Hypocrisy over St George

Gareth Young
11 June 2008

Gareth Young (Lewes, CEP): In the knowledge that the Scottish Government spends £300,000 a year promoting St Andrew's Day "to help promote our distinctive national identity and attract tourists", it must have been with some embarrassment that Margaret Hodge revealed that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport spent just £230 over the past five years on promoting St George's Day.

As the Daily Mail was only too quick to point out it is yet another example of Government words not matching Government deeds:

This April, Downing Street proudly raised the flag, and Mr Brown's spokesman said: 'The prime minister's view is that of course we should celebrate our Britishness, but celebrating our Britishness does not mean we cannot also celebrate our Englishness, Scottishness, Welshness or Northern Irishness.' Justice Secretary Jack Straw urged the English to reclaim the day from 'bigots'. 'Anyone proud to be English is equally proud of St George and what, down the ages, his myth and his flag have come to represent for this nation within the United Kingdom,' he wrote in the Daily Mail. But yesterday, Margaret Hodge, the culture minister, admitted how little had been spent actually promoting the day.

When asked what discussions the DCMS had with English Heritage over its St George's Day campaign, Margaret Hodge was forced to concede that no discussions had taken place. However, in what can only be described as a display of patriotic fervour, the Department did fly the English flag alongside the Union Flag on 23rd April.

When the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families was asked whether steps were taken to encourage schools to celebrate St George's Day with extra-curricular activities, Jim Knight replied that "the Department did not take any discrete steps to encourage schools to celebrate St George's Day", an attitude that the Scots would find difficult to fathom.

Given that the UK Government is so actively promoting Britishness and Citizenship in England, one has to ask what part they think English identity can play in either.

The stated purpose of the Department for Children, Schools and Families is "to makeEngland the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up". Perhaps they need to look again at the wording of their mission statement.

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