Andrew Rosindell is MP for Romford.
It has been a long term goal of mine to see England celebrate St. George’s Day en-masse, by making the 23rd of April a national holiday. The reason is simple: the people of England deserve a day to feel proud! So many other countries in the world have their special day to celebrate, so why not England?
While I passionately celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, as a mark of respect for our friendship with our cousins from Ireland, it does not seem right that the English fail to celebrate St. George’s Day with the same degree of fervour as they do St. Patrick’s Day.
We need the same patriotism and love for England that is demonstrated at sporting events to be spread throughout villages, towns and cities across the land. I strongly believe that patriotism is the best approach to achieving social cohesion across what has become a broadly diverse nation. This will not happen if the English feel they are unable to express their love for of their country, as so many other nationalities do theirs.
Nothing upsets me more than when I read of stories where people have been intimidated into tearing down the English flag for ‘fear’ of upsetting minority groups. Throughout my travels up and down the country, I have met people from a wide range of backgrounds, all of whom came to England, or are descendants of immigrants who came to England and have happily assimilated and become part of the English and indeed, British family.
A recent study conducted by British Future found that only 40 per cent of respondents were able to identify St George’s Day as falling upon April 23rd. This is alarming, and must be rectified before we lose touch of all traces of national identity. Although commendable, flying the St. George’s Flag ‘here and there’ simply will not do. If we are to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in almost every country in the world, who take a day off a year to celebrate their patriotism, we need street parties; festivals; flexibility from local councils; and recognition in the education system.
Last week, Mudasir Dean, a Conservative Councillor in Bolton, proposed that all schools within Bolton be urged to fly the Union Flag, the St. George’s Flag, and sing the National Anthem. This bold, yet innovative idea, he argued, would “seize the Union Flag back from the Far Right and show children it was a symbol people from all backgrounds could celebrate”. Quite right! The proposal passed and to make the story all the more comforting; under a Labour controlled Council (32 voted in favour, 4 against and 11 abstained).
Although there was some debate over the cost of buying both flag pole and flag, it proved that common sense prevailed, and it was made clear that when defending national pride, cost should not be something to worry about. Even it were, I am sure many ConservativeHome readers would happily set up a donation fund to help with such costs for schools in their local areas. The long term benefits of having a youth respect and love this country, outweigh any argument of cost.
Each and every person who identifies as English has their own unique story that must be symbolised through national celebration. When the people of Britain have a day to celebrate all things British (the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2012 being one example), they do celebration in a way unmatched by other countries. Give the people of England the encouragement to celebrate St. George’s Day, and I’m certain they gladly will.
Aside from the patriotic benefits of wide spread celebration, a national holiday would be a tremendous benefit for businesses wishing to stay open in order to serve the millions of families eager for entertainment; food and drink. That’s not even taking into account the number of small and big businesses that would be able to help promote the day through their own unique brand.
Alas, although there have been attempts to introduce a national holiday – most recently through the St. George’s Day and St. David’s Day Bill by Nadhim Zahawi, my Conservative colleague, and own my Bill a few years before, both of which were sadly thwarted – there have been no significant efforts to reintroduce the debate.
As Chairman of the St. George’s Day All Parliamentary Group, a Branch of the Royal Society of St. George, I will continue to fight for England and push for a national debate. I know that I am far from alone in my feelings and longing for an annual celebration for our country.
Although, as it stands, the majority in Parliament are unwilling to consider a St. George’s Day Bill, there is something we can do in the meantime. Let us all, take the Bolton example, and pressure our local Councils’ into adopting similar policy.
This grassroots movement, will demonstrate to those in Parliament unwilling to listen, that the people of England have spoken and that the time for introducing a national holiday is now. Friends, until such a time where we can celebrate together as one, please take this upcoming St. George’s Day to celebrate in your own way. Be it with your family and friends; with colleagues or alone, do what you can to show your fellow countrymen that you’re proud to be English!