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The trouble with devolution April 19, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Now I know there’s that West Lothian question, or Mid-Lothian, or something like that, and that the Welsh Assembly doesn’t have tax-raising powers – or does it now? I’ve been away a while – and that the folk in Northern Ireland have a spot of bother being able to govern together and that the Scots spent rather a lot of cash on a new building when they already had one and that the folk in the North-East said, “Devolution? Hoi us wa coat, man. We divvun’t want gannin’ down that road, like.” At least I think that’s what they said.

Those are all knotty problems, admittedly. But the real problem is, if devolution takes the path that many fear it might and leads to the break-up of our glorious kingdom – in a Yugoslavia-but-with-cups-of-tea scenario, as I once heard Andrew Sullivan call it – is what are we going to do about the flag? Sorry, I’m being a bit anglocentric here. I mean, the Scots love their flag, I think. (The Russians wouldn’t have minded a cross of St. Andrew when it came to getting rid of the Hammer and Sickle and alternatives were being sought. I think it’s what they have on their naval flag(s?).) The Welsh, understandably, as it’s such a top flag, love theirs (or at least should). Northern Ireland’s probably appeals to the majority, but I don’t suppose the minority likes the cross of St. George and the red hand. (Mind you, what do folk think of the cross of St. Patrick on the Union Jack?) (Ulstermen might have to do a Bosnia and come up with some ludicrous compromise flag.)

No, I mean England. I’m aware we’re talking hypotheses here, and I don’t really think that the UK is going to be torn apart and that there’ll be tanks at Monmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed. No, I’m talking pure aesthetics. I mean, I know the English have vaguely taken the English flag to their hearts and wave it when Jonny Wilkinson is parading around town on a bus – I’d wave anything I was asked to at a bus of rugby-players – and that teenagers paint their faces with it at football matches, pretending to be Scandinavian. (It’s a bit easier than the Union Jack, luckily for them.) But if, in some crazy twist of events, England really did find itself going it alone – at least then we wouldn’t have to justify to foreign folk why we have four football teams as one country and not one – would the Union Jack bite the dust? It couldn’t. It’s just too bloody pretty. So I suggest – I might send this to a think-tank, or have to set up my own think-tank. God, it must be because of spring. I’m (mentally) setting up NGOs and think-tanks like nobody’s business these days – that rather than a Yugoslavia-style break-up of blood and acrimony, we should have a velvet divorce, à la Czechoslovakia. Not only did they break up civilly and agree to remain friends, they even did a bit of border-fiddling to make sure Slovak villages ended up on the Slovak side of the border and Czech villages on the Czech side. But what to do about the flag? While it wasn’t as pretty as the Union Jack, in my view, that nice constructivist blue wedge was pretty original, and not to be done away with. But the Slovaks said, “No, you can’t. That’d be naughty, Czecho, to keep the old flag. We’re getting a new one, you should too.” To which the Czechs replied, “Erm, no.” And keep it they did.

This is all blogging’s fault, by the way. Nothing to do with jingoism. I was looking at my deeply unimpressive stats and my visitors tend to come from the UK and Germany. Germany’s flag is a touch dour. France’s is nice, in a straightforward way, but Lithuania’s – yes, I had a visitor from Lithuania, imagine! – looks like a colour-blind person has designed it. No coordination. Actually, Canada’s is pretty fab, so compromise solutions can work out after all. Maybe it is down to a yearning for warm beer and old maids and cricket on the green – mind you, I grew up in London. Our nearest bit of green was Queens Park, and no-one played cricket there. Just us local urchins and other nefarious ne’er-do-wells loitering, if I remember rightly – but I think we should keep the Union Jack and let Georgia have the cross of St. George all to itself.



1. leon - April 20, 2006

I can’t see the Cross of St George without imagining it wrapped around some beery idiot with a head like a gigantic thumb.

Amusing flags: Sri Lanka, Macedonia, Lebanon. Some of the Pacific Island ones look a bit like someone’s used a 1970s football strip as a flag.

The German flag is dour but not quite as dour / terrifying as their 1871-1918 version.

2. daggi - April 20, 2006

I quite like the flag of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It seems they originally got hold of one after the BBC chucked out a load of stuff after an early redesign of News 24. Due to the use of a biological powder, combined with 60° instead of °40, come of the colours came out in the wash.

News 24 (or BBC World in Berlin), is a kind of non-interactive Internet/Wikipedia. You can watch it for hours, but you’re none the wiser at the end of it.

3. Mark Holland - April 20, 2006

Cracking post Bib.

Bhutan has the world’s best national flag in my opinion.

I rather like Fiji’s too. A fetching pale blue with sugar cane and bananas related motif.

4. Bowleserised - April 22, 2006

What’s going on with the Brazilian flag, then?

5. daggi - April 24, 2006

It’s looking a bit like an image of mouldy edam cheese or an orange wrapped up in blue paper, crossed with a hazardous chemicals sign on a green background, as ever.

6. Bren - April 26, 2006

If you lot dump your flag, what will happen to the Aussie flag?

Will we use it as the excuse to become a republic?

The standard flown at the Eureka Stockade should be our new flag, me thinks.

7. GreatSheElephant - April 27, 2006

The Union Jack pretty? Lord, no. Boring design, unpleasant colours. Frankly I’d take anything in preference.

8. BiB - April 28, 2006

Darlings, thank you galore for your flag comments. They’ve buoyed my spirits at a blog-free time.

Leon, having watched the Middlesbrough match yesterday, I think I can imagine the type you imagine the flag wrapped around all too well. Why must English people be pink? The camera occasionally panned to the Romanian fans and they all looked like Alain Delon in comparison.

Daggi, excellent sleuthing as ever. Who knew the BBC even had a hand in the Bosnian flag? They get everywhere… conflict resolution, flag design, the Eurovision. No end to their talents.

Mark, I’m chuffed to bollocks you liked the post, and thanks galore for the plug, which brought me a blognorlanche, as ever. Fantastic. Bhutan’s dragon is pretty spesh. Mongolia’s flag is pretty good too. Those Buddhists give good flag, there’s just no way round it. (I had a visitor from Mongolia. How fucking mindblowingly corking is that?)

B., I refer you to Daggi the sleuth for matters relating to the Brazilian standard. Although if my memory serves me correctly, I believe it has the words “Order and Progress” emblazoned across the chemical hazard warning bit. Putting some sort of national philosophy logo on the flag is just bound to backfire. The ‘order’ there seems about as apt as the Democratic in East Germany and North Korea’s official titles. Rwanda has, thankfully, got rid of the massive fuck-off R that use to scream out of its flag. (Not that R could be called a philosophy, quite. Unless it was short for the three Rs, perhaps, but that’s a bit unambitious.)

Bren, I was wondering if I could get away with pretending to know what the Eureka Stockade was, but have decided to own up and profess my ignorance. Googling and wikipediaing has given me the bare bones, and the flag. A good flag indeed, although might the white stars get lost on the white cross? The Aboriginal flag that Cathy Whatserface used to carry around with the official Australian flag’s pretty good too. Of course this becoming-a-republic business was much discussed when I was in New Zealand. Actually, the flag is one of the trickier elements there, rather than actually replacing the Queen as head of state, it seemed to me, because people were attached to it because of the war. I suppose with time that attachment will wane, perhaps. In any case, I refer to our Canadian cousins again. They’ve got a new flag, and a top one at that.

GSE. Boring? It’s a design classic. I think folk secretly envy us that top flag. It’s a corker. The Basques tried to go down the same route, but the colours are hopeless. Give me an alternative design of your choosing and I’ll see what my (one-man) think-tank – erm – thinks of it.

9. leon - April 28, 2006

The Romanians are an extrenely handsome people (though with a very low reputation in Britain thanks to the efforts of various bile-spitting tabloids). Plus they all have great names like Gheorghe and Madalina and Traian.

Never been there but my periodic culinary adventuring did lead me to try cooking a very heavy and satisfying Romanian stew the other week. Just the thing for a cold night in the Carpathians, I should imagine.

10. BiB - April 28, 2006

I’ve never been either, but I have flown over the Carpathians, and it did all look pretty spectacular. German TV loves documentaries about Romania because there was such a massive German presence there – now dwindling, no doubt – and I saw one yesterday about life up in some of those mountain villages and it really is another world. Still so traditional. And the wondrous, wondrous beauty of the Orthodox services to boot.

11. leon - April 28, 2006

It does look very nice and they still have bears and wolves and pleasingly comical traditional costume, and stuff. Sounds quite exciting, though obviously there’s crippling poverty as well.

I think there are a few thousand Germans left but quite a few of them were chucked out in the immediate post-war period (or simply not allowed back when they came out of POW camps and the like) and most of the rest went to Germany in the early 1990s. Given the mess Romania was in, who can blame them?

Must have been odd though, a bit like 19th century English peasants (speaking a 16th century dialect) suddenly arriving in 1990s Britain driving a Trabant. Or something.

12. BiB - April 28, 2006

…or Scots coming to London today. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I don’t mean it. Just a joke. No, really.

13. Bowleserised - April 28, 2006

Romanians drive Dacias. Very fast. Through pot holes. After a breakfast wakey-wakey shot of home-made plum brandy. I spent a summer teaching English there, and a friend of mine was billetted with the former Romanian Grand Prix champion, who had become a driving instructor. He used to bomb down the pock-marked dirt roads, lean back over his seat and ask her, “You laik, pussy cat??”

14. BiB - April 29, 2006

“You laik, pussy cat?” Fantastic. If I don’t come back as a heterosexual woman in my next life, I will be most annoyed. No Romanian would EVER say that to me…

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