POLITICIANS have spoken out about St George’s Day as they continue campaigning in the run up to the General Election.
David Cameron and Ed Miliband have urged the country to be proud of England on St George’s Day, as Ukip called for it to be made a bank holiday.
The Prime Minister posted a video message on Twitter telling people: “Let’s all be proud of our country’s great past - and confident about our future.”
The Labour leader wrote: “Happy St George’s Day to everyone across England and further afield. We can be proud of our country, of our ingenuity, our industry.”
But Ukip accused the establishment parties of “underplaying” the celebration and said it rejected the culture of “self-loathing” that meant people fear “benign patriotism” will be classed as racism or bigotry.
At a briefing in central London, Ukip’s culture spokesman Peter Whittle said the day should be an “inclusive opportunity” to come together to celebrate common values.
He said: “A country is not just its economy and its identity cannot just be read on a balance sheet. We believe in our hearts and our minds that this is a great country to be proud of and part of.
“But for too long I think we have lived with a political and cultural establishment which has shown a sort of disdain for England and doubted Britain as a whole and has discouraged pride in it.
“Their embarrassment about our past, their lack of concern for our history has permeated our culture.
“Patriotism of the many is often sneered at. We have a society which seems to live in a state of cultural cringe.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that any part of our society or any ethnic or religious minority has in any way ever taken offence. Instead people have often taken offence on their behalf when it has not been asked for or needed.
“We in Ukip reject this negativity. We think such cultural self-loathing is destructive. We believe that benign patriotism is a force for good, a force for unity.”
Asked to give an example of self-loathing, economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn replied: “The underplaying of St George’s Day by the establishment parties, which we seek to correct, is a pretty clear example of the discomfort.”
Mr Whittle referred to former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry’s tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election campaign.
He said she was “implying” that flying the English flag is racist, but insisted there was no link between the two, adding: “I think some people certainly feel they should be worried about flying the flag because they have imbibed this message that somehow this is an exclusive thing to do. We don’t think it is.”
Mr O’Flynn rejected a suggestion that Ukip is the SNP of England, saying: “I don’t think there are parallels there.”
Asked what it meant to be English, he replied: “Living in a country that is open, that’s fair, that’s decent and democratic.”
Mr Whittle replied: “What seems to be about England that I particularly treasure is this sort of strange way in which it manages to maintain in its borders a very, if you like, royal ... tradition at the same time as a very radical tradition that has gone through British and English history from the very, very start.
“I would also add to that a form of pragmatism, a distaste for ideology.”
In his video message, Mr Cameron said: “Above Downing Street and all over England, St George’s flags are flying high.
“Because today is a day to celebrate all that makes England great, a day to feel pride for all that our country has given the world - from Magna Carta to the language of Shakespeare, from the industrial revolution to the world wide web.
“A country whose artists and athletes inspire millions and whose influence extends right across the world.
“So today let us all be proud of our country’s great past and confident about our future.”