Ben Fogle’s fury at St George’s Day being ‘hijacked by politics and football’: ‘Our flag!’

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The TV personality, who is best known for his outdoor adventure shows, is urging the public to celebrate “Englishness” today on St George’s Day. He wants the nation to “collectively lift our cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches to the rainy sky” in honour of England. Fogle tells Express.co.uk that celebrating the patron saint and encouraging patriotism is important in a “post-Brexit world”.

The 47-year-old, who returns to screens with Ben Fogle: Make A New Life In The Country, feels it is time for England to be proud and patriotic.

He said: “We should also celebrate those unique quirks of Englishness and celebrate St George’s day without embarrassment.”

Fogle argues marking the patron saint’s day does not mean the county isn’t “proud of our place within the collective union of nations”.

He notes that “England’s St George’s Day often passes largely unceremoniously” and feels that should change.

While there is often “the odd patriot” clad in “chainmail” and a “couple odd Morris dancers” he believes the day “should be something more”.

Fogle points out that St Andrew’s Day in Scotland, St David’s Day in Wales and St Patrick’s Day in Ireland are all “celebrated with huge national pride”.

He feels England “could do something more” for St George’s Day and believes “national days of celebration are the source of worldwide pride”.

Fogle told Express.co.uk: “The problem is that to define oneself as English and to celebrate Englishness is seen as a slight against the wider union. 

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“The polarity of popular culture means that to celebrate Englishness is seen by many as a snub, even an insult, against the other nations in our Union.  

“English patriotism is also often mistaken for xenophobia, racism or intolerance and that is very sad. 

“We need to reclaim it from the racists and the xenophobics.”

While addressing his own identity issues, Fogle admitted he “describes” himself as “British” but “defines” himself as “English”. 

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He believes many are “a little squeamish” of being patriotic because of “the size and power of influence of England”.

Fogle continued: “[It] means that we are treated as the embarrassing aunt at a wedding that makes us feel a little squeamish. We don’t want to upstage the bride.

“To be English and to celebrate Englishness doesn’t have to mean that you are celebrating the Empire.”

Fogle feels it’s important for England to “define our unique distinctions on an international stage” since leaving the European Union. 

He argues that being patriotic does not impact the respect for and the nation’s relationship with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

He noted: “I like to queue, I love to talk about the weather, I enjoy tea, I love Marmite, and I play cricket.  

“Now I’m not saying that there aren’t Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish [people] that also enjoy [this], or even that to be proud to be English you need to enjoy these things.

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“But as collective spirit, I feel a great pride in my Englishness, not in a jingoistic… xenophobic pride, but a pride in the experience of living in England for 47 years.”

Fogle claims “celebrating national identity” is often misinterpreted negatively and hopes that will change in the future.

He explained: “[It] is interpreted as dislike or even blind hatred of multiculturalism and internationalism. 

“But this is not true. I love the rich multiculturalism of England and we should be proud of the distinction that differs from our union of nations.”

Fogle believes it stems from previous uses of the nation’s flag, which “dates back to 1190”.

He said: “The St George’s cross has been hijacked by politics and football. 

“To fly the flag is a political statement akin to supporting Nigel Farage or Nick Griffin, but it’s our flag.”

In a final plea to the English public, Fogle calls on the nation to mark St George’s Day in a positive way.

He urges the nation to lift cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches in honour of the nation’s “unique quirks” and “distinctions” from other British countries.

Fogle added: “Raise them to England, our England, my England. A nation whose green and pleasant land has been shaped by her weather.”

Ben Fogle: Make A New Life In The Country airs at 4.10pm Sunday on Channel 5.

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