Leave our National Anthem alone

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has attacked plans to change the National Anthem, telling the Government to "get on with the job which it was elected to do, which is to run the country properly." 


The MP was speaking on Radio 4's ‘Any Questions’ programme on Friday evening. One of the questions put to the panel was “Do you think the National Anthem should be changed?”

It was prompted by the news that Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, has suggested that it should be changed to become more inclusive.

Lord Goldsmith, who is currently working as an adviser to Gordon Brown on citizenship and ‘Britishness’, has highlighted one of the later verses which refers to "rebellious Scots" being crushed.

During the panel discussion, Nick Herbert said: “No, I don’t think the National Anthem should be changed. The Government can’t see an institution in this country without wanting to tear it down.

“Why doesn’t the Government leave this kind of thing alone and get on with the job which it was elected to do, which is to run the country and our public services properly?”

Referring to the Government’s plan to publish a ‘Statement of British Values’ in the New Year, Nick Herbert described it as a “nonsense” and continued: “I don’t think Britishness can be reduced to one of New Labour’s slogans.

“They’re proposing to set up focus groups – at goodness knows how much cost – all around the country so that we can all get together and think up slogans for how we’re going to make ourselves more British.

“The BBC asked people what they thought a British slogan should be. I think the best one that came up was ‘mustn’t grumble’!”

Nick Herbert pointed out that most people don't even know the later verses of the national anthem, which are rarely used, saying: “We all know the one verse and that’s what we want to sing. And it makes us proud to be British.”

Responding to other questions put to the panel, Nick Herbert argued that the South African government should take a tougher line with Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. He attacked the Government’s record on managing prisons as a "disgrace", highlighting their failure to rehabilitate offenders and the early release of 25,000 prisoners in one year.

Mr Herbert also welcomed the introduction of a Climate Change Bill, but criticised the Government’s record on cutting carbon emissions, saying they had failed to meet their own targets.

The topical discussion took place in Wootton, Bedfordshire. Nick Herbert, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, was joined by Vince Cable, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Phil Hope, Labour MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire and Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for South-East England.

'Any Questions' is broadcast live on Friday evenings and repeated at lunchtime on Saturdays. Panellists are not told in advance what the questions will be.


Alexander Black