I am not sure where the description pigeon holes came from, although the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary offers:- A small recess or hole (usu. One of a series) for domestic pigeons to nest in; hence any small hole, recess, or room for sitting or staying in 1622 or a cant name for the stocks – 1694 or one of a series of compartments in cabinet, writing-table, or range of shelves, open in front, and used for the keeping of documents, etc., also a wares in a shop 1789 and more like the use I mean to place a label mentally; to classify or analyse exhaustively.
I imagine that it originally meant something very different from what it means to most people now, which is a ready bracket into which we mentally fit things we see or hear or experience. As human-beings it is our natural tendency to put things into a category which will have various associations linked into that category depending on our experiences and culture.
Not all such pigeon holes would necessarily for all people have the same links, but in any given culture it is likely that they would. In fact for a person to regularly allocate things to a different pigeon hole to the one that other people in his or her society had been likely to do might well lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, especially if those pigeon holes were linked to emotional categories. Drew Weston in his important book ‘The Political Brain’ which everyone interested in politics should read, says “Of particular relevance to understanding the political brain is the idea that much of our behaviour reflects the activation of emotion-laden networks of association, and that much of this activation occurs outside of our awareness”.
From the days of my legal education I am aware that this tendency of all of us to pigeon hole, particularly what we see in other people quickly into a category and then once we have satisfactorily pigeon holed them not to spend any more time observing them, has serious implications for so called identification evidence.
Just consider this famous case about 15 years ago, where daring bank robbers robbed a bank in a pedestrianised town centre; knowing that they were not going to be able to speed away in a getaway car, they had to think of how to get through the crowds with their “swag”. Somebody who understood this tendency of human nature must have come up with the answer because, having committed their robbery with masks on, they left the bank taking off their masks and walked calmly down the street carrying their sacks of money whilst wearing white plastic hard hats and bright orange safety jackets. When the police asked witnesses whether they had seen these men, almost everyone that they asked said that they had and also everyone had either thought that they were collecting the garbage or they had simply noticed the bright orange coats, but nobody was able to say anything about their faces, what colour their hair was, or even whether they were black or white. Everyone had pigeon holed them as either garbage men or highway maintenance!
Now I hear you ask yourselves how does this information, interesting as it may be, help us with the task before us as English Democrats? Well I would say that it is something we need to bear in mind because whatever happens the book will be judged by its cover and we will be pigeon holed and therefore the real choice before us, is whether we pigeon hole ourselves for the public, or whether we let our enemies do it for us.
As English Nationalists there are only two pigeon holes available, the nasty one – racist, BNP, perhaps even Nazi, or the nice acceptable one, now treated as being perfectly respectable like the SNP, or Plaid Cymru. Think about that for a moment! I suggest that there is only one of those categories, which anyone who wished us well, and the cause of English Nationalism well, would want us to be pigeon holed with!
How do we go about ensuring which pigeon hole we belong to? Well I suggest first that whenever we compare ourselves with other nationalists or any other political party the comparison should involve the SNP and Plaid Cymru so that people know that we are measuring ourselves up alongside them. Second we should talk about being democratic nationalists, like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Third if somebody tries to compare us with the BNP we should simply say that we not like the BNP but we are like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, simply trying to do our best for our country. I would say that I have experimented myself with this approach and find it works.
It is not just with journalists that we need to make sure that we pigeon hole ourselves, but also very much with members of the public, who are also likely to pigeon hole us with the BNP, with the sub-text associated with the endless school teaching about Hitler, if we don’t ensure that we get put into a more acceptable category. Once you are established in a category, it is a psychologically difficult task to get someone to place you in an alternative one, especially if you haven’t clearly thought which of the available categories you wish to be put in.
This is a significant part of the explanation why it simply doesn’t work, when canvassing to try to engage in a full discussion about the rights and wrongs for England. Your first job is to get us into a category, either when you are canvassing or in your leaflets, from which people are then willing later, if at all interested in what we are trying to say, to thinking about the detail of the issues.
So in all we do from now on let us remember, when trying to discuss what we are about with new people or in designing leaflets that we need to categorise ourselves in the right pigeon hole. Fortunately the Scots have done most of the work for us and the pigeon hole is already there although it is not the pigeon hole that people will put you in if you don’t make the effort to get us into the democratic nationalist pigeon hole, rather than the nasty nationalists one!
On the 20th August the English Democrats quietly celebrated their 7th birthday. In that time we have gone from a Party which there were no more than about 20 members present, to a party of a few thousand members which have stood in elections all over England and has now received somewhat over ¾ million votes.
But what we have also done before we were fully 7 years old is won our first significant election because, ladies and gentlemen, we are in power in part of England.
I speak of course of Doncaster. Doncaster is the largest metropolitan borough council in England and although obviously far smaller geographically than the largest elected mayoralty in England, that of Greater London, but nevertheless our Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, has greater powers over Doncaster than Boris Johnson does over London.
When Peter was first elected we made the point that we had won a significant election, in our press release, that Peter was now the “Boris of the North”. Peter has recently perhaps, slightly unkindly, described Boris’ position as being that of a political eunuch by comparison to him because Boris’ control over what happens in London is far less than Peter’s influence over what happens in Doncaster.
I am sure when he speaks later many of you will want to ask him about his situation and what his plans are. But I want to focus your attention on one of the things that Peter’s election has achieved for us. Before Peter was elected, although of course we had many people who agreed with what we were saying, many of those would not have come out to vote for us, as I am sure all of you who have talked about the EU elections with friends and relatives, will be able to vouch for. And the reason they did not come out and vote for us wasn’t because they didn’t agree with us, but rather simply because they didn’t think that we were credible, by which I mean electable.
I have often told people a story, and you may well have heard it before, but I think it bears repetition. On the only occasion that I have met UKIP’s Nigel Farrage, at the Bromley by-election count, he told me a highly revealing story about the way people think about elections. He thought that he had been doing quite well in that by-election, where UKIP had spent over £80,000 trying to get him elected to the British Parliament at Westminster that is he thought he was doing well until he knocked on a woman’s door about a week before the by-election and she told him that whilst she totally agreed with everything UKIP stood for and desperately wanted out of the European Union, but she was nevertheless going to vote Lib Dem in order to try to get the Tory out!
Ladies and gentlemen just think about that for a moment. This woman was telling Nigel Farrage, and through him us, that she, and no doubt many thousands of others like her, were willing to vote for the very party that was most opposite to the Party whose policies she believed in, the Euro-fanatic Liberal Democrats, instead of UKIP, simply in order to be voting with a party which might be capable of stopping the Conservative candidate from getting elected! That is the mind-set that we are up against as a political party in trying to get our candidates elected! The only way of getting through that mind-set is to show that we too have a realistic chance of being elected.
In Doncaster today, now, we can say, hand on heart, and with total sincerity, that we are a Party that can get elected and to a significant position too. Peter Davies has also shown that when elected to significant positions, English Democrats can make a real difference. But the important point to get across to people who might be wavering as to whether or not we would be a wasted vote is that, we can get elected! We have got elected! And we will get elected! So their vote if given to the English Democrats won’t be wasted and if elected we will make a difference!
At our last meeting, in the Spring at Portsmouth, I was using famous sayings, including Nelson’s “England expects that every man will do his duty” to highlight that what we accept as normal English character is in fact quite unusual for other cultures.
I took my elder daughter cycling to Holland a month or so ago and, whilst waiting to board the ferry to come back, had a good example, which I think will not only be instructive, but also amusing of English character in operation, because in front of me there was father, adult daughter and son family of motorcyclists from I would say Lancashire. We were all in classic style lined up in a queue. Beside us was the empty lane for vans and caravans and as the advertised time for the gates opening to start the process of us getting onto the ferry approached and passed, the family began to grumble its not opening at the advertised time. Then several Dutch cars, instead of joining the back of the queue, drove up on the lane beside us followed by English drivers copying their example. The daughter of the family began to complain loudly as did the father of the family and when the gates then opened, rather late, and the cars in this new queue pushed in ahead of us, the father’s complaints turned to action and he went down to tell off these drivers. He then came back with every appearance of looking as if the job was done, but when he turned around to look to see what was happening he could see that the car drivers were still pushing in and, at this point, also a further gate opened at the head of the lane for caravans and vans, so it was obvious that that lane was going to move more quickly. At which point the father’s and family’s disgust at the queue jumpers boiled over and they hoped on their motorbikes and pushed firmly to the front of the queue, muttering to themselves about queue jumpers.
Not only did the whole scene amuse me and cheer up a trait in our character, which is I think that the English will put up with quite a lot but in the end if we don’t think other people are playing fair will stop playing altogether and make sure we get our fair dues and more and throw over the whole system that we had up until that point been standing up for. I think this little scene also has a message for us about might happen politically in our country because as people turn from grumbling, they move to telling off the British politicians and eventually they will move to barging them out of the way altogether. I think this process has begun in England and Peter Davies’ election is a living proof of this.
Tory leader, David Cameron, was at Christ Church Parish Centre in North Shields on the 10th January 2009 fielding questions from the public. Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle Alastair Craig reported this response.
“One member of the audience complained of the huge differences between services in the North East and Scotland.
She complained that free prescriptions, university tuition and care for the elderly in England should be a priority issue for any Cameron Government.
Mr Cameron responded “I don’t want to do anything that will encourage a sense of English nationalism and distance between the two countries.””