Hard to say which is the greater victory: England beating the Aussies to regain the Ashes or the fact that this victory forced Gorden the Ashen One to at least write – if not speak – the word ‘England’ no fewer than three times! In a report on yesterday’s somewhat more subdued celebrations of England’s triumph at No. 10 than in the days of Tony Blair’s premiership, the Guardian quoted from a letter Brown had written to the England captain Andrew Strauss. It’s worth repeating in full here for its sheer rarity value:
“I wanted to write to congratulate you and the entire England squad on regaining the Ashes. The series has been yet another wonderful showcase for cricket and for all that is great about sport. It has provided high sporting drama throughout the summer that has yet again gripped the entire nation, and to win the Ashes with your magnificent display at the Oval – and coming back from the defeat at Headingley in the fourth test – shows great determination and commitment.
“There have been many outstanding performances this summer on both sides, but throughout the series you have led England from the front, with patience, resolution and courage. The country is extremely proud of what you have achieved this summer. I would like to invite the England squad in to Downing Street for a reception to celebrate your victory [my emphases].”
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: Brown said England three times! Note, however, that despite the fact that the Ashes win wrung these words out of him, Brown couldn’t resist making mendacious mention of ‘the entire nation’ being gripped by the series (which nation, you liar? Britain or England? Say ‘English nation’ when you mean it!) and invoking the pride of ‘the country’: again, England or Britain? And also note the telling reference to ‘your victory’ at the end: not ‘our victory’, which would evoke true emotional engagement and national identification.
Well, if the whole ‘country’ of Britain is so proud of the English players, you wouldn’t mind them having a victory parade through the English and British capital city, would you – just as, last year, there was no apparent incongruity in your mind in allowing only a victory parade for the whole British Olympic team – not the English medallists only – for the English people to express their pride in ‘their’ athletes? Oh yes, how silly of me: it’s OK for the English to take pride in British achievements, but your talk of the whole of Britain taking pride in English successes is mere rhetoric. So much for your uttering the dreaded ‘E’ word: it’s all just empty talk.
Actually, I’m not really that upset about there not being a victory parade for the England cricket team like the one in 2005; nor that very few if any of the team members will be recommended for inclusion in the New Year’s Honours list, like the flurry of honours that were granted to the whole team last time we won the coveted relics. All of that was a bit OTT and something of a carrot to the English people: like the ancient Roman practice of organising games to appease the people and make them forget they don’t have any real power over their lives. But if it had been a British cricket team, then what a different story it would have been!
Anyway, just as he’s not really an England man, Brown isn’t a cricket man, either; and after his six-week break, he’s far too busy and got far too many important concerns to attend to than the celebration of a national (English) triumph.
On top of which, I’m not sure that, as a true Scot, his sympathies weren’t really with the Aussies. But he’s got plenty of opportunity to pay England back (not monetarily, you understand) through his political actions. England may have got back the Ashes of English cricket; but Brown will make sure she doesn’t rise from the ashes of her abolished nationhood. Now that’s a British victory Brown would drink a dram to, I feel sure.