There is a charming little book that my youngest son bought me as a Christmas present in 2014, "All the Countries We Have Ever Invaded and a Few We Never Got Round To." The title is jocular, but it indicates that over the years we have been in too many fights and quarrels round the world. Some people still love this idea, but there are many of us, including me, who do not wish to engage in jingoistic nostalgia. I don't want to celebrate beating foreigners or expanding our imperial horizons, so the tune Land of Hope and Glory, which asks God to set England's bounds wider and wider, does not appeal to me or to many others who lack the nostalgia for the days when we ruled a quarter of the world. It should not be our anthem.
It was right wing British nationalists and capitalists who asked several years ago that the popular Mayday bank [public] holiday be replaced by Trafalgar Day, in November, to celebrate Britain's victory over the French. No one wanted a holiday in November, but the nationalistic cranks thought it more important to celebrate victory over country now an ally than to celebrate in May, Labour day, when workers are celebrated. This nonsense was meant to weaken our links with the European Union and assert capitalist values against socialist ones. Can we lose these characters, please? They are the ones who want to leave the European Union and so turn the country into a capitalist paradise devoid of workers' rights. For them a warlike anthem would work well,as it would foster anti-European sentiments.
The popular choice is Blake's Jerusalem, which begins "And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green......." It refers the legend that the young Christ visited Britain. The song aspires not to imperial domination, but to the creation of a new Jerusalem in England. It finishes with "I will not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem, in England's green and pleasant land." The sentiments advocate moral and political struggle to create a socially just land, which is pleasant to dwell in, where industrialization is not allowed to spoil landscapes. It aspires to a land fit for ordinary folk. This is why football fans often sing it at England's matches: football, a people's game, celebrating a world fit for ordinary folk. This is not a nationalistic rant at foreigners advocating world conquest or celebrating victories in wars that should not have happened, led by greedy and brutal kings and selfish merchants, but precisely the opposite. Of course, advocating England as it should be does not appeal to right wing capitalists who want to create a state of impoverished misery for an underpaid working class. Such people are present in England, and unfortunately they have power and influence. But Jerusalem is the dream.