At a time when people are competing for the most impressive backdrop for Zoom meetings and interviews, some Conservative MPs have taken to using loud and flamboyant displays of patriotism to liven up their living rooms.
The tactic certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, as last week’s story about housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s efforts demonstrates.
Concluding an interview with the politician, BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt sarcastically said: “I don’t think your flag is not up to standard size, government interview measurements. I think it’s just a little bit small, but that’s your department, really.”
“Always a flag,” his co-host, Naga Munchetty, later added.
The comments have since sparked a fierce debate online about whether the joke was necessary, with people expressing anger at Stayt’s critique of the flag.
Personally, we’re not angry, we’re just disappointed.
Simply put, we think we can give the BBC a run for their money. So we’ve ranked Tory MPs’ flags from best to worst - mostly so that you don’t have to.
1. Grant Shapps MP
Transport secretary Grant Shapps went for a unique approach during an interview with BBC Breakfast in September last year, when he decided to display something different to the usual Union Jack deployed by fellow Tories.
Complete with a dark blue cross, with light blue squares, viewers could easily spot the difference, and soon speculated on what the flag denotes.
Shapps himself later confirmed that the flag was the British Civil Air Ensign, which is one of the two flags he has to hand for these interviews, apparently.
Brave and not afraid to break the mould, Shapps’ contribution to the flag contest got the nation talking.
2. Dehenna Davison MP
Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison is one of Parliament’s newest members, having been elected in the general election in December 2019. As a novice MP, she has certainly brought some pizazz to the Commons in the form of her flag display.
Showing off her Union Jack on Twitter last year, and more recently during the debate on the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill earlier this week, the backdrop was perfectly described by a friend as “cottagecore patriotism”.
Davison is to be commended for bringing some modern, wholesome vibes to something as historic and contentious as our country’s flag, and she’ll get bonus points for her efforts.
Yet that still doesn’t stop the design from looking more Folklore than common law.
3. Matt Hancock MP
Of course, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has made countless media appearances getting the Government’s key messages out there.
Shortly after he announced that face masks would become mandatory in shops from 24 July, he sat down with ITV’s Lorraine Kelly to discuss the policy - complete with a giant, multicoloured piece of artwork of the Queen behind him, and a flagpole next to it on the left.
While the two objects complement each other well, the towering illustration of the monarch overshadows the Union Jack, which is on an otherwise impressive flagpole – as she should, some might say.
The backdrop is packed full of colour and is certainly eye-catching, without a doubt, yet it is perhaps ironic that the two items are on the Left. The right side of the frame is completely lifeless and makes the whole shot feel rather disjointed. A strong effort, but it needs more.
4. Priti Patel MP
In the same interview with LBC, which saw her describe the Black Lives Matter protests as “dreadful”, Priti Patel, the home secretary, chose to deploy a risky double whammy when it came to the use of the Union flag.
Straight away, she gets points for bringing a bit of vibrancy into a department as controversial and heavily criticised as the Home Office, and the framing is impressive, placing her head right in the middle of the two flags.
The big issue, however, is that after staring at images of the correct way to hang the Union Jack on the flagpole until all I could think about was tea and crumpets, I’m convinced that the flag on the left appears to be the wrong way round.
We can’t say for certain, of course, unless the home secretary wants to set the record straight. Until then, we’re giving her a 4/10.
5. Nadhim Zahawi MP
Back when Piers Morgan was dominating breakfast TV on Good Morning Britain, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi was challenged on PPE shortages and shown images of hospital staff using bin liners to protect themselves from the deadly coronavirus.
Calling in live from central London, Zahawi had a rather unflattering backdrop of a green curtain (which didn’t go well at all with his light blue collared shirt) and his Union Jack dangling on the right. The set-up is just like a Boris Johnson press conference: pale and dull, without any vibrancy.
It’s as much a colour co-ordination disaster as it is underwhelming.
6. Kwasi Kwarteng MP
In a late submission to the contest, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, appeared on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday to talk about safe travel during the ongoing pandemic, with a flag that’s barely in shot at all.
Clearly taking a leaf out of Hancock’s book, Kwarteng’s backdrop is mostly a plain, white wall, offering little in terms of excitement or intrigue.
Some buntings would have worked a treat.
7. Robert Jenrick MP
For what it’s worth, Stayt was right in his criticism of Jenrick’s flag efforts earlier this week, not least with regards to its size.
The comments were made during an interview about the current rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, and as Jenrick chatted away about the immunisation programme, the Union Jack appears a little small and neglected in the background, distant like the end of lockdown itself.
Jenrick later went on to fire back at the criticism on Twitter, saying: “We’re always proud to fly the Union Flag at [the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government]. It’s a symbol of liberty and freedom that binds the whole country together”. The post is accompanied with a new photo of the flag and the photo of the Queen from a much better – and tighter – angle.
I would give it more marks if that was what’s being judged, but that’s not the backdrop being judged here.
A minimal effort to create a patriotic background, and a follow-up attempt to rectify it, means this particular look gets a 2/10.
While some may appreciate the creativity that goes into a good interview or Zoom background, it could well be that the flags are no more when the pandemic is over, and there’s no need to make your house look as interesting as possible.