From the pages of the CEP. Some background on HMV and Anyone but England, by Wonkotsane
There’s been some interesting feedback on yesterday’s story about HMV being forced to remove their Anyone But England window displays both in the comments on the press release posted yesterday and by email.
Some of the feedback has been of the predictable “f**k off English” variety, some was the expected “this is ridiculous” type but plenty are congratulating us on tackling Debenhams and HMV. There was even the obligatory attempt to portray either the CEP or myself (or both) as ethnic nationalists who believe that English means white – that’s not the CEP’s opinion and nor is it mine. If British nationalists like Sunny Hundal (an “Asian Briton”) disapprove then we must be doing something right.
First of all, let’s just deal with the misconception that English is not a race. The Race Relations Act doesn’t just cover races in the traditional sense of the word, it also covers national and cultural groups. It also, importantly, says that race is a matter of perception – something that is defined by the subject. Tens of millions of people consider themselves English or a mixture of English and British. Those tens of millions of people perceive themselves to belong to a racial, ethnic, national and/or cultural group and that is all that is required by law to consider English as a race for the purposes of the Race Relations Act.
Legal lesson over and on to the argument that it isn’t incitement to racial hatred. I will assume most people didn’t bother to do their research to see whether violence towards English people is a problem in Scotland or whether it is worse during the world cup in particular. You won’t hear much about it in the so-called “English” media but it is a problem and one that a senior Scottish police officer described as having reached epidemic proportions in parts of Scotland. Ask Ian Smith or the 7 year old boy and his father in the same article if “Anyone but England” is a bit of harmless banter. Or this woman who was assaulted for being English and it wasn’t even in a world cup year. Or you could ask the Reynolds family if “Anyone but England” is harmless banter – they were forced from their home in Paisley by racists because they were English. I could go on but I have a bed to go to.
During world cup years, anti-English sentiment in Scotland (and to a lesser extend, in Wales) runs even higher than usual. What is absolutely not needed is a national campaign across Scotland by a major High Street brand to stir up even more anti-English feeling or to make being anti-English even more social acceptable and mainstream than it already is. The intention was to add fuel to the fire of anti-Englishness to sell more “Anyone but England” merchandise – that is incitement to racial hatred.
If a shop set up “Anyone but Pakistan” window displays in the centre of Bradford or Tower Hamlets, there would be no question of it being unacceptable. It would undoubtedly be considered a provocative act that was likely to increase the level of racial tension there. So why, when the same thing is done in Scotland towards English people, is there any question that it might be unacceptable?
Ultimately, you have to ask this question: if there was no chance of this being classed as incitement to racial hatred, then why did the police visit HMV and why did HMV decide to withdraw their promotion of “Anyone by England” in Scotland? Companies like HMV crave publicity and the police don’t just blindly accept complaints unless it is likely that a crime has been committed.
There is enough anti-English sentiment in Scotland without the likes of Debenhams and HMV irresponsibly stirring more up.