British pledge gets mixed reactions

The British prime minister believes a pledge of allegiance would bolster unity.

.LONDON (AP) – The idea sounds simple: Build British pride with a new pledge of allegiance, a new national holiday and citizenship ceremonies for children and immigrants.

But the proposal Tuesday from a government panel calling for the introduction of American-style patriotic rituals raises thorny questions in the sometimes fractious United Kingdom.

Are people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who seek more independence eager to pledge allegiance to a united country? Will republicans who want to end Britain’s monarchy offer undying devotion to queen and country?

And does Britain really need to embrace the American way? This is a country where Americans’ flag-waving tendencies are usually lightly ridiculed, not emulated.

A government-commissioned committee said an oath of allegiance and citizenship ceremony like those already instituted for new citizens should also be required for young Britons as a way to boost pride in country and mark the transition to adulthood.

Unlike in the U.S., where many children start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance, the British pledge is envisioned as a one-time event.

The report also urged that Britain adopt a national holiday for celebrating the United Kingdom’s shared heritage and citizenship, saying it should start in 2012, when London hosts the Olympics.

The initial response to the pledge proposal, part of a report requested by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, suggested a tough road ahead for his campaign to emphasize British pride and British achievement – a constant theme of his first year in office.

“It’s another foolish attempt to ape an American practice that is generally mocked,” said Paul Flynn, a Labour Party member of Parliament from Wales. “This is part of a fascination with America. But the adoration of the national flag in America strikes us as a bit eccentric and foolish.”

He said the proposal will fall flat in Wales and Scotland, where many people want to break free of control by the central government, as well as with those opposed to the monarchy.

“It’s a nonstarter,” he said.

The prime minister’s spokesman, Michael Ellam, was noncommittal about the substance of the 138-page report, “Citizenship: Our Common Bond,” which was produced by a committee led by a former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.

“It seems to have sparked quite a lively debate and no doubt there will be discussion and debate about this, going forward,” Ellam said.

But he stressed that Brown believes more must be done to “entrench the notion of Britishness.”

Goldsmith’s report did not propose specific wording for a pledge of allegiance, and he said it would not have to specifically mention loyalty to the monarch.