Michael Cox: Union emblem no longer means jack

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It has been my flag in all its different constituencies for all my life - you'd think I wouldn't have to think twice before I voted to retain "my flag". Photo / Linda Hall
It has been my flag in all its different constituencies for all my life - you'd think I wouldn't have to think twice before I voted to retain "my flag". Photo / Linda Hall

You'd think I'd be a "shoo-in" to vote to retain the present flag. I was born and educated in Oxford, England, some 70-odd years ago.

My father, grandfather and uncles went to both World Wars waving their flag. I attended an English public school in the time when those magical isles just off the European coast were called Great Britain. I'm not sure when that name slipped to "the United Kingdom", probably as we became less "great" but we still thought of ourselves as "united" and honoured our Union Jack.

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As a Sea Scout I had to learn the constituent parts of the flag before I could call myself a second class scout. The cross of Saint Andrew represented those doughty Scots men and women, and somewhere in all the colours Northern Ireland made its presence felt.

We were united. This Union Jack flew over whichever castle the Queen resided in and I served and sailed under it in the British and New Zealand merchant navies for a decade.

I swore oaths under it as a New Zealand member of Parliament for another decade, until my constituency invoked its democratic right and removed me from my seat.

It has been my flag in all its different constituencies for all my life - you'd think I wouldn't have to think twice before I voted to retain "my flag".

One of the smartest decisions I've made was to come and live, work, serve and reproduce in New Zealand. I've loved my chosen country and watched it grow to a world power. We may be small but we punch above our weight in all aspects of our relationship with the modern world.

Then I look at my grandchildren - the school teacher, the international meat marketer, the business student and the 17-year-old who can't decide whether to be an engineer or a mathematician. My world is shrinking and theirs is growing and expanding so rapidly.

My world had the Union Jack flying over it. Now it is no longer "united". Scotland wants to go off and do its own thing as long as the English will cough up 9 billion annually so that the Scots can continue to live in the manner they've become used to under the old arrangement.

The Welsh have scampered back to their hills and caves and the Irish - well, I'm not sure what they are doing, but all of them are definitely not united. They make a farce of that little Union Jack up in the upper corner of our flag.

So do I still support "my flag"? Or do I look forward to my grandchildren's world and wonder what flag they will best grow and operate under?

It's easy, really - I will be voting for the new flag although it was not the one I chose in the first referendum.

It will be an emblem that will be in the vein of my progeny's world, and that's how it should be.

Michael Cox OBE is a former National MP for Manawatu

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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