Matthew Parris today: “When did government ministers start insisting on being photographed next to outsized Union flags? The phrase “wrapping yourself in the Union Jack” used to be regarded as derogatory…but today you’d deserve a prize for any sighting of Liz Truss, the PM or even the parliamentary under-secretary for paperclips separated from swathes of the red white and blue.”
Symbols proliferate to cover up lack of substance. Or when the substance is malignant and a whitewash is necessary. Look at images of the Nuremberg rallies. But symbol display can be revealing. Glance at footage of England’s world cup win at Wembley in 1966. Union Flags everywhere – the waving of the flag of St George came much later.
The Union Flag is de rigueur for our leaders today (especially, but not only, the Cabinet) because, unlike in 1966, the Union is under threat. In Scotland it is supposed to be flown above the cross of St Andrew. Good luck with that !
As Chris Patten recently pointed out this Government is an English Nationalist one – so perhaps in an attempt to deny this they mandate the Union Flag for their ministers. The cross of St George is a bit down market anyway. Johnson was seen with one on the day of the EURO 2020 Final. But normally the Jack it is.
Quite what the gratuitous use of the Union Flag says about us I really don’t know. You’re quite likely to see it on a pack of carrots in Sainsbury’s. In America “Old Glory” is often on flagpoles outside the houses of the middle class. They have a long history going back to the Civil War – when the Union was in peril they waved the Stars and Stripes. Boris Johnson is no Abraham Lincoln but his flag display is similar.
If you’re confident in who you are, what you do, and how you do it you let your behaviour speak for itself. But if you’re insecure you need symbols of class or power or “loyalty”. 🇬🇧