Thursday 28 October 2010

Flying the flag

Do you remember, within a few days of becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown's announcement that he had "ordered that all Government buildings should fly the Union flag as a patriotic gesture to help create a new sense of Britishness"?

I have to admit to having some level of sympathy with this initiative, despite realising that it was nothing more than part of Brown's positioning at the time. Sadly, as with so many of Brown's announcements it seems to have been a failure.

I arrived back in London last night after driving through the Cotswolds from Worcestershire and the first Union flag I saw on my 100 mile drive was at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane. It was briefed back in 2007 that Brown had insisted on a direction, to all Government departments, that all other public buildings, such as police stations, prisons and hospitals, would follow the the Prime Minister's lead.

I passed numerous police and fire stations, town and village halls - none were flying the flag. I realise that the counter argument is that you cannot force patriotism - or indeed Britishness - on people, but to me it is a great shame we are not more like the US when it comes to flying the flag and being proud of who we are.

A year ago I was in New England, travelling through similar countryside to the Cotswolds and every town or village was flying the stars and stripes from all of their public buildings. To me it isn't forcing patriotism onto people it is enshrining a sense of belonging in people, particularly when growing up, which may help people take greater care for those around them and the environment in which they live.

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