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LONDON — Political leaders nowadays are fond of talking about national identity and culture, but do we know what they mean by either identity or culture, and do they know themselves what they mean?

A prominent British Labour Party leader, Jack Straw, the former foreign minister — and quite likely to be become foreign minister again soon — has been telling the British people that they should think more about their identity and have a clearer idea of what it is to be British. He urges teachers to teach in schools about Britain’s “long struggle for freedom,” and argues that while the country’s numerous different ethnic groups and minorities should be allowed their separate cultures, this should not override their Britishness.

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