I WROTE last month that the Tories were insisting on using our schools as the battleground to fight their culture wars. Well, since then they have decided to ramp this up yet further.
First, they declared that, contrary to popular belief, the cause of white British boys falling behind their peers is not a decade of austerity, the decimation of working-class communities and the chronic underfunding of the education system — it is in fact the fault of the lefty Marxist woke brigade and their “politically controversial language.”
Using the phrase “white privilege,” insists the education select committee in a report, is the reason for the attainment gap between working-class white boys and those from other ethnic groups — not the systematic neglect of large swathes of our population by successive right-wing governments.
Festooned with union flags like Boris Johnson on a sagging zipwire and heralded by the dulcet tones of the children at St John’s CE Primary School in Bradford singing the Obon Day 2021 anthem, comes the very bizarre One Britain One Nation campaign.
According to its website, the One Britain One Nation campaign aims to “provide an organisation/body through which all citizens of Great Britain can openly declare, demonstrate and celebrate their passion, pride and allegiance towards our nation” and “to encourage and facilitate the existence of a national day to celebrate and promote a sense of national solidarity, allegiance and respect for our great nation and all its people to enhance the image of our nation.” Not at all sinister.
Reading the testimonials page of its website is eye-opening.
Various celebs and reactionary politicians give glowing endorsements, such as Lord Tebbit telling us that “we all accept an over-riding common loyalty” and Brandon Lewis MP commenting that “the union flag is a powerful symbol of our national identity.”
Immediate parallels have been drawn with 1930s Germany with people commenting on how “One Nation One Britain” is eerily reminiscent of Ein Reich and Ein Volk.
Obon Day has in fact been going for a while. The website shows a number of campaigns over the past few years celebrating such diverse events as the birth of a royal baby to the birthday of another.
The current government has latched onto this company, run by former police officer Kash Singh, in a desperate attempt to try and generate a surge of patriotism.
This has been fairly constant over the past year or so as Boris Johnson tries his best to appear as something more than a Poundshop Churchill.
The start of the pandemic saw constant invocation of WWII imagery, including the Queen addressing the nation and being forced to quote Vera Lynn live on TV.
This could all be forgiven as “Tories being Tories” if it wasn’t for the Education Secretary and the Department for Indoctrination — sorry, Education — “encouraging” schools across Britain to celebrate this made-up day with the singing of the Obon anthem and clapping for those who helped out during the pandemic.
And there was me thinking we were done with all the clapping.
We are told it is a day where children can learn about our shared values of tolerance and kindness.
Well, that sounds OK, but it’s a bit rich from the party that brought us the Windrush deportations and Go Home vans.
The song we should all sing is a banger, by the way. It contains such inspiring phrases as:
We are Britain and we have one dream
To unite all people in one great team.
Republicans in the North of Ireland will perhaps be happy their region has been left out of this verse, though Scots may be not so happy that they are included.
Our nation survived through many storms and many wars
We’ve opened our doors, and widened our island’s shores.
I’m not really sure what this verse means. As a geography teacher the process of widening the shores is a mystery to me. It is either a metaphor for colonialism or a comment on coastline sea defences.
The song/anthem ends with a rousing: “Strong Britain, Great Nation.”
But with five million children living in poverty, precarious work on the rise and a soaring cost of living, our children may struggle to understand what is so strong and great about the Britain they live in.
Maybe that is why this phrase has to be repeated at least four times.