15 Jul 2012

Should Jerusalem be England’s national anthem?

David Cameron suggests the hymn Jerusalem should replace God Save the Queen as the anthem for England’s sports teams.

The Prime Minister told a group of young Tory activists at Downing Street that he sympathised with those who feel that England should have its own song, as Scotland and Wales do.

Currently, most England teams line up to God Save The Queen, but teams representing Scotland and Wales sing Flower Of Scotland or Land Of My Fathers.

God Save the Queen is the national anthem for the United Kingdom as well as a number of other Commonwealth countries and Crown Dependencies.

But a campaign for England to have its own anthem at sporting events was launched by the think-tank British Future earlier this year.

Until 2010, Land Of Hope And Glory was used as the anthem when English athletes won gold medals at Commonwealth Games.

But this was switched to Jerusalem for the 2010 games in New Delhi after the hymn was chosen in a poll launched by the Commonwealth Games Council for England.

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland has now tabled a parliamentary motion arguing that the anthem campaign can be won in time for the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil.

The choir of St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street performed Jerusalem for Channel 4 News.

Director of music Robert Jones backed Mr Cameron’s praise for the hymn, saying: “I think it’s a great hymn. We have it frequently here for memorial services and weddings and it always goes with a very rousing swing, as it did just then, so I think it’s a very fine idea.”

Jerusalem is based on a short poem written by William Blake in 1804. The verses were not given the title Jerusalem until they were set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.

Some of Blake’s phrases have entered the language: the description of “England’s green and pleasant land”, his echo of the Biblical phrase “chariots of fire” and the “dark Satanic Mills” – often presumed to be a reference to the Industrial Revolution.

Sir Hubert’s hymn was composed as an attempt to stiffen morale in the depths of the First World War, but scholars disagree about whether Blake intended any patriotic meaning.

The hymn has been embraced by both left- and right-wing politicians over the years. It is has been associated with the Labour Party for many years, but the far-right British National Party have attempted to adopt it as an anthem in more recent times.