Flying the Flag

On 23 April, I travelled through Parliament Square on a bus and couldn’t believe my eyes. Here I was, in the heart of the capital, on St George’s Day, and the only place where I could see St George’s flag flying was on Westminster Abbey. Parliament, the Treasury and the Foreign Office – none of them was flying the flag of England’s patron saint on his very own day. But if I went to Edinburgh on 30 November, St Andrew’s Day, what would I find? Saltires flying from every flagpole and people enjoying a Bank Holiday to celebrate their nation’s patron saint. I am not a fan of state-directed patriotism but we really need to do better than this.

We should introduce a bank holiday on St George’s Day and the government should arrange for St George’s flag to be flown over town halls, police stations, courts and government offices. I would also like to borrow an idea from the United States, where car number plates carry the motto of the state in which the car was registered. Why don’t we make room for a small flag on our number plates and give people registering a new car the choice between the Union Jack or the flag of the nation in which they live? Later this summer, the England team will travel to Russia for the World Cup. Yet the police have advised fans not to carry the St George’s flag because they fear it will inflame tensions. That is truly ridiculous. Meanwhile, the next time an England team faces a Scottish or Welsh team at rugby or football, the English will be asked to sing God Save the Queen (which is the national anthem for everyone in the United Kingdom) while the Scottish will sing the Flower of Scotland and the Welsh will sing Land of my Fathers.  Let’s have a big national debate about what would make the best anthem for England and then get English MPs to pick a favourite.  I will vote for Jerusalem – what would you do?