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Cameron mocks 'Britishness' idea

The British Opposition leader, Cameron, has ridiculed a call by Brown for a holiday to celebrate Britishness.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 12:59 IST

The leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party on Thursday ridiculed a call by Labour's Treasury Chief Gordon Brown for a national holiday to celebrate Britishness.

Brown, seen as the natural successor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, proposed in a speech last month that Britain should have a national day to celebrate all that is good in the country. Pointing at the United States, and their Fourth of July celebrations, Brown lamented the fact that Britain did not have a similar national day or a culture of "a flag in every garden."

But Cameron- likely to be his chief adversary at the next general election- said such an idea did not fit the British character. "We are understated. We don't do flags on the front lawn," he said during a speech in London.

Nationality only formed a part of an individual's identity in Britain, where people could feel "multiple patriotism," Cameron said.

"Being a patriotic Welshman does not stop you being a patriotic Briton," he said. "You can be proud of your Afro-Caribbean roots or your Muslim faith, while at the same time being a patriotic Briton."

The Tory leader's comments were proof of his effort to make his party more welcoming to people from Britain's ethnic minority groups, who tend not to be typical Conservative voters. His comments marked a major departure from the traditional view of Conservative perception of nationality, which was symbolized by former chairman Norman Tebbit's 1990 assertion that an immigrant could not truly be British until he cheered on England at cricket, rather than India, Pakistan or the West Indies.

Instead, Cameron said, the British public's calm reaction to the July 7 attack on London's transit system and their generosity following the December26, 2005, tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean were examples of "intrinsically British" behaviour. Cameron said politicians should not try to "institutionalise Britishness" or "claim patriotism for one party or one political tradition."

Cameron, 39, has significantly boosted the Conservative Party's ratings since taking the helm last month. He has spent the early weeks as leader dismantling many of the unfashionable policies his party stood for during their poor election campaign in May, looking to bring the Conservatives closer to the center ground.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 00:00 IST