This morning, as is my habit, I scanned the email I receive daily from the Guardian media group that gives me details of the top stories. One headline caught my eye: a shadow cabinet minister had resigned because of a tweet she had sent during the Rochester by-election. Ed Milliband, her party leader was said to have been furious, or some similar adjective, about the tweet. Rochester is a city of two halves, and one where people will shortly be donning bonnets, shawls and loud waistcoats for the annual Dickensian Christmas festival. I clicked, wondering idly if she had called Nigel Farage a farrago, or some such thing, and saw a picture of a house where someone’s idea of exterior decoration appeared to be flags over the windows. St George’s flags. St George being the patron saint of England. Actually he’s the patron saint of various other places too, including Barcelona, but excluding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so a pretty strange flag for a supporter of a party purporting to stand for the whole of the UK to display. She’d tagged it Image from #Rochester. That was it. Yet apparently some people, including members of her own party, thought it “derogatory and dismissive of the people”. Others have accused her of snobbery. It’s the sort of picture I might take myself. The Farrago questioned what the shadow minister, Emily Thornberry, was trying to imply about the area. What she was trying to imply, not what the people in the house were trying to imply. Surely if anyone was doing any implying they, by covering their windows with flags, were the impliers. But truth is often the first victim of mischief making. Ed Milliband, never a man to resist making matters worse, said something along the lines people should be able to fly the England flag with pride. Well, it would be nice wouldn’t it? And if our national teams would do something to make us proud, you can be sure we will be waving the flag from windows, cars and anywhere else it can be attached. But hopefully we shall not be waving it to express any nationalist sentiments. I don’t know how the people who live in that house voted. Maybe they didn’t vote at all. Maybe the flags were hanging there because they wanted to exclude daylight from their rooms. But I would bet my fifty pence that most of this manufactured hurt and outrage comes from the thought that they were UKIP voters, and this was their way of saying so, purple and yellow not being most people’s idea of a happy colour combination. The trouble with people using a country’s flag to express support for a political party has been well documented. In the 1970s, most of us wouldn’t wave the Union flag because it had been appropriated by the far right – the National Front and the British National Party. That’s the debate I think should be happening following Thornberry’s tweet. We got our flag back in 2012 when multi-cultural, multi-ethnic UK united in joyous communality with the Olympics. People of every shade from pasty white through to ebony black, waved celebratory flags, and quite often painted them on their cheeks for good measure. Love of country exuded from patriotic pores, and other countries were loved and cheered to the echo because of what their athletes were doing too. It was a celebration of excellence and diversity; not a mean minded closing of frontiers and xenophobia. I think I would ban the flying of all national flags during elections. In the meantime Emily Thornberry has resigned saying she does not want to do anything to “distract from Labour’s chance to win the coming general election.” Poor misguided fool. I want a government that tackles the growing tide of xenophobia and nationalism, not one that has a collective hissy fit if they think the opposition is looking more Daily Mail than they are. Forgive me if I sound a bit grumpy. I have to go out to work shortly; it’s raining and I shall miss the News Quiz on Radio 4 where the collective wit of the panellists might help me find something amusing in this otherwise dismal tale.
It is puzzling that that was it. I don’t know what it says but you can see what they’re accusing her of in it, seeing as she’s supposed to be MP for a posh area I hear, although she also grew up quite poor. And I did spent three lengthy blog posts slightly mocking those dodgy England football flag salespeople on Macclesfield train station platform. I mean I WAS judging people who have those things up, as I think they look awful, so I wonder what they says about me… and I have no plans to resign!
And the good thing about the News Quiz is that it’s always available to download as a podcast afterwards. So you can play it when you get in.
It’s such a non story, but even Channel 4 is calling it a ‘now infamous tweet’. I don’t think poverty and snobbery are necessarily incompatible. But gave you seen that EM has said when he sees a white van, he thinks ‘Respect’, so now George Galloway may get up on his hind legs.
God help us.
Yes I have a friend who is arguing that the Greens should be included in the TV debates as they have (had) an equal number of MPs as UKIP who have been scheduled. Whilst I agree they should be there, to some extent, that argument would equally apply to Galloway who I don’t think should be included with his rolling one-man band. It’s very hard working out where to draw the line.
I don’t watch the tv debates. They just seem hyped up theatrics ; more showmanship than politics.
On Friday, November 21, 2014, IsobelandCat's Blog wrote:
I like your blogs slightly ranty, Isobel. No need to apologise 🙂
What cheered me up no end before a rainy long-work day was an image of a man wearing an A board in the street bearing the legend “The End Of The World is Nige.”
Well if this shower continue to gather seats, and the media continues to give them as much coverage as they have enjoyed over the last twelve months they must be saving a small fortune in publicity, I shall be ranting quite a bit. The Green Party gets virtually no coverage, Galloway’s Respect outfit could be defunct for all I hear of it. Yet UKIP gets splashes all the time. I think they are very dangerous. For the first time in my adult life, I feel like emigrating.
It’s difficult to comprehend how a party so utterly ridiculous could be remotely convincing. That’s the depressing part – that they *do* have some support 😦
They appeal to the worst of us. Fed by a blame culture and other politicians who have been peddling a softer, but arguably equally dangerous version. Fear of Islamic extremists has grown into fear of all Muslims in some areas of the press and the country, and the consequence is hatred of and persecution of Muslims as a group, not treating each person as having inalienable human rights. Muslims being called upon to denounce what is happening with IsIs, as though if they don’t public denounce they tacitly support, is like the infamous cricket test of the 1980s.
I fear the outcome of all this.
An outstanding rant Isobel. I’ve read it in a cafe in Rotterdam (so far it has made a favourable impression on me). As you know. I’m over here to go to a concert that my niece, Rosie, is starring in.
By it, I meant Rotterdam.
Hopefully the café also made a good impression. Breakfast is a very important meal, and can set the whole the for the day.
I do rather like the idea of a grading for rants. Do you consider different aspects? Rage ratio? Subject matter? References? Quotations?
The politics of divide and rule seem to me extraordinarily destructive. The lesson I think we could have learned from the London 2012 experience, a time I shall look back on to the end of my days as the epitome of how wonderful London could be, is how being united in joy achieves so much more than being united in vicious opposition and fear.
I like your “rant”, Isobel. Couldn’t agree more.
Thanks Lyn. It had been building all day. 🙂