The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the claim that Britishness provides a unifying idea that links people, place and culture. Britishness as a national identity draws in many social science issues, which have resulted in much anxiety, concern, uncertainty and political debate in recent years. When looking at what provides a unifying idea that links people, place and culture, it gives rise to various questions that might cause a divide in the nation. There is no doubt that national identity must provide shared values. Nowadays it’s uncertain what determines Britishness as a national identity that people, who think of themselves as British, can relate to. It is obvious that modern Britain looks and is different to what it was fifty-years ago. There is a need to explore and establish what British culture is and therefore what is at the basis of its national identity.
It is necessary to look back in time and see what has sparked the political debate about what is Britishness and why it is so important to British people to conserve it. One of the main reasons for this debate is immigration or as some politicians and press like to call it these days - the ‘immigration problem’. Although very few people can describe what criteria (like country of birth or citizenship) actually defines an immigrant. The data collected by various organisations and groups, like the Office for National Statistics or the anti-immigration group Migration Watch, also can vary, as there is different criteria used to define a migrant, and be manipulated to support and prove their subjective goal. In 2006, Migration Watch ‘reported that migrants “cost” the UK economy 100 million pounds a year’ (Raghuram, 2010, p.165). It was odd considering that a few years earlier a report released by government stated ‘that migrants contribute […] 2.5 billion pounds a year’ (Raghuram, 2010, p.165). The only difference between these two reports was that Migrant Watch included migrant children and children from ‘mixed households’ in their calculations. In this particular case children are seen as a ‘cost’ by the Migration Watch and as an ‘asset’ by the government. Anyhow ‘the definition of a migrant can be used to align people on different sides of an argument’ (Raghuram, 2010, p.166).
Sources like official documents, case studies, reports, speeches have been a few of the many different attempts to define the meaning of Britishness. In Britain, national identity and citizenship is not the same thing. ‘The Scottish and Welsh will usually say that they have British citizenship, but that their nationality is Scottish or Welsh’ (Home Office (in Clarke 2010, p. 210)). Vron Ware, social scientist, who conducted a study about Britishness, funded by the British Council said that ‘Britain is a composite nation, a patchwork of anomalies, mistakes and inconsistencies. The country that once boasted an empire is now struggling to find a new role for itself […] Welcome to modern Britain’ (Ware (in Clarke, 2010, p. 211)). Both of these extracts share a common issue of attempting to establish and construct Britishness as national identity.
People hold many different social identities, some more important to them than others; national identity is just one of many. In some countries, civil war breaks out due to tensions related to their national identity. Additionally, people can also feel that their nationality identity is threatened by immigration that is used as a way of separating the population into groups like ‘’them’’ and ‘’us’’, trying to make their group look more superior to others making them feel more entitled than the perceived lesser group. As a British born film-maker Pratap admits that ‘for my generation […]it seemed really important to say that we were British and part of the British landscape […] I don’t agree with the hereditary principle and don’t see why it has