The former police inspector behind One Britain One Nation (OBON) Day has said prominent critics of the anthem sung in schools should reflect “with shame” on their stance.
Kash Singh was speaking on Friday at Carlton Bolling College in West Yorkshire, where he watched as a group of Year 7 students, limited due to Covid restrictions, sang the OBON song in the school hall.
The anthem was written by children at St John’s CE Primary School in Bradford, and is being sung by youngsters at different schools around the UK.
The song, which begins “We are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team”, attracted some criticism and ridicule after the Department for Education (DfE) supported schools marking OBON Day.
Asked if he was disappointed by the critics, Mr Singh said: “So, I understand, but I don’t understand and I cannot accept that people with a profile, people with a personality, people who are known and respected, humiliate and undermine seven, eight, nine-year-old kids singing a wonderful song, regardless of whether the words are this or that.
“You’ve got to look at the sincere intention.
“Disappointed, but that’s their problem, not the problem of children, and not the problem of the school. And it’s something they need to reflect on with shame.”
Mr Singh said: “I’m so proud of that school and I think everybody in the country needs to be proud that the school is bringing about kids who have that kind of mindset.”
He said: “It’s their words. Those kids are not connected with any form of politics or nothing.
“They are innocent souls. All they want to do is spread the message of unity and pride.
“I’ve watched 300 or 400 kids singing that song. In my whole career in the police I’d never seen anything like that. The passion, the love, the sincere intentions.”
Mr Singh, who said he came to Britain as a six-year-old speaking no English, founded the One Britain One Nation organisation in 2013 after he left the police in 2012.
He said “It’s about giving every child a strong sense of belonging, that this is their country.
“They can achieve anything that they so desire. It’s about inspiring them with confidence and hope.”
The former officer said: “I don’t think any individual deserves to be subject of any form of hate.
“I wanted to do something. I wanted to put something back into a country that’s given me so much in order to eliminate this but celebrate this wonderful country that’s welcomed people from all parts of the world.”
Mr Singh said OBON Day last year was curtailed due to the pandemic and he thought this year’s celebrations were inspiring despite not being able to have large groups singing together.
He said: “This year normally you would see 1,000 kids outside and you would have parents here and people from the community, all with one purpose.”
He said the theme this year was “respect”, with a focus on thanking everyone who helped the country through the pandemic.
All the children at Carlton Bolling College joined him for a minute’s clapping to thank key workers from their classrooms.
Mr Singh said: ““This is not a Government initiative, this is not a DfE initiative, and I think that’s where people have got it wrong.”
Some on social media likened the song to something children might experience in North Korea, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she first assumed the UK Government’s backing for the idea was a “spoof”.
The DfE said it was encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate OBON Day on Friday, so “children can learn about our shared values of kindness, pride and respect”.
But No 10 said the department had not asked anyone to sing songs.
Mr Singh launched OBON Day 2021 earlier this week at St John’s CE Primary School with married Tory MPs Philip Davies and Esther McVey.