Mike Rowbottom

As the second reading of the Bill to provide an English National Anthem looms in the House of Commons – March 4, last chance to post your Mother’s Day card if you’d forgotten – the indications are that the suggestion of Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins will be taken up.

Bookmakers Star Sports, for instance, have a Yes vote for an official English variant to the all-encompassing God Save The Queen at 2/1, with No at 4/11.

Should the proposed new anthem – “for use at sporting events that involve individuals or teams representing England; and for connected purposes” – get the go-ahead, it is not yet clear how any choice would be made.

There is a template to hand, of course – the method employed only last September by Switzerland, which decided to replace its national anthem of the Swiss Psalm, an 1841 poem by Leonhard Widmer put to music in the same year by Alberich Zwyssig and officially adopted in 1981.

The reasons for change included the fact that most Swiss didn’t know all, or even most of the words of the Swiss Psalm, which went on a lot about God. Also cited was the fact that no-one in Switzerland particularly liked it. So it’s fair to say there are some parallels here.

Strange to relate, the Swiss Psalm – which was so overwhelmingly none-too-popular that it had to spend 20 years with the Anthemic version of a provisional drivers’ licence before being officially adopted – replaced an original national anthem introduced at the end of the 19th century. Which featured lyrics set to the tune of God Save The Queen.

Now some might see this as evidencing a hideous lack of imagination. You know who you are.

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England's rugby union players belt out God Save The Queen in last month's RBS Six Nations match in Italy. Soon they could be singing a different tune ©Getty Images

As you might expect, this melodic mimesis led to some confusion when the two nations met in a sporting context. Cue Swiss Psalm.

But back to the template. Excitingly, more than 200 submissions were received by a judging panel comprising, among others, a slam poet, a professional yodeller and a Professor of Theology. God knows what he was there for.

A little less excitingly, seven selections were reduced to three finalists, and then an eventual winner, by the great Swiss public, either online or via text. So no X-Factor approach, despite all the chat.

And a little less excitingly than that, two of the final three contenders featured new words to the old anthem.

Of course, the Sex Pistols took a similar approach to this as far back as 1977. But the fresh version of God Save The Queen produced by John Lydon and Co to mark the Silver Jubilee has never really been embraced by the wider British public.

Anyway, back in Switzerland, one of the revamped anthems won. Unimaginative? You may think so.

To be fair, looking at the bookies’ list of potential songs to become the first official English National Anthem, it appears likely that another unimaginative choice is in the offing.

Some of the entries are, frankly, inexplicable. At 80/1, Green, Green Grass of Home – written by Claude “Curly” Putman Jr. of Jackson County, Alabama, and made most famous by that product of the Welsh valleys, Tom Jones.

Bohemian Rhapsody, at 66/1. “Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead…” You can just picture the England rugby team belting that one at Twickenham, can’t you?

The usual suspects are grouped in the upper echelon – Rule Britannia at 12/1, There’ll Always Be An England at 5/1, Land of Hope and Glory at 3/1, and clear favourite at evens, Jerusalem.

Should the latter prevail, through whatever means, it will sit very happily with Paul Blanchard, chief executive of Commonwealth Games England, which has used Land of Hope and Glory for podium presentations at past Games, but switched to Jerusalem for Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.

The Sex Pistols produced a new version of God Save The Queen to mark the Silver Jubilee in 1977, but their version has not been embraced by the Great British Public ©Getty Images
The Sex Pistols produced a new version of God Save The Queen to mark the Silver Jubilee in 1977, but their version has not been embraced by the Great British Public ©Getty Images

“Obviously we would be very comfortable if Jerusalem turns out to be the new anthem, because we are already there,” he told me this week. “But we think that having an English anthem is almost more important than what the anthem actually is.”

That statement is unlikely to be put to any strenuous test. Always Look On The Bright Side of Life is at 1000/1, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now is at 5000/1 and Vindaloo (“Where on earth are you from? We're from England. Where you come from? Do you put the kettle on?”) is at 10000/1.

A similar debate is bubbling away Down Under, as New Zealand considers changing both its flag – which contains too many references to a colonial past for some – and its national anthem, which has been described by the country’s Labour leader Andrew Little as “a dirge”.

Coincidentally, it was New Zealand which provoked the first singing of a national anthem before a sporting contest. In 1905, on the All Blacks’ first tour of the UK, the Welsh crowd – led by its team – responded to the traditional haka by singing Land of My Fathers.

This suggests another possible route for those espousing a more English national anthem. In this era of renascent patriotic feeling, why not take the opportunity to introduce a national dance for England’s sporting teams? The Twist, at 5000/1. The Birdie Song dance 1000/1. David Brent on Comic Relief Day in The Office 750/1. Torvill and Dean’s Bolero 50/1. David Byrne, Stop Making Sense 25/1. The list could go on…