My Problem With Flag Waving Politicians

For every politician you have to ask a big question: where are their politics coming from? What is the source of their motivation? That is why I support and indeed joined Hope not Hate. It puts it all in a nutshell.

Hope stands for the belief that we as human beings can all strive for the common good. We might argue about what that looks like — and much of mainstream politics is just that — but you still believe in its possibility.

Hate is what comes when you have decided that is there is not a common good to be striven for — in the end, it is just “us” against them and you have made up your mind its not going to be “them”.

Sadly I detect it in the rhetoric of both Scottish Nationalists and UKIP. The vicious attacks by Scottish Nationalists on their opponents stem from a belief that you are either with “us” or against “us” — for independence or a traitor. Last elections a local UKIP candidate in my constituency dubbed defenders of the EU as traitors who should be executed. There are few shades of grey here.

Both are in love with flags. Salmond’s saltire at Wimbledon or the UKIP office festooned with flags. Flags are what you go into battle with. What armies have.


I am as proud as anyone to celebrate the sacrifice of soldiers with flags and standards at Remembrance Sunday, but I do have a problem with flag-waving politicians. Most of the politicians most famous for waving flags in history have been aggressive dictators or would-be dictators like Oswald Mosley in the 1930s.

Do not get me wrong there are many perfectly nice people who support UKIP and the Scottish Nationalists and hanker romantically for Braveheart’s Scotland or the England of the 50s — many who are not concerned with the policy details of either party. For example, UKIP’s Thatcherite views on the privatisation of the NHS, workplace rights and flat tax are by-passed rather than endorsed by many of their members, and few Nationalists sweat over Trident or the implications of their defence policy.

What is the canker with such romanticism is that the SNP or UKIP-kind sees the good of its target group (Scotsmen or “true British”) as not only unrelated to the good of others (the non-Scotsmen, non-British) but achievable probably only at the expense of others. There can be no common good, no common interest, no lasting bonds, no consensus.

When you think like that — and its a depressing conclusion — why waste your time arguing with those who you are destined never to agree with? Just call your forces to arms by bagpipes or loudspeaker and get out more flags. Tolerance and internationalism will be the first casualty, and we all know where that leads.

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