The Saturday Soap Box: We have to make Jerusalem England's national anthem

Daily Mirror newspaper (UK), article by Billy, 17 September, 2005


Welcome to our new weekly column where guests sound off on a current issue. Today, it's songwriter Billy Bragg...

Watching the crowd in Trafalgar Square celebrating the Ashes win, I couldn't help but be amazed at how quickly the flag of St George has replaced the Union Jack in the affections of England fans.

A generation ago, England games looked a lot like Last Night of the Proms, with the red, white and blue firmly to the fore. Now, it seems, the English have begun to remember who they are.

I believe this trend began during Euro 96, when England were drawn in the same group as their Scottish neighbours. When the Scots came to Wembley, England fans were suddenly made aware that, no matter how attached to it they felt, the Union Jack wasn't actually their flag. It belonged to the British.

Faced with this dilemma, they remembered England had its own flag, the flag of St George, which has now replaced the Union Jack at all English sporting events. This didn't happen because someone in power decided it should. The fans, realising the Union Jack no longer represented them as England supporters, made the change.

Now we've reclaimed our own flag, isn't it time we had our own national anthem? Isn't God Save the Queen the musical equivalent of the Union Jack? When England played Wales in Cardiff recently, I felt a bit envious of the Welsh who sang their own national anthem. I've no idea what the words of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau actually mean, but I know what they say: They say "We're Welsh. We love our country. It's called Wales."

By contrast, the sight of the England team singing the British national anthem suggests we aren't really sure who we are, that maybe we're not yet mature enough to be trusted with our own anthem.


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