Gordon Brown calls for a day to celebrate Britishness

Gordon Brown calls for a day to celebrate Britishness

By staff writers
14 Jan 2006

Gordon Brown calls for a day to celebrate Britishness

-14/01/06

British chancellor Gordon Brown will today propose that Remembrance Sunday might be developed further into a patriotic national day to celebrate British history, achievements and culture, reports the Guardian newspaper.

But a UK religious think tank is suggesting that Martin Luther Kingís ëWorld Houseí vision would be a better starting point.

Mr Brown, who has made the fight against world poverty inspired by his church upbringing a priority of his chancellorship, also has an eye on the vexed question of British identity at the moment.

Tipped to succeed Tony Blair as the next leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown envisages a ìBritish Dayî, equivalent to the Fourth of July independence celebrations in the United States.

He seems to see this as the ìbig ideaî which might shape and galvanise a fresh approach to governance and policy-making.

Mr Brownís remarks are due to be made at a conference of the left-of-centre Fabian Society, co-sponsored by the Guardian.

The newspaper says it represents his clearest attempt yet to flesh out his personal political programme.

In his speech Mr Brown declares: ìIn any survey our most popular institutions range from the monarchy to the army to the NHS. But think: what is our Fourth of July? What is our Independence Day? Where is our declaration of rights? What is our equivalent of a flag in every garden?î

He continues: ìPerhaps Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are the nearest we have come to a ëBritish dayí - unifying, commemorative, dignified and an expression of British ideas of standing firm for the world in the name of liberty.î

The British Legion, an ex-service organisation which plays a key role in Remembrance Sunday, has already said that it would not be keen to see a Britain Day taking over the events of 11 November each year. But it welcomes the general idea.

However the UK religious think tank Ekklesia says that the emphasis of any reconsideration of Britishness should be based on ìeducation for global citizenshipî not ìreheated patriotismî and militarism.

ìWhat we need is a self-understanding which is realistic about both our strengths and weaknesses, and enthusiastic about promoting peace and justice in the world,î commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

He explained: ìThe big challenge facing us in Britain is to learn how to be citizens of the world. How to develop a non-imperial, post-Christendom vision.î

Said Mr Barrow: ìIf we want to move beyond superficial flag-waving, the model is not so much Fourth of July celebrations but Martin Luther King Day ñ a celebration of the common struggle for freedom, justice and dignity.î

Dr King is the assassinated Baptist preacher and black civil rights leader whose legacy is celebrated in the USA for the twenty-second time on Monday 16 January 2006.

Progressive faith and civic leaders in America are seeking to revive Kingís ëWorld Houseí vision in which, according to his 1964 Nobel Lecture, ìwe have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslim and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.î

The National Council of Churches USA is encouraging people to visit a new website dedicated to promoting Dr Kingís World House vision and agenda.

[Also on Ekklesia: Gordon Brown's africa debt action inspired by church; Christians encouraged by Chancellor's trip to US; Brown poverty plan will cut aid, says WDM; Chancellor to harness tsunami energy for Africa; Brownís billions highlight rich-poor dilemma; US faith groups to campaign for living wages; Black Christian leader calls for new US civil rights drive; Free at Last: Story of Martin Luther King; Martin Luther King: In My Own Words]

British chancellor Gordon Brown will today propose that Remembrance Sunday might be developed further into a patriotic national day to celebrate British history, achievements and culture, reports the Guardian newspaper.

But a UK religious think tank is suggesting that Martin Luther King's ëWorld House' vision would be a better starting point.

Mr Brown, who has made the fight against world poverty inspired by his church upbringing a priority of his chancellorship, also has an eye on the vexed question of British identity at the moment.

Tipped to succeed Tony Blair as the next leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown envisages a 'British Day', equivalent to the Fourth of July independence celebrations in the United States.

He seems to see this as the 'big idea' which might shape and galvanise a fresh approach to governance and policy-making.

Mr Brown's remarks are due to be made at a conference of the left-of-centre Fabian Society, co-sponsored by the Guardian.

The newspaper says it represents his clearest attempt yet to flesh out his personal political programme.

In his speech Mr Brown declares: 'In any survey our most popular institutions range from the monarchy to the army to the NHS. But think: what is our Fourth of July? What is our Independence Day? Where is our declaration of rights? What is our equivalent of a flag in every garden?'

He continues: 'Perhaps Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are the nearest we have come to a ëBritish day' - unifying, commemorative, dignified and an expression of British ideas of standing firm for the world in the name of liberty.'

The British Legion, an ex-service organisation which plays a key role in Remembrance Sunday, has already said that it would not be keen to see a Britain Day taking over the events of 11 November each year. But it welcomes the general idea.

However the UK religious think tank Ekklesia says that the emphasis of any reconsideration of Britishness should be based on 'education for global citizenship' not 'reheated patriotism' and militarism.

'What we need is a self-understanding which is realistic about both our strengths and weaknesses, and enthusiastic about promoting peace and justice in the world,' commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

He explained: 'The big challenge facing us in Britain is to learn how to be citizens of the world. How to develop a non-imperial, post-Christendom vision.'

Said Mr Barrow: 'If we want to move beyond superficial flag-waving, the model is not so much Fourth of July celebrations but Martin Luther King Day - a celebration of the common struggle for freedom, justice and dignity.'

Dr King is the assassinated Baptist preacher and black civil rights leader whose legacy is celebrated in the USA for the twenty-second time on Monday 16 January 2006.

Progressive faith and civic leaders in America are seeking to revive King's ëWorld House' vision in which, according to his 1964 Nobel Lecture, 'we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslim and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.'

The National Council of Churches USA is encouraging people to visit a new website dedicated to promoting Dr King's World House vision and agenda.

[Also on Ekklesia: Gordon Brown's africa debt action inspired by church; Christians encouraged by Chancellor's trip to US; Brown poverty plan will cut aid, says WDM; Chancellor to harness tsunami energy for Africa; Brown's billions highlight rich-poor dilemma; US faith groups to campaign for living wages; Black Christian leader calls for new US civil rights drive; Free at Last: Story of Martin Luther King; Martin Luther King: In My Own Words]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.