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You can burn a flag - but the insult is harming what it stands for.

I don't remember such a thing as "Father's Day" when I was a child. Mothering Sunday, of course, but not Father's day. No such thing. I argue with my family that it is a made-up day by card companies wanting to sell more cards. Darn - there must be a day in the year for everything that has ever occurred or might. I am forever being told it is "sausage week" or "Umbrella day" - apparently whether it is raining or not - "Darwin Day" - every event imaginable.

Anyway - I am off the track. Last Father's Day, this ungrateful but lucky man was given a Flag Pole by my wife and children. It is a very nice, quality product and not too tall. It was quite a process installing it - deep hole - concrete - steel anchor bolts etc. - proper job.

I have always been somewhat sceptical of people with flag poles; a bit too jingoistic for my liking. And the companies with their forecourts littered with various branded flags as if they were the United Nations - I can find slightly OTT and a bit irritating. I recall a friend of mine commenting on such companies with a rather sneering and generalistic observation: "beware of companies with flagpoles Rikki, in my experience, no sooner have they hoisted their own branded flag, they invariably go bust.

Now you only have to travel to various different countries to witness not so much nationalistic fervour but, rather perhaps, pride in their nationhood with their own flags flying high in their gardens. It is actually rather touching. The United States and Norway are two good examples, and you tend to see it now in more countries.

I confess I have had a weather balloon flying over my house for a couple of decades now, (another story) which I replaced with a Ukrainian flag a year ago. Still, it never dawned on me to fly the Union Jack, which, incidentally, I think is one of the prettiest national flags there is.

So at the beginning of last summer, flagpole ready for its first flying, I hoisted a premium-made Unionjack. I went back to it when Her Majesty the Queen died and dutifully and proudly flew it at Half Mast until after she was interred.

When approaching the house and seeing the flag fluttering in the breeze, I sometimes can't help feeling a flush of pride and incredible gratitude at my luck to be born British. I am roughly half Scottish, Anglo-Saxon and a wee bit of French thrown in for good measure. Originally from Yorkshire, which apparently makes me like a Scotsman, but with all the generosity ironed out of me. (a little harsh, me thinks) I now feel not the slightest Jingoistic but proud. I have gotten used to seeing the Union jack fluttering on the wind.

But it is when I see it and consider what it represents - I can get so angry, as in - how dare they?

It is not just that people have fought and died for King and Queen and Country - it is the history of the Union Jack, which is our British history, what it has come to represent and stand for over centuries of time. It represents Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. It is the investment in time, past life, suffering, forgiveness and understanding - and costly and painful lessons learned.

Flying over the Empire where the sun never sets - it must have been loved and reviled in equal measure by those who saw it. But as time passed, I expect more people came to love it than hate it, simply because of what it came to stand for. Law, order, safety, honesty, help when needed, compassion and above all, integrity and strength of character.

While our past is not always covered in glory, we are and have, in my eyes, by and large in more recent times, been one of the good guys. We have always risen to the big occasion, and while we have unquestionably done harm in this world, we have done more good, not that that is an excuse for doing harm. But over time, we have been one of the leaders in the world for democracy, fairness, opportunity and equality, and it is an ongoing process as civilisation progresses.

So when our leaders' poor or shocking behaviour damages our country's - our Unionjack's reputation - yes - I get angry.

What do we want to be? It is always the case with an individual or a country; it is the actions that define us, not the words but the actions - how we behave, how we treat others: our integrity, our honesty and strength of character. And anyone who damages that is not fit to be a lawmaker - a politician and certainly not a cabinet minister, let alone Prime Minister.

So surely - a prerequisite to being a leader is the basic understanding of this concept - let's call it integrity.

We also must understand that there are trivial wrongs or misdemeanours and serious wrongs. We are humans and, therefore, subject to human failings. But we should be able to draw a pretty straight line between doing serious right and doing serious wrong.

It is possibly the difference between a strong character and a person with strength of character - a person with a strong moral compass who is honest and has learnt the value of integrity. A person who has earned trust.

The flag of any nation is only a bit of cloth, but it is what it represents that is important, and it is people's behaviour that determine its values.

The character of Leadership will vary with the leader, but there should always be that common thread of adhering to the core principle of well-proven and time honoured values.

Rikki - Suffolk - UK - 14th February 2023 (Valentine's Day)

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