With the hope of further encouraging a modern, inclusive British identity, our director Sunder Katwala wrote to the Prime Minister, as well as to the leaders of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, asking for their help in opening up the debate on whether England should have its own anthem.
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you, for St George’s Day, to ask if you will encourage a positive and inclusive English identity, including by helping to open up a public debate about whether England’s sporting teams should have an English anthem. When Team GB wins gold medals at London 2012, it is great that the British national anthem God Save The Queen will ring out to celebrate their achievements. When England take to the sporting field, at rugby, football and other sports, many people would like to see an English anthem used, just as Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers are sung for Scotland and Wales.
The current situation leads to concerns about a lack of fair play for England, with the perception that English identity is not given a similar level of public voice and legitimacy as other national identities within Britain. We worry too that it will inadvertently undermine the United Kingdom and even the Monarchy, as the English appropriation of shared British symbols risks undermining the equal claim to British identity and allegiance of other British nations in the post-devolution United Kingdom.
I am asking if you – as the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives – would help to encourage sporting bodies to open up a public debate about whether England should have a sporting anthem. We would like this to lead to a public vote on what anthem English teams could choose, through the sporting governing bodies working with the BBC and other media outlets to engage the public.
An opinion poll used to inform the choice showed widespread public support for the England team adopting Jerusalem at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Land of Hope and Glory; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; I Vow To Thee My Country, even the theme from The Great Escape, or other songs might all find their advocates as anthems for modern England.
We believe this St George’s Day is an important moment to voice the pride and patriotism of the inclusive majority in modern England today. A new YouGov poll for the think-tank British Future does contain the good news that three-quarters of us reject the idea that it is important to be white to be English, but it also finds more anxiety about modern English identity than is the case in Scotland or Wales. This reflects fears about English symbols like the St George’s Flag being claimed by an extremist and divisive fringe minority. An English anthem for the talented and diverse sporting teams could be one important positive symbol of how an inclusive and modern patriotic pride can defeat prejudice. I would welcome your thoughts on how we can best achieve that.
Check out the letter sent to the editor of The Telegraph requesting an English anthem here.
British Future’s An Anthem For England campaign can be found on Facebook.
Photo: Phil Gyford