So, there was some rugby yesterday. Wales beat Ireland in one quarter final of the world cup, and France beat England in another. The current Welsh team is being lauded as the best in at least a generation, nobody wanting to tempt fate too much by going back further than that. The current English team, on the other hand, is being characterised by everyone but the ITV commentary team, as a bunch of misogynist, dwarf-throwing piss-heads, with an over-developed sense of entitlement.
It’s easy to imagine that mixed in with the sense of disappointment felt by all sports fans when their team is knocked out of a competition, there might be some small measure of relief amongst the more liberally minded English rugby fans that their side are on their way home. What has come as a bit of a surprise, however, is that England’s two leading liberal Sunday newspapers have featured “We’re all Welsh now” articles today.
The Observer’s editorial includes Princes of Wales, which explains to readers:
[Rugby] is ferociously tribal, until the final whistle. After that, all fans are family. Now that England, Ireland and Scotland are out of the World Cup, it is natural for all British rugby supporters to hurl their weight behind the one remaining sceptr’d nation. We are all Welsh now.
The Independent on Sunday has gone even further, by translating the headline of their article and putting it on the front cover. We should be grateful that they bothered to proof read it, at least. Maybe less grateful that they mention sheep in the first sentence.
I’m going to go out on a limb here (i.e. I can’t be bothered to do the necessary research) and guess that in 2007, when England were the only British team to go through to the semi-finals, neither the Guardian nor the Independent saw fit to reassure their readers in Scotland and Wales that “We’re all English now”. When England won the world cup in 2003, there may have been a few Scots and Cymry gracious enough to congratulate their celebrating neighbours, but it doesn’t look like many of them joined in the party in Trafalgar Square.
The whole thing smacks of Andymurrayism.
Nobody minds (I assume) when someone who self-identifies as English (and/or British) also happens to support Wales in the rugby. If David Mitchell says he’s always supported Wales in the rugby, due to his mother being Welsh, and his having a soft spot for the place, that’s fine, and it would be churlish to point out that he didn’t bring it up until England had been knocked out of the competition.
But he didn’t, and then he did.
The Guardian is currently running a series of articles and features on “Britishness”, but they don’t seem capable of drawing the obvious conclusion from the anecdotal evidence they’ve been gathering: for most of the population of England, “English” and “British” are synonyms. Englishness has nothing to lose by being subsumed by Britishness occasionally. The idea that Tim Henman would get chippy about being described as a “British tennis player” is just laughable; would he even notice? There may well have been English rugby players who thought that they were representing everyone in these islands in 2003, even though a most of us couldn’t have cared less if they’d lost to Australia in the final, even if we weren’t actively hoping that they would be thrashed.
Should Wales be similarly successful (I know, I know, one game at a time), do you think the Guardian will expect the victory parade to be in London, since that’s “our” capital too?
Thankfully, most of the people who read the Observer and the Sindy don’t seem to be taken in by the silliness.