It is time for a Believe in Britain campaign.
In recent decades we have seen the growth of regional and national identities. There is the obvious growth of SNP and demands for Scottish independence, but also in Wales – Plaid Cymru now take part in UK-wide general election TV debates – and England (English nationalism has been rewarded with English Votes for English Laws).
The dominant identity of previous centuries – British identity – is fading away. The most powerful symbol of British identity, the Union Jack flag, is rarely seen in public life in some parts of the country, especially in Scotland.
Should Scotland become independent, we can no longer call ourselves the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The residual state would need a new name and a new flag (without the Saltire). Great Britain as a political identity and the Union Jack would be dead.
Before it is too late, there should be a concerted effort to revive a belief in Great Britain and restore a fundamental pride across all communities, classes, ages, races, faiths and sexes in being British. A co-ordinated effort under one umbrella may unite the many voices across society and social media with similar objectives – Scotland In Union, A Force For Good, Open Britain, British Unity, Young Unionist and others – let alone the coalition behind Better Together. Whilst the British Council promotes Britain abroad, Great Britain needs an organisation to do so within Great Britain.
The mission is to promote Great Britain and revive a belief in being British across England, Scotland and Wales – being positive about the nation state we actually live in and fully respecting the other and multiple identities of modern society.
To succeed, broad agreement should be sought on founding principles. To avoid connotations of propaganda, superiority or xenophobia, these founding principles ought to include:
No allegiance to any political party.
- Cross Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland
Reviving a belief in Britain and British values is as fundamental in England and Wales as in Scotland where 45% of voters chose independence in September 2014. Northern Ireland is a valued and integral part of the United Kingdom. However, as this should in no way undermine or be perceived to undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland, and there are existing organisation in Northern Ireland with similar objectives, Believe In Britain will not be active or campaign in Northern Ireland or be perceived as seeking to do so.
- Promoting British values
The core British values are (as currently defined by UK Government): democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. There will be other qualities that many will perceive to be British. These should also be celebrated, particularly our diversity and vibrant culture. Other qualities, more open to debate, would include our sense of fair play, decency, love of the underdog, eccentricity and so much more. Believe in Britain will not support, and may need to refute, claims to promote values or qualities that some may perceive to be British, but that conflict with the core values. Many other countries and identities share these values and that is fully respected. Great Britain has a long history in standing up for them and being prepared to sacrifice wealth and blood in their defence.
Driven by support from individuals and organisations independent of UK Government or its various bodies.
- Respect for other identities
Respect that we are each entitled to our identities. We will not campaign against other identities. There is to be no suggestion that being British is superior to other identities. Believe in Britain is to support and encourage British identity alongside other identities, not to replace them. Believe In Britain supports a Union based upon mutual trust and respect.
- Respect for the law
Shouldn’t need to be said, but all activities will comply with the letter and spirit of the law. Abuse of any kind will not be tolerated, online or in any forum. Absolutely no violence. For the avoidance of doubt, absolutely no racism or racists. There is no place for the BNP or its ilk in Believe In Britain.
- Celebrating Britain and British life, accepting our past
This campaign is a positive voice about Great Britain and being British from Britpop, Team GB to fish ‘n chips. There is much to celebrate in our past and much to regret. The point is that it is a rich past that explains how we got here and has much to teach us.
Put Out More Flags
With principles and organisation debated and agreed, the first action should be to raise awareness and funds for prominent public buildings, currently funded by UK Government, to fly no more than two flags in a prominent position, one of which must be the Union Jack. The other flag, if desired, could be the Saltire, Welsh Dragon, Cross of St George or perhaps a stronger regional identity (for example, Cornwall) as local councils see fit. Legislation may be required to provide permission. Schools, colleges and universities would be a key priority.
With apologies to Evelyn Waugh, it really is time to put out more flags.
Free, tolerant, decent
And perhaps it is time for a motto. Whilst the French proclaim “Liberté, Egalite, Fraternité”, the British have lacked a phrase for the core of who we are or perhaps aspire to be. Whatever we feel is best, we could do a lot worse than:
That’s a Britain to believe in.
Do you Believe in Britain?