U.K. Government, Sensing an Opportunity, Wraps Itself in the Flag

The fate of the United Kingdom aside, the flag furor is a useful culture-war issue to keep the government’s adversaries, real or perceived — such as the opposition Labour Party or the BBC — on the defensive. Whether the dispute is over the lyrics of patriotic songs or revisionist views of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Mr. Johnson and his allies rarely miss a chance to wield patriotism as a cudgel.

A few days after the BBC hosts apologized, their boss, Tim Davie, was taken to task by a Conservative lawmaker, James Wild, for not publishing an image of the Union Jack in the broadcaster’s 268-page annual report.

“Do you find that surprising?” Mr. Wild asked, to which Mr. Davie replied, “No, I think that’s a strange metric.”

A former marketing executive who was chosen because of his ability to get along with the government, Mr. Davie pointed out that the BBC promotes Britain worldwide. The Union Jack, he said, flew proudly from its London headquarters.

Critics on Twitter lost no time lampooning the new reverence for the flag. They coined an off-color hashtag and attributed it to unhealthy nationalism, post-Brexit insecurity or cynical politics.

“This may be very ‘20th Century’ of me,” posted Simon Fraser, formerly the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, “but I do worry when politicians start getting obsessive about flags.”

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