David Cameron has backed calls for England to have its own anthem for its sports teams – declaring that his personal choice would be the hymn Jerusalem.
The campaign for an English sporting anthem was launched by British Future, the leading think tank, in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph on St George’s Day this year Photo: REUTERS
By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor
9:00PM BST 14 Jul 2012
His intervention will be a big boost for the campaign for England to have its own sporting anthem in time for the next football World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
The Government does not have an official stance on the issue, with spokesmen up to now saying it should be up to sporting authorities to decide what is played before the start of international contests.
However, according to the ConservativeHome website, the Prime Minister told a group of young Tory activists at Downing Street this month that he could understand why supporters of England sports teams believe they should have their own anthem, as Scotland and Wales do.
His own choice, he told the Conservative Future group, would be Jerusalem – the poem by William Blake which was set to stirring music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.
Mr Cameron is understood to have added that while some see Jerusalem as a left-wing rallying cry – because of its reference to the “dark satanic mills” of the industrial revolution – he believed it should belong to everyone.
His remarks are likely to raise eyebrows, however, as he has been a strong “pro-Union” advocate ahead of a planned independence referendum in Scotland. Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, is understood to want to hold the vote in October 2014.
Currently, most England teams line up to God Save the Queen, as the country’s footballers did before matches in last month’s European Chamionships in Ukraine. Teams representing Scotland and Wales, however, sing national verses such as Flower of Scotland or Land of My Fathers.
Daniel Hannan, the Conservative Euro-MP, said: “I’m delighted that the Prime Minister wants Jerusalem as an English anthem, ending the anomaly of England and the UK using the same hymn.”
The campaign for an English sporting anthem was launched by British Future, the leading think tank, in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph on St George’s Day this year.
Other nominations have included Land of Hope and Glory, with music by Sir Edward Elgar and words by A C Benson, which was written in 1902, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, which is popular with rugby fans.
Until 2010, Land of Hope and Glory was used as the anthem when English athletes won gold medals at Commonwealth Games – in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland teams also competed. However, this was switched to Jerusalem for the 2010 games in New Delhi after the hymn was chosen in a poll launched by the Commonwealth Games Council for England.
Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat MP, has launched a cross-party parliamentary campaign for an English sporting anthem. He said last month when England were knocked out of the European Football championships by Italy: “It is high time that England had an anthem for when it is appearing separately, just as the Welsh and Scottish do, and we must now begin campaigning to secure this for England.
“God Save the Queen is of course totally appropriate when our sportsmen and women appear, as at the Olympic, as Great Britain or the UK. But when England play, they are representing only England, not the whole UK. I hope that football fans will get behind this cause so that an English anthem is in place for when- or if- England take part in the 2014 World Cup.”
A letter in the Sunday Telegraph in April signed by Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, and MPs from all the main parties, argued: “When it is England who take to the sporting field to play rugby or football, they should be heralded by an English anthem for an English team, just as Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers are sung as Scottish and Welsh anthems.
“It would strengthen the case that the fringe extremists of the English Defence League, who would tear England apart, have no real claim to St George’s flag. An English anthem for the talented, diverse teams that represent us on the sporting field would help modern patriotic pride to defeat prejudice.”
Pete Wishart, the Scottish National Party MP and former member of the band Runrig, said: “It is about time England had its own sporting national anthem but it should emerge from the people rather than the Prime Minister.
“It will be difficult to find a song that attracts general approval. Why not have a competition putting the old anthems up against new songs, even put it to a public vote through a show like X-Factor and give everyone in England the opportunity to select their favourite choice?”