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The Bragg interpretation of history

Billy Bragg has discovered a British tradition he never knew he was part of. As an Englishman, his history is dubious, but his politics are certainly decent

By Arthur Aughey   December 2006

The Progressive Patriot: A Search for Belonging by Billy Bragg Bantam Press, £17.99

At the beginning of the 1959 film I’m All Right Jack, we see Victor Maddern, in the character of the drunk and obstreperous Knowles, halfway up a lamppost outside Buckingham Palace, giving two fingers to the postwar spirit of common endeavour we have just heard praised by a pompous newsreel narrator. This is an image that readily comes to mind after reading Billy Bragg’s book. The second world war, especially the blitz, means a lot to him. Stories about the “old country,” like the stories migrant children…

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