Singing for England

If we’re honest, really honest, “God Save The Queen” is an insipid and tedious little piece of work isn’t it? The whole dirge is as stirring as a spoon made from nougat.

Now, I’m no right-on republican or “eat the rich” leftie; just someone who finds “God Save The Queen” to be lacking in the vim and vigour required in a national anthem. Okay, as a British anthem or in times of national crisis, it has its role. But specifically for England, and English national pride? Surely we can do better than asking English people to instruct God to send the Monarch of the day to visit the battle hotspots of the day?

John Leech, Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, has secured a debate on the use of anthems at English sporting events. For the first time, “Jerusalem” will be used as the medal anthem for English athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi; Leech thinks this is the right choice, and for as long as I can remember, I have thought the same…

Due to the way this country has managed to get along with its unwritten constitution, there is a curious set-up whereby a constitutional monarchy as all the characteristics of a federal republic, Scotland and Wales carrying on with their own devolved parliaments and accepted national anthems with England having neither. Little wonder people felt it necessary to deface the cross of St George with the word “ENGLAND”, we’re in danger of having a collective identity crisis.

“Jerusalem” has been my choice – and that of selective rugby and cricket event organisers for years – because it sings of and about England. There should be no shame or unease about singing an English anthem when cheering an English team. Make no mistake, as a liberal I find most nationalistic fervour tricky to support. I can sing – well chant – “God Save The Queen” with the best of them. I understand – much better than the knuckle draggers on the far right – that someone can be patriotic while not being prejudiced or pathetic.

Scholars of both national psyche and Christian teaching will doubtlessly unite in pointing out how “Jerusalem” is adopted from a theological poem, upon which hanging English chest-beating is inappropriate. I happen to think a few verses on bashing the Scots is not quite the best argument for keeping “God Save The Queen”.

Of course, my family heritage is not of England much at all, but Wales. I have yet to perfect the prouncuation of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” beyond accidentally insulting Pembrokeshire cafĂ© owners, so until that is sorted, I will get behind the movement to give England an anthem its people deserve. On the eve of the football team’s latest tussle against the Germans, let’s get a suitable song belting out across the country. Anything is better for the spirit than “Two World Wars and One World Cup…”

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