No, we didn’t call the flag nasty.

There is a story in the Express UKIP fury as Labour and Lib Dems ‘claim Union flag is nasty and nationalistic. This story is based off a Conservative party press release that UKIP MEP Jane Collins has reacted to. She is quoted as having said:

They’re quite happy to take their expenses off the British taxpayer yet insult the country by saying that children should not sing the national anthem and that the Union Flag is ‘nasty’.

We categorical deny having called the Union Flag nasty, and wonder where the UKIP MEP who wasn’t at the meeting got this quote from. 
What we said was:

Liberal Democrat councillors on Calderdale Council voted against a Conservative motion calling on the Council to fly the Union Flag more often and encouraging schools to do the same and sing the National Anthem in assemblies. People don’t need to wave a flag and sing to show pride in their country.

We would encourage patriotism, but the Tories are in danger of encouraging the nationalism that did so much damage in the twentieth century. Citizenship is an important part of the national curriculum in schools and we should leave it to teachers and governors to decide on the most appropriate ways of promoting British values in their schools.

One British value that we believe in – that of compassion for those in more difficult circumstances – was sadly lacking in the Conservative comments on Syrian refugees within the Council meeting.

Below for the sake of clarification is the wording of the Labour amendment to the Conservative motion. This amended was carried and that became the substantive motion the Council passed. Noticed nowhere does it call the flag ‘nasty’, in fact it includes a schedule of days in which we WOULD fly the flag. 

This motion was a cynical attempt by the Conservatives to try and put Labour on the spot after Corbyn refused to sign the anthem. UKIP have jumped on the bandwagon, and are all too happy to stir up the divisive politics of patriotism that we seem to be importing now from the US.

At a time when people are literally drowning as they try to escape one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century it’s a shame that Conservative and UKIP supporters think the most important topic of the day is trying to encourage schools to sing the anthem and fly the flag. If they really wanted to demonstrate British values then showing some compassion and focusing on helping those poor people would be the way to do it.

The full text of the motion is as follows:

Flying the Union Flag

This Council: 
(a) Notes that promotion of our British values and participation in civil society is an important part of the national curriculum, and recognises that headteachers and governors have the responsibility for determining the most appropriate ways of applying and promoting our shared values within their school community.


(b) Resolves to continue to delegate decisions over the flying of flags from the Town Hall and other civic buildings to the Governance and Business committee, in consultation with the Civic Advisory Group, and notes the current arrangements agreed by the Council as per below:

(c) Requests the Governance and Business Committee to consider how greater prominence can be given to Citizenship Ceremonies, highlighting the commitment show to this country by those who seek to adopt our citizenship.

* Cllr James Baker is the leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats and the Campaigns and grassroots activism manager for the Open Rights Group.

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19 Comments

  • I went to primary school not far from Halifax (a v. long time ago)….. We used to have to sing all the verses of ‘All things bright and beautiful including :

    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.

    Rebelling against this just might have triggered off my first symptoms of Liberalism….. No doubt the Calderdale Tories will be trying to restore the verse next. Probably my Dad’s instincts were similar when, after a very testing war service, he told me to “always avoid the b……. y flag waggers”………

  • David Morrison 9th Oct '15 - 8:11pm

    The Daily Express has long since ceased to be anything vaguely resembling a newspaper. It is merely the plaything of a megalomaniacal porn baron, who uses it as a vehicle for his hate-filled, deranged worldview.

  • David Morrison 9th Oct '15 - 8:27pm

    Ironically, one of the many things that makes me proud to be British is that we don’t constantly feel the need to engage in acts of unthinking jingoism. Forcing children to sing the national anthem in assemblies would undoubtedly constitute just such a practice. I’ve been a republican from a very early age and would’ve felt profoundly uncomfortable (to say the least) being dragooned into singing “God save the Queen.” That said, I have no sympathy whatsoever for the alleged leader of what is now the People’s Temple Cult. (Formerly known as the Labour Party). For being the Leader of the Opposition entails certain responsibilities, one of which is to observe formal niceties in relation to the reigning monarch. If someone has a genuine aversion to performing such duties, fine; but then I’m bound to say that they shouldn’t have put themselves forward for such a formal constitutional role in the first place. It’s rather like a conscientious objector signing up for military service and then refusing to fight once they’ve entered the field of conflict. All rather silly, really.

  • @David Morrison
    “For being the Leader of the Opposition entails certain responsibilities, one of which is to observe formal niceties in relation to the reigning monarch. If someone has a genuine aversion to performing such duties, fine; but then I’m bound to say that they shouldn’t have put themselves forward for such a formal constitutional role in the first place.”

    Just so I’m not misunderstanding you here… Are you seriously saying that people who do not wish to “observe formal niceties” towards the monarch should not seek to lead a political party?

  • Tony Dawson 10th Oct '15 - 9:54am

    Ms Collins writes Nasty press releases. She also likes to wrap herself in the Union Kack. She is probably just severely- confused, thinking that people criticising her are criticising the cloth she tries to drape around herself. 😉

  • David Morrison 9th Oct ’15 – 8:27pm…………… It’s rather like a conscientious objector signing up for military service and then refusing to fight once they’ve entered the field of conflict. All rather silly, really……..

    Not really! Corbyn has never made any secret of his stance on this (and many other things)…More like a conscientious objector volunteering to serve his country in the medical corps rather than the Coldstream guards….

    FYI…The RAMC does not carry a Regimental Colour or Queen’s Colour, although it has a Regimental Flag, nor does it have battle honours…However, few would decry its members as as lacking in patriotism…

  • David Morrison 10th Oct '15 - 10:13am

    @Stuart:

    Not the party which is the official Opposition, no. If Mr. Corbyn had aspirations to become leader of the SWP or some other Trotskyite sect more congenial to his hard Left worldview, then there would be no problem. But being Leader of the Opposition in a constitutional monarchy is completely different, and necessarily involves observing those formal niceties to which I referred. One cannot simply avoid them without showing a fundamental disrespect for the nature of the office. And there’s a reason why it’s called Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition.

    Michael Foot was also a life-long republican, yet as far as I can recall he had no problem with carrying out his formal constitutional duties, either as a cabinet minister or as Leader of the Opposition. But then, Michael Foot, whatever his faults (and there were many) was at least a serious politician and not some overgrown, posturing adolescent.

  • David Morrison 10th Oct '15 - 10:22am

    @expats

    But being Leader of (Her Majesty’s loyal) Opposition is a formal constitutional position. It isn’t just being the leader of a political party; there’s much more to it than that. I really don’t see why someone should apply for a position, knowing full well what’s expected of them, and then refuse to carry out their duties once they’re successful. This is simply gesture politics at its worst, the kind at which Mr. Corbyn and his ilk excel.

    To apply your analogy to Corbyn I could say that there are other ways in which he could serve his country, ones that wouldn’t involve the need to bow and scrape before the Queen.

  • David Morrison 10th Oct '15 - 10:29am

    @Phyllis:

    But the office of Leader of the Opposition is, of its very nature, a slave to conformity of some sort or another. Of course the institution of the monarchy is archaic and supremely silly. I did make clear in my original post that I’m a republican myself. But that’s why I would never elect to put myself in a position where I’d be expected to bow and scrape before the Queen in the first place. I’m sure that when Ken Livingstone was leader of the GLC and he met the Queen, he had no problem in observing the formal courtesies. Yet no one, I think, would accuse him of lacking principle.

  • Denis Loretto 10th Oct '15 - 11:37am

    If we could just get back to Calderdale for a moment, the situation Councillor Baker describes has distinct echoes of the “flags dispute” in Belfast City Council. The Alliance Party deserves great credit for sticking unwaveringly to its support for the flying of the Union Flag over the City Hall on designated days only, despite physical attacks on its members and their premises. Because they hold the balance of power on Belfast City Council their policy has held sway. Calderdale must do the same.

  • Denis Loretto 10th Oct '15 - 6:09pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    We are told that this did not just arise out of the blue in Calderdale. It arose from a deliberate attempt by the Tories to stir up the whole issue The quote in James Baker’s piece is “The Liberal Democrat councillors on Calderdale Council voted against a Conservative motion calling on the Council to fly the Union Flag more often and encouraging schools to do the same and sing the National Anthem in assemblies.” It therefore has analogies with Belfast albeit as you say the issue is much more inflammable there. The resolve needed from liberal representatives is similar, although I trust physical attacks will not disgrace the peaceful streets of Calderdale.

  • Make Jerusalem the English National Anthem and fly the George Cross.

  • Good James. While we’re at it can we please stop talking about staying in the EU being ‘patriotic’? It’s not a liberal argument.

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