Hello, my name is Ben Cobley. On this blog I hope to share some of my better thoughts on politics, philosophy, society, and the Left, in addition to some other interesting stuff.
The name A Free Left Blog comes from a concern that the political and cultural Left is dominated by forms of ‘group think’ which shut down free thinking rather than encourage it. I want to challenge this while promoting a Left which is genuinely liberal but rooted in time and place.
23 April 2015
England needs a new national anthem
St George’s Day is meant to be England’s national day,
but if you were not looking out for it you would likely miss it.
That shouldn’t reflect badly on you or on anyone else.
England’s national day has been long neglected in England for various reasons,
not least the priority put on other identities in national – British – life.
Liberal universalists – who largely dominate our
public sphere - insist that borders are redundant and should ultimately be
abolished. They seek to include everyone, but they just divide in other ways. Their
forms of division are international, but they are still divisions – not by territory but by identity and ideology; in their way of thinking you may not belong where you live on account of having the wrong thoughts.
This point of view needs to be resisted strongly by all
of us who believe in the connection between people and the earth they stand on.
As a part of this politics, England needs to find itself again.
The first step for England starting to find itself again is
surely through a new national anthem. At the moment England shares the plodding
God Save the Queen as an anthem with the United Kingdom, thereby identifying 'the UK' with
England, to the exclusion of the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish. This is
clearly wrong and silly; even more so given Scotland’s new-found national and
So England should have a new anthem. But how should we
The whole point of choosing an anthem is to form and
define a community called England which everyone in England (the English) can
gather around – a joining together of new and old Englands plus those who haven’t
thought themselves English before. This is a big task which requires thought
and planning. Most importantly, it requires mass participation and democracy.
The people need to choose their new national anthem. This is something that
needs to be done on primetime television.
How should we put together a shortlist of potential
options though and compress the possible tunes into possible anthems? This means
involving musical experts and orchestras, and also letting the general public submit suggestions
which could be taken on and adapted if popular.
But – time to get on to possible options. I’m not going
to bother with God Save the Queen because the whole point of this article is
that we should get rid of it. Clearly though, it should be an option in the
Here we have five possible options to provide the material for England’s
new national anthem (all from what I know – not meant to be exhaustive):
My personal instinct is that a new English anthem should
have no words. England has changed so much in such a short space of time that I
think it would be impossible to put together words that define who we are – no
bad thing. The music can be left to speak for itself.
From that music, not being too prescriptive, England may
start to scope out a shared life as a nation. Then perhaps after a
while we might think about choosing some words for our new English anthem - but not now.