THE Archbishop of York has called for stronger regional government to enable the English to strengthen their sense of a national identity.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell warns otherwise "We will carry on defining ourselves against things - Europe, London, Westminster – leading to a negative political discourse and a hope-less future".

And he said the two words that define Englishness for him are "courage" and "compassion".

He says that parts of England feel left behind by elites in London and the South East and devolution and regional identities in Scotland and Wales.

He writes in the Daily Telegraph: "What we need is an expansive vision of what it means to be English as part of the UK. This will help us rediscover a national unity more fractured than I have ever known it in my lifetime."

"Let’s play to our strengths: our shared history within these islands; our strong regional identities going back centuries. Let’s also look to the other things that bind us together as English and British, modernising and strengthening them rather than neglecting them or imagining they are the problem," he writes.

"After the horrors of Covid our whole nation would benefit from a tea break: a chance to pause, re-set and rediscover who we are: a courageous and compassionate community of communities, serving the common good, and delighting in our diversity across these islands."

The Archbishop says of those areas that feel left behind: "Their heart felt cry to be heard is often disregarded, wilfully misunderstood or patronised as backwardly xenophobic. But what if this is about the loss of identity? No longer British, temperamentally never really European, and definitely outside the wealth and opportunities of London,

"English people want to know what has happened to their country. These questions of identity and purpose have never really been addressed.

He goes on: "A first foundation would be a more developed and strengthened regional government within England. Westminster would hold onto those big issues to do with our shared sovereignty, while empowering the separate nations and regions to serve their own localities better."

He says the British and English are bound together by a common sense of belief in public service and desire to serve the common good.

He warns: "Without a big vision of one United Kingdom and the tight focus of regional identity and governance we will shrink into an amalgamation of communities always in danger of falling apart and only serving the individual good.

"Together, paying close attention to the inter-relationship of local and national need, our vision is enlarged, we see how our well-being is tied up with our neighbours. Seeking the common good in a nation that is a community of communities would become the driving and unifying purpose of our common life."