British treasury chief Gordon Brown said Saturday that Britons should be more patriotic and openly celebrate their nation's history, achievements and culture. "Think for a moment: what is the British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July, or even the French 14th of July for that matter?" said Brown, the heir-apparent to Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a speech to the Labour Party's Fabian Society.
"What I mean is: what is our equivalent for the national celebration of who we are and what we stand for? And what is our equivalent of the national symbolism of a flag in every garden?" He said Britain celebrates holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday to honor its war dead, but that maybe it needs a holiday designed to show pride in the country's history of unity, liberty and fairness. Blair is expected to turn over the leadership of the Labour Party to Brown before Britain's next national election, and the finance minister's speech appeared to be another example of his playing a more prominent role in speaking for the governing party on a range of issues that go beyond his management of the economy. Brown urged Britons to show the patriotism that many of them feel about their country's long-standing tolerance, responsibility and fairness.
"Just as in wartime a sense of common patriotic purpose inspired people to do what is necessary, so in peacetime a strong modern sense of patriotism and patriotic purpose which binds people together can motivate and inspire," he said. Brown said leftists within his own Labour Party once recoiled from patriotism, seeing it as a distrustful sign of right-wing conservatism. But, he said, "Our party should feel pride in a British patriotism and patriotic purpose founded on liberty for all, responsibility by all, and fairness to all."
Such patriotism is especially important as Britain joins other countries around the world in sacrificing some of its freedoms to increase security at home during the global war on terrorism, Brown said. Blair has promised to step down as Labour Party leader before the next national election. The Labour government does not have to call a national election until 2010, but it has the option of doing so earlier, and many analysts believe that Brown will take over as the party leader and its candidate as prime minister before then.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, a friend of Blair's, said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. TV Thursday night that he would be prepared to support Blair as the next secretary-general of the United Nations. Clinton said Blair would make a "good" head for the international organization. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's term in office ends on Dec. 31, reports the AP. N.U.