The St George’s Cross has become an emblem of the working class

Like a vote for Ukip, to fly the St George's Cross is as much to declare one's antipathy to the liberal, metropolitan well-to-do middle-classes as it is a protest against the EU.

England flag ncrj

Like a vote for Ukip, to fly the St George’s Cross is as much to declare one’s antipathy to the liberal, metropolitan well-to-do middle-classes as it is a protest against the EU

In the wake of Emily Thornberry’s unwise tweet about English flags on a house in Strood, much has been written about the Labour Party being ‘out of touch’ with the provincial, English working class.

There is a case to be made for this, but to me, the central issue is that metropolitan liberals often don’t understand what is meant when people fly the St George’s Cross.

It isn’t so much displayed as a nationalist flag, as one would assume, but as a flag to represent the English working class.

Like a vote for Ukip, to fly the St George’s Cross is as much to declare one’s antipathy to the liberal, metropolitan well-to-do middle-classes as it is a protest against the EU and immigration.

I have lived in Kent for six years now and I have seen how St George’s Crosses have proliferated in this time.

As a born and bred Londoner, I was at first somewhat taken aback by the number of English flags and Union Jacks that I saw in the county when I first started visiting it regularly in 1998.

I put it down to the county’s naval tradition and its proximity to France, but an exponential increase in their display after the 2007 recession and the rise in immigration in the last decade wasn’t coincidence.

Sure, there is a lot of hostility to immigration in these parts. It isn’t particularly ideological. The Kent working class aren’t especially worked up about the EU.

Neither are they especially fussed about the colour of people’s skin.

Talk to people in pubs here and the two main gripes are: 1) ‘I don’t like having loads of people who don’t talk English’ 2) ‘I can no longer get my child an appointment at a GP/dentist/hospital’.

One appeal of the St George’s Cross (and UKIP) is that it’s very much disliked by the ‘out-of-touch liberal metropolitan elite’ – one of Nigel Farage’s favourite soundbites – a liberal elite that is seen as fond of employing Eastern European workmen, or a big business elite that is also perceived to have put English blue collar workers out of work.

This is why The Sun, The Daily Mail and much of the mainstream and social media was so eager to pick up on Thornberry’s tweeted photo, one that didn’t actually say anything derogatory at all.

It merely inferred what a lot of people assume north London liberals think about the white English working class.

When Londoners boasted at the European elections earlier this year that ‘we didn’t vote for nasty UKIP’ this only intensified the resentment among Kent people towards a capital city regarded as increasingly swaggering and snooty.

The antipathy is often strongest among ex-Londoners themselves who have left the city due to rising costs – nearly three quarters of a million Londoners have left their native city this millennium.

In my East Kent town I have neighbours from West Ham (a carpenter), Stockwell (family motor business went under last decade) and Fulham (retired). ‘Whereabouts in London are you from?’ features in nearly every conversation you have with a stranger here.

In Kent, the Cross of St George is now draped on balconies or flown in front gardens as routinely is the Stars and Stripes is in Republican parts of America.

If Ms Thornberry thought that house in Strood noteworthy, she should see Dover on St George’s Day: it puts Loyalist East Belfast to shame for its array of red on white flags.

The division between London – the name of the city itself is now a kind of swear-word in East Kent – and the rest of the country is as much responsible for the rise of UKIP as any EU directive on bendy cucumbers.

Most tellingly, Union Jacks, once flown outside people’s houses in these parts, disappear day by day. That symbol of the establishment continues to be supplanted by the St George’s Cross, that emblem for ordinary English white van men.

Patrick West is a journalist and writer. Follow him on Twitter

 

25 Responses to “The St George’s Cross has become an emblem of the working class”

  1. swat

    Its unfortunate that the facists and right wing elements have hijacked the flag, just like they hijacked the Union Jack. These flags should be copywrited for the Ntional interest such as Team GB at the Olympics or Team England at the World Cup.
    Facists and rigjhtwingers should not be let anywhere near them. Its also unfortunate that ‘working class’ has been associated with these hijackings.
    I’ve never held the working class as above suspicion; too often in labour history people have viewed and romanticised the ‘working class’ like for example Eric Blair, but they’ve usually been lefty intellectuals and toffs; the working class can sometimes be b****rswhen it comes to revolt and revolution, and sometimes they get out of control, especially when there are facists likre Mosley and right wingers like Farge around to whip up anger and hatred.
    My point is don’t romanticise the workikng class like some people used to romanticise poverty

  2. wj

    Did you romanticise them when they stood up to Thatcher?

    I don’t thing that you’ve even read the piece above.

  3. Godfrey Paul

    The real British working class are the backbone of the nation.

    Labour are the party of scroungers and immigrants.

  4. damon

    This is why Ed Miliband is so out of touch and doesn’t deserve support.
    The England flag displayed in such a way ”can” be a bit dodgy. But so what?
    When you see the flag flying from scaffolder’s lorries, or at their yard, it does tell you what subsection of the working class they come from. It’s the same part that the EDL come from, and a lot of the old style football supporters. The hooligans and near-hooligans.
    Miliband saying he thinks ”respect” when he sees it is a joke.
    It’s his own fault that politics is now so spun and controlled that he couldn’t discuss the subject openly. And talk his and Emily Thornberry’s way out of it.
    They also wouldn’t want to get into any discussion about ”white flight” or about the areas some of these ex-Londoners left behind, and why.
    Like why perhaps that the guy from Strood/Rochester would prefer to live there today, than next to West Ham’s football ground where people like him originally came from.

  5. swat

    Not really; they all bought their council houses, took the money from Gas privatisation and ranoff to the stix; white flight. Its was the miners, most pretty well paid and SWP, that stood up to Thatcher, and got beaten through their own tactics of intimidation thrown back in their faces.
    I’ve re-read it and yes its the snobs that still continue to romanticise the ‘working class’, if it still exists, which is unfortunate, because ‘we are all workers now’ as I suggest in another post. We are Working People.

  6. Matthew Blott

    That is a very silly comment.

  7. madasafish

    It is silly.

    Much more factual:
    Labour are the party of unionised state workers, benefit claimants and immigrants. And people who believe money grows on trees.

  8. Chris Kitcher

    Sorry I can’t agree that it is the symbol of the white working class. It has become the symbol of the mindless morons that vote for UKIP because they are too stupid to think through the dire effects on the UK should UKIP be in a position, after the coming election, to hold any semblance of political power.

  9. sarntcrip

    GOTROLL SOMEWHERE ELSE

  10. sarntcrip

    ABSOLUTE RUBBISH JUST BECAUSE SOME, BY NO MEANS ALL COUNCIL HOUSES HAVE THEM DISPLAYED DOES NOT MAKE THE ST.GEORGE CROSS A WORKING CLASS SMBLEM THEY ARE OFTEN TO BE SEEN AT CRICKET MATCHES AND RUGBY UNION INTERNATIONALS FAR FROM HAVENS F THE WORKING CLASS

  11. sarntcrip

    I HAVE A GEORGE CROSS AND A UNION FLAG INSIDE I AM A UAF AND LABOUR LEFT SUPPORTER IT’S TRIVIAL MDAEZE TO APPLY THESE STUPID ATTACMENTS PEOPLE OF ALL POLITICAL TRIBES AND CLASSES CLAIM THEIR NATIONAL EMBLEM IT MAKES YOU PATRIOTIC NOT NATIONALISTIC WHICH IS THE VILE POISON OF UKIPBRITAINFIRSTEDLBNPNATIONALFRONT

  12. sarntcrip

    LFFIS BECOMING MORE TRIVIAL IT FAILS TO ACCEPT THAT THE CURRENT REAL LABOUR PROGRAMME IS NOT PART OF THE NEOLIBERAL CONCENSUS BUT IS A PROGRESSIVE COSTED SET OF POLICIES TOREVERSE THE NATIONS DECLINE AND DEAL WITH THEDIVISIONS DRIVEN THROUGH OUR NATION BY THE TORIESINSTEAD OF POPPING AT THE ONLY REALISTIC ALTERNATIVE TO THE BULLINGDON BOYS LEFT FOOT FORWARD SHOULD GET BEHING LABOUR INSTEAD OF DAMAGING IT’S CHANCES WITH PETTY SNIPING

  13. sarntcrip

    ED DESERVES SUPPORT BECAUSE HE IS A DECENT ENGLISHMAN PUTTING FORWARD A PROGRESSIVE SET OF POLICIES TO START TO PUT RIGHT THE DAMAGE AND DIVISION CAUSED BY THE TORIES, AS THEY HAVE BULLIED ALL THOSE WHO CAN’T FIGHT BACK
    BIG BRAVE HEROES THEY THINK THEY ARE
    LABOUR ARE THE ONLY REALISTIC ALTERNATIVE DIVIDED WE FALL

  14. GhostofJimMorrison

    And you’re clearly too stupid to think before you post ignorant, unhelpful comments.

  15. wj

    You are correct as you highlight the problem Labour have – the skilled and semi-skilled have always been conservative with a small ‘c’ – they just don’t understand all this Progressive and Keynsian stuff.

    And it is no use sitting in judgement of people who bought their council homes and became part of the ‘white flight’ phenomenon.
    People want to secure the future of themselves and their children, be with their own, and feel safe – it’s a perfectly normal way to be. It’s a free World.

    You ascribe to yourself some kind of superiority and seem to want to, if you could, force people to stay in the overcrowded and violent environments created by those who have no care for the people of this country – but you have to accept that other people feel differently.

  16. madasafish

    You should learn to distinguish between trolling and comment.

    But as you shout all the time,you obviously are not used to the internet.

    Hint: try taking off CapsLock. Capitals = shouting.

  17. Guest

    “the liberal, metropolitan well-to-do middle-classes”

    Sounds like this website…

  18. madasafish

    the liberal, metropolitan well-to-do middle-classes

    Can’t be me. I am a peasant living in the country.. horny handed toiler…

    Not like that John Prescott with a mistress and two Jags :–)

  19. Chris Kitcher

    Your just a mindless moronic twat like all IKIP voters

  20. Chris Kitcher

    In a cultured society you don’t need the alliance to a flag. This is demonstrated by the AMERICANS WHO FEEL THAT FLYING THEIR FLAG IS THE HEIGHT OF PATRIOTISM. what A LOAD OF BOLLOCKS.

  21. cristina light

    I’m very sorry to have to be the one breaking the news to you, but you are very, very wrong about this. I invite you to come and live in the village we live in, my husband and I, in order to witness – I refrain at a cost from saying suffer – first hand why the St. George’s flag is flown by people who, when canvassed, declare they are voting BNP or UKIP. How the St. George’s, in many small communities, has become an instrument of oppression and bullying of whoever is not extreme right wing, or the unfortunate “migrants, immigrants, moslems and darkies and outsiders and other scum like that” who happen to move into the village – let’s just say that apart from me, no one falling in the above category lasts very long in the village. Let’s also say, so as to leave no doubts, that the above expression was used during a council meeting in October 2013 where new housing was being discussed by a member of the BNP, and noted down by the parish councillors as a valid suggestion as to whom should be blocked from buying or renting said new housing. This man flies the St. George’s flag outside his house, plasters them in every single window. It is not patriotism; it is not working class identification or expression; it is a very particular, very nasty brand of nationalism we should all be very afraid of, and above all take extremely seriously.

    In this case, as with most things in life, there is nothing like a wee bit experience to teach you which side is up. My husband and I have canvassed these villages many, many times over the years, for local and national and European elections. We know the households flying the St. Georges are the ones who declare BNP and UKIP voting intentions, and tell me aggressively (and often threateningly) and to my face to go back to wherever I come from and well out of England because I am not wanted or welcome here.

    And that is all. Come and experience it, in the flesh so to speak. Then write a lovely article and tell me it is a class thing, an expression of the never-ending class war. Because if it is, then Labour might as well pack their bags now and forget all about next May – if the St. George’s is a working class thing, then I’m afraid we (Labour and all to their left) have already lost the 2015 election.

  22. David Brede

    Perhaps he is shouting?

  23. David Brede

    And you support a party who subsidises poor paying businesses.

  24. RobinElizabeth

    Two quick comments…
    1) Even us left-wing liberal, progressive democrats fly the stars and stripes. Just thought I’d mention it.
    2) Your social challenges are indeed difficult here, but you have one thing to be grateful for: they are seemingly out in the open and discussed as an issue to be tackled. Here in the US, the vast majority still pretend that we are a classless society, which, of course, is completely untrue.

  25. John Hedges

    As a London-born republican (from Islington!), I don’t have a problem with the St George’s Cross but I do with the Union/Union Jack flag as it represents British imperialism.

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