It’s that time every two (or three) years when St George’s flags flap out of car windows and red cross bunting festoons the front of the houses of England football fans. At any other time, such behaviour might be greeted with suspicion, even concern, such is the pejorative perception of patriotism expressed by the English. Why does English patriotism have such bad PR? Patriots see their cause as unifying; a positive sense of the nation as something which holds us all together in our different tribes. Others reject being coerced to love their country, whether they like it or not, just because that’s where they happened to be born. Patriotism can’t escape the past. For those on the right of politics it’s often about celebrating one’s national story; for those on the left it’s about reckoning with it. Patriotism has always been inescapably political, but there is a sense on both sides that it has now been co-opted into the ‘culture wars’. Calls for schoolchildren to sing a ‘One Britain, One Nation’ song is seen as a disingenuous dog whistle for right-wing nationalists and racists, while criticism of the inclusion of ‘Rule Britannia’ during the Last Night of the Proms is, for others, a sign of ‘wokery gone too far’. Is English patriotism now intrinsically divisive and threatening, incapable of disentangling itself from authoritarian nationalism? Or can it be reclaimed and redeemed from what it has become in many people’s eyes? With Dia Chakravarty, Robert Beckford, Billy Bragg and Gavin Esler.
Producer: Dan Tierney.