Anorak News | Council wants to ban the ‘intimidating’ England flag – St George’s Cross makes you look white working class

Council wants to ban the ‘intimidating’ England flag – St George’s Cross makes you look white working class

by | 7th, July 2013


A man writes a message of support for the England football squad on a giant Saint George's Cross flag, in Trafalgar Square, central London ahead of the World Cup game against Algeria

WELWYN and Hatfield Community Housing Trust wants it tenants to stop flying flags. It says the flags could be “intimidating“. But they can be flown when they are in reactions to national celebrations or a sporting occasions.

Trust spokeswoman Simone Russell tells the WHTimes:

“There are properties that have big flags hanging outside and while we encourage it during events such as the Jubilee; at other times it sullies the look of the area. Flags can be intimidating and can create a negative feeling… tenants must not hang or fix signs, banners or flags on the outside of the property, outside windows or on balconies, without our permission”. 

Fair enough about the no flag if they are against the rules. You can’t hang sheets and towels from balconies at many blocks of flats. But the part about flags being intimidating is odd. In case readers should be uncertain what kind of flag the council has in mind, the BBC illustrates its story with the Flag of St George stuck in a window. The WHTimes features a Union Jack and “local mother” Rachael Blythe, of Nursery Hill, Welwyn Garden City saying:

 “I will not let my landlord strip my child and myself of our rights and personal choices. I will fight this to the bitter end. This is a disgrace. Flying my country’s flag is my human right and I will continue to fly it for the foreseeable future. When the Queen takes her Union Jack down I will take mine down.”

Are either flags intimidatory?

There is no doubting the power of a flag. When Belfast City Hall said it would not fly the Union Flag every day, protests followed. One woman sums up the Loyalist view: “Northern Ireland is British and we’ll fly our national flag.”

Nick Groom, author of Union Jack: The Story of the British Flag, notes how the Union Flag was once threatened by the fascists:

Making the flag inclusive again means everyone flying it — whether as bunting in their bedroom window or on a Sex Pistols T-shirt. This was the genius of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony: the Queen and Johnny Rotten are both British — and are both profoundly associated with the Union Jack.

Just as Michael Gove is sending a copy of the King James Bible to every school, so each school should also have a Union Jack. It is a symbolic map of the British isles and also a symbolic history of the United Kingdom: it can be used to tell the story of our national history and identity, of the British empire and our multiracial society…

There are no laws or regulations that govern the flag, except at sea. This means that we can all fly it in our own way, even in our own colours. There’s no licensing and no copyright in the Union Jack design and unlike America’s Stars and Stripes, which has strict laws controlling proper use, you can really do what you want with the Union Jack.

Let’s keep it flying everywhere and bequeath to our children not only the sporting legacy of the Olympics but also the heritage of the nation in having pride in our national flag.

On the matter of the Olympics, the gaffe that meant  images of North Korean athletes were slapped next to the South Korean flag was regrettable.

In the 1908 Games, also held in London, the flags of the United States and Sweden were not flown at the Opening Ceremony because – get this – no one could be bothered to find them. The Swedes took it in their stride but the Americans, without a hint of the Special Relationship to come, got a flounce on, refusing to dip their their flag towards the Royal Box during the parade

What about that Cross of Saint George? Last year we were told:

St George’s flag is a racist symbol says a quarter of the English

There had been a study in 2012:

The report blames the “extreme street hooligans of the English Defence League” for “toxifying” the St George’s Cross, although it says politicians should also take responsibility for failing to “speak up for the inclusive patriotism of the English majority”.

In 2010, the BBC asked:

Is waving the Cross of St George an act of patriotism, nationalism or racism? With England flying the flag as never before, the distinction appears to have caused some confusion…

The writer was clear:

The flag is a symbol of support for a team and love for a nation. If people choose to fly it or interpret it as a symbol of English superiority or aggression, that is not the flag’s fault. I shall continue to drape a large cross of St George upon my house.

Back to sport. In support of the 2006 World Cup, an estimated that 10.5million Cross of Saint George flags were sold. Was the flag a symbol of inclusion or division?

David Conn saw alienation:

Most black people interviewed said they felt alienated by the flag of St George and still associated it with the BNP. “It doesn’t really show unity, does it?” said one respondent, a woman aged 17. “It’s a bit white.”

“I don’t think many black people flew a flag,” Foster says. “Most of us still feel it is hostile and feel quite threatened by it.” She also noted “not too many” black or Asian faces at the big-screen gatherings – a feature of football crowds generally in England – but says that was partly because the drinking which goes with supporting England is “not black people’s culture”.

Duleep Alliraja had perspective:

 Of course the flag still connotes white supremacy for an insignificant rump of no-mark Little Englanders. However, for most people the St George flag has lost its racial connotations. But that doesn’t mean that the champions of a new inclusive patriotism are correct, either. In truth, the flag has been largely emptied of any political content – much like public life itself. It is pretty much just a football flag, a signifier of support for the English football team and very little else. The flag is seldom displayed in any context other than a football tournament. Even on St George’s Day there is no popular enthusiasm for flying the flag.

Charlie Brooker wrote of class and genetic failings:

Nowadays, when you see an England flag on a car, sprawled across a T-shirt, or flapping from a novelty hat, you no longer assume the owner is a dot-brained xenophobe. Instead you assume he’s just an idiot. And you’re right. He is. It’s a great piece of visual shorthand. Imagine the outcry if government passed a law requiring the nation’s dimbos to wear dunce’s caps in public. No one would stand for it. There’d be acres of newsprint comparing Blair and co to the Nazis. We’d see rioting in the streets – badly organised rioting with a lot of mis-spelled placards, but rioting nonetheless.

Instead, every numbskull in the land is queuing up to voluntarily brand themselves. They even pay for the privilege! As brilliant ruses go, it’s the most brilliant, rusiest ruse you could wish for. I can’t wait for stage two, when they’re persuaded to neuter themselves with safety scissors.

The only problem I have with this berk-demarcation scheme is the design of the flag itself. Personally, I’d jettison the big red cross/white background malarky in favour of a black rectangle with the word CRETIN printed in the centre in stark bold text.

What does he mean? Is the flag a sign of your class – one that should be wiped out?

Robert Crampton:

…in terms of flags residential as opposed to flags vehicular, the smaller and grottier the property, the more likely it is to sport a standard. My children have noticed this. They have also commented on how few of their friends at school fly flags on their cars. (It’s true, each morning at the gates, the same convoy of Range Rovers, Jeep Cherokees and massive great Mercs, all bare of patriotic regalia.) Thus has this World Cup introduced two youngsters to the paradox that the more your family has prospered in this country, the less likely you are to display any warmth towards it.

One well-heeled woman, trying and failing to square what to her was the contradiction of our being middle-class metropolitan types and yet simultaneously happy to wrap ourselves in the flag, asked my wife if our car was “an ironic statement”…

It’s peculiar, isn’t it, that in England, unlike any other country I know of, the gain of a little education, a little upward mobility, so often seems to entail the loss of the simple human desire to take pride in place? Peculiar, and sad. Going back to that young Bengali boy racer with his four flags: as he grows up and climbs up, slows down and settles down, I hope such a recoil from the straightforward love of country he feels now is one aspect of Englishness he fails to adopt.

Tony Parsons added in the Mirror:

Don’t kid yourself that the nation is united behind that red cross on a white background. In some quarters the flag is still seen as unforgivably naff – like keeping your coal in a bidet, or going to the corner shop in your curlers, or celebrating your love for your mum with a tattoo.

Some think the St George flag is the province of a certain section of society, like inflatable snowmen at Christmas…

The English are starting to wake up to the fact that the flag of St George is the one and only flag we have.

If we can’t find the passion in our hearts to fly this lovely flag – although dissenters say it looks like a stab wound – then what do we rally round?

You’re not a racist if your fly the England flag. You’re a chav. You’re the white working class. And that’s about as low as it gets…

Posted: 7th, July 2013 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink