of a best ever away Games medal total, beating the mark set in Beijing with five days to go. Bring on the great – not to mention the greatly improved central-government funding in key targeted areas.” Guardian sports writers overlooking the UK Treasury ‘removal’ of over £118 million pounds from the sports section of the Scottish Lottery Fund, money taken to subsidise the gross overspend on London’s ‘Lympics. It has never replaced the money causing planned sports facilities, events, and grants to individuals to be cancelled. In addition, a key attack line of unionists is to suggest the SNP government is “too centralised” in decision making.
“A Yacht Voyage Around England” by W.G.H Kingston, a travel book published late in the 19th century, republished in 20o8, in which out intrepid seafaring diarist includes Scotland … as England, and Wales too, just to ensure we understand which is the dominant nation. For the link click on the co-ordinate in Stoker’s post in the comments section below.
“Britain has spoken.” “We must appeal to Middle-England.” Lord Mitchell, Labour peer resigning over Jeremy Corby’s re-election by a larger majority than before, both statements uttered to a television interviewer in the same breath. His first statement relates to Brexit and is a lie. Scotland, London, and regions of England voted to stay in Europe. Middle-England voted to leave, presuming life tolerable without ‘foreigners’.
“UK-level shows involved more lucrative secondary broadcasting and distribution rights and were a shop window for Scottish companies at the UK and global level, which regional-only shows could not offer.” An unnamed television executive debating the paucity of BBC spend in Scotland against the huge license fee it extracts, while exhibiting his colonial mentality by reducing Scotland to a region.”
“And who are the British? The result of the referendum showed that the country is heavily polarised.” Having acknowledged the UK is actually two nations, a German expressing her anxieties in the Guardian over middle-England dumping Europe and blocking all immigration, reverts to the standard error.
“Britain voted to Leave because the Remain campaign sucked.” Loquacious left-wing political pundit Owen Jones proving his mentality is England pinned. Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, and Gibraltar voted to stay in friendship and co-operation with Europe.
“And its here, in the Queen of England’s own venue, St Martin’s in the Field, that the orchestra will play.” James May of Top Gear laddite fame, explaining where he will conduct his rag-bag amateur orchestra, in an episode of his Man Lab television series.