I was on the Nolan radio show earlier in the week discussing a bizarre idea. You’ll know it’s bizarre when I tell you that it came from Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford. Not that Jim has shown originality with this idea - the primary sponsor of Early Day Motion 624 is a Tory MP called Andrew Rosindell, with Jim and Nigel Dodds and a couple of others adding their hear-hears as ordinary sponsors.
So what is this Early Day Motion 624? It is - maybe sit down first before I say - it is to bring back the playing of God Save The Queen on television. You think that sounds like some sort of weird Halloween prank? Or a Captain Mainwaring suggestion as part of a campaign to bring back Dad’s Army? I’m afraid not. Jim is deadly serious. He figures it’ll help restore respect and pride in being British. This despite the fact that a poll of the English people by the YouGov website found that two-thirds didn’t like God Save The Queen and considered it “a dreary dirge”.
I remember when people here had pride in being British. Or at least in standing to attention, ramrod straight, for the playing of God Save The Queen. It would happen at the end of every film-showing in the County Cinema, Omagh in the 1950s. Half the audience would show ramrod pride, the other half (sometimes known as ‘the anthem sprinters’) would leap behind, in front of and sometimes over the ramrods in an attempt to get out of the cinema, perhaps because they didn’t get the connection between John Wayne or Jane Russell and Her Majesty The Queen. Scuffles occasionally broke out between competing loyalties.
So if Jim was looking for a wheeze which would deepen division in the souls of people here, he’s onto a good one. Mind you he always was a free thinker, our Jim. The man once voted ‘Least sexy MP’ went in November 2007 to Argentina. When he got there he shot doves. A lot of doves. How many he wouldn’t say but the estimates were around 9,000. What did he do with the dead doves? He ate them. Not all of them, of course. Perhaps he dispersed the dead peace birds among the deserving poor of Buenos Aires. But he definitely shot them.
The issue of when to play God Save The Queen on the telly came up. The best answer apparently is the point where normal BBC turns into BBC News 24. No, Virginia, I have no idea when that is - certainly past my bed-time and, come to think of it, most of the population. Still, I like to think that should Early Day Motion 624 ever be passed, somewhere down in the heart of Strangford, while the rest of the world sleeps, one ramrod figure will stand to attention, maybe even giving his screen a solemn salute. Poignant, I call it. The unsexy man who shot and ate peace birds, bolt upright before Her Majesty.