Reader in Politics Dr Andy Mycock on the need for an English national anthem.
“Together with leading politicians, policy advisors, media commentators, and academics I support the campaign by the leading think-tank, British Future, for the adoption of an English national anthem. In a joint letter published in the Sunday Telegraph, the group argue that the lack of an English national anthem has lead to complaints about treating the British national anthem as if it belongs to England. This undermines an equal claim to British identity and the allegiance of other nations within the United Kingdom whilst also limiting the ability of the English to celebrate their own national achievements. They argue that St George’s Day is an ideal moment for the proud and inclusive majority in England to speak up. An English national anthem 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.
The English appropriation of ‘God Save the Queen’ has been a source of discomfort for many people in England and provoked anger for others across the rest of the UK and the other fifteen states where the Crown is head of state. This has contributed to the on-going conflation of Englishness, Britishness and the monarchy whilst also providing ammunition for those who wish to incorrectly typify the UK state as the result of some form of English ‘internal colonisation’. Now is the right time for the English to choose a national anthem which reflects their distinctive heritage and progressive aspirations as a nation. I believe that there is no need though for extensive soul-searching as William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ meets this requirement and has organically emerged as the outstanding candidate.
I, and others within the Academy of British and Irish Studies, have undertaken extensive research on questions of English and other national identities across the UK. This has involved a number of surveys with staff and students at the University of Huddersfield regarding St George’s Day. I believe that although St George’s Day is now widely celebrated in the UK, the argument for it to become a public holiday in England is less convincing. A significant number of people remain sceptical of English and other forms of nationalism and are less keen for a St George’s Day bank holiday, particularly if this means losing another established bank holiday. The Academy will be hosting a series of events later in the year focusing on English nationalism. For more details on the British Future campaign, please go to http://www.britishfuture.org/”
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