27 April 2012

More calls for an English anthem

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Following on from our director Sunder Katwala’s letter to the Prime Minister and our An Anthem For England campaign, here are some extended remarks from others also in favour of England having its own national anthem.

“National identity is an important thing and the English have constantly been made to feel like a minority in their own country. The readoption of the flag of St George has been a positive thing for English identity and the next step is for England to have its own anthem, just like Wales and Scotland. To do so is not to disrespect the Queen. My preference is Jerusalem. Everyone knows the words and it sends a tingle down the spine when it is sung. It is a song every Englishman and Englishwoman could feel proud to sing, and it would spur on English sports teams to even greater heights of achievement.”

Iain Dale, Blogger and Broadcaster

“England needs a new song, literally. It is absurd that English sports teams still sing the British national anthem at international events, and it is particularly absurd that they do so when playing Wales or Scotland. What could be more perfectly designed to pitch Welsh or Scottish feeling against British feeling; this should be a matter of great anxiety for the monarch, and those who advise her. It is hard for a Conservative led government to take the initiative here as the Tories will be accused of pandering to Englishness, so the initiative should come from the monarch—we must become more English in order to better preserve what is valuable in Britishness. And what should we sing instead? There is a beautiful hymn perfectly designed for this task, a hymn which celebrates the specialness but not the superiority of the English people and appeals to our better selves to build together the good society—it is, of course, Blake’s Jerusalem.

Britishness could in future become a more formal identity for state occasions, Englishness might then become rather more like Scottishness is now to most Scots—their “real” national identity combining both political and ethnic aspects and grounded in a common life and lived experience. Being Scottish is often described as having a Scottish accent, and why should not the same be said of Englishness? What clearer proof is there of being grounded in a common life?”

David Goodhart, Director of Demos

“Perhaps the English didn’t in the past felt the need to define ourselves as the Scottish and Welsh have, but that is changing. I would choose Jerusalem to represent our positive English identity because it is a song which could resonate across England, meaning as much to rugby players and schoolchildren, to church-goers and to those without faith who represent a rousing anthem when they hear one.”

– David Lammy, Labour MP

“In 1966 Alan Ball received his World Cup winners’ medal in a Wembley Stadium awash with Union Flags, but in 2007 Ball’s coffin was draped in the Cross of St George.  Ball’s funeral was a sign of our times, the flag of England has rightly replaced the flag of Britain as the banner of English sport, yet organisations like the FA and RFU still stubbornly cling to a God Save the Queen instead of adopting a distinctly English anthem.  Jerusalem is my preferred anthem for England, and unlike the other main contender, Land of Hope and Glory, which is both imperialist and British, William Blake’s call to build a better England is more suited to our times, an anthem fit for a post-imperial nation with a foot in the past and an eye to the future.”

Gareth Young, Convener of anthem4england.co.uk

“It’s part of the broader issue of whether we’re going to have a shrill, sour, form of english nationhood based on resentment and loss, or if we’re going to build a new positive English nationhood, within a federal United Kingdom.

The one thing is missing is an identity for England and the anthem itself is part of what we want to take on.”

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP

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