As Manchester prepares to celebrate St George’s Day with a parade on Sunday, an academic with Manchester roots has unveiled an Englishness survey.

Dr Andy Mycock, who is Reader in Politics at the University of Huddersfield, in tandem with Research Fellow Dr Shaun McDaid and second-year politics student Jack McCabe, devised a questionnaire, which suggests significant engagement of people in the north of England with debates about English culture and politics and also the Scottish independence referendum.

They found that many people in northern England feel they have closer ties to Scotland than they do to London and the south of England, meaning they would be deeply saddened if the Scots voted for independence in September.

Whatever the result, the Scottish independence referendum could create the political momentum for substantial political devolution in northern England.

One of the aims of the new survey was to test the strength of English national identity by canvassing levels of support for St George’s Day becoming a Bank Holiday.

The survey found that 60% supported the idea, but the figure slumped when it was suggested that this would be granted only at the cost of losing an existing holiday, while a third of respondents said they did not want to mark April 23 with a Bank Holiday at all.

“St George’s Day offers a growing number of people an opportunity to celebrate their English identity, though they are less sure how the day should be marked,” said Dr Mycock, who unveiled the new report at a public lecture at the University on April 23.

“We argue that such uncertainty does not matter as long as people are able to mark St George’s Day in an inclusive manner that does not seek to offend others,” he added.

“However, support for a public holiday is conditional and many are reluctant to give up existing public holidays to mark their Englishness. It is also clear that St George’s Day lacks sufficient popular appeal to be considered an inclusive English national day for all.”

The survey found that many English people appear happy to switch between an English and British identity and appeared unsure of differences between them.

Also, there are signs of growing resentment towards the political and economic dominance of London over the rest of England. A significant number of respondents expressed a strong affiliation for their northern roots, noting pride in their Yorkshire and local origins, with 20% calling for regional devolution of government.

But most respondents were content with current political arrangements and did not think that the main political parties needed to adopt a more strident English nationalism, thus appearing to confirm previous research on the ‘party politics by Englishness’ by Dr Mycock.

The survey showed that 75 per cent supported the maintenance of the union with Scotland. But the report also argues that the Scottish referendum debate has been notable for its lack of engagement with the north of England or any serious effort to address political, economic and social issues that will emanate from the vote on September 18 – regardless of the outcome.

“Proponents of independence and supporters of the maintenance of the union are both guilty of running insular and exclusory campaigns that rarely engage with the interests of citizens of the rest of the UK, particularly the large Scottish diaspora, or Scotland’s northern English neighbours,” write the report’s authors, adding that “set-piece speeches have mainly focused on the merits of Scottish independence rather than its implications for the north of England.”

The report describes the survey “as a fascinating snapshot of how the students and staff of the University of Huddersfield understand England and Englishness”. It is argued that “most appear unconcerned about the lack of a civic framework to express Englishness, with many respondents being more concerned about regional disparities in political, cultural and economic resources between the north of England and London and the south-east of the country.

There are concerns over how Englishness is understood, particularly in terms of its ethnic undertones. “While such concerns have some foundation, there does appear to be a growing pride in a distinctive cosmopolitan, multicultural Englishness that is rightly lauded as a progressive national asset,” write the authors of My England? A study of England and Englishness.

Manchester’s St George Parade takes place Sunday 27th April-The parade will leave Varley Street, Miles Platting, at 11.30am and reach Piccadilly Gardens soon after midday – with the street performances from 11.30am throughout the afternoon until 4pm.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here