Prudence Dailey’s Commentary
The Queen Still Unites Our Nation
Walk down any High Street in England, and you will be greeted with a sea of red, white and blue. Union Jack bunting bedecks roads and shopfronts, while windows proffer an array of merchandise in the colours of the national flag. It is indeed a happy and glorious sight—and the more so for its ability to bring people together across the nation at a time of increasing economic pressure and uncertainty.
The loyal displays are, perhaps, even more exuberant than in 2012, the “Jubilympic” year which combined The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with the London Olympics, and made the Union Flag a fashionable adornment for the first time in the living memory of many. For decades, our country’s ‘enemies within’ had succeeded in demonising the flag as an emblem of racism and division, rather than—as it should be—a symbol of national unity. It certainly did not help that extremist groups such as the British National Party co-opted the Union Jack as their own; although it was hard to know which was the chicken and which the egg.
A clear demonstration that our national flag had finally been stripped of such ugly associations came when, strolling through a local shopping centre, I complimented a West Indian lady on her Union Jack scarf. “I’m displaying my patriotism!” she responded proudly, her Jamaican lilt revealing her to be a first-generation immigrant of the Windrush generation.
Perhaps no-one understands better the necessity of national pride in bringing people together than the inspirational headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh, founder and head of Michaela Community School in inner-city London. Pupils are regularly required to sing the National Anthem, Jerusalem and I Vow to Thee My Country during assembly. As Miss Birbalsingh explains, in a school were pupils hail from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, ‘The one thing that binds us is the fact that we’re all British together’.
By contrast, last year the headmaster of Pimlico Academy caved in to demands to desist from flying the Union Flag at the school after pupils tore in down and burned it, claiming it to be ‘divisive’ and ‘racist’, and daubed the walls with the words “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”. It is ironic that this message originated as the genuinely racist chants of the National Front in the 1960s and 70s: a slogan designed to marginalise and exclude members of ethnic minorities had, apparently, been adopted by some of their descendants to exclude themselves from mainstream British society.
Happily, however, nationwide enthusiasm over the Platinum Jubilee celebrations is a clear demonstration that the patriotism of Michaela Community School is far more in tune with today’s Britain than the acrimonious nihilism of Pimlico Academy. And at the centre stands Her Majesty the Queen, our wonderful Christian monarch, who as a 21-year-old Princess made this promise to the peoples of the Empire and the Commonwealth: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
And so—throughout a life already far longer than any previous British monarch—it has proved to be above all, Her Majesty has made no secret of the fact that it is her faith that has sustained her, and continues to do so. Long may she reign!
Miss Dailey has been a member of the General Synod for over 20 years and was made MBE in today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.