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‘One Britain One Nation’ in schools: what’s all the fuss about?



The Department for Education has been mocked for encouraging schools to take part in a campaign that involves children singing an “anthem” that end with children repeating the line “strong Britain, great nation”.

One Britain One Nation (OBON), which aims to a create a “strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation”, was set up by former police officer Kash Singh, but has close links to Conservative MPs. ‘OBON day 2021’, an event celebrating “pride and unity”, is due to take place on Friday.

So why is the government promoting a previously little-known event, and why has it angered so many people? Or are people just making a fuss about nothing? Here’s what you need to know:

 

1. DfE tweeted campaign support after Tory MP request

On Monday, Conservative MP Philip Davies asked the education secretary if he would “encourage all schools to take part in OBON Day on Friday”?

Gavin Williamson called the project “amazing” and said it was “incredibly important that schools take part”.

He added: “We have already asked schools to participate, and I am happy to reiterate the endorsement of the project from the Dispatch Box and to encourage them to play their part in it.”

The parliamentary session ended just after 3.30pm and the DfE had tweeted its support out at 4pm.

 

2. Pupils ‘must’ sing ‘We are Britain’ anthem

The DfE encouraged schools to take part in the event this Friday. The campaign’s website asks for the “support of your school to celebrate the day in the spirit it is intended”.

Schools are urged to “do the following as a MUST please”: encourage every child to clap for a minute to recognise and pay tribute to all those who helped during Covid and also sing the “OBON Day 2021 anthem”.

The song, titled “We are Britain and we have one dream to unite all people in one Great Team”, was written by school children at St John’s CE Primary School, in Bradford.

Other advice for the day includes dressing children in the colours of the British flag (red, white and blue) and “this theme throughout the school to decorate classrooms etc”.

OBON aims to create a “strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”. The campaigns Twitter feed cites several schools that have signed up.

 

3. Why is it being mocked?

The DfE tweet has had huge interaction: 5.7k shares and another 9.4k comments on Twitter.

While people questioned government support for what was a relatively unknown national campaign, it was the OBON anthem that came in for particular ridicule. The song includes the line “we are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team” and ends with children repeatedly singing “Strong Britain, great na-ation”.

Former NHS trust boss Adrian Bull tweeted it was “awful on many levels … This song would not be out of place in North Korea!”. Others called it “creepy and just plain wrong” and “embarrassing nonsense”.

Some also pointed out that most schools in Scotland will have broken up for the summer holidays by this Friday.

But others have dismissed the outrage. Primary school teacher Solomon Kingsnorth tweeted some of the reaction is “embarrassing. Many reasons to dislike such a damp squib. However, a song written by primary children for an anti-hate organisation run by an Indian migrant & retweeted by a DfE donning pride flag is … far from the Hitler Youth.”

The DfE said it had “not asked people to sing songs or censored any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day”. The department supports the campaign’s “aims to help children learn about equality, kindness and pride, and it is for schools to decide how they teach these important values”.

 

4. Former cop founded campaign for nation to ‘showcase pride’ …

Founder Kash Singh was a former police inspector in Bradford with West Yorkshire Police. He also set up the British Indian Association.

According to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Singh moved to Bradford from the Punjab with his parents at the age of six and joined West Yorkshire Police when he was 20.

He set up OBON in 2013, after he retired, because of a “personal desire to put back into the country that has given him so much”.

The campaign has a vision of creating “a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”, according to its website.

After starting in Bradford and West Yorkshire, Singh now wants to take it nationwide.

He told Times Radio: “This country is a brilliant country. I came to this country as a six-year-old kid who couldn’t speak a word of English. My parents were labourers, they worked in a factory and foundry, and there are fantastic people in this country.

“One of the things that was missing for me was what we need to do, is we need an organisation that the people of this country can align themselves to, to showcase their passion, pride and love for this great nation.”

 

5. … but campaign is closely linked to Tory MPs

The group has some high-profile Conservative politician backers. Speaking in Parliament in 2018, Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns said she and fellow Tory MP Andrew Rosindell launched the “One Britain One Nation all-party group, which will be working with schools to promote pride in our country, and respect, tolerance and inclusion regardless of one’s background”.

A website for the group states its purpose is to “bring people together – regardless of race, religion or background – to celebrate what unites us in being British”.

It also listed then Labour MP John Grogan as an officer. Jenkyns and Rosindell hosted an evening reception with “MPs, ministers and peers” to celebrate formation of the group. Attendees included Jacob Rees-Mogg (see pic below).

However the parliamentary group is not in the latest list of all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs). It was last registered on July 31, 2019. The group is thought to now be “defunct”.

But support for the national day resurfaced recently. Prime minister Boris Johnson backed the campaign in parliament earlier this year. The OBON website lists actress Joanna Lumley as a fan.

 

6. OBON is a Community Interest Company

According to Companies House, OBON is a community interest company (which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders). It was set up in 2013.

Accounts filed this year state the campaign has “had a huge impact in bringing people of all communities and ages together”. It has also “attracted immense positive media attention”.

The accounts state that “all moneys [sic] used to progress the Vision of OBON has been the Directors [sic] own money”.

 



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5 Comments

  1. On the OBON website they state:
    “One Britain One Nation brings us together, not to focus on our differences but to celebrate the values we share: tolerance, kindness, pride, respect, and a tremendous desire to help others.”

    Whilst I appreciate their intent, how it has been presented may have unintentionally conflicted with their proposed objective.

    The lyrics contain the phrase:
    “We’ve opened our doors, and widened our island’s shores” – given the recent turmoil of Brexit and England’s history of colonialism this can be considered quite a controversial statement.

    “So many different races, standing in the same place” – historically the human race was not “split/separated” in the English language until the late 16th century and in the 18th-century “race” was widely used for sorting and ranking of people in the English colonies, essentially for them to separate themselves from those they thought were of lower standing, such as anyone culturally different to them.

    Therefore, it could be argued that the lyrical language used within the song is, by itself, not inclusive or representative of OBON’s main objective.

    Now I understand that it is stated the lyrics were written by school children and given the poor education regarding historical language and the origins of certain terminology, the language used may not be understood in certain circles as perpetuating institutionalised racism.

    It may be time for OBON to enlist a more diverse panel of directors and maybe work with schools to promote and use more inclusive language, and the education of the archaeological and biological representation of the human race, including the promotion of diversity and cultural heritage.

    They could for example address the government’s decisions to whitewash British history that promotes an idealised version of Britain that concentrates on the beginnings or ends of the empire, not on what happened in between. Being ignorant of past mistakes and idolising a violent period of the empire just continues to perpetuate the nationalist racist narrative.

    The OBON could encourage studies and education on archaeological findings of the Evolution of Human Species and the biological role of melanin in the skin:
    Lessons regarding the basics of evolution and the importance of diversity that helps ensure the survival of the human race.

    Overall OBON should be promoting and supporting education to enable children to learn the mistakes of our past, learn new skills for social inclusion. cultural recognition, human decency, fair representation, how Britain has been rebuilt by those of different ethnicities or cultural backgrounds.

    These kinds of things may be appropriate to achieve unity amongst the British people.

    Just a thought.

  2. Christopher Clive Ferrier Smith

    Content apart, it will be same as mandatory uniform, which likewise supposedly has the same ‘bonding and pride-generation’ capacities. Like uniform, there will be no law, just enforceable ‘policy’, encouraged by the Government and almost certainly upheld by the courts……. And that is the last time I watch Joanna Lumley, who used to sell British pucker and class so successfully.

  3. Andy Richardson

    This entire North Korean style propaganda flag waving embarrassment has to be seen for what it is. OBON was set up in 2013.
    Now, what was agreed under The Edinburgh Agreement in 2012, held in 2014…. and will be held again thanks to Brexit???….
    Yes, that’s correct, a Referendum on Scottish Independence.

    OBON is so laughably and embarrassingly North Korean in tone, it is being roundly mocked up here in Scotland where most schools have already broken up for the Summer Holidays and the remaining few who WILL be in tomorrow (for a half day) will not be wasting time with this twaddle.

    Forcing folk (or even trying to persuade them) to sing a pseudo, Nationalistic, Anthem extolling some mythical, friendly, welcoming, (Windrush scandal and dawn raids to deport folk on the whim of the Home Secretary, anyone??) “One Nation” when there are clearly 4 in the UK….
    AND when the date set totally ignores the holiday dates of 1 the 4 that they miss it…. is the biggest own goal from the unionist side since Boris became PM, or Brexit, or EVEL, or The Vow, it’s hard to say really.

    The guy that set OBON up is a tory plant and the innocent kids who wrote the song have been duped and used.
    Tory Government hang your heads in shame, embarrassment, just accept that Scotland is moving towards regaining her Independence with humility, and we will all get along better for it afterwards.

  4. Jack Marshall

    This smacks of brainwashing, particularly in Scotland, where we have a strong drift towards independence. Unity of purpose would be fine as co-operating independent countries but not under the dominance currently exercised by the English majority in Westminster.

  5. christina bohonis

    I find the song offensive on many levels not least because it only refers to ‘Britain’….so excluding Northern Ireland. I would be more impressed if the children knew the words of the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.