I got home from work tonight to find a copy of The Sun on the Stodge Towers doormat. This is of course the "Special Edition" which has been reportedly delivered to 22 million homes across the country.
Looking at it, it's a curious mixture of patriotic fervour, jingoistic tub-thumping, celebrity endorsement of the football team and an exhortation (of sorts) to "get behind our boys" as they start their improbable journey to World Cup glory in Manaus tomorrow evening.
Let's be honest - The Sun is an odious newspaper which purports to "be on the side of the people" even though its actions and editorial policy are governed by some of the richest people on the planet. Every four years, there is an attempt to raise some notion of patriotic fervour around the World Cup only for reality to set in when it transpires our national "treasures" aren't as good as the national treasures of several other countries.
Yet behind what may appear to be jingoistic flag-waving is a more sinister message - The Sun is trying to define what it is to be British. That means celebrity gossip, following the football team with uncritical adulation and worshipping the Cross of St George as some semi-religious icon but there's more to it even than that - the undercurrent message that if you do NOT follow England with uncritical adulation, you are somehow "unBritish".
I will be damned if I allow The Sun, David Cameron, Ed Miliband or even Nick Clegg to tell me how to be British or to define what it is to be British. There is no definition of national identity - each individual should create their own and that might involve flags and symbols or it might not. Just as with personal morality, the journey to a defined cultural, national and social identity is different for each individual but is a personal journey and needs no referencing or coercion from the media or indeed from religion.
One of the many reasons I am not a Conservative is that beneath all the free-market façade, the Tories are itching to tell people how to live their lives. While Socialists are open about using the State as a method of social and cultural conformity, the Conservatives are more subtle but the net effect is the same. John Major's journey to the electoral abyss began when he tried to use the Prime Minister's office as a "bully pulpit" on the issue of personal morality.
Though I'm a fan of Nick Clegg, his nonsense about "alarm-clock Britain" was unnecessarily patronising and divisive. David Cameron, the heir to John Major, is another condescending Conservative who uses every opportunity to voice his opinion on any and every triviality. I don't recall Margaret Thatcher wasting her time like that but David Cameron is so desperate to be liked he feels he has to be "with the people" on everything. This distasteful populism identifies him as a politician utterly lacking in conviction or principle. For that alone, he deserves to lose and lose big last year and let's hope that happens.
Regrettably, of course, Ed Miliband would be no better and neither would the ultimate populist, Nigel Farage.
The Sun claims to unite but divides - it claims to speak for "the ordinary man and woman" but we know it is trying to speak to the white working class (wwc) and is trying to get them back on the Conservative side for next year's election.
It is to be hoped that the vast majority of ordinary people will place The Sun's offering in the nearest recycling bin where it can be of some modest benefit. It deserves nothing more.