In Depth

England anthem: don't hold your breath

MPs discuss alternative to God Save the Queen at sporting events, but a change is unlikely

MPs have been discussing the possibility that English sporting teams should no longer sing God Save the Queen but be given their own national song.

The proposal comes from Labour MP Toby Perkins, who is calling for a public consultation to find an alternative to the current anthem, which celebrates Britain rather than just England.

"England is a component part of the UK but it competes as a country in its own right and I think a song that celebrated England rather than Britain would be more appropriate," he says.

Many have contrasted the passion shown by the other home nations singing Flower of Scotland or Wales's Land of My Fathers compared to those who mouth along with God Save the Queen. 

Former Olympian Roger Black told ITV that an anthem "has to stir passion - it has to make you well up with pride".

Jerusalem has "proved the most popular choice for an ​​English anthem in recent polls", says The Guardian. It is already played before England cricket matches and has been used at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Before then, Land of Hope and Glory was played for English athletes.

The issue is not a new one, adds the newspaper. In 2007, Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland introduced an early day motion on the subject while a year earlier, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski proposed Jerusalem to be the official England anthem.

Neither of those previous efforts got far and the Guardian points out that very few ten-minute rules make it to the statute book.

Whatever the outcome of the debate, don't hold your breath, says Alex Marshall of the Daily Telegraph. "What will happen after all the shouting? Most likely the same thing that happens every time this issue is debated: nothing. The issue will be dropped until the next time a major sporting event rears its head," he says.

Politicians are happy to talk about change but taking action is a different thing altogether. "At best, they’ll be accused of wasting parliamentary time when there are far more important things to discuss – flood funding and Syria, for a start. At worst, they’ll lose the vote of every ardent monarchist in their constituency," adds the journalist.

So English fans who do want change must take matters into their own hands and jeer when God Save the Queen is played. It happens elsewhere, he adds: in Bosnia, many fans sing their old anthem over the new one; in Hong Kong, supporters have booed the Chinese national anthem, and Catalans in Spain and French-Algerian and Tunisians also jeer their official anthems at times.

The problem is that those examples involve "serious political protests, which the debate around England's national anthem never will", says Marshall.

As if to prove the point, the idea prompted vigorous debate on social media – with suggestions ranging from One Step Beyond by Madness to I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

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