Goodbye 'God Save the Queen?' UK debates new England anthem

LONDON (AP) Will England bid goodbye to ''God Save the Queen?''

British lawmakers agreed Wednesday to consider replacing the royalist song that serves as England's anthem at sporting events.

''God Save the Queen'' is the national anthem of the United Kingdom - made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - and is played at the Olympics and other events where the U.K. fields a single team.

At contests where the four areas compete separately, such as the soccer World Cup, England and Northern Ireland generally use ''God Save the Queen,'' but Scotland and Wales have their own official songs - ''Flower of Scotland'' and ''Land of My Fathers.''

Labour Party lawmaker Toby Perkins said adopting an English anthem would ''re-establish the idea that the United Kingdom is a union of four separate nations with their own identities.''

Perkins told the House of Commons that said ''Jerusalem,'' regarded by many as England's unofficial anthem, was the most obvious choice. The song, whose words are by mystical 18th-century poet William Blake, vows to transform a country of ''dark satanic mills'' into a ''green and pleasant land'' like the ancient England that, legend says, was once visited by Jesus Christ.

Opposing the motion, traditionalist Conservative legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg said an English anthem would divide Britain by encouraging ''individual nationalism.''

''What greater pleasure can there be for a true-born Englishman or true-born Englishwoman than to listen to our own national anthem -a national anthem for our whole country, our whole United Kingdom,'' Rees-Mogg said.

Under Perkins' proposed change, ''God Save the Queen'' would continue to be sung at British team events. Northern Ireland could either stick with the status quo or choose its own anthem.

Lawmakers agreed to hold a full House of Commons debate in March on Perkins' bill, which calls on the government to consult the public on a new anthem.

Perkins said his own canvassing had produced suggestions including ''Land Of Hope And Glory,'' ''There'll Always Be An England'' - and even ''Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'' by The Smiths.

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This story has been corrected to remove a reference to Northern Ireland competing in the rugby World Cup. Northern Ireland and Ireland field a single team in the competition.

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