A motto for Britain

Talk is going around about a motto for Britain - apparently Mr Brown welcomes a debate about a motto and the BBC News Magazine is looking for suggestions. The best option is, I think, not to have a motto. The United Kingdom is the only country that I can think of, now that the USSR no longer exists, that doesn't use the geographical name for itself - France, Germany, Turks and Caicos and so on. I know that technically it's 'the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland', but no-one really calls it that. It'd be nice to keep with that idiosyncrasy.

One of the most famous national mottoes is France's liberté, égalité, fraternité. It was introduced at the time of the French Revolution as a way of setting the new regime apart from the old. Herein lies the problem in choosing a motto: why now? There has been no revolution, no great change and we've been plodding along for some time now without a motto. It is an attempt to create a 'new Britishness' that is simply not there to be created and would, I think, annoy one set of people if it were too 'politically correct' and annoy another set if it were too 'patriotic'.

Equally, it would be very hard to come up with something worth having. I don't think that "liberté, égalité, fraternité" would be opposed by many people nowadays but it was (literally) revolutionary at the time it was coined. How do you sum up a state made up of four states, one of which might leave and one of which might join another country, that, having had just about everyone in Europe invade it at one time or another, is the original mongrel nation?


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