The hot summer of 1996 offered some great hope for England. Euro 96 was rocking Wembley. Three Lions on your chest was the anthem that united England. There are two images that strike me as memorable. As an Anglo-Scotsman losing to England gave me a lot of pain, but Gaza scoring that great goal and his celebration afterwards made me applaud him. There was so much criticism of the team and particularly him. They are not positive enough, they are not creative enough. He showed them. Good old England, England who could not play have done it! The other image is of Terry Venables, during the penalty shoot-out with Germany. I have never seen a manager so keyed up. It was not just his job, but his country. Although ultimate victory was denied, but the nation could be proud.
This is a proud nation and rightly so. Many great things start in England. The agrarian revolution, the industrial revolution, the social revolution and of course it is the cradle of democracy. As I write this there is a general election in seven days’ time. If you don’t vote, you cannot change the things you don’t like in this country. Things don’t change quickly, but commitment to the country, being informed and patient are what is required to be engaged. In any election, look at the policies, and make a decision and get out and vote. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.
From my perspective, and everyone’s is different now with so much social media, England is in a bad place. But the only way is to move forward. Not in a rush, not in a lurch, not in a dramatic and destructive way. But together as one nation. There is an incredible variation in landscape and land use in this country. There is an incredible amount of history that is literally under our feet. It is not just stuff that happened it changed the world. Things that we rely on now, exist partly because of English past achievement. There is a vast spectrum of people in England. Different sub-cultures with different accents and habits. Different teams, different jobs and different weather. But England has produced some widely varying effects on the world. It was the biggest proponent of the slave trade, yet it was the biggest opponent of it and campaigned for abolition of that vile process. It was the biggest empire, but when it came to an end after the war, it was dismantled sensibly giving our former colonies a future and a stake in the Commonwealth. All the other European Colonists abandoned them and ran away. Financially they were the biggest supporters of Apartheid, but we were the biggest opponents of that wrong regime. People got engaged in politics, campaigned, lobbied Parliament and through determination changed the world. But it took a long time and a lot of sacrifice.
England has always been a fighting nation. From the Romans to the Normans, there was 1000 years of colonisation by armies seeking to own England. That warrior spirit has lived on in our genes. It is not just about fighting, it is about the desire to innovate and improve and fight for a better life for all. That combination of North European warriors from 1000 years ago combined to make an irrepressible gene pool. We have always been multi-cultural and always will be.
Britain’s greatest moment was when under Churchill’s leadership when we said no to Hitler and his fascists. We had little chance of survival, but as a nation we decided to stand up to a regime that was clearly evil. The first major strategic bombing campaign started with the London blitz. It was our finest hour. Carry on regardless was the cry. All the country, which riven by a class system and the patriarchal society got together to fight for a common cause.
You have three Lions on your chest. When that Lion roars it is a beautiful sound. It is not artistic, it is not sophisticated, and you cannot sell it. These Lions stand up for truth and justice, democracy, innovation, free trade, economic prosperity and onward progress.
Your chance to roar is in a week’s time. As an English woman or man, even if you are newly arrived in this country, do your patriotic duty and get out and vote. Who you vote for is entirely your decision, just be informed. This is your moment to roar for England. Our democracy is hard won and always worth fighting for and sometimes you must fight for the very nature of democracy itself. But fighting does not mean violence. Conflict always starts with political engagement. Wars are nearly always a result of a failure of politics. There are many ways to fight, but in politics it must be talking and voting.
So never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. Get out and fight peacefully for your principles and the principles that England stands for, for you are the ones that are shaping the future. You are not alone, there is a whole crowd of English women and men watching your moves from somewhere up above. If you have voted and become disillusioned it is understandable, but there is no other way. Get up and fight for the soul of your country because that is what you were born to do. As Shakespeare said when Henry V was leading his men into battle again after being repeatedly turned back,
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;……..
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;……….
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’