Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Desperate and needy...

That's what this proposal sounds like:
The August bank holiday should become the UK's "national day" as part of a drive to promote a common British identity, the immigration minister is to say.
Liam Byrne will argue that a national day should become the focal point of a campaign for "stronger shared standards" and a cultural code to which immigrants should be expected to adhere.
"Britishness Day" should be a "celebration of what we like and love about living in this country", Mr Byrne will say in a speech to the think tank, Progress.
Trying to build up a national celebration around something as abstract as 'Britishness' is not going to work, and sounds like something a Communist government would try to do.
All the best national holidays seem to be based around a concrete event or person. We therefore have Independence Day which marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, St Patrick's Day, Bastille Day and so on... Even Canada Day (anniversary of quasi-independence) isn't 'Canadianess Day'.
The problem is, of course, that Mr Byrne can't come up with a single event or person that reflects 'Britishness' and that isn't liable to offend some section of the British population or (more importantly!) his own New Labour political sensibilities. The obvious thing for the British to do would be to make a bigger deal of the Queen's Birthday. That, however, would be politically unacceptable for a Labour government.
Of course the trade unions know what's really important:
Some, including trade unions, have argued that any national day should be on a new bank holiday, giving workers an extra day off each year.


Mark said...

It's a stupid policy that Brown inherited from Blair's "Cool Britannia" campaign. Tripe if you ask me!

Galileo said...

Well, I am an immigrant. Certainly the idea of Britishness looks quite vague and fragmented, as you write, difficult if not impossible to celebrate.
From my experience I would say Britishness is a call to responsibility for English people and loyalty for the Scottish ones. I know nothing about Welsh and people from Northern Ireland.
About the integration: where I live there are a multiplicity of identities and you tend to integrate with the group whose identity is closest to yours, so a religious group if you are a devout person, an ethnic group if you have strong national sentiments and so on.
For the "work hard, pay taxes, learn English, follow the law", what else should you expect anywhere else?