Across England, the flag of St George is now carried with greater pride than ever. Meanwhile in Scotland and Wales, devolution has raised more and more national flags on poles that once flew the Union Jack.
in 2006, Gordon Brown asked Britons to once again embrace the Union Flag, as it’s properly called. He said we should fly the Union Jack ‘in every garden’ in order to forge a clear view of what it means to be British and what gives the nation purpose.
The government believes that promoting the Union Jack will, after 7/7, prevent those brought up in Britain bombing the country of their birth. But the programme discovers that the Union Jack is unloved and tainted by war by those who see it as the flag of the conqueror.
Musician Billy Bragg says the flag has been forever damaged when it was hijacked by racist organisations in the 1970s. “My reaction when I see the Union Jack today”, says Bragg, “is that we’ve a hell of a job to do in repossessing that damn thing.”
“If I put a Union Jack on my house, my neighbours would think I was mad,” said Paul Gilroy, a professor at the London School of Economics who has written on the Union Jack.
Scottish nationalists point out that devolution has set Scotland on an inevitable road to greater independence from Westminster. Wales has never been represented in the Union flag. Dr Non Gwilym, a political scientist in Cardiff says that the Union Jack is synonymous with English identity.
So who still needs the Union Jack?
The Daily Mail (22.6.06) described it as a "thoughtful film" - the Guardian (22.06.06) "a fascinating and thoughtful programme".
Thomas Sutcliffe suggested in the Independent (22.06.06) that the decision to use Tom Baker as narrator was "tantamount to saying "This stuff is absurd but stick around, some of it is funny." In fact, Rees' film was largely occupied with matter that was deadly serious..."
Victor Lewis Smith in the London Evening Standard (22.06.06) said "parts of this perfectly-scheduled documentary struck fearlessly at the heart of the cosy myth of Britishness...while other parts were infected with the nervous post-Hutton "keep it light, keep it funny" virus that blights so much BBC programming nowadays". "Flawed but fascinating, it lifted the lid on Britain's less-than-glorious colonial past, but lacked the courage to peer very far inside".
The Daily Express' Matt Baylis (22.06.06) took a different view, describing it as "blatant propaganda" similar to that found in North Korea. It claimed to "be a light-hearted look at our national flag. But underneath, a more sinister agenda was at work. The argument was that the Union jack no longer means anything in an united Britain and should be scrapped."
Photography: Mark Perkins
Picture Editor: Gary Beelders
Executive Producer: Fiona Stourton
Written, produced and directed by Phil Rees
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