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UK govt shelves plans for a 'Britain Day' holiday

UK govt shelves plans for a 'Britain Day' holiday

The British government has decided that patriotism is no holiday.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government has shelved a proposal for a new public holiday to celebrate Britishness, one of a series of ideas intended to promote social cohesion and combat extremism.
"Britain Day" has been championed by Brown and was proposed in a government-commissioned report earlier this year. But Constitution Minister Michael Wills told lawmakers in a written statement to Parliament last week that "there are no plans to introduce a national day at the present time."
It has been a favorite theme for Brown, who first raised the idea in 2006, when he was the country's Treasury chief. Brown said Britain lacked a day celebrating "who we are and what we stand for," and pointed to the Fourth of July and France's Bastille Day as examples of holidays celebrating their country's spirit.
Unlike the United States and many European countries, the United Kingdom has no official national day, although the countries that make up Britain do _ Wales marks St. David's Day on March 1, England St. George's Day on April 23, and Scotland St. Andrew's Day on Nov. 30. But these are not widely celebrated, and none is a mandatory public holiday.
Brown's left-of-center Labour Party has traditionally shied away from displays of flag-waving patriotism. But since the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings, during which British-bred suicide bombers killed 52 commuters, ministers have grappled with ways of encouraging cohesion in an increasingly diverse, sometimes fractious country being reshaped by new waves of immigration.
British unity also has been assailed by increasing cultural assertiveness in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have gained devolved political power over the last decade. Sports fans, too, usually cheer English, Scottish or Welsh _ rather than British _ national teams. The Olympics is one of the few international competitions in which Britain fields a united team.
Under Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair, the government has introduced citizenship ceremonies and a general-knowledge "Britishness" test that must be passed by all immigrants seeking citizenship.
In a pamphlet published last year, two government ministers said the creation of a "Britain Day" could help foster unity by celebrating the country's history and achievements.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said Monday the idea was still "very much alive" and that no firm decisions had been made. She spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.
However Brown has just 18 months before he must call an election. The main opposition Conservative party opposes the plan.
A government-commissioned report on citizenship, released earlier this year, suggested introducing a pledge of allegiance and citizenship ceremonies for schoolchildren, as well as a new national holiday "focused on ideas about shared citizenship."
The main opposition Conservatives, long considered the party of heritage and tradition, rejected the ideas.
"Labour still hasn't worked out that British identity is bound up in our institutions, culture and history," said Conservative justice spokesman Nick Herbert. "It can't be remanufactured by their spin doctors."
Researcher Peter Marsh, who has studied changing notions of Britishness, said he doubted government plans to promote nationalism would have much effect.
"You can't legislate for Britishness," said Marsh, director of the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Center.
He said his research had found British identity was alive and well _ but muted compared to its loud-and-proud American counterpart.
"Most of us don't wake up in the morning and think, 'Gosh I'm British,'" Marsh said. "It's a background thing."


Updated : 2020-12-05 14:15 GMT+08:00