Oldham Council votes against schools flying Union Jack flag

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Conservative Councillor Dave Arnott called on Oldham Council to pass his “For Queen and Country” during a meeting this evening. It discussed potentially installing a picture of Queen Elizabeth II in “a prominent place” in every school in the Oldham area, flying the national flag of Great Britain and ensureing that every pupil knew the national anthem and the country’s history.

Unfortunately it fell flat on its face with 34 councillors voting against it and only 10 for it. There were seven abstentions.

Speaking at the meeting before the vote, the councillor and former soldier said: “We believe that there is nothing wrong with patriotism or flying our national flag.

“It is one of the many things that binds our society together.”

He went on to describe the UK as a “unique bastion” of freedom and we should be “proud” of our history in education, art, science, engineering and in “exporting democracy” across the world.

The veteran said many people from the UK and Commonwealth had fought “honourably, bravely and sadly died under our flag”.

He went on: “We do not celebrate our culture and history enough nor always show sufficient pride in our country.

“We all have heroes in our communities – whether they are historical or present day.

“And we believe there is an opportunity to properly celebrate these individuals and their contribution to our country.

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“We oppose the attempt by some to rewrite, remove or cancel our history without public consultation or context.

“Democracy and freedom of speech are paramount to our national history and cancelling our history is simply un-British.

“But we must have a common purpose. By teaching children to sing the national anthem proudly, displaying our national flag on schools and public buildings as well as a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen in prominent places in schools and public buildings we create a sense of identity and belonging in our country.

“This is not unusual or uncommon around the world.”

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He added: “This is an opportunity for everybody to come together and reassert our pride in our country.”

His motion was seconded before several other councillors raised objections.

Labour councillor Shaid Mushtaq disagreed with the motion and said his message to the Conservatives was “simple”.

He added: “Oldham children before politics, Oldham families before politics, Oldham schools and, madam mayor, education before politics.

“Please stand with our schools and reject this motion.”

Councillor Dave Murphy called for it to be referred for overview and scrutiny.

Lib Dem Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani then spoke.

He agreed that there “is a lot of good in it but there’s lots of ways I don’t appreciate it”.

The councillor said that in some ways the motion “stands against freedom of speech” because it dictates how people should respect their country.

He added that surely this freedom includes people’s right to find their own way to celebrate their country.

Labour councillor Steve Bashforth backed his Lib Dem counterpart and said that there are numerous Union Jack flags and portraits of the Queen in Oldham.

He said that they are they by choice which is how they should be and forcing people to have them is wrong.

The motion was then called to a vote and failed to pass.

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