I have decided that enough is enough. I am going to write a new national anthem and send it to the palace. There’s been far too much debate lately on the theme of needing a new one, ever since Jeremy Corbyn refused to sing the words of the current anthem, which most people seem to think is outdated and gloomy: I imagine the Queen must be sick to death of those familiar chords grinding out, over and over.
But it is of course impossible to write a new one. I would suggest that the poet Laureate is the woman for the job, except that I like Carol Ann Duffy far too much to hand her such a poisoned chalice. To write a modern, fit-for-purpose national anthem you would need to refer to our national glories: the landscape, the weather, our literature, art and music; the temperament of the people. You would need to keep self-congratulatory nationalism out of it and instead include lines of Welsh, Scots and Gaelic. But once you start that, you enter a minefield. Do you include Scots but miss out Gallic? What about all the dialects of the Highlands and Islands? What about the traditional languages of Northern Ireland? Do you even mention Northern Ireland, since its inclusion in the UK is so controversial? And nowadays – though everyone agrees the rebellious Scots line is not fit for purpose – even to include Scotland as part of the Union is controversial.
And what about God? Should the national anthem mention God – or Gods – or leave Him/Her out altogether? Should it be relevant to the majority view in the country, which is atheist/agnostic?
All these ideas and more were discussed on ‘A Point of View’ this morning on radio 4:
where Tom Shakespeare suggested a dream-team of Alan Bennett and Elton John to write words and music respectively, and a vote on a TV show like ‘Strictly’ to choose the winner. I think that might be a step too far. What we need is balance – and I think I could pull it off; I could pen something between tick-box inclusiveness and reactionary tub-thumping. I really think I could pull it off. So maybe I’ll have a try.
Not sure the Queen will go with it though. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken…