It’s starting to feel like the only flag you can’t fly in England is the England flag.
Wave the Pride flag out of your living room window and your neighbours will gush. In fact, flying the Pride flag is practically mandatory in June, Pride month. Every town hall, school, bank and social-media site is draped in the rainbow colours.
Such is the omnipresence of the Pride flag that it is actual headline news when someone refuses to wave it. For the second year running, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire has decided not to fly the Pride colours. The BBC was on this bizarre case pronto. ‘Anger as Pride month flag snubbed by Derbyshire council again’, a headline bellowed.
The English flag is a different matter entirely. Hang the St George’s Cross from one of your windows and Emily Thornberry will write a sneering tweet.
‘How toxic is the England flag today?’, the Guardian will ask, complete with a photo of some council estate dotted with St George’s crosses. There’s always a pic of a council estate.
Hip millennials who wouldn’t be seen dead in national colours — frightfully tacky, don’t you know — will wonder out loud if you’re racist. Anyone who has seen those poor dears who work in the gentrified parts of Bermondsey and who have to walk past the less gentrified parts in which people gaily drape the England flag from their balconies will know what I mean.
And now, to top it off, Royal Mail is banning its posties from putting the England flag on their vans and lorries. During the Euros. A time when people really want to fly the flag.
To be fair, Royal Mail says all flags are banned from its 45,000 delivery vehicles. (Though I can’t help thinking there would be broadsheet outrage, a Twitterstorm and maybe even a march if Royal Mail instructed an employee to take a tiny Pride flag off his wing mirror.) It says flags that fall off vehicles are a potential ‘hazard’ to other motorists, which is a bit much.
But for postmen who like football and like their country — shocking, I know — it feels a little like a targeted snub. One postman told the Sun: ‘We want to show a bit of patriotism, but the woke attitude means bosses won’t let us fly flags.’
I find hostility to the England flag fascinating. It seems the only kind of pride that’s acceptable these days is identitarian pride. Pride in one’s sexuality, one’s skin colour, one’s gender experimentation. Which are the least interesting things about us.
National pride, in contrast, is a major no no. It’s too risky, apparently. National pride can easily morph into nationalism, which can easily morph into racism, we’re told. When the right-on see a sea of England flags, especially at a football game, they don’t think: ‘Ah, people expressing a sense of national solidarity and togetherness, that’s nice.’ They think the masses have been captured by deranged jingoism and are biting at the bit for Britannia to rule the waves once again.
And it isn’t only the fans’ favourite flag that is being sniffily ridiculed during these Euros. All expressions of fan passion are now being policed and maybe even punished.
Local councils are threatening pubs with fines if they allow fans watching tonight’s England-Scotland game to get too rowdy. In the words of the Daily Mail, killjoy councils, citing ‘coronavirus restrictions’, are warning pub landlords not to let their patrons ‘sing, chant or boo’. Their spittle might spread disease, you see.
I know council officials are often out of touch with the general population. But the fact that they think it is possible for pub landlords to silence drunken fans, to neuter their boos and cheers with a firm ‘Shush!’ from behind the bar, is just hilarious. Perhaps a town hall bureaucrat will show up at some pubs with a handy leaflet explaining to fans the decibels at which they are permitted to express their approval / disapproval for their team. That might help.
And then there’s the booing of those players taking the knee. Reportedly, both England and Scotland plan to genuflect before kick-off tonight. There will be jeering. Of course there will be.
And no, the fans will not be booing the players or the ideal of anti-racism, as the snobs of the commentariat claim; they will be booing the divisive ideology of Black Lives Matter and the invasion of football by the virtue-signalling pomposity of the woke elites. They want to watch England beat Scotland — or vice versa! — not sit through another bloody lecture on critical race theory or whatever.
Football is a rowdy, passion-filled game. It involves flags, cheers, boos, chants, tears and expletives. If you don’t like that — if you are offended by the St George’s Cross or by working-class men being noisy or by fans essentially saying eff off to the patronising imported spectacle of taking the knee — then might I politely suggest you follow a different sport. Wimbledon’s back. Try that.