What’s in a name? More specifically, what’s in a slogan? Modern politics has been blighted by these media-friendly sound-bytes for years; “24 hours to save the nhs” or “vote Blair, get Brown”, the latter proving ironically successful for the Tories. But this week Gordon Brown asked the public to think of five words that convey the true meaning of Britishness.
This topic certainly seems to have consumed our Prime Minister recently. As Chancellor, he declared his support for a day to celebrate national identity; “The French have it with Bastille day, the Americans have it…it’s probably time that we do too”. Again, in this year’s Labour Party conference, Brown’s speech seemed almost to contain echoes of Nick Griffin; the words “British” and “Britishness” reverberated in the ears of his audience no less than 71 times. However, instead of using British patriotism as a symbol of racial division, Brown likes to stress the importance of Britishness as “a symbol of unity, tolerance and inclusion”.
Unity is indeed one of Mr Brown’s key ideals. After all, he more than most has a vested interest in keeping Britain united. The resolution of Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian question would ensure Brown himself, as MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, would be unable to vote on English matters in Westminster, an untenable position for anyone claiming to be a British Prime Minister. In addition, the SNP’s increased influence in the Scottish Parliament is encouraging division within the UK. 35% of Scots now believe their country should gain full independence – admittedly a low percentage, but it still has Brown unnerved; his party won the last election with that kind of percentage.
The Prime Minister was hoping five magic words, created by the British, for the British, about the British would help silence Scottish nationalists. Alas, the cunning plan has backfired. Many suggestions reinforce disunity and only serve to strengthen Cameron’s argument of a “broken society”, examples including: “land of yobs and morons” and “dipso, fatso, bingo, asbo, Tesco”.
But is this disenchantment and lack of pride present at a local level? What five words would show an affinity with the University of York for instance? As a fresher, I’ve been told the university is a community, comprising both buildings and people. So how would you encompass this community in just five words?