Somerville College in Oxford has voted against flying the Union Jack on “national days”, such as the Queen’s birthday, because it is a “symbol of colonialism”.
The Junior Common Room of Somerville College, Margaret Thatcher’s alma mater, voted by 21-6 last Sunday against a motion to raise the Union Jack on “the birthdays of senior royals, including that of the Sovereign, nor on Remembrance Sunday, nor the flags of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom on their respective saints’ days”, the closest thing that the UK has to “national days”. 6 students also abstained from voting on the motion.
Those proposing the motion argued that “flying flags is a symbolically significant gesture of national pride and an excellent way of fostering a sense of community and shared endeavour”, adding that such unity generated is “important in these times of political turmoil and polarisation”.
However, many students were angered by the suggestion. One argued that the college flag was far more appropriate to fly, as the Union Jack is a “symbol of colonialism”, with another suggesting that the flags of every Commonwealth nation whose citizens fought in the world wars to be flown on Remembrance Day instead. The St George’s Flag was also brought up into the debate, with one student slamming it for being associated with the “far-right”.
One student told the Mail on Sunday that he was disappointed in the outcome of the vote:
It seems a shame that JCR members have spurned the opportunity to display their respect and gratitude for those who laid down their lives in defence of the freedoms we now enjoy and to join the nation in celebrating the Queen’s birthday – both simple gestures which I would have thought people from all backgrounds could unite around, though sadly this is not the case.
Other motions, such as providing funding for students to celebrate Chinese New Year, and promoting a “Meat Free Day”, passed without a hitch.