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Home > Culture and Society

A Nation of Flag-Hags

3 December 2005

This week the Sun were conspicuously alone in picking up the story of representative of the Labour Party 'Communications Unit', Terry White, and his response to a complaint from a member of the public, in which he happened to mention that there are very strong associations between racist hooligan behaviour and the English flag. The Sun, predictably, went ballistic. In a gesture of proud defiance - and *not* one of racist hooligan behaviour - the paper unfurled a 70 foot wide flag outside of Labour HQ. Not only that but they were proud enough to incorporate themselves into the very fabric of our number one symbol of Englishness by covering most of the top right quadrant of the cross with their own masthead. Classy.

It all began on 15th November, when Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, one Gisela Stuart, published a dry and mostly unremarkable article on a website called Open Democracy. It isn't a particularly thrilling read, but it does contain the following:

'...it has only been in the last five years or so that I have heard people in my constituency telling me, "I am not British - I am English". That worries me. British identity is based on and anchored in its political and legal institutions and this enables it to take in new entrants more easily than it would be if being a member of a nation were to be defined by blood. But a democratic polity will only work if citizens' identification is with the community as a whole, or at least with the shared process, which overrides their loyalty to a segment.'

God, she's a bore. And while the rest of us might read those words once, maybe twice, then, when finally reaching their meaning, shrug wearily and simply not give a fuck, one Allan Murray was rather angered by them, and wrote to the Labour Party to voice his dismay.

'Why is it that as a party you dislike the English so much?' he wanted to know. 'I am fed up to the back teeth with Labour's endless dumbing down of the English. The Labour Party are trying to wipe England off the UK map.' Not the most reasonable of assertions - similar in its exaggerated tone in fact, to those panicky 'Save the White Man' calls to arms you occasionally hear from flag-waving racist white men who feel that the darkies are taking our jobs and marrying our women. Murray was lucky to have received a reply at all. He should have been pleased. But he wasn't. The reply he received was this:

'Neither the Labour Party nor the Labour Government are pursuing the policy towards England or the English that you claim... It is a fact that the right and extreme right in Britain cloak themselves in the English flag, the cross of St. George and claim to be the true representatives of the English. Wherever there is hooligan behaviour, usually linked to extreme right-wing political groups e.g. at football matches here and abroad, it is the flag of St. George that is displayed and that, I would imagine, is the reason why the MP referred to this type of 'Englishness' as a threat to democracy.'

Apart from the fact that he obviously hadn't read Stuart's article - and no one can blame him for that - Terry White hasn't said anything too offensive. Or indeed, relevant. What he isn't saying is that everyone who waves a flag is a far-right racist. He is suggesting merely that where this behaviour is prevalent, so is that wretched flag - so, for better or for worse, rightly or wrongly, associations are made between the flag and racism. But associations are always made between flags and racism, for the simple reason that so many racists simply *love* their flags. But it was enough to set the Sun on another campaign to Save England. How tiresome.

'Well done to the Sun for standing up for England,' mum-of-two Sarah Hill told the Sun. Well done indeed. Poor old England. She must have felt terrible when that nasty man said those nasty things about nobs liking flags. We imagine she must have been so wounded that the only thing that could possibly resuscitate her self-esteem was the laying of a giant flag somewhere in London.

Good Lord. Is England really such a terrified whingeing pussy?

The Sun says 'Yes'.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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