Who Are We Now?
In this compelling and essential book, Jason Cowley, editor-in-chief of the New Statesman, examines contemporary England through a handful of the key news stories of recent times to reveal what they tell us about the state of the nation and to answer the question Who Are We Now?
Spanning the years since the election of Tony Blair’s New Labour government to the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the book investigates how England has changed and how those changes have affected us. Cowley weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay, the East End Imam who was tested during a summer of terror, the pensioner who campaigned against the closure of her GP’s surgery and Gareth Southgate’s transformation of English football culture and embrace of progressive patriotism. And in doing so he shows the common threads that unite them, whether it is attitudes to class, nation, identity, belonging, immigration, or religion.
He also examines the so-called Brexit murder in Harlow, the haunting repatriation of the fallen in the Iraq and Afghan wars through the town of Wootton Bassett, the Lancashire woman who took on Gordon Brown, and the flight of the Bethnal Green girls to Islamic State, fleshing out the headlines with the very human stories behind them.
By looking at these stories in vivid and often moving detail, Cowley tells us something important about what it means to be human in the age of globalisation. Moreover, he offers a clear and compassionate analysis of how and why England became so divided and the United Kingdom so fragmented, and how we got to this cultural and political crossroads. Most importantly, he shows how the pandemic revealed the best of who we are and why there is genuine hope for the future in an era of heightened English national self-consciousness.