Friday, 26 March 2021

Job creation for flag attendants?


The attempts by the UK Government to explain and justify the permanent flying of the union flag from all UK government buildings display that particular lack of joined-up thinking which has become the norm for a government led by a man who seems almost proud of his lack of attention to detail or truth. To say nothing of that sense of exceptionalism which is typical of English nationalism.

In what looks like a blatant attempt to rewrite history (but may simply be complete ignorance – I tend to prefer the cock-up theory of history over conspiracy as a rule), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said, “The Union flag is the National Flag of the United Kingdom, and it is so called because it embodies the emblems of the constituent nations united under one Sovereign – the Kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland, and of Northern Ireland”. Whether there was ever a “Kingdom of England and Wales” is an interesting point for debate, but it certainly glosses over the way that England and Wales became united; and the implicit claim that being a single kingdom makes it a single nation is, shall we say, somewhat provocative. The act of union which combined Wales and England did not unite two kingdoms in the same way that the union with Scotland did but rather, in the words of the Act itself, “henceforth and forever annexed and incorporated”, Wales into England. But if the idea of a “Kingdom of England and Wales” looks to be a fanciful interpretation of history, the “Kingdom of Northern Ireland” is simply an outright invention on the part of the Culture Secretary (an oxymoron of a title if ever there was one) to try and place that bit of Ireland which the UK held on to after Irish independence on to some sort of equal footing with Scotland on the one hand and EnglandandWales on the other.

However, whether Northern Ireland enjoys the same status as the other two ‘kingdoms’ or not is irrelevant in this case because the new rule about flying flags doesn’t apply in that particular ‘kingdom’. The union between it and the other two ‘kingdoms’ is to be stressed and reinforced (“a proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”, as the Culture Secretary put it) by excluding it from the rule. Given the potency of flags and symbols in the north of Ireland, it’s a sound pragmatic decision, but exempting one of the three ‘kingdoms’ from a rule intended to bind and unify looks like a government going out of its way to emphasise difference rather than similarity. And it is a strange irony that the staunchest unionists in the whole of the UK, those living in Northern Ireland, are going to be the people most upset by the approach. Upsetting the staunchest unionists even more than independentistas whilst promoting the union is quite an achievement to pull off.

The potency of flags in one part of the UK also underlines the problem that the UK government is busily creating for itself in Scotland and Wales. If the imposition of the union flag as a permanent feature on all government buildings in one part of the UK arouses such strong feelings in that large section of the population which doesn’t identify with the UK that the government doesn’t dare even to do it, what makes them think that those in Wales and Scotland who also increasingly no longer identify with the UK will react in completely the opposite way and feel a sudden surge of pride in the union flag? It’s a very curious assumption to make. Perhaps it’s just a job creation scheme for flagpole security guards.


Cibwr said...

and by inference the flag of St George is the Welsh flag!

Gav said...

This whole flag thing looks very like a dead cat, that is, a distraction from something or other they don't want people talking about right now. Usually more fun in these cases is guessing what the something or other is.

John Dixon said...


Perhaps. But I tend to prefer the simpler explanation - this really is the best that they can come up with to save their precious union.

dafis said...

Flags, now ... most of the time it's slogans. Usual crap like "build back better" which would be perfectly acceptable if it wasn't coming from such a shower of insincere bullshitters.

My preference is for "won't get fooled again" but the spivs in London haven't been listening since 1966, or earlier.