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UK/ Conservatism, the Big Society, and Patriotism

ResPublica Research Assistant and Conservative Councillor Tom Hunt discusses patriotism as core to civic conservatism and its role in fostering shared identity and values in Britain

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The concept of patriotism and its role in fostering shared identity and values, has permeated the British political scene of late. From the rise of Nationalism in Scotland, to euro scepticism in England, to even the Labour Party’s tentative Blue Labour turn, manifested most clearly by David Lammy’s recent comments regarding the death of “god and flag” as a key cause of the London riots. Patriotism in schools, a returning concept demonstrated by the Government’s schools agenda, should be seen as inextricably linked with the increasing realisation that the Nation state is here to stay.

What is clear from the Royal wedding earlier this year, and the way that it galvanised the country, is that there is still a role for patriotism in binding together British society. It is likely that a new, integrative, inclusive form of patriotism can form a key ingredient in allowing us to ascertain a new set of shared values within our society. The relative lack of disturbances this August within some of the most impoverished communities within Scotland and Wales, also gave an indication of the role that national identity, and patriotism can play in promoting a greater sense of civic responsibility. The recent report, “Reading the riots”, published by the Guardian and the LSE, discovered that 51% of protestors feeling like they were part of British society, compared to a national average of 92%. The return of debates regarding the positive role that patriotism can play in providing a greater degree of integration between diverse groups within society should be welcomed.

I see the Conservative Party, at is best, as being well placed to make a significant contribution towards the current debates concerning the role of patriotism within our modern, diverse society. However, for the current Conservatives to make sense of, and to lead the existing debates concerning patriotism and national identity, they need to acquire a firm grasp of Edmund Burke’s work. What is clear is that when debating patriotism and Nationalism, the Conservative Party really needs to get its house in order, at least in an ideological sense. At this point in time, the common perception seems to be that the Conservative Party is the mainstream party most closely associated with patriotism, and representing the interests and passions of the Nation.