The Archbishop of York has claimed that people in England feel “left behind” by the “metropolitan elites” in London.
The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Church of England’s second most senior clergyman after the Archbishop of Canterbury, criticised those who “patronised” people for showing pride in being English.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the archbishop called for England to “rediscover a national unity” and urged for a strengthened regional government within the country to better serve local communities.
He said: “Many English people feel left behind by metropolitan elites in London and the South East, and by devolved governments and strengthened regional identities in Scotland and Wales.
“Their heartfelt cry to be heard is often disregarded, wilfully misunderstood or patronised as being backwardly xenophobic.”
On devolution to the English, Mr Cottrell wrote in his article for the newspaper: “What we need is an expansive vision of what it means to be English as part of the United Kingdom.
“It is this that will help us rediscover a national unity now more fractured than I have ever known it in my lifetime.
“A first foundation would be a more developed and strengthened regional government within England.”
Mr Cottrell, who recently stepped up to lead the church when Justin Welby took a three-month sabbatical, said this would enable Westminster to lead on issues for the UK but would “empower” the separate nations and regions.
He also suggested that sports teams in England should sing their own anthem prior to a match if playing against other UK nations, before coming together to sing the national anthem, God Save The Queen.
“Then when the different nations of the United Kingdom find themselves pitched against each other on the sports field we could belt out our English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish anthems,” he said.
“Then sing our national anthem together. And love our neighbour.”