Monday, 24 September 2007

A Motto for Britain

America has its 'In God we Trust' and Belgium 'Strength in Unity', but the United Kingdom doesn't have this constitutional mission statement. Well not yet! It seems that Gordon and the other politicians of New Labour think that we do. Now the cynic might think that this is another ploy to raise the profile of the United Kingdom as it faces the onslaught from nationalists in Wales and Scotland who would like to see the United Kingdom broken down into its constituent parts or at least greater independence within the union. In an increasingly multi-ethnic Britain in which immigration appears not perhaps to have got out of control (though some would say it has) but has not been especially well managed, some motto that exudes the defining character of the country is perhaps justifiable. However, this would preclude the use of Christianity as part of the motto and yet, whether we like it or not, the United Kingdom is at least tacitly a Christian country and so it is part of the way in which many of use define ourselves. Freedom could also be seen as a defining feature of the country but then our freedoms have been assiduously reduced in the last decade as a consequence (well at least this is the justification always trotted out) of global terrorism. Perhaps surveillance would be now better seen as a characteristic of our society! Then there's our political system, once the pride of the world but perhaps no longer. More presidential than the United States, as sleaze-ridden as, what one judge called banana republics and still replete with 'spin'...well that gives us at least one motto: ' Surveillance, sleaze and spin'. And, of course we can always add a fourth 's' as in 'screw the people'!

The critical question is whether we need it at all. Do we need a corporate logo? Let's hope it isn't designed by the people responsible for the appalling (or should I say appealing) Olympic logo. Before we have a motto, we have to be clear what it means to be 'British' and the difficulty here is that increasingly people in the United Kingdom do not see themselves as British but as English or Welsh or Scottish or Northern Irish or even Irish. In which case perhaps the Olympic logo with its disconnected parts within an overall whole is the right idea! The difficulty is that people won't see themselves as British by a top-down initiative however worthy. Nationalities as defined by how the people view themselves not how politicians view the people...it is the ultimate expression of personal democracy.

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