- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LONDON | The British government has decided that patriotism is no holiday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s government has scrapped a proposal for a new public holiday to celebrate Britishness, one of a series of ideas intended to promote social cohesion and combat extremism.

Britain Day” has been championed by Mr. Brown and was proposed in a government-commissioned report earlier this year. But Constitution Minister Michael Wills told lawmakers in a written statement to Parliament last week that “there are no plans to introduce a national day at the present time.”

The Ministry of Justice said Monday that the government had never definitely committed to the new holiday.

But it has been a favorite theme for Mr. Brown, who first raised the idea in 2006 when he was the country’s Treasury chief. Mr. Brown said Britain lacked a day celebrating “who we are and what we stand for” and pointed to the Fourth of July and France’s Bastille Day as examples of holidays celebrating their country’s spirit.

Unlike the United States and many European countries, the United Kingdom has no official national day, although the countries that make up Britain do - Wales marks St. David’s Day on March 1, England St. George’s Day on April 23, and Scotland St. Andrew’s Day on Nov. 30. But these are not widely celebrated, and none is a mandatory public holiday.

Mr. Brown’s left-of-center Labor Party has traditionally shied away from displays of patriotism. But since the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings, during which British-bred suicide bombers killed 52 commuters, ministers have grappled with ways of encouraging cohesion in an increasingly diverse, sometimes fractious country being reshaped by new waves of immigration.

British unity also has been assailed by increasing cultural assertiveness in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have gained devolved political power over the past decade.

The main opposition Conservatives, long considered the party of heritage and tradition, are unenthusiastic about the Labor initiative.

“Labor still hasn’t worked out that British identity is bound up in our institutions, culture and history,” said Conservative justice spokesman Nick Herbert. “It can’t be remanufactured by their spin doctors.”

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