Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has put forward a proposal to scrap God Save the Queen as England's national anthem at sporting events. He has suggested England have its own, rather than using the national anthem which is for the UK as a whole. Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland (and interestingly even the Isle of Man) have their own, which is played during international sporting events.
By scrapping an archaic song that means almost nothing in modern England, this is an exciting opportunity for us to join the 21st century. Okay, I know it's not a suggestion to completely get rid of God Save the Queen, but it's a promising start as his English National Anthem Bill was adopted by the House of Commons, and will be debated again on 4 March.
I've never really understood what a national anthem about a jewel-encrusted, privileged monarch that unashamedly celebrates the most boldly nepotistic part of our establishment, has to do with England anyway. Perhaps that's why no one ever really knows all the words. The lyrics don't even make sense any more; one line states, "may she defend our laws" which is firstly, not possible as she is only a constitutional monarch and secondly, not particularly inspiring. We shouldn't be hoping that an unelected head of state get involved in our democratic, law making process.
Many people who have defended keeping it as our national anthem have said they like it because they are "proud to celebrate our history". Again, look at the lyrics. It's not about anything specifically historical at all; it's just a generic spouting of deferential statements to the monarch. There are no specific mentions of some of the most important parts of our past, or our proudest achievements. The mindless jingoism seeping through the lyrics is frankly embarrassing for a country that many have claimed to be one of the best democracies in the world. To put it into perspective, both Iran and Saudi Arabia also have monarchs as head of state, and they are not exactly beacons of democracy.
I don't for one second think the motivations behind these proposals are because of any anti-monarch sentiment. As disappointing as it is to write, I'm well aware that 66% of British people think we are better off as a monarchy than as a republic. Support for the British monarchy (in particular Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton) is at an all-time high. But I also know that in contradiction to this, most English people have a sense of fairness, and when asked, most desire a meritocratic society.
Is it too crazy to want a national anthem that celebrates not some dusty old perception of England, but the England we know now? One that is diverse, a melting pot of different people from different places, an England which is always changing and evolving, but ultimately is made of people who feel an inextricable affinity and connection to one another (especially when it comes to discussing the weather)? The rise of global terrorism suggests we live in nations that are divided and many people are feeling increasingly isolated. Perhaps now more than ever we need a sense of togetherness, rather than empty, jingoistic rhetoric.
Sadly, other contenders for national anthems are almost as disappointing. Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia hark back to empire, and divide and rule, not really points in our history for us to be proud of.
Ultimately, I would be surprised if the proposal got very far. If it did come to a vote, I'm fairly sure that a majority of MPs would not vote to change it, largely because there is little to no political appetite for it. Most politicians do not implement change themselves, unless there is serious pressure from the people below to do something. However, it leaves me slightly optimistic that there is a sliver of a chance that England may unwittingly become a more progressively minded country, by reflecting the values we really care about.