Why A British National Day?

Communities minister Ruth Kelly and Immigration minister Liam Byrne, have decided that it would be a good idea to celebrate British identity by having a National British Day, writes Chris Gaynor.

Forgive me if I reach out for the bucket, but when the humbug minister Kelly, said that, 'we have to recognise what's distinctive about being British,' I cannot help fell a slight nauseating feeling come over me from this so called 'gesture' politics that has been a key feature of New Labour over the past decade.

A pamphlet on the subject written for the Fabian society, writes: 'We live in the shadow of two forms of extremism which threaten to cut some small groups adrift from society.'

And Kelly has gone further in her comments by announcing that Immigrants who wish to settle here must learn the lingo. Not to mention the Deputy leader contender Hazel Blears putting her foot in it by claiming that immigrants in her Salford constituency hang about on street corners drinking and being unruly.

But what are we celebrating exactly, and why now? Kelly's idea of Britishness is to shun the state education system, and shift her son into the public school sector because she feels that his needs will be suited there. That is very British. Very New Labour.

I seem to remember that the PM in waiting Gordon Brown, dreamt up this idea of Britishness a few months ago, if not in such detailed form.

So, yet again another public holiday is proposed. Yippee...Bring out the Champers...well, maybe not. Since St George is not overtly celebrated in this part of our England, nor indeed do the Scot's celebrate St Andrew's Day, but the leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond has called for one.

And yet when it comes to celebrating our footballers in the World Cup, or European Championships, the British nations happily field teams which show us going our separate ways.

Why can we not just celebrate St George's Day? Since New Labour have decided to carve up the United Kingdom through devolution, how can having another bank holiday possibly unite the four nations of this country when Labour have done their utmost to change the political map of Britain?

I know what this is all about. This is 'gesture' politics from Kelly and co. This is their way of reaching out to the millions who have shunned New Labour , who feel swamped by immigration, upset by breakdown in communities, and disgusted at the carving up of the UK.

But Kelly disagrees. She said: 'Our task in Britain, in the coming decade, is not to plan a separation, Nor can it be about the assimilation into a mono-culture. Instead we must develop a meaningful sense of what we all - whatever faith, ethnicity and wherever in Britain we are from - hold in common.'

Another public holiday will solve this? Don't get me wrong, I am patriotic, but we have to ask will this government proposal affect Britain's global competitiveness?

The Confederation of British Industry seem to think so.

Neil Carberry, CBI Head of Employment, said: 'Business understands the reasons behind the government's proposals, but an existing bank holiday could be used to celebrate Britishness.'

We already have eight public holidays including Easter and Christmas.

'Employers are already footing the  £4.4bn cost of increasing holiday entitlement from 20 to 28 days over the next two years and a further increase in cost would be damaging to competitiveness,' Carberry added.

Cynics believe that New Labour shurk the real issues and use Britishness as a smokescreen.

Daily Mail columnist Andrew Roberts, said: 'Whenever Labour feels a potential voter backlash over its decade long campaign against the integrity of the United Kingdom, it quite deliberately and cynically opens up a debate about Britishness, hoping to seem patriotic.'

But Independent businesswoman, Martha Lane Fox does not think that the problem of national identity lies not with the problems of immigration and community relations.

She said: 'I think having a multi cultural Britain is something worth preserving, throughout the UK . The bigger issue is making sure our public services are good, healthcare is eefective, housing adequate, and transport reliable. These are all achieveable.' But how?

Should we scrap the British Day idea? And wave the St Georges flag instead? The-Latest would like to hear your views on the subject.