Put Out More Flags

In my street – a quiet suburban crescent – there are three big England flags currently fluttering in the gentle breeze. Further down the road, in much more urban Woolwich, most of the pubs are more aggressively decked out with bunting and yet more flags, rather like benign fortresses. All this is down to the World Cup of course; on the day of last week’s England match, these pubs were crowded, noisy, but not in the least intimidating or hostile.

I quite like seeing all this. All of the flags are of the St George Cross; if you want to guage certain aspects of social change over the past fifty years, this is one way to do it. When England played and won in 1966, Wembley was a sea of Union flags. If the same thing were to happen now and England got to the final, you’d be lucky to spot two or three Union flags amongst the wall-to-wall red crosses.

How has this come about? Well for one thing many people who would once have called themselves British now call themselves English. Devolution and multiculturalism have both played their parts here, but also I sense that it is as though significant numbers of people are trying to salvage something from the cultural onslaught which has occurred between ’66 and now.

This makes them objects of contempt for the bien pensants of course. These people tend not to mind the Olympics – nice and international, brotherhood of man etc etc. But I wonder how those types will cope with the Diamond Jubilee in 2012?   

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