Just who are 'the English'?  Not the English who inhabit England, or whose family hail from there, or who naturally feel 'English', or those who get behind the national team. I know who they are. I am one of them. Okay, I acknowledge, and am proud of, my piece of Scottish heritage, and the tiny little bit of Irish but, essentially I'm English. Actually, I'd probably say I'm  Derbyshire, but that's another story and another blog. 

What I'm talking about is 'the English' - that ones that the self-proclaiming English Defence League purport to, well 'defend'. 

I have no idea who they have in mind and assume that the EDL themselves have a very select bunch of people in mind.  I have a vague idea of what 'the English' might look like. But they claim not to be racist and to be open to 'all ethnicities'. That may be true, although on the evidence I have seen that's certainly not true of all of them. They quite openly state that they aim to protect those lucky 'English' souls against Islamist Extremism. And I suspect their idea of what constitutes extremism is a lot looser than the rest of us. So not exactly open to 'all' ethnicities then?  The fact is, like the BNP and all political parties, the EDL are required to abide by British law which forbids them officially rejecting membership applications based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. That is, they can't write it down as part of their 'rules'. What they choose to actually do, well that's another matter. Just as the law punishes you for publicly making offensive statements, it can't do anything about what goes on, silently, inside your head. Nor about what you say to someone when there's no-one in earshot who might take exception.  And there are probably people who support the EDL who are not remotely racist in the common sense, but who have a fear of a vague concept the EDL promises to eradicate. If being against Islamic Extremism is all it takes, you might expect to see a fairly mixed bunch of members. But then, when you see them out there, on the news, or if you're really lucky in person, 'defending' 'the English' they don't look all that ethnically diverse, do they?


What I have got a pretty good handle on is what 'the English' sound like. Or at least the kind of things they say. And think. They use terms like 'the "real" English' which is an even more baffling concept than just 'the English'. They talk, a lot, about 'tradition' and 'patriotism' and I'm not convinced they really know what either mean. They speak about 'our jobs' and 'our taxes' and  'our lands' and 'our people'. 

But none of this explains just who 'the English' are. And the truth is I don't think there is an answer. I think they are an imagined people with an imagined common ground based upon the beliefs of the EDL and which the EDL and the like wish to foist upon the rest of us. If that sounds familiar to you, then you're not alone. The irony that this makes them sound precisely like those from whom they purport to defend us seems to be lost on them. But then irony can be a sophisticated concept and extremism of all shades has a fairly simple thought process. I think this. I know better. I don't like people who don't agree with me. I don't like people who are different. And then (the preserve of the 'patriot') I was here first. 

When it comes down to it, I don't believe many people warmly welcome the kind of 'defence' that is offered in our names. How do I know this?

Well, I'll let you in on a little secret now. Earlier today I took to Twitter, in exasperation really, at the speed and inevitability with which the EDL and their charming cousins the BNP had gathered outside the Old Bailey in an attempt to score political points as the family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby waited inside the court to hear the sentences passed down on his killers. The protestors, if that's what we must call them, had set up a fake gallows, they waved flags (Union Flags and St George's Crosses), they chanted and shouted hateful slogans. They called for the death penalty (in a country which eradicated such a sentence  fifty-odd years ago, what else would you call that but politicking?). 

Within minutes I'd almost regretted making the Tweet as the first couple of messages  from EDL types pinged in. People with Twitter handles like  Eng-er-landBoy, St George and Crusader. None of these are real, by the way. Well, I'd hardly be giving them free promotion, now would I? I steeled myself for the inevitable onslaught. The sudden rush.

Except that it wasn't a rush at all. It was less than a dozen in total. All of the senders of which, by the way, I 'blocked' almost immediately. That's the thing about Twitter - the bigots 'out' themselves and you can so easily avoid ever having to read their drivel again. But that was it. Oh, throughout the evening there was the odd one or two more, but nothing like the Tweets of support, or the number of Re-Tweets my message received, or the number of times it was 'Favourited'.

And that's the thing.  Most people are good. Most people want to get on with their lives. Most people respect other people and accept that we are all different. Most people abhor the haters and the bigots. My tweet and the reaction to it had inadvertently become a mini straw poll. And it told me precisely who the English I felt akin to were. A rather nice lot who got just as angry as me when a bunch of bigots decided to 'defend' us without asking. And I can live with that. Because there are more of us than them. We don't want them and we certainly don't need them.