Is the Government minister’s promise to “look into” the possible redesign of the British flag to incorporate Wales merely a case of saying the right thing at the right time, or is it a serious proposition?

Margaret Hodge told the House of Commons she will consider changing the Union flag, which currently does not have a representation from the Principality, after an MP suggested the Welsh dragon could be incorporated in a new design.

The idea was proposed by Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham, who said the current flag only represents three of the four home countries.

Looking at this at face value, he is right. It is only fair that all four countries are represented in the national flag of Great Britain.

Changing the design would also add credence to the Prime Minister’s quest to kick-start a new debate on Britishness in the 21st century.

And yet, as a Welshman living in England, I can’t help but think the whole issue is a non-story. It smacks of yet another example of Labour identifying a major issue – in this case Britishness – but then shying away from the really big and difficult questions and focusing on the incidentals that in the long-run don’t really add anything to the debate.

Ask Welsh people what they think and most will probably agree that Wales should be represented in the Union flag. But how many would then go on to agree that the 400 year-old flag should now be redesigned?

Personally, I like the fact that Wales isn’t so closely associated with the Union flag.

Simply adding the Welsh dragon to the existing flag would not be an attractive proposition. If they want to include Wales then a radical new design is the only way forward.

The Union flag doesn’t mean too much to me at present and what it does suggest is largely negative.

If we are to have a proper debate on Britishness, then there are a lot more pressing issues we should be concentrating on. Compared to the myth of multi-culturalism, for example, the absence of Wales from the Union flag is hardly worth dwelling on.

Vive la difference, as they don’t say down Cardiff way.

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9 responses »

  1. aditive says:

    I don’t think it’s a serious proposition. Sounds to me like he’s only saying it to get some peace.

  2. Nick Scott Donald says:

    Isn’t the Welsh dragon similar to the Scots Lion Rampant or the English Three Lions, so any redesign of the Union Jack should instead include the yellow-on-black St David’s cross?

    That’s not rhetorical… it’s a serious question!

  3. Nick Scott Donald says:

    Me again.

    If we’re to have a proper debate on Britishness, then I think we need to study more history.

    In much nationalist talk – the good and the bad kinds – a lot of the people are saying things that aren’t even true because they don’t know history, or are choosing to avoid it.

    300 years of union has shaped the four countries of the UK in ways that it’s difficult to pin down. As such, I’m inclined to think that after all this time, beneath our strong English, Welsh, Scottish identities, etc, we have a basic Britishness is both pretty much invisible and indivisible, but because of its invisibility is difficult to define.

    The (maybe sad) fact is that the English, the Scots, and the Welsh all are British, like it or not, and as such any fully devolved country that comes out of the UK will be a product of Britishness.

    And being such, perhaps we have to look at our collective history – the triumphs, the failures, the obscenities – to be able to fully understand and appreciate who we are.

    And I think the flag IS important, as symbols tend to be an important point of focus for peoples who otherwise may not communicate, and as such we aught to have a correct one. Perhaps.

    (I’ll try to be more brief in future.)

  4. Paul Groves says:

    Nick,

    You’re right about the St David’s Cross. But the suggestion is that it would create a mess to include the cross, whilst simply placing the Welsh dragon in the Union flag would be much neater (my description). Hhhmmmm…

    I agree that there is a Britishness in us all. It is obviously a lot stronger in some than others, however, due to all sorts of historical and cultural stuff and nonsense.

    If they are serious about what 21st century Britshness means and reflecting it more accurately, then a complete flag redesign needs to take place. But then should you also incorporate everything else that makes up modern Britain?
    Not sure how many flag wavers would be happy about embracing a multi-cultural symbol.

  5. Nick Scott Donald says:

    Yes, that would be a sticky one alright… so to speak.

    And on a sort of related point, there’s also the Royal Standard – a flag quartered and showing Three Lions, Irish Harp, Lion Rampant – which is as much “people”-orientated as royal, due to the national sporting teams tendancy to sport these images too… I never understood why the Three Lions had to go on twice when the Welsh dragon could sit very nicely in good company.

    But I digress…

  6. Mike says:

    If there’s going to be a debate on “Britishness”, how about we start with the disenfranchisement of England?

  7. Paul Groves says:

    Mike,

    Absolutely. It seems crazy to me that the growth of cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol et al, is creating more self-confidence and opportunity within these regions. Yet this is often stifled by Westminster and the domineering presence of London and the South-East. So instead you get half-baked and half-hearted schemes and ideas that hold back growth and don’t encourage it.
    I’m all for equality for all the home nations. But there is also the problem that within England itself some areas are a lot more equal than others.

    (Thanks for the comment).

  8. Mike says:

    Oh, for sure. Like the plan for the “Regions” (heartily detested across the country) instead of a national Parliament for England. I’d like to be able to vote for my own government in my own country…

  9. Paul Groves says:

    I don’t think the regional assemblies plan is acceptable. It was badly thought out and not explained properly – like the whole elected mayor debacle.
    But there needs to be a system that is not weighted in favour of one region at the expense of others.

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