Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jelly-bellied flag flapper

Jonathan Calder points out that Kipling would see Gordon Brown's recent attempts to wrap him self in the Union flag as evidence of his being a jelly-bellied flag flapper. And he's probably right. A number of commentators have pointed out just how un-British it all is but I am starting to wonder if they are wrong. The Scots, Irish and Welsh have always enjoyed a bit of flag flapping, both the jelly bellies and the rest. Their national days are a highlight of the calendar and their national dress comes out at the drop of a hat. Certainly a Scotsman in his highland regalia has all the swagger that Jonathan talks about.

Isn't it the English who are more reticent about their nationalism, confining it to sporting occasions and the occasional royal wedding? Scottish friends point out that the absence of English national dress is unsurprising: the full morris dancing regalia doesn't cut quite the right dash with the ladies, and there is little by way of tantalising mystery about what an Englishman is wearing beneath his dancing breeches. The English are more straightforward than that.

So perhaps there is nothing particularly wrong in Gordon Brown asking us to flap our flags together. He's a Scotsman and he doesn't understand. But don't expect the English to join in.