- ‘One Britain One Nation’ (OBON) Day is an initiative by One Britain One Nation, a Community Interest Company (CIC) set up in 2013 by Kash Singh. The purpose of OBON Day is to promote pride in the United Kingdom (UK) and to promote unity between the many different groups that constitute the British people. OBON Day is on the 25th June, with a coordinated singing of a special song, written by children, at 10:00.
- OBON’s aims are laudable; the organisation seeks to promote responsible and engaged citizenship in Britain’s youth, so that they will become proud and active members of British society. It also seeks to acknowledge and include the many diverse communities across the UK to create a more integrated British identity.
- OBON have a wide range of support from multiple faiths and political parties, including several bishops from the Church of England and representatives from the Muslim faith, and a broad coalition from across the House of Lords.
- Although this celebration is not controversial in itself and the day has been celebrated each June since 2018, a degree of controversy has arisen from its promotion by the Department for Education. Part of OBON Day is the coordinated singing of a song written by children celebrating the British union and the unity of the British people. This has been seen by various members of the press as a continuation of the ‘culture war’, in which opposing sides seek to subsume British culture into their own idea of ‘correct’ culture.
- The origins of the Department for Education’s support for this event stem from Esther Mcvey MP, who asked Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to congratulate OBON on the 14th April 2021. The prime minister confirmed his support for OBON Day, as did Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, when asked by Ed Davy MP on 21st June. The department only has competency over schools in England as this is an issue devolved to the national parliaments and assemblies.
- Particular criticism has been given over the fact that many schools across Scotland will not be open on 25th June, having already closed for the summer holiday period. Although the Department for Education has no control over the timings of OBON Day, it is unfortunate that even if certain schools in Scotland had wished to take part, they would have been unable. For example children in schools run by Glasgow City Council will start their summer holidays at 13:00 on 24th June, and as such will be unable to partake at a school level.
- Although it is right that Her Majesty’s Government promotes unity – even patriotism – at the UK level, it should be done with care and sophistication. With this in mind, HM Government would do well to:
- Create a national holiday – similarly to other free and open countries in Europe, North America and Australasia – to celebrate the UK’s sovereignty and achievements, as well as the open and democratic political culture for which the country is revered. As the UK transitions from an ‘organic’ to a ‘civic’ nation, it needs to adapt and evolve;
- Increase education about the rights and responsibilities that come with British citizenship to enhance unity and patriotic sentiment at the UK-level. Education has long been proposed as a solution to low youth turnout at elections, and falling political party membership. Increased engagement with the British body politic would promote pride in British citizenship and strengthen the democratic union;
- Guard British institutions from politicisation. The so-called ‘culture war’, raging between ‘woke’ activists and reactionary conservatives, is only serving to undermine the integrity and independence of key institutions, such as the judiciary, the universities, and the press. While it is right that the UK should not assume these institutions are impervious to corruption, to undermine the institutions as a whole in search of the corrupt damages the trust the country has in these institutions. The pervasive nature of this culture war means that no institution is safe from vilification by one side, or hero worship by the other. It is important that any bias be rooted out and censured.
John Dobson is Policy Relations and Events Coordinator at the Council on Geostrategy
This publication should not be considered in any way to constitute advice. It is for knowledge and educational purposes only. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Geostrategy or the views of its Advisory Council.