Yesterday in the UK parliament, MPs debated that most important of issues: whether England should get its own national anthem so people stop singing God Save the Queen at sporting events.
Well, I say they debated it. What actually happened was Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, introduced the bill and then Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg gave a surprisingly funny 10-minute speech against, in which he warned that an English anthem would destroy the United Kingdom and likely upset Jesus. That sentence will make more sense if you watch the speeches!
A full debate featuring God knows now many MPs will now happen on 3 March.
I spent much of yesterday talking to various TV and radio stations about it – and wrote some quick things for the Telegraph and Guardian too – but about lunchtime a question suddenly hit me: why is this issue getting so much attention now?
The idea of an English anthem has been floated repeatedly since 2006, with most people calling for William Blake’s great Jerusalem, others weirdly for Land of Hope and Glory despite it asking for Britain to re-colonise the world. But those calls have never got as much traction as Perkins’ effort is. Is that simply because we now have Twitter which means even something as bizarre as this gets attention? Is it because people are fed up discussing it and want a solution?
Perhaps, but I think it’s actually got more to do with the recent Scottish independence referendum, discussions over UK membership of the EU and even the migrant crisis – all issues that make many people in England wonder about their national identity and fear it’s being lost.
It’s also, probably, got a teeny bit to do with the disastrous state of the Labour Party under the leadership of the supposedly unpatriotic Jeremy Corbyn (that man who refused to sing God Save the Queen last year). Of the MPs sponsoring the English National Anthem Bill, seven are Labour, four are Conservatives and one’s a Lib Dem.
Is the Labour bias a sign that this is actually a desperate bid by the party to win back some working class support? Toby Perkins would scoff at the idea, of course!