I didn’t sign it.
Not because I have any affection for the dreary, dispiriting dirge that has served in that role since 1745, when the Hanoverian regime of the German-born George II was under glamorous threat from Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite rebellion.
And not because I feel anything resembling loyalty towards the family whose ageing matriarch we are supposed to desire “long to reign over us”. As if the kingdom, united or otherwise, had not long since become – in theory at least – a democracy.
Who voted the family formerly known as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha into residency in Buckingham Palace? It wasn’t me, guv.
So, on the basis of “no taxation (or compulsory singing) without representation”, I refuse to pledge fealty. Nothing personal, but I feel no more attachment to Mr and Mrs Windsor of London SW1A 1AA than I do to, say, Mr and Mrs Jenkins of Dereham Road.
I sympathise entirely with Jeremy Corbyn over last week’s most contrived controversy. I myself once received dog’s abuse from those around me for failing to stand when the anthem was played before an ice hockey game I was reporting on.
That was decades ago, when I was younger and more foolish. These days I’m more likely to do as Corbyn did – and as many footballers do – stand in dignified silence while others sing, or pretend to.
The Parliamentary petitions website says the Government “will respond” to any petition that attracts 10,000 signatures. And that one with 100,000 signatures “will be considered for debate in Parliament”.
Will be considered. Whoopee.
It all suggests that the whole process is a way of giving citizens the illusion of participation. A way of defusing criticism. A neatly mapped road to political nowhere.
I have signed petitions of this kind. Those organised by pressure groups such as 38 Degrees and Sum Of Us may even occasionally have done some good.
But I fear that the more there are, the less chance each one has of being taken seriously.
And frankly there are more important issues right now than what song people sing (or don’t sing) at sporting occasions (or memorial services).
Like how we should respond to the biggest mass migration Europe has seen since the immediate aftermath of World War II.
Like how best to counter the threat posed by ISIS, in the Middle East and beyond.
Like whether we should countenance the building of more nuclear power stations, submarines and warheads.
Like the potential trashing of green-belt land for “executive housing” while the real need to house those of lesser means goes unmet.
Like whether HS2 is the best way to spend billions updating Britain’s railways.
Like the use of “austerity” as a device for redistributing wealth to the already wealthy.
I could go on. Trust me, I will.
Meantime, there’s one more reason why I didn’t put my name to that petition.
I do quite enjoy the cheery, violence-glamorising French anthem, La Marseillaise. And I don’t mind joining in a rousing singalong of that gorgeous tune Jerusalem, which seems to be most people’s preferred alternative anthem.
But I don’t think we need a new national anthem. I don’t think the UK, or any country, needs a national anthem at all.
Because I think the very idea of nations is a rotten bad idea. One that has arguably caused even more brutality, war and suffering than religion.
I don’t expect to see the day when humankind abandons the idea of dividing itself up into nations. But that day will come. And the sooner it does, the better for all who are around at the time.
I don’t suppose scrapping anthems – or just letting them wither away – will go very far towards advancing that day. But it might be a start, if only a small one.
Meanwhile, the last time I looked that petition had just under 8,000 signatures to go to qualify for a government response. You can just imagine what that response will be.
Shocking violence of the insurgency
“Observers were stunned by the insurgents’ violence. By the time they reached the city, they had already acquired a fearsome reputation, but never anything like this massacre… In horror it was reported that they did not spare the elderly, the women, or the sick.”
Those words are from a book by Christopher Tyerman, out this month. It’s not about ISIS, though you might have thought so.
It suggests “shock and awe” of the sort US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised of the invasion which ended up creating the conditions for ISIS to emerge.
Or of the type perpetrated in the same region in ancient times by the Assyrians whose monuments ISIS has set about destroying.
In fact the savage insurgents described called themselves Christians. They were the Crusaders whose conquering of the “Holy Land” set a new low for medieval butchery.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing in the latest London Review of Books, draws the parallel between ISIS today and Richard the Lionheart’s 12th-century rampaging. He concludes with reassuring words about the Crusades’ ultimate failure.
Trouble is, that’s a historian’s perspective. From first massacre to last, the Kingdom of Jerusalem endured almost 200 years.