INTERNAL government emails reveal how Number 10 advisers sought to capitalise on One Britain One Nation Day (OBON) – then moved to distance themselves amidst “ridicule”.

Heavily redacted documents released to the Sunday National show how Downing Street special advisers encouraged the Department for Education(DfE) to “champion” the event last summer, before comparisons with practices in China and Russia saw them backpedal.

The June event, during Scottish school holidays, aimed for celebrations of British unity and diversity at “every school in the country”. The plan, put together by a Yorkshire charity founded by former police officer Kash Singh, asked pupils to hold a minute’s applause and sing an anthem written by youngsters in Bradford.

READ MORE: What is One Britain One Nation and why is it pushing British nationalism?

While many applauded its inclusive aims, its references to war and refrain of “strong Britain, great nation” drew comparisons with repressive regimes. Joao Kay, of the International Education Institute at St Andrews University, told the Sunday National it reminded her of a childhood under Portugal’s dictatorship and the Welsh FA suggested schools their sing national anthem Hen Wlad fy Nhadau instead.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I’m trying to imagine the outrage there would be if the Scottish Government was insisting or even encouraging Scottish school kids to sing some song about how great Scotland is. People would be – and rightly so – up in arms about it.”

The DfE “has no remit outside England”, said former Labour MP John Denham, the director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at Southampton University, asking: “Did they discuss this with the Welsh and Scottish governments? Do they think [Northern Ireland] is part of Britain? What sort of geographical, constitutional and political morons are imposing this on English schools?”

The DfE told its 450,000 Twitter followers: “We’re encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on June 25, when children can learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect,” while then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (below) called the project “amazing”, stating that it was “incredibly important that schools take part”.

The National: Gavin Williamson

Speaking in the Commons, he added: “We have already asked schools to participate, and I am happy to reiterate the endorsement of the project from the Dispatch Box and to encourage them to play their part in it.”

The new documents show how special advisers were “keen for DfE [to] support and promote OBON Day” after a May meeting between a government official and Singh. The department had last spoken with OBON three years earlier regarding Educate Against Hate, a government initiative that runs in England and aims to prevent young people from being radicalised.

READ MORE: David Pratt: ‘One Britain One Nation’ is fascism slipping in the back door

In April, the launch of the OBON Day campaign was described in internal emails as “nothing for us at the moment”, but a Downing Street equalities adviser questioned whether there was “anyway DfE can champion OBON or send support to their events”.

Soon after, another message advised the recipient that “you might be interested in learning the anthem” and Boris Johnson’s team was looking at a request to allow the children of St John’s Primary School in Bradford to sing outside 10 Downing Street to the PM and Education Secretary.

This did not happen and while a script was drawn up for a video endorsement by Williamson, that was off by June 17. “We would recommend that you don’t offer any reason for why the video did not happen. You can say it’s not been possible and that we’re sorry,” it was advised, “That’s enough”.

By June 23, two days before the event, advisers were scrambling to confirm that the Government hadn’t provided any funding and get that message out to journalists in the morning’s official briefing amidst what was described in one email as a “Twitter frenzy”. “Ridicule” in press reports was noted in another.

In the end, press officers were told to say that schools are “required to promote our fundamental British values including tolerance and mutual respect”, adding: “We support One Britain One Nation’s aim to help children learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect. It is for schools to decide the resources they use to teach these values and the department has not endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day.”

Internal DfE analysis revealed it was mentioned as many as 26 times per minute on the morning on June 23, most predominantly in relation to OBON.