An English anthem would give us pride without prejudice
SIR – When British athletes win Gold for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, God Save the Queen will play to celebrate. However, when it is England who take to the sporting field to play rugby or football, they should be heralded by an English anthem for an English team, just as Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers are sung as Scottish and Welsh anthems.
The lack of an English national anthem can lead to complaints about a lack of fair play, while treating the British national anthem as if it belongs to England undermines an equal claim to British identity and the allegiance of other nations within the United Kingdom.
An English anthem would show symbolically that pride in our national identities is no barrier to being proud to be British too. We would like to see an English anthem used when England play France in their first game in this summer’s Euro 2012 football tournament.
This St George’s Day is an ideal moment for the proud and inclusive majority in our country to speak up. It would strengthen the case that the fringe extremists of the English Defence League, who would tear England apart, have no real claim to St George’s flag.
An English anthem for the talented, diverse teams that represent us on the sporting field would help modern patriotic pride to defeat prejudice.
Sunder Katwala Director, British Future Robert Halfon MP (Con) David Lammy MP (Labour) Greg Mulholland MP (Lib Dem) Rob Berkeley Director, Runnymede Trust Baroness Berridge (Con) Phillip Blond Director, ResPublica Mihir Bose Jon Cruddas MP (Lab) Iain Dale David Goodhart Director, Demos Paul Goodman Co-editor, ConservativeHome Sunny Hundal Editor, Liberal Conspiracy Guy Lodge Associate Director, IPPR Rachael Jolley Editorial director, British Future Dr Andrew Mycock Huddersfield University Prof Tariq Modood Bristol University Max Wind-Cowie Head of Progressive Conservatism Project, Demos Gareth Young OurKingdom
The letter is the initiative of the British Future think tank, whose report This Sceptred Isle is released tomorrow, St George’s Day. British Future have created a Facebook page to drive their anthem campaign; you can join it here, but don’t forget to join the anthem4england Facebook page too!
Oliver Wates’ letter in today’s Independent backs up Anthem4England’s view that the use of God Save the Queen as an English anthem undermines Britishness.
Scottish nationalism would not be the force it is today without the perverse decision by the (England) Rugby Football Union to use the British national anthem for the England team (letters, 11, 12, 13, 14 January).
In the 1960s, to be a Scottish Nationalist was the equivalent of declaring your religion as Jedi Knight. No one took them seriously. Scots would be desperate for their team to thrash England at Murrayfield, but at the end of the match they were still as British as the men in white.
Several decades of rugby as a televised spectator sport have changed all that. How can a young Scot who grows up seeing the British national anthem being used to represent the “enemy” team feel fully British? You could not devise a better way to alienate an entire people. It screams, “You are second-class citizens”.
Why on earth did the RFU allow this damaging and illegitimate use of the British anthem? A simple phone call to the effect that HM did not approve of her British anthem being appropriated by just one of the four UK constituents would have settled the matter and we’d all be singing “Jerusalem” instead.
A whole generation of Scots has grown up to think of “Britain” as no more than a vehicle for English arrogance. It didn’t have to be like that.
“William takes a very active interest in Welsh rugby and Kate ended up closely following their fortunes with him during the recent World Cup. She has pretty much been converted into a Wales fan when it comes to rugby.”
Prince Harry is a passionate England fan and Princess Anne follows Scotland. Her daughter Zara Phillips is married to former England captain Mike Tindall.
The readers of This England Magazine have chosen Land of Hope and Glory as their favourite anthem for England.
This England’s National Anthem Survey
Many thanks to all of you who voted either through the website or by post. Thank you also for your many interesting comments, a selection of which will be published in the summer edition of This England, together with details of the “Other” suggestions. The results of the vote are as follows:
Should England have its own National Anthem?
What would your choice of National Anthem be?
Land of Hope and Glory 40%
I Vow to Thee, My Country 32%
Rule Britannia 3%
Canon Donald Gray, former Chaplain to the Queen, speaking on the Channel 4 programme 4thought on 16 October 2010, opposed the introduction of “Jerusalem” as our national anthem instead of “God Save the Queen”. He believes it is divisive, suggesting that the industrial working classes are less fortunate than those who live in the countryside, and it also gives credibility to the notion that Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury. He supported the continuing use of “God Save the Queen” because it was a simple prayer for the Queen and she values our prayers.
He was actually setting up a straw-man and knocking it down again, because nobody actually believes that “God Save the Queen” should be replaced by anything. As far as I am aware, it is and always will be the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He didn’t make any reference to the need for a separate anthem for England, or the questions that inevitably arise when the same anthem is used to represent both the UK and England at international sporting events.
Turning to his specific criticism of “Jerusalem”, the “dark satanic mills” could mean the smoke-stacks of the industrial revolution, or they could symbolise the boring monotony of an office job, pushing papers across a desk. Most people, when they go on holiday, travel from towns and cities to the seaside or countryside, or they go to places of historic or cultural interest. They know what they want to get away from and where they want to go, and the question of social division is really a non-issue.
As for the question of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea going to Glastonbury, it’s a possibility but it cannot be proved. More likely, I think, is the suggestion made by some, that Joseph came with other followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Jesus told them to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and preach the gospel, and that includes here. So it’s possible that Simon Zelotes, Aristobulus and the Apostle Paul all came to Britain, and I have discussed some of the evidence for this in my book “Forgotten History of the Western People“. William Blake wasn’t promoting the idea that Jesus came to Britain, he was merely asking whether or not it was possible, and he might have been poking fun at the British Israelites who believed it. The important thing is that, after centuries of struggle when it was dangerous to have the wrong views, we have emerged as a society where you can believe whatever you like as long as you are peaceful and law-abiding. This is what makes us great, and this is why Jerusalem is a great hymn for England, because you can believe whatever you like about what it means.
Channel4’s 4thought.tv has several short films discussing Jerusalem.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Pianist and composer Guy Pearson believes that, 200 years after it was written, Jerusalem is still totally relevant because it speaks about the liberation of the human soul, and that it would make a great anthem for planet earth.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Canon Donald Gray was chaplain to the Queen for 20 years. He thinks that Jerusalem is patronising to people who live in cities and believes that the Queen appreciates when the people sing their prayer to her: God Save the Queen.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Radio presenter Juanne Fuller ‘detests’ God Save the Queen because it excludes people who do not believe in God or the monarchy, and thinks that Jerusalem would make a brilliant anthem as it speaks about fighting for a better society for all.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Broadcaster Henry Bonsu would not feel comfortable with Jerusalem as the national anthem: for him, the ‘green and pleasant land’ of the hymn reminds him of the hostility he has faced when visiting the English countryside.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Ollie Baines of the classical group Blake remembers singing Jerusalem for the Queen and at the funeral of a close friend, and believes it is a stirring anthem that everyone can get behind.
Should Jerusalem be adopted as the English national anthem? Comedian and actress Francesca Martinez doesn’t believe a Christian song should be used as an anthem for a country that is so strongly multicultural: in fact, she questions whether we should have a national anthem at all.
English athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi are using the hymn Jerusalem as their official anthem for the first time. For some people it is a proud, patriotic song, for others an uncomfortable reminder of Empire, but should Jerusalem replace the national anthem?
Twenty-six-year-old WI member Gemma Waznicki is proud that Jerusalem has been the anthem of the Women’s Institute for almost 100 years, inspiring generations of women to fight for equality.
The adoption of Jerusalem as England’s ‘victory anthem’ at the Commonwealth Games has provoked some controversy. Admittedly not much, but some. The Guardian decided to conduct an online poll to determine what the English anthem should have been. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve… Too late, Guardian.
Our first gold medalist, Fran Halsall, complained that she did not know the words:
“It definitely wasn’t expected, even my coach got a little bit excited about that and he doesn’t get excited by much. It was really nice to see the England flag at the top and two Aussies underneath. I don’t really know the words to Jerusalem, though: I was going to sing Land of Hope and Glory because that’s the one I know.”
Jerusalem was slagged off by Clare Balding and everyone in the BBC studio. Clare read out one of the ‘many’ anthem-related emails that they had received, and the particular one she chose asked “Why is our anthem not God Save the Queen?” To her credit Clare gave the following answer that could have been lifted straight from this site.
Technically it shouldn’t be actually because, obviously, God Save the Queen is the national anthem of Great Britain, it is not the national anthem of England and it would be rather arrogant if England were to assume that it was.
Liam Tancock, England’s second gold medalist of the day, was far more relaxed, remarking that Jerusalem allowed him to enjoy a longer time on the podium than would otherwise have been his privilege with the shorter Land of Hope and Glory.
After the disappointment of the World Cup I didn’t watch the game on TV and I wouldn’t have travelled to Wembley even if I had been given free tickets. I’ll doubtless get behind the team at the next major tournament, but right now I just don’t feel that they’re worthy of my support. Not that I’ve particularly enjoyed my recent visits to Wembley. I find that it has very little atmosphere and the crowd noise tends to follow whatever the England Band decide that the crowd ought to be singing. There is none of the organic, witty and spontaneous singing and chanting that you get in club football and used to get at England matches. To attend an England match is to resign yourself to listening to an hour and a half of monotonous and manufactured atmosphere.
Sadly, and it pains me to say it, I’m in full agreement with this comment on the When Saturday Comes forum (swearing censored):
Oh. My. God. Now the Moron-Inspiring Mini-Orchestra have struck up the bits they know of “God Save the Queen”. Followed by “I’m England ‘Til I Die”.
Are England games at Wembley really, really, this f****** devoid of atmosphere that these c**** are necessary or indeed welcome? I pity the poor twats who’ve paid thousands to have a “season ticket”. Actually, I don’t, they are part of the f****** problem and they deserve what they’re getting.
Ah, it’s the opening few bars of the Great Escape Theme, again, now. For about the twentieth f****** time in the match.
If we accept the National Anthem as the musical counterpart to the Union Flag, then what is required now is an equivalent which would serve the Cross of St George. Why should change be necessary at all? The move towards devolution is the obvious explanation.
By strange osmosis, lads too young to remember the Northern Ireland conflict - never mind World War II - still swallow the old England songbook and travel to away games to chant about wars, “10 German bombers” and the IRA.