Why don’t we do ‘English’?

James Evans questions why Britishness is often confined to England.

As an Englishman and a rugby player, I enjoyed watching England’s hard-fought Six Nations victory against the Welsh. The 29-18 win had everything: dynamic tries from Burrell and Care, great kicking from Farrell and Halfpenny, and a brilliant, try-saving tackle from Halfpenny which led to the great Welsh full-back being subbed off with a dislocated shoulder. Having witnessed England fall to a deserved thrashing at the hands of Wales last year, it was good to see our young team come back so strongly.

But before the game even started came a ritual that I now dread: the singing of ‘God save the Queen’. It is not that I do not love our Queen or the anthem itself. The problem I have is this: ‘God save the Queen’ is the United Kingdom’s national anthem! By insisting on using this anthem to represent England, we risk sending out a message to the other home nations that the English have claimed Britishness for themselves to the exclusion of our proud cousins and neighbours.

In my mind, this patriotic inseparability of Englishness from Britishness gives the campaigners for Scottish independence one of their most powerful weapons. Many Scots do perceive that English patriotism is about mastery of the UK and sees other parts of the UK as part of a ‘greater England’; support for Scottish independence has gone up following apparent threats to force an independent Scotland out of the ‘Poundzone’. I rest my case.

Support for Scottish independence has gone up following apparent threats to force an independent Scotland out of the ‘Poundzone’.

This state of affairs upsets me, because I perceive it to be based on a fallacy. I have never encountered genuine ‘greater England’ prejudice. London 2012 showed off the best of British: the delight of the whole nation when Scotland’s Andy Murray won tennis gold at the Olympics was just the same as when England’s Jessica Ennis or Wales’ Jade Jones triumphed. They all proudly received their medals with ‘God save the Queen’ playing.

What is even more ridiculous is that it would be so easy to put things right! This summer, Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games. The English team at a Commonwealth Games already celebrate their medals to one of England’s great songs: ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. With glorious anthems such as ‘Jerusalem’, ‘I vow to thee my Country’ and ‘The Yeomen of England’ to choose from as well, other English teams really have no excuse for not following suit! If David Cameron and Alistair Darling really want to win the hearts and minds of the Scots, they could start by persuading us to do English a little better!


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