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Flying flags allows us to affirm our national identity; Frank FIELD Outspoken and informed, Birkenhead's MP writes for you.

HOORAY. Two pernicious politically correct attitudes are being nailed.

No statement from Labour's leadership contestants is complete without a recantation on immigration.

The aspiring Labour leaders have joined the real world. The level of immigration into our country is an issue that concerns voters.

The other pernicious piece of political correctness is linked to immigration - our sense of identity.

The objections voters have to the level and rate of immigration is partly based on who gets the job.

But it also derives from a concern that the rate of immigration is destroying any sense that we all belong to the same nation.

Few politicians have been prepared to face this issue directly. But we should not despair. Football comes to the rescue.

Today England opens its battle in the World Cup. And already we can see a rising sense of pride in our country, illustrated by the number of St George's flags that are being flown.

From where these flags fly itself sends a message. I don't see many English flags on West End London establishments.

Not so in the roads where most of us live. The flags give us the chance to affirm our national identity for it is in these areas that most feel the threat.

Of course we fly the flags because we want to support our team.

But I think there is more at stake.

Here is the political message. In each of the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom there is a long record of flying the national flag and celebrating their own identity. Not so in England.

Why? There is a feeling that because England is so large compared with the other UK countries, England should be very careful not to throw its weight around. This is understandable.

But it has gone too far.

At one time it was frowned upon to raise the more generous taxpayer funding for Scotland, as an issue, particularly so as a Labour MP.

Similar political hostility is shown to those who raise the English Question in Parliament. Do we need an English Parliament to balance the governing bodies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? I have argued that Labour should lead this debate, but have had no success here I am afraid.

But political England is clearly agitated and this feeling is exacerbated because of politicians' unwillingness to address the issue.

For too long the English Question was given over to the fringe element. This is always a dangerous policy as it gives the fringe a credibility that it does not deserve.

Mr Cameron has told the country that the flag of St George will fly over Downing Street for the duration of the World Cup. It is a small but subtle move.

Triumph for the English team will give a mighty boost to a rebirth of our sense of national identity. But even if the gods and the referees are against us there will be no going back.

At some point the political debate will have to reflect the pride of the football pitch. That day cannot come too soon.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 12, 2010
Words:514
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