The European Union (EU) flag has been flown from London’s City Hall for the first time, marking a change of policy by the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan. Critics have called the decision “extraordinary”.
Under the former Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, regular protocol was to have a British flag flying outside City Hall flanked by two ‘City Hall’ blue flags, one of which would occasionally be replaced by a national flag to mark state visits or to show solidarity in the event of a terrorist atrocity.
But today, one of the flagpoles is bedecked with the European flag of a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background, the blogger Guido Fawkes has reported.
Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, made it very clear during the race for City Hall that he backed remaining within the EU.
“All the main economic and security posts in Government agree it would be hugely damaging to London to leave Europe,” he said, accusing his main rival Zac Goldsmith of posing “a serious threat to Londoners’ jobs, livelihood and security,” by backing a Brexit.
Peter Whittle AM, the UKIP Group leader on the London Assembly said the decision to fly the flag was “extraordinary,” adding: “I was amazed today to discover that one of the first acts of Sadiq Khan has been to order the flying of the EU flag from City Hall. He just couldn’t wait to display where his true loyalties lie.”
He suggested that the English flag might be a better choice, keeping London in line with Cardiff and Edinburgh, which both sport the national flags of Wales and Scotland respectively outside the devolved parliaments.
“London is the capital of England and we know full well that the Scottish and Welsh flags fly from their capital cities. So why not England? Seems to me to be most inappropriate,” he said.
“Speaking of flags I would also note that since the abolition of the GLC in 1986, there has been no coat of arms or flag or other symbol created for Greater London other than the flag for City Hall. There is a flag and coat of arms for the City of London but not for Greater London.
“Perhaps there should be one and I would think that might be something we could open up to a competition of all Londoners to design so that we can fly a flag at City Hall all of London can rally behind.”
He added that if people want to ensure the EU flag never flies in front of City Hall again there is an easy way to do so: “and that is a Leave vote in the forthcoming EU Referendum.”
It comes less than a week after Khan flew the rainbow flag of the gay pride movement from the same flagpole to to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Invoking his personal experiences of hate crime, he said he could “not be more proud” to fly the rainbow flag.