All chavved up: The ultimate England fan mobile

Kitting his car and himself in England kit, Sean O'Grady wonders what St George's flag does to your reputation
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Well, what do you think? Is it really chavvy to support England in this way? Would you rather have the pre-op or post-op Honda Civic Hybrid parked in your street? Does flying the St George's Cross from your motor turn you into a racist bigot?

I think I can answer the last question most readily. With a name like mine, it doesn't come naturally to hate anyone who doesn't have the pure blood of an Anglo-Saxon coursing through their veins. I don't feel particularly nationalistic even when I've got three flags flying on the car plus the following bits and bobs: a Wayne Rooney bobble-head air freshener on the dash (my favourite piece), England steering wheel cover, England seat covers (front), St George's cross made into a rear seat cover, St George licence-disc holder, floor mats, drinks container, England sticker, Michael Owen key fob, mini-strip, sun visor and England badge air freshener. It even had an additional magnetic England badge on its bonnet. To complete the psychological experiment I donned an England strip, comedy wig, St George sunglasses and giant St George inflatable hand.

As to chavviness, I suppose it is true that some places display more England flags than others, and there appears to be some evidence to suggest that a preponderance of red-and-white tends to be found in poorer neighbourhoods than wealthier ones.

You're also more likely to see a St George's flag on a white van than on a Bentley. Nothing wrong with that, but it does go to show that we're never far away from the issue of class in this country. Then again, you will find Labour Cabinet ministers such as David Miliband hanging flags on official cars; prolier than thou, perhaps.

I suppose the way to really work out what you think about all this is to gauge your own reaction to the news that Tesco has banned England flags from its delivery vans. I thought it was a shame and a killjoy reaction, and now Tesco has relented and allowed its drivers their freedom. Some local authorities are sticking to their ban on flags on dustbin lorries, which I suppose might count as a bit of a bonus for St George.

Still, I have to ask myself whether I would feel happy driving through an ethnically mixed neighbourhood with St George's crosses flying? Given the way the racist BNP has tried to steal the Union Flag and the St George's Cross might that not offend some? Could an otherwise inoffensive (and green) Honda Civic Hybrid be an "in-your-face" weapon of racial aggression?

I would be upset if that were true. But the only way in which the Union Flag was taken back from the far right was when the moderates started flying it again, and it has, to some extent become once more a symbol of tolerance .

I doubt that the cross of St George can be reclaimed in quite the same way, as the last time it was a properly national flag the country was some way short of being a liberal democracy (pre-1707). It could, however, be a motif of a new England football tradition, if it could be as pacific and friendly as the old one was vicious and violent.

If only England fans could overcome their past reputation, the St George's flag, far from being a symbol of imperial arrogance, would be reborn as a badge of liberal pride. The only pity is that this Honda Civic is made in Japan (many are built in Swindon, too, however). What a pity we couldn't have chavved up a new MG....

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