Whether you’re a republican, atheist or just someone with good taste, our national anthem is a dreadful dirge. The tune is more likely to send you to sleep than stir any feelings of pride, while the words barely mention the nation at all. It’s all about a hereditary head of state and a God many no longer believe in. And crushing rebellious Scots.
Britain has a rich musical history, and a national story we can celebrate through an inspiring anthem. A new anthem doesn’t need to be jingoistic, and we don’t need to over think it. We could simply pick an anthem that already means a lot to people and invokes some appeal to our national identity. Although it’s two anthems we need really, one for the UK and one for England.
At the moment both the UK and England use God Save the Queen, while Scotland has Flower of Scotland and Wales Land of My Fathers. At sporting events tunes like I Vow to Thee, My Country and Jerusalem are often heard too. So perhaps the simplest thing to do is adopt I Vow to Thee as the UK anthem and Jerusalem for England. For those who do like God Save the Queen it could be retained as the royal anthem, at least until the monarchy is abolished.
These tunes carry many different meanings – Jerusalem is sung by the Women’s Institute and socialists alike – I Vow to Thee can be interpreted in different ways. Both have a rich history and a strong connection to Britain. They carry meaning for people and are already popular.
There are of course other great, stirring tunes to choose from. If we’re less keen on the words they can be changed, or simply dropped. Perhaps we can follow the Spanish example and have an anthem without lyrics? Other tunes might include Land of Hope and Glory, You’ll Never Walk Alone – or something completely new. A competition is an option, although they don’t always work out well – as New Zealand found out when they tried to change their flag.
The main thing for us is getting rid of a dreadful anthem that promotes the monarchy, rather than the country. So why not keep it simple and go for alternatives that are already widely supported and recognised? I Vow to Thee for the UK and Jerusalem for England, or one of many popular tunes we hear in concert halls and sports stadiums every week.