Murray Mania, Geography, Flags and Politics

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 8 July 2013)
Showing national pride is not a crime.


On Sunday, 7 July 2013, Andy Murray from Dunblane, Scotland, won the Mens Singles Tennis Finals at Wimbledon, the first British-born man to do so since Fred Perry’s victory in 1936.

Needless to say the media were on it immediately. As soon as he won the BBC News website flashed up the breaking news, “Andy Murray becomes first British player to win the Wimbledon men’s finals since 1936”

The national newspapers of course followed suit by proclaiming Andy Murray British this, British that, and British the next thing. One cannot help but wonder just how British Andy Murray would have been had he lost. It is all too common for one to find in the London-based media that when a Scot achieves something great, they are British, yet the moment they fail, they automatically revert to Scottish. A prime example of this was the downill skier Alain Baxter who once won Bronze in the 2002 Winter Olympics and hailed as “the British skier Alain Baxter”. Baxter inadvertently took a nasal inhaler containing a substance banned in his sport, was subsequently stripped of his medal due to this and was shamed in the media as “the Scottish skier Alain Baxter”.

And it goes on, with the media lauding Andy as “the greatest Briton” and calls for him to be knighted, which even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said stating “He has lifted the spirits of the whole country.”

Among all this jingoistic guff, there were people making the mistake of referring to Andy Murray as English. The New York Times was bombarded with replies when they ran the Tweet, “After 77 years, Murray and England rule.” Sadly some of the replies were equally as ignorant but others rebuffed the New York Times pointing out that Andy is Scottish.

Not that this ignorance was confined to overseas. There were plenty people actually at Wimbledon, who were flying the George Cross, the national flag of England, while Andy was playing. It beggars belief just how many English people cannot get round the simple principle that the George Cross is not the flag of the UK and does not represent Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, or even Cornwall for that matter.

Speaking of flags brings me onto an incident which occurred when Andy won. The First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, Alex Salmond MSP, was watching from the Royal Box at Wimbledon, along with David Cameron. When Andy won, the First Minister produced a large Saltire flag, the national flag of Scotland, which they held up, inadvertently behind the Prime Minister, to illustrate their pride for one of Scotland’s sons. This has caused a furore among some politicians and journalists, with both attempting to make a mountain out of what is not even a molehill.

BBC Sports presenter Jill Douglas almost immediately Tweeted that Alex Salmond’s actions were racist. After she was bombarded with statements from Scots rebutting any such suggestion. Having realised what a fool she had made of herself, Jill Douglas deleted her Twitter account.

The Labour Party’s Willie Bain MP, who is Shadow Scottish Secretary, posted on Twitter, “In my experience, real tennis fans support their favourite players for who they are and how they play – let’s keep the stunts out of it.” If this is the case, I would like Mr Bain to explain just what those flying George Cross and Union flags at Wimbledon were doing? Were they equally pulling stunts and to use his words, are they not real tennis fans?

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael sent a memo to the tournament organisers at Wimbledon stating “Thank you for looking after the FM today. Next year, can you please search him more carefully?” That’s right, a senior Lib-Dem politician actually asked for the First Minister of Scotland to be searched upon entry to Wimbledon. Mr Carmichael added the hashtag “#cringe”. Well, if he wishes to cringe at the flag of Scotland, the oldest national flag in the world, my flag and his, that speaks volumes of Alistair Carmichael’s claims to be proud to be Scottish and British. It once more shows that no man can have two masters. And the same goes for Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South who said “Let’s keep this is perspective, folks: Salmond waving a St Andrew’s flag at Wimbledon wasn’t an outrage – it was just a bit, well, naff.” So there you are, according to a Scottish Labour MP the Saltire is “naff”. Again, I do not hear Tom Harris saying that about all the Union and George Cross flags at Wimbledon.

The media of course are having a field day with it. Ian Dunt, in a vitriolic Nat-bashing post in stated that the flag waving of the First Minister stated, “Alex Salmond’s cheap Wimbledon trick shows the cynicism behind the smile.” and went on to accuse the First Minister of using the event for his own political advantage. The Daily Mail meanwhile called it a PR stunt. Again, what then were those in the audience waving their flags doing? Using them for political advantage and as a PR stunt?

Many newspapers have claimed that Alex Salmond has broached Wimbledon rules by producing the flag, stating that no flag or banner larger than 2’x 2′ may be flown. Yet there were plenty other flags much larger than those dimensions being displayed in the audience throughout the tournament, and certainly larger than the one the First Minister produced for only a few minutes at the end of the match. And this was not confined to the London-based media. The Edinburgh-based newspaper The Scotsman similarly carried the headline “Andy Murray Wimbledon: Alex Salmond faces flag row”, followed up by what amounted to a non-story with absolutely no substance to the First Minister facing any such row.

The anti-SNP – and dare I say anti-Scottish – media and certain politicians are trying to blow this up as much as possible because of the First Minister producing one Saltire. Meanwhile not one of the same commentators has, not once, criticised anyone in the crowd at Wimbledon for displaying Union and George Cross flags, or for that matter the Serbian flags flown by supporters of Andy Murray’s opponent, Novak Djokovic – or certain racist English who were supporting Djokovic purely on the basis that Andy Murray is Scottish. Not one of the organisers of the tournament or anyone at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club has made any complaint about Alex Salmond displaying the Saltire. Nor has Andy Murray and, to his credit, neither has the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Waving a flag at any sporting event is a symbol of national pride, to show one’s solidarity, commonality, and shared nationhood with the competitor. It is neither a PR stunt nor a poltical move. It is merely pro-Union, Nat-bashing and anti-Scottish journalists and politicians who are attempting to make it so.

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