A Flag to Fly with Pride; AS THE BRITISH TOURIST AUTHORITY DROPS THE UNION JACK

Daily Mail (London), August 13, 1997 | Go to article overview

A Flag to Fly with Pride; AS THE BRITISH TOURIST AUTHORITY DROPS THE UNION JACK


Byline: JOHN CASEY

THE decision of the British Tourist Authority to drop the Union Jack from its promotional literature on the grounds that it is too 'triumphalist' a symbol suggests that some current idiocies are beyond satire.

Apparently, the authority is responding to the opinions of 'focus groups' who are unhappy with any expression of our national identity.

It is worth pointing out to the authority that our flag is, apart from anything else, a brilliant piece of design, universally recognised and therefore excellent as a means of promoting tourism.

There are three great national flags in the world. Two of them are complex - the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.

The third is simple - the Rising Sun of Japan. Each immediately calls to mind the country it symbolises.

The French tricolour, when it was invented, was also brilliant. But since dozens of countries have adopted tricolours, it has lost its original impact.

But that is not the only or chief reason why the decision to abandon the Union Jack is extraordinarily foolish.

Tourists come to Britain precisely because they are attracted by what the flag represents - an ancient nation state with a living sense of its traditions and an historic continuity not exceeded by any nation in the world and not matched by the vast majority.

This does not just mean that visitors come to see the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the other obvious tourist sites.

Our small towns and villages with their architecture of breathtaking beauty also testify to a settled and peaceful civilisation that has not witnessed the march of a foreign invader nor experienced (at least since the 17th century) the upheaval of revolution or any other violent changes.

We should also remember the symbolism of the flag. While many countries which united several nations under one crown were content with one symbol of national unity - the German and Russian imperial eagles, the hammer and sickle of the old Soviet Union - the flag of the United Kingdom consciously preserves the national emblems of the Scots and the Irish.

The Acts of Union with both Scotland and Ireland were entered into voluntarily (even if some bribery influenced the old Irish parliament's decision to join).

The only other great country which achieved anything similar was the U.S., which is why its flag - also partly an imitation of our own - registered an historic coming together of Unity

independent states. This is the very opposite of triumphalism and those who cannot see this simply lack any historical sense.

The British have never made a fetish of their flag. Our schoolchildren have never begun the day saluting the flag, the practice in the U.S. for the whole history of the Republic.

Nor do our politicians wrap themselves in the flag. Every U.S. Congressman has a huge Stars and Stripes in his office, usually right next to his desk, and is routinely photographed receiving visitors in its presence.

There are not many countries in which to wear the flag as a shirt or on shorts would not be regarded as a serious offence against national honour. …

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