UK drops idea for 'Britain Day'

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27 October 2008


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The Canadian Press is reporting that the United Kingdom is dropping plans for a 'Britain Day' public holiday that would promote social cohesion.

"Britain Day" has long been championed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a way of combating extremism and promoting shared values between British citizens. The idea went as far as being proposed in a government-commissioned report earlier in the year.

However, Constitution Minister Michael Wills told the Commons in a written statement on 27 October 2008 that "there are no plans to introduce a national day at the present time."

Brown first raised the idea of Britain Day back in 2006 when he was head of the nation's Treasury, complaining that the UK did not have a holiday similar to the Fourth of July in the United States or Bastille Day in France.

Increased immigration and Britain's battle against extremism have brought the topic of citizenship to the forefront of political discourse during the last few years.

Since the 7 July 2005 bombings by British-born suicide bombers, ministers have been thinking of ways to promote social cohesion in an increasingly multicultural society.

Even before that, efforts were put forth by the government to try and better integrate immigrants; for example citizenship ceremonies and the Life in the UK test were introduced for migrants who wish to become British citizens.

In a government-commissioned report on citizenship, released in early 2008, a pledge of allegiance and citizenship was suggested for school children, something that is common in countries such as the United States. They also recommended a new national holiday "focused on ideas about shared citizenship."

However, the Conservatives opposed the idea, even though they are generally thought of as being more nationalistic than Labour.

"Labour still hasn't worked out that British identity is bound up in our institutions, culture and history," said Conservative justice spokesman Nick Herbert.

"It can't be remanufactured by their spin doctors," he added.