Friday, 2 June 2006

Fly the Flag!

World Cup fever has one excellent spin-off - every other car seems to be flying the St George's flag. Perhaps St George's Day should be made into a moveable feast, designed to coincide with major international sporting events, because our saintly patron would then become a truly national figure.

Of course, the flying of the flag sends lots of people (especially lefties) into jitters, as admirably explained by Simon Heffer (with thanks to the Daily Telegraph):

Fly the flag in the face of bigots and bullies

Just occasionally, a battle of ideas takes place that is all the more remarkable for being conducted among ourselves and largely without leadership from politicians. One such is the argument about our national culture and its place in what our more obtuse and self-serving leaders call our "multicultural society".

Politicians don't like this debate. It means they must come out fighting for something that most Britons regard as good and positive, but which political elites regard (absurdly) as narrow and divisive. So it is left to the likes of the venerable rock 'n' roll star Ray Davies to warn, as he did when collecting an award last Thursday, of the dangers of forgetting, or blatantly ignoring, the fact that we have a culture of our own.

The public sector is, indeed, full of minor functionaries who see it as their job to prevent the majority culture from imposing itself, in any way, on that of a minority. Such people are revolted by the fact (for it is, I am happy to say, still such) of our national identity. This is because they regard nationalism as an entirely destructive force. On hearing the word, they can think only of the jackbooted regiments of the SS and Wehrmacht stomping down the Unter den Linden, thence to acts of violent and genocidal oppression.

I take the opposite view. Our country allows the expression of such idiotic ideas only because, 65 years ago, enough of our people had a sufficiently strong national identity to make them go to fight against the Nazi hordes. It is quite a step from that, however, to the Birches Head High School in Stoke-on-Trent, whose headmistress is a Mrs Karen Healy. Mrs Healy, who is I am sure a dedicated teacher, this week took an absurd, oppressive and hysterical step. She banned colleagues and pupils from having England football flags and car stickers during the forthcoming World Cup finals. Asked to defend this preposterous imposition, Mrs Healy said the St George's flag was becoming a symbol of the British National Party, and she did not want the possession of such a football flag or sticker to be construed as support by someone connected with her school for the BNP. "We can't be associated with any political party," she self-righteously added. Of course they can't: and if the school has any rose beds, I hope gardeners are uprooting them now, lest anyone construe their presence as support for the Labour Party.

Within 24 hours, after howls of protest from pupils and parents alike, Mrs Healy scrapped her decree. But why was she so foolish in the first place? For all I know, she might genuinely have believed what she said - though, if so, I would question her fitness to teach impressionable children. But her misjudgment showed a typical problem with the modern, obsessive multicultural mindset. Long before the BNP existed, the St George's flag was my flag as an Englishman: and it was the flag of the English people who lived in Stoke-on-Trent, the rest of Staffordshire and all over our country. It symbolises our history, our culture and, above all, our Christian roots. It flies on Sundays from church towers, not as a rallying point for shaven-headed racist thugs, but as a symbol of the nation in which the established Church does its humane work.

All Mrs Healy did, in her zealous thoughtlessness, was help pass ownership of this benign symbol to extremists, bigots and bullies. She became a perpetrator of the very ill she sought to remedy. She handed a superb propaganda coup to the BNP. I would never encourage disrespect by schoolchildren for the rules made by their teachers. However, in this case they were absolutely right to rebel. A headmistress shouldn't need to be taught a lesson, but Mrs Healy has been: that this flag belongs to all of us, and not to the BNP.


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