The UK Government has supported the campaign by a former Bradford police officer, which calls on school children to celebrate ‘One Britain One Nation Day’ this week by singing the song.
The UK Department for Education said it was “encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June, when children can learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect”.
Retired police inspector Kash Singh said the concept was “born from my dream as a police officer” after coming to the UK as a six-year-old boy who couldn’t speak English.
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He said he set up the campaign in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 2013 after retiring, where it was very successful.
He added: “I think we need to celebrate that and create this spirit of oneness and togetherness, and showcase that we’re all one people of this country regardless of where you’re from.”
However, the idea has been derided by one of the Conservative Party’s own MPs, Caroline Nokes. She retweeted a preview of the OBON song saying: “I can’t unhear this (however fervently I wish I could).”
Actress Joanna Lumley has expressed strong support for the song although Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she first assumed it was a “spoof” when she saw it.
Asked if there were any plans for the anthem to be rolled out in NI, the Northern Ireland Office said: “The Secretary of State believes in the importance of our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect, which are taught and reinforced every single day in schools across Northern Ireland.”
It is understood that although backed by government, it is regarded as an independent campaign and that it is the decision of individual schools as to whether they participate.
Former Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir said he would be supportive of any initiative that helps bind the UK together.
“In such a proposal there is no reason why Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland schools should be excluded, although anything, ultimately, should be on a voluntary basis,” he said.
UUP MLA Rosemary Barton MLA was also positive, assuming the project includes NI. She understood some would not wish to participate but noted that people from all over the world want to live and work in the UK.
“Therefore it is important that everyone should feel part of the society that they live and work in,” she said.
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