Danny Finkelstein, on his Times blog, recently invited readers to take part (tongue preferably in cheek) in the Government’s vague quest for a national motto.
Many, many suggestions were made, and a selection appears in today’s paper – including my own: “Promoting ahistorical unity myths since 1066”.
Others I like include: “Less stuffy than we sound”, “Once mighty empire, slightly used”, “We strive for valiant defeat”, “Sorry, is this the queue?” and “Americans who missed the boat”.
I’m pretty sure that every single person in the country knows that this national motto idea is ridiculous anyway (Gordon Brown and Jack Straw included). Invented traditions can work, but I think you need a reasonably deferential, homogenous culture for them to work. We don’t have one of those. So the only way any motto could get any popular traction is if it were already familiar to a lot of us. We’re looking at something in the territory of “A green and pleasant land”, “It’s a free country” or “This precious stone set in the silver sea”.
Actually, I really do like this from Churchill, although it’s not one of his better-known quotes: “The further back I look, the further forward I can see.”
Relatedly, I’m thinking about replacing the strapline at the top of this blog. The current one’s getting a bit tired, I think, and arguably it was never that awake to start with. I’m toying with “Positive, constructive, and focusing on the issues – not like those other bastards”… but any suggestions welcome.