One Britain One Nation Day: Leeds MP Fabian Hamilton accusing government of using campaign as smokescreen for 'shameful cuts'
A Leeds MP has accused the Government of using an education campaign by a former police officer as a smokescreen for its "shameful cuts" to schools.
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said the Government should focus on lost learning for children rather than whether pupils should sing a song later this week in support of a campaign that aims to instill pride in Britain.
His remarks came as the Government backed the One Britain One Nation (OBON) Day. It is due to be celebrated in schools on Friday through the singing of a patriotic song.
The campaign was launched by West Yorkshire-based former police inspector Kash Singh. He said he set up the campaign in Bradford in 2013 after retiring from the force the previous year.
Labour MP Mr Hamilton said: "Rather than having discussions and arguing about whether children should sing a song, the focus must be on restoring all the learning our children have lost due to the pandemic.
"After depriving thousands of children in Leeds of free school meals several times in the last year, the Conservative Government should concentrate on reversing its shameful cuts to our schools so they can make up for all the teaching they have missed out on in the last 18 months."
Mr Singh previously said the campaign was "born from a dream as a police officer" after coming to the UK as a six-year-old boy who "couldn’t speak a word of English".
He told Times Radio: "We started the concept in Bradford and West Yorkshire, and it’s been very, very successful indeed, so what we want to look at is taking it across the nation.
"It was something that was born from my dream as a police officer in terms of what I'd see, in terms of my passion, pride and frustration, and something that I feel needed to be done in this country.
"This country is a brilliant country. I came to this country as a six-year-old kid who couldn’t speak a word of English. My parents were labourers, they worked in a factory and foundry, and there are fantastic people in this country."
The Department for Education said it was encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate OBON Day on Friday, so that "children can learn about our shared values of kindness, pride and respect".
A spokeswoman said: "Our schools should promote fundamental British values including tolerance and respect.
"As such, we support One Britain One Nation’s broad aims to help children learn about equality, kindness and pride, and it is for schools to decide how they teach these important values."
The spokeswoman added that the DfE has not asked people to sing songs or endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation Day.
Dr William Allchorn, from the University of Leeds, said: "The problem with OBON and other previous governmental attempts to define Britishness and British values is the vague, colonial, and elite-driven nature of such interventions.
"I wish Kash Singh the best of luck with this initiative but until we have a national conversation about empire and what it means to be British, everyone will be none the wiser."
The OBON website describes its vision as to "create a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people".
A spokesman for Bradford Council said: "The initiative seems to have suddenly become more controversial this year and my first thought, as always, is with the children who are inadvertently at the centre of this.
"I’d ask that whatever comments people make, they think of these children first.
"I’m sure all of us would agree that the ambition of promoting respect and understanding for each other is important but this latest initiative is running the risk of countering the very aims that the founder set out, which I’m sure was not intended."