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Give Fans Chance to Vote for English Anthem

GIVE FANS CHANCE TO VOTE FOR ENGLISH ANTHEM FOR THIS YEAR’S RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP – MULHOLLAND

Embargo: Immediate, Tuesday 23rd April 2008

Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rugby League is calling for the England Rugby League team to use an English national anthem at this year’s Rugby World Cup in Australia in autumn.

Greg has written to the Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, Richard Lewis, saying that rugby league, as a progressive sport, should lead the way on this issue and stop the situation where England teams use the British national anthem, which is particularly strange and inappropriate when England are playing the other ‘home nations’.

Greg has also suggesting that fans could be given the chance to vote for an anthem for the England team, this could be done by way of an online poll on the Rugby Football League website.

Commenting on the proposal Greg said:

“When England is competing separately from the other home nations, it is quite wrong to use the British National Anthem. The Scotland and Wales teams will fly out to Australia with their own anthems and England needs one too.”

“Rugby League has always been a progressive sport, always prepared to be bold, and here is a chance for it to lead the way and set an example other sports can follow. I am confident that in a few years, all English teams will have an English anthem, the way all Scottish and Welsh teams now do, and do so very proudly.

“I am sure that England Rugby League fans would love the chance to have their say about what the English anthem should be, and I hope the Rugby Footabll League will take this suggestion seriously.

“I am very excited about the Rugby League World Cup in October and as an Englishman, I want the England rugby league team to head off to Australia ready to sing an England national anthem. I look forward to them doing very well out there and doing England proud.”

ENDS

To support Greg’s initiative please write to the RFL in support of the plan to give the fans a say:

Richard Lewis
Chief Executive
Rugby Football League
Red Hall
Red Hall Lane
Leeds
LS17 8NB

Notes for Editors.

Greg’s letter follows.

22nd April 2008 Our ref: GM/JT

Dear Richard

National Anthem for the England Rugby League Team

I wanted to write to you with St George’s Day tomorrow, to raise the matter of the anthem for the England team who will be competing in the Rugby League World Cup in Australia in October.

With the ‘home nations’ competing as separate nations, each team needs to have their own national anthem to be played before each match.

England’s de facto anthem is of course God Save the Queen, however this is the anthem for the United Kingdom, not England alone, and though it is absolutely right that this should be played when a Great Britain Rugby League team plays, but it is quite wrong and inappropriate for it to be used by England. As you know, the Scotland and Wales RL sides in the tournament will have their own anthems. It is time that England RL had an appropriate English anthem too.

Rugby League has always been, and continues to be a progressive sport. I think this is a great opportunity for RL to lead the way on this issue and help to end the situation where England teams use the British national anthem. It may have gone on a long time, but it is no less wrong and rugby league has never been a sport to let inappropriate traditions get in the way of sensible progress.

Cleary the choice of anthem would be an important one as I hope, and believe likely, that if the RFL did introduce an anthem for the England RL team, other sports would be encouraged to follow over the coming years. There are clearly existing songs that could be used as well as the possibility of commissioning a new song. I do feel that the key criteria must be that the English anthem must be stirring, something that all English people and players can identify with, and be proud of, and finally and crucially that is must be specifically English and about England. This in my opinion rules out Land of Hope and Glory, which although a fine tune and of course used by the English team in the Commonwealth games, is actually another song about Britain not England!

I hope the RFL may also consider involving rugby league fans in the decision of what should be the new anthem. This could be in the form of an online poll where (English!) fans could suggest an anthem that could be selected for England and played at the Rugby League World Cup. I am sure that England supporters would react enthusiastically to the idea.

I am very excited about the Rugby League World Cup in October and as a big rugby league fan and an Englishman, I want the England rugby league team to head off to Australia ready to sing an England national anthem and I look forward to them doing very well out there and doing England proud.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely

Greg Mulholland MP

Hands off Jerusalem

In the Spectator’s St George’s Day special George Bridges asks should ‘Jerusalem’ be Engerlund’s anthem?

No. ‘Jerusalem’ is not a hymn for England, still less the Little Englanders…
Yes, I can well understand why the English feel taken for granted, and that the McMafia are taking the mickey. But an English national anthem will not help. We already have a national anthem — one that celebrates the monarchy, one of the few institutions that still binds us together as a nation. Yes, it is official in so far as we call it our ‘national anthem’, but there’s no law that enshrines its status. It’s part of the wonderful jumble of unwritten customs and traditions that make our constitution. Give England an official anthem, recognised by Parliament, and before long we will begin to unstitch another seam of our not-so-green and pleasant land. You can be English and you can be angry. But if we surrender ‘Jerusalem’ to the Little Englanders, those who believe in the United Kingdom would truly cease from mental fight.

Welsh anthem urged for FA Cup Final

The Welsh Sports Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid Cymru), wants “common sense” to prevail so that the Welsh national anthem can be played alongside God Save The Queen when Cardiff City play in the FA Cup final.

In the absence of an English Sports Minister to call for an English anthem, common sense comes in the form of Cardiff City supporter Gwyn Davies:

“There’s no prouder Welshman than me but this is not the time and the place.

“It’s not Wales v England, it’s two teams in the English FA Cup final”.

Presumably both sets of fans will join together in singing Abide with Me.

To Sing or Not to Sing

Wayne Rooney has been criticised by Bob Peedle, Vice Chairman for Royal Society of St George, for not singing the British national anthem:

“The England footballer does not show the patriotism that I see from other players.

“I can only assume that he does not know the words to the anthem and is just not prepared to learn them.< “He just stands there stern faced. He sticks-out like a saw thumb and he is setting a bad example to the young people who idolise him. “In America, every morning in school assembly they stand with the hand on their hearts and sing their anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. “It is about time we started doing that in this country and then people like Wayne Rooney would know the anthem as second nature. “I imagine Rooney has never been taught the words and does not know their significance. “He can’t be embarrassed about his singing voice. He could take a leaf out of the book of the England Rugby team who really sing the anthem with a passion. “He should learn the anthem and not just because he represents English football but because it is the duty of every Englishman to sing the anthem. “I’d like to see him know the word of God Save The Queen by St George’s day and I would be very happy to teach him.”

Meanwhile the Dean of Southwark Cathederal has banned the hymn Jerusalem for being ‘too nationalistic’. If Wayne Rooney and the lads sang it instead of remaining silent during God Save the Queen I might well agree.

Astonishingly the Telegraph informs us that Jerusalem is the favourite hymn of Gordon Brown.

James Purnell says ‘No’ to an English anthem…

Alfie managed to ask James Purnell, Culture Secretary for England, the following question:

‘Can you ask Mr Purnell when England is going to be allowed her own National Anthem?
God Save the Queen is not the English Anthem, it is the British one – England doesn’t have one and it’s about time we did. I suggest ‘Jerusalem’.
Scotland and Wales have their own anthems – and it is plainly bizarre to hear the Welsh and the Scots booing ‘God Save the Queen’ as the anthems are played prior to England playing them in the 6 nations tournament.
Mr Purnell is the culture secretary for England – he should start to champion our country by promoting our culture. Our own unique national anthem would be a start’.

You can read his pathetic reply here.

Writing in the Sunday Times Jeremy Clarkson muses over the state of the nation:

I looked at our players mumbling their way through the national anthem and realised they didn’t really care about playing for England. Because they don’t really know what England is. And truth be told, neither do I….
This is the only country in the world where the national flag is deemed offensive. Small wonder the England players were disinclined to sing the national anthem with any gusto. It’s in English and that’s offensive too.

Response to Jerusalem Petition

The government has responded to the petition requesting that the English national Anthem be changed to Jerusalem, by stating that they will not do it.  You can read the response here, but it is copied below

The national anthem of the UK ‘God Save the Queen’ only has that status by convention. It has no official status either by legislation or royal proclamation. Similarly, ‘Flower of Scotland’, although it is regarded in some quarters as the Scottish national anthem, has no official status. Insofar as a anthem for England is concerned, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is often played when England play in sporting competitions (such as the Commonwealth Games) against other countries of the UK. However, this too has no official standing. The Government has no plans to legislate on this issue.

So it appears that the United Kingdom has no official anthem.

Reply from David Lammy MP

Alfie has received a reply from David Lammy at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport:

As you may know, it is the tune which constitutes the authorised part of the National Anthem in the United Kingdom and not the words. The latter are traditional and the choice of words and verses to be used on any particular occasion is one for those concerned. Whilst the National Anthem is the anthem for the whole of the United Kingdom, the constituent parts of the United Kingdom may quite properly have national songs for which they have a particular attachment.

OK David, so assuming that we have a national song for which we have a particular attachment, how do we go about getting it recognised as the national anthem for England?

Reply from David Lepper MP

David Lepper (Labour, Brighton Pavillion) writes:

Thank you for your letter of 21st and 31st October about Daniel Kawczynski’s Early Day Motion on the adoption of ‘Jerusalem’ as the National Anthem of England. I did not support this Early Day Motion.

Personally, I see no reason for there to be a National Anthem for England when there is a National Anthem for the United Kingdom.

However, it does seem to me that any decision on this matter needs a far fuller debate than simply taking sides over a Parliamentary Early Day Motion.

Personally, while I quite like the Poetry of William Blake and find ‘Jerusalem’ a stirring poem, I suspect that there might well be other supporters of the notion of an English National Anthem who might not be happy with that role being taken by a Poem which when it appeared as part of Blake’s longer work Milton, was an attack on the Church, Academic and Literary establishment of his day by a mystic Christian who, it has been argued, subscribed to the Manichean Heresy.

I note that seven days after Mr Kawczynski put down his Early Day Motion another Conservative MP Peter Luff put forward an amendment to replace ‘Jerusalem’ with ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’.

Clearly, both the principle of whether we need an English National Anthem and the details of what that Anthem should be are matters which need more debate by those who feel this is an important issue.

Yours sincerely.

David Lepper MP

Peter Luff’s amendment is here, signed by just Peter Luff. Daniel Kawczynski’s original motion is here, with just eleven names. We face an uphill battle!

The Prime Minister Responds

Six months after our petition ended the Prime Minister’s Office has finally got around to responding.

You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to “initiate a Parliamentary debate on the adoption of a national anthem for England that is distinct from the British national anthem.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to that petition and you can view it here: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page13766.asp

There are currently no plans to introduce an official English anthem, but the Government recognises that the constituent parts of the United Kingdom may quite properly have national songs for which they have a particular attachment. However, the choice of anthem at sporting events is entirely a matter for the sport concerned. The English Cricket Board, for instance, made the decision to play ‘Jerusalem’ when the team took the field. Any such suggestions are best addressed to the relevant sport’s governing body.

So that, we must take it, is the official position of the United Kingdom Government. We will have to adopt another strategy in order to further the anthem4england campaign.

However, it is not inconceivable that the UK Government might be embarrassed into discussing the issue of an English national anthem in the wake of a debate initiated by the SNP administration up in Scotland. In opposition the SNP frequently raised the matter. Possibly this was a way of grabbing headlines, we shall have to wait and see whether in government they have the stomach to take on such a contentious subject.

In other news Radio Four’s Questions Questions broadcast a heavily truncated interview with Stuart Parr in which Stuart mentioned anthem4england. Our thanks to Stuart for his efforts, and our commiserations that they only played a brief snippet of the interview. I can sympathise because I was interviewed for half an hour by BBC Radio Lincolnshire back in March and only five minutes of the interview actually made it onto the radio.

Response from Daniel Kawczynski MP

I am pleased to hear of your campaign for a national anthem, and have taken the opportunity to look through your website. My own interest came from my constituents in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Here being so close to Wales, there is often a feeling that they loose out compared to their fellow Brits across the border in Wales.

I have been petitioned many times, and with the debate over English Votes on English matters raging, thought I would add to the call for a separate English anthem in the way we politicians can. My choice of Jerusalem comes from conversations with constituents, and my own personal opinion. There are of course other songs, ‘I vow to thee my country’, and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. But Jerusalem to me is the most appropriate for an English national anthem (despite its religious overtones).

I am unsure as to why it has been unsupported; I thought I would at least have greater support than has been forthcoming. Perhaps you could encourage people through your website to ask their MPs to sign.

Yours Sincerely,

Daniel Kawczynski MP

I contacted Hugo Swire MP to ask why he had not signed Daniel’s EDM. This was his reply:

As Shadow Secretary of State I only sign EDMs on the approved Conservative Party list. I am afraid EDM 2791 is not included, so I am unable to sign it.

Email now winging its way to the Conservative Party HQ to find out why they do not approve of this motion.

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Random Quote

England and its political identity have been subsumed within and conflated with the institutions of the British state, symbolised by the playing of the British national anthem at England’s World Cup matches.

— Simon Lee, Yorkshire Post

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