Eric Pickles has taken the controversial step of decriminalising a range of popular flags for 'personal use', but social workers have warned that widespread nationalism ‘could be just around the corner’.
With royal weddings and jubilees making the St. George's Cross seem almost acceptable in certain circles, flag use can be witnessed on many of Britain's streets. But while 'doing a line of bunting' might seem like fun to the uninitiated, many first-time users have found themselves craving something stronger. Ms McClintock, an expert in heraldry and chair of the charity 'Wavers Anonymous', believes bunting is a ‘gateway flag’ that can lead to village fetes.
Addicts aren’t always easy to spot. While some display obvious symptoms such as a shaven head, Ben Sherman shirts or an impractical dog called Tyson, others can appear normal, or only mildly patriotic. But with anxious parents worried that their children could become mixed up with the ‘flag heads’, McClintock offered some guidance on the tell-tale paraphernalia to look out for.
“It might feel like a breach of trust to search their rooms when they’re out”, admitted McClintock. “But it’s better to find traces of red and white fondant icing on their school shirts now, than union jack underwear later.” Face paint, royal wedding mugs and improvised flag poles are all danger signs to look out for, as are tell-tale rope burns on the hands of an inexperienced ‘flyer’.
Inevitably, some flag users will want to take things further, and McClintock warned that dirty needles are sure-fire evidence of this. “The scars might not be obvious, or could be hidden beneath their clothes”, she warned. “But if you find spent needles, particularly ones that are stained red, white or blue, there’s every probability they’ve got a ‘moniker on their back’.”
Pickles insists that decriminalisation will get flags out into the open, where wavers can be treated without fear of prosecution. “There was a certain frisson of excitement associated with ‘running one up’ when such activities were illegal”, claimed Pickles. “But I'm proud to say we've stripped flagging of its glamour, now you can sit back and unfurl one without a £335 licence from the council.”