Politics of flying Union flags

(Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images).
(Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images).

By Amit Roy

NAGA MUNCHETTY, who giggled and said, “Always a flag”, when her BBC Breakfast co-presenter, Char­lie Stayt, poked fun at the size of the Union flag in Robert Jenrick’s office when they were interview­ing the housing and communities secretary, can claim credit for changing government policy.

The Union flag is to be flown all government buildings, not just on special occasions, but every day.

Jenrick declared: “Our nation’s flag is a symbol of liberty, unity and freedom that creates a shared sense of civic pride. People rightly expect to see the Union flag flying high on civic and government buildings up and down the coun­try, as a sign of our local and na­tional identity.”

The guidance was announced by culture secretary Oliver Dow­den: “The Union flag unites us as a nation and people rightly expect it to be flown above UK govern­ment buildings.”

That’s fair enough, except that if the flags are out all the time, it’s human nature for the public to stop noticing them after a while. It’s like biryani: it won’t seem spe­cial if people have it every day.

There’s also the risk that far from encouraging patriotism, the proliferation of flags will make ethnic minorities fear the British National Party has taken over.

It is also by no means certain that the Scots and the Welsh will welcome the diktat from London. On trips to Scotland, the Saltire has made it feel like I am in an­other country.

Welsh first minister Mark Drak­eford has expressed his doubts: “It’s part of the UK government’s attempt to roll back devolution in an aggressively unilateral way. I want Wales to be part of a successful United Kingdom. Aggressive unilateral actions of this sort just feed nationalism in different parts of the UK. It’s a counter-produc­tive strategy. Forcing it on people really is counter-productive.”


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