Can you use a Union flag in UK politics?

A strange incident happened today when I was delivering leaflets. We had done a full day, and before I went to meet my wife I decided to do a couple of streets on my own. I was dressed casually in jeans, trainers (only comfy shoes since the marathon) and my 2009 London Marathon t shirt which as a Union flag on it.

As I approached one house a chap dressed in a suit next to his car stared and stared , so I went up to him and offered him a leaflet. His face was almost relieved when he saw it was a Tory leaflet, not because he was a supporter, but because he assumed I was a member of the BNP, and I think he would have given me a mouthful.

We had a brief conversation where I pointed out that it was about time people weren’t afraid of wearing the flag of our country, so that we can wrestle it off the extremists.

It really made me think though – why on earth should we be afraid of using our flag in elections (or indeed at any other time). It isn’t, shouldn’t and cannot be the sole preserve of extremists and it’s time to take it back!

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2 Responses to Can you use a Union flag in UK politics?

  1. It’s an interesting point. I think it comes from this:
    In 1983, Neil Kinnock asked John Reid why Labour had lost. One of the key reasons identified was a feeling that Labour were unpatriotic. Of course, this was one of the undercurrents of the Labour message by the time of 94-97 and the 97-03 Labour rule, when Cool Britannia was in it’s fullest swing. Indeed, Oasis et al and their Union Flag imagery contributed a little to this, but the liberal media, notably the BBC’s reluctance to use British imagery in anything, and Labour’s compliance, or perhaps initiation of this meant that even a patriotic Labour party didn’t really use the Union Flag in it’s leaflets etc.

    Now, Brown makes claims of putting Britain first and “British jobs for British workers” and the stigma of using any patriotic imagery remains.

    Instead it’s saved for the select extremists whom the public obviously identify as racist and fascist etc.

  2. Mike Rouse says:

    I think it’s been in the hands of the extremists for a while. It’s going to be a tough one to wrestle back, but it can be done gradually over time. David Cameron has already come under some flak for using the union flag on his lectern and backdrop, but this recent episode gained less traction than it would have previously, perhaps showing that times are changing in this regard.

    The first place to start, however, is by proudly flying the flag outside every primary and secondary school and teaching our children about British history in a way that also recognises the influence and contributions of other cultures to Britishness. We have to build a society that is proud of the British nation, regardless of creed or colour, and remove the claim from the extremists that the true British are white.

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