Next Thursday as the band starts playing the first notes of ‘God Save the Queen’ ahead of the England v Wales fixture in the Lens Stadium I will be embarrassed, even squirming.
I am someone who was born in England and now lives in Wales. Why is the song that represents my British identity being used in opposition to what I regard as my Welsh identity?
While my soul will be stirred when I hear the Welsh fans singing ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (‘Land of my Fathers’) I will be feeling angry about the music played for the identity of my place of birth – even though I’m equally proud to be English.
Everyone in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in my view are members of one club – the club of being British.
What signal does it send out about identity when the English display ownership of what should be a communal asset – that the song ‘God Save the Queen’ is about ‘England’ not ‘Britain’.
If Wales has a national anthem so should England. And ‘God Save the Queen’ should only be played to represent the entire British family.
What I’m witnessing with the playing of ‘God Save the Queen’ as yet another example of sloppy management of the ‘British Brand’.
We need to think seriously about what is the story of what it means to be British. We need to respect our icons – the rallying points of our identity and what ways they need to be used – and crucially not mis-used, along with our values and key defining facts?
We have a choice how we manage our Brand for a better collective destiny within these Isles.
The issue has deep significance for the well-being of our society – such as the integration of different groups into the communities of the ‘British family’. British-born Jihadists fighting for Isis is a British Brand question.
This is not about spending lots of money on marketing and promotion. Rather it is about avoiding needless own goals.
The Union Jack emblem for example, should only be used to represent ‘Britain’ not ‘English’.
When I use an ATM in Wales I’m presented with an option for the Welsh language with an accompanying Welsh flag while the alternative option for the English language option represented by a Union Jack. Such divisive use of icons, reinforces separateness and shouts out that ‘You are not really one of us’.
Icons that represent ‘Britain’ should only be used for Britain and not England.
Do we need a new Brand name?
There is even a need to at least explore and debate the question of should we drop our formal name of ‘United Kingdom’?
This may seem radical but do you ever introduce yourself as a ‘United Kingdomer’?
Yet that is your formal title if born or have citizenship within these Isles. Originally devised to provide a formal title to connect Britain and Ireland, the term was a legalistic, diplomatic manoeuvre rather than a core emotional touchstone for your identity.
Do you know the full name of your country? Please have a go. In my tests 9 out of 10 British people get it wrong. (For the record, it is the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.)
What does this indicate, when a vast majority don’t even know their own Brand name?
Who will you be supporting in the forthcoming Olympics? Will it be ‘Team GB’? Yet, who is ‘Team GB’?
The name ‘Team GB’ is a tactical response to overcome the deep strategic flaw in our name and brand.
So, if we drop ‘United Kingdom’ what do we call ourselves?
My vote would go for ‘Greater Britain’. With the political rapprochement with the Republic of Ireland I would argue the international sensitivity around the name ‘Great Britain’ no longer exists.
You don’t have a choice to be a Brand
Being British is about recognising there is a ‘British’ brand
If you mention the word ‘Brand’ most people associate it with consumer goods and names like ‘Microsoft’ ‘Coca Cola’ or ‘Dolce and Gabbana’.
Yet, each and every one of us is a Brand. Publicity campaigns and organizations are Brands – and even our communities and nation states are Brands.
You don’t have a choice about whether to be a Brand or not. What you can choose however, is how to manage your Brand.
Identity is a complex interplay of many different identities fusing to define who we are.
I’m a Londoner, now Barry Islander, with a bit of Yorkshire, I’m West Ham United and now also Barry Town United. I’m English, but also Welsh, I’m British, European and someone occupying space on spaceship Earth. It’s complicated. But some things are simple in how we manage the badges that reflect our identity – and that means don’t play ‘God Save the Queen’ ahead of the England v Wales game.
Looking ahead to a British victory
On the pitch I hope it’s a draw between England and Wales – and both teams go as far as they can, even meeting again in the Final (OK some dreams may be far-fetched). This is not a cop-out, or sitting on the fence. I see that as the best result for British football.
Off the pitch let’s stop being sloppy about the British Brand. Let’s address what is meant by our ‘British Brand’ – whether it is part of Europe, or not – so we can avoid the own goals off the field, like we will witness in the Euro football tournament.
I’m fed up of squirming when I hear a song that should make me proud.