RFU to stick with God Save the Queen

An anthem4england supporter emailed the RFU to point out that England’s Commonwealth Games governing body has recently held a poll, involving the public and English athletes, upon which anthem should be used to celebrate England’s success at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Dehli.

He asked why the RFU did not follow suit. This is the response:

Thanks for your mail. We are aware of the Commonwealth Games survey as we promoted ourselves on our Facebook site given our 7s team will play a key role at the Games. However we have no plans to change the anthem we use for games as we have always had strong links to our royal family and Prince Harry is our vice patron and we think that is the appropriate anthem to use and our member clubs agree. We realise that others have a different view and we accept that but for now we will stay with God Save the Queen.

Regards

Peter Thomas
Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs
Rugby Football Union
Whitton Road
Twickenham
TW2 7BA

The patron of Welsh Rugby is the Queen, and the Vice Patron is Prince William, yet they seem to be able to get away with singing a Welsh anthem.

The Patron of Scottish Rugby is Princess Anne, and the Scots seem to get away with a Scottish anthem. Princess Anne doesn’t sing God Save the Queen when attending Murrayfield for diplomatic reasons, but she belts out Scotland the Brave. She once remarked of the English rugby crowd “I wonder why they don’t sing Land of Hope and Glory instead”.

So what’s the big deal about God Save the Queen and Prince Harry being the Vice Patron of English Rugby?

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.

Letter from the Department of Culture Media and Sport

A reply to my letter asking for an official English anthem:

Thank you for your email of 10 October about national anthems.

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.

Your suggestion has been carefully noted, but there are no plans to recommend to The Queen that any change should be made.

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. However, there are no plans to introduce an official English Anthem.

I appreciate that the playing of national anthems at sporting events is an issue which gives rise to strong feelings in many people. However, this is a matter solely for the governing body of the sport of public entertainment concerned, and the Government has no locus to intervene.
I hope this information is helpful.

Regards

Denis Clarke
Desk Policy Officer
Central Information and Briefing Unit
DCMS

Hmmm…I’m not entirely sure that he understood my letter. I was not asking for a change to the UK national anthem but simply whether the government offered any advice on what is, and what is not, appropriate in terms of the anthem played.

I don’t believe that the Government has no locus to intervene; the power invested in them by the electorate makes them the locus. Daniel Kawczynski’s Early Day Motion and the recent anthems debate in the Scottish Parliament would indicate that I am correct.

My reply:

Thank you for your response. You may have misinterpreted my letter. I am not objecting to God Save the Queen as the UK anthem, I am objecting to God Save the Queen being used as the English national anthem because it is not. And because its use as an English anthem conflates England and Britain and creates unnecessary nationalist tensions between England and Scotland and Wales.

The UK Government is the de facto English government so it must have responsibility to advise on these matters. The Scottish Parliament can debate on the Scottish anthem and Daniel Kawczynski’s Early Day Motion in support of Jerusalem clearly indicates that the Government does have the power to change things.
Are you suggesting to me that the UK Government has no opinion on what the English national anthem should be, and that they are completely happy to let sports governing bodies decide upon what the English anthem should be, regardless of what is chosen?

If so, can you tell me whether they take the same relaxed and enlightened attitude to what British national anthem should be played at the 2012 Olympics?

I rather suspect that the Government may be willing to take a firmer line in regard to British identity.
It will be interesting to see whether the UK Government has differing policies in regard to English and British identity.

MPs give their reasons

Two MPs that have signed the motion in support of Jerusalem have been kind enough to get back to me:

I agree with your reasons for our need for an English anthem (though, as a republican, I dislike God save the Queen). Jerusalem has words that inspire the wish to work for a better country, together with a rousing tune – and I enjoy singing it!

LYNNE JONES MP

It is a great song which has a link with the Labour movement and was sung at Labour Party Conferences in the past.

Mike Gapes MP

Hopefully the others are replying by snail mail.

BBC Subtitles

Watching the live coverage of England -v- Greece on the BBC I was disappointed to see the subtitles describing God Save the Queen as the English national anthem.

England, of course, doesn’t have a national anthem. God Save the Queen is the British national anthem and the BBC is well aware of this.

I wrote to the BBC last night:

Hi,

I have been watching the England -v- Greece match and when the national anthems were played I noticed that the subtitles announced God Save the Queen as the English national anthem. As you are no doubt aware, GStQ is the British national anthem and not the English national anthem. England has no national anthem. Please ensure that GStQ is correctly identified as the British national anthem as I, and many others, find the continuing (deliberate?) confusion of England and Britain by the BBC offensive.

They wrote back to me today:

Dear Mr Parr

Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘Match of the Day Live: England v Greece’.

I understand you feel ‘God Save The Queen’ was incorrectly referred to on the subtitles as the ‘English’ rather than the ‘UK’ national anthem during this broadcast.

We appreciate that you feel that this anthem was incorrectly described and as such please be assured that your comments have been fully registered and will be made available to the ‘Match of the Day’ production team, the subtitling department and senior BBC management. Feedback of this nature influences future policy and programming.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to contact the BBC with your concerns.

Regards

Patrick Marr
BBC Information

I replied:

Patrick,

It’s not a matter of opinion as you seem to infer – God Save the Queen is the national anthem of the United Kingdom, not of England. There is no English national anthem – in fact, there is technically no British national anthem as there has never been a royal proclamation or act of parliament designating it as such but that’s irrelevant. Can you confirm that the British national anthem will not be referred to as the English national anthem in future? If Scotland was playing, nationalist nutters would have burned down Broadcasting House in protest.

Stuart

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…the sight of the England team singing the British national anthem suggests we aren’t really sure who we are, that maybe we’re not yet mature enough to be trusted with our own anthem. — Billy Bragg, The Mirror

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