'I love this country and I want to celebrate it', says Bradford's 'One Britain One Nation' founder Kash Singh

"Last week was hell," says former West Yorkshire Police Inspector Kash Singh, reflecting on a few days when the organisation he set up to celebrate pride in being British was forced into the glare of the media spotlight for reasons he never could have predicted.

One Britain One Nation (OBON), a campaign he founded to create "a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people", had been going from strength to strength since its inception in 2013.

His bid to make the last Friday in June OBON day in schools was backed by the Department for Education (DfE), with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson calling the project "amazing" and saying it was "incredibly important that schools take part".

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But the happy progress being made by Mr Singh, who came to Bradford from India at the age of six unable to speak a word of English and rose to be an acclaimed police Inspector in Bradford' s Manningham District, veered off course shortly before the latest annual celebration last month.

Kash Singh, the Chief Executive and Founder of One Britain One Nation. 1st July 2021. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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He was delighted to learn that school children at St John's CE Primary School in Bradford had written a song to be sung around the country with the patriotic lyrics "We are Britain and we have one dream / To unite all people in one great team".

But despite the support of actress Joanna Lumley and married MPs Philip Davies and Esther McVey, the song attracted some criticism and ridicule after the DfE supported schools marking OBON Day.

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”.

Kash Singh, the Chief Executive and Founder of One Britain One Nation. 1st July 2021. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post after the dust settled, Mr Singh is at pains to make it clear the Government had no input in the campaign or the song. And this was a message he took to the nation's airwaves as he carried out a succession of interviews to defend his campaign.

"Last week was hell in terms of you've got individuals of profile, high political figures, criticising the song and humiliating the song, ridiculing the song, undermining it, belittling the children, I thought 'what the hell is going on here'," he says.

"I had the national press in terms of TV, newspapers, local and national newspapers, everybody wanted to speak to me. I did so many radio interviews.

"[In the end] the whole media began to understand what I was talking about, the fact that it was primary school kids who wrote this, and this was the theme, oneness and togetherness. and championing the values.

"And the third thing was my passion, my love for this country, this for me was the best country in the world. And I did not want that country, that helped me to fulfill my aspirations, ever be associated with hate or intolerance or discrimination."

His worldview was formed in the back-to-back homes of Bradford, where he arrived in the UK as a child from Punjab with his mother and six siblings to join his father, a foundry worker doing 14 hour shifts each day.

"We went through normal state education, had a fantastic schooling and were really, really proud because when we went to school, one thing about our parents was they wanted us to be part of mainstream British life," he says.

"Although my father was illiterate, my mother wanted us to be part of mainstream British life, that means Monday to Friday, we concentrate on becoming the very best we could do with our schooling.

"But on a weekend, we would go to a local Sikh temple, and learn a mother tongue language in terms of how to read and write it. No interference in our Monday to Friday, mainstream school infrastructure."

Joining the police after leaving school, he rose up the ranks and in 2006 was asked by West Yorkshire's Chief Constable to lead the policing of Bradford's Manningham district, an area which had seen two race riots and in his words "had lost faith in the police".

"I was of a Sikh background, and 99.9 per cent of the people there were Muslim", he recalls. "It was a very sensitive area and I thought I've got to get this right.

"So I went out there. I engaged with 13,500 people. Because the area was so sensitive and challenging I couldn't let anybody else tell my message. And I went out there, engaged with the community, mosques, community centers, public meetings, private meetings, everywhere.

"I did it for all the key groups, and basically I said that we alone can't make a difference, everybody's got to pull together. There's got to be understanding that we are here to serve you, to make your area safer, so that you, your children, your families can go about their normal business without the fear of crime.

"And people received that message very well. Within 18 months we had turned that area into one of the lowest crime rate areas in the district."

His decision to start OBON stemmed from a belief that the various government-led inquiries into cohesion such as the 2001 Ouseley Report into the Bradford race riots had not got to the heart of the issue.

"And I used to ask myself, how can we bring out the best in our communities, how can we showcase the goodness that we have in this country, when we don't even have a national day, when the Olympics is not every year, when Diamond Jubilee type celebrations are not every year, World Cup football is not every year.

"None of these reports covered it, how do we give people an opportunity to showcase that they love this country, they're part of this country, they are part of the infrastructure.

"So what I said was 'we need an organization that the people, all people of this country can align themselves to, to showcase that passion, pride and love for this great nation'.

"Because we were part of that, because we came with nothing. It was only because of the infrastructure of this country that I became an Inspector. There's millions of people that come from all parts of the world, settled here, call this country their home, but they don't have a voice in terms of showcasing their pride."

The OBON website describes its vision as to “create a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it was encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate OBON Day on June 25, so “children can learn about our shared values of kindness, pride and respect”. But asked for its view by journalists, No 10 said the DfE had not asked anyone to sing songs.

The harsh criticism of his motives and the aims behind it has clearly stung Mr Singh, who repeats back the criticism in some quarters that it is "embarrasingly nationalistic" and "insincere".

"I haven't come across anything that we do is, nationalistic or anything of that kind, or insincere," he says. "People are using these words like patriotism as a dirty word, or nationalism as a dirty word.

"My point is, call it what you want, but I love this country. And I want to celebrate this country. And I'm speaking on behalf of the millions of people of color from across the world who utilize the infrastructure of this country.

"For too long we've been too bloody quiet. And we've created this culture of us and them. And we're going to eliminate that because we are all in this together."