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Flying the Union Jack

Government buildings to fly union jack continuously under new rules.

In recent times, ministers have been quietly installing the British flag as a Zoom backdrop in their offices. Indeed, in the last two years, government departments have spent £163,000 ($226,000) on flags. Now, the Culture Secretary wants the Union Jack to be flown on all government buildings all the time.

The union flag should be flown from all UK government buildings every day and councils will be urged to do the same from their premises, ministers have announced. The flag is currently raised on government buildings on only about 20 “designated days” a year, covering national saints’ days across the UK nations and a selection of royal occasions, primarily the birthdays of senior family members.

Earlier this year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport released new guidance stating that the union jack should be flown every day, apart from times when a single flagpole is otherwise occupied, whether by another UK flag or flags to mark particular events.

The flag will act as “a proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said.

The press release announcing the change stresses the more ubiquitous role of national flags in other countries, notably the US, but the timing of the move appears part of ongoing government efforts to associate itself with a more overt union-based nationalism under Boris Johnson.

The increasing fondness of ministers to ensure that a union flag is part of their home or office backdrop for TV interviews turned into a mini-row in March when the BBC Breakfast presenters Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty were chastised for gently teasing the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, about his carefully positioned flag.

Grant Shapps has a little plastic replica one on his bookshelf, while the former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, paired his with a Damien Hirst picture of the Queen.

The regulation in England that allowed the EU flag to be flown on public buildings without planning permission has also been abolished. In its place, such approval will be granted for NHS-related flags.

The union flag has traditionally played a less prominent role in UK-wide politics, but it has seemingly become a key area of concern in recent months for some Conservative MPs and ministers.


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