Campaign: Lambeth proudly raises the flag of St George

In the run-up to the World Cup, the London Borough of Lambeth decided to fly the St George's flag on its town-hall roof in Brixton.

Campaign Lambeth Flies the St George's Flag
Client London Borough of Lambeth
PR team In-house
Timescale June-July 2006
Budget Undisclosed

Displaying the flag was intended to be a show of unity with the majority of the community, who were displaying their support for the England football team with flags on cars, houses and business property.

The council also wanted to ‘reclaim' the flag from groups such as the BNP, an issue about which it feels strongly because of the fact that Lambeth is one of the capital's most culturally diverse boroughs.

To represent Lambeth as a council aligned with residents. To position the local authority as a forward-thinking and open organisation that is not po-faced about political correctness.

Strategy and Plan
Having endured some bruising headlines in 2005 for renaming its tradit­ional Christmas lights ‘winter lights', the council used the flying of the St George's cross as a light-hearted photo opportunity for local press.

The image was backed with a press release underlining the council's backing for the England squad as a ‘symbol of a multi-cultural and multi-racial Britain'. However, comments from the council's deputy leader Jackie Meldrum about reclaiming St George's flag from far-right groups prompted a number of racist emails, one of which made threats to Meldrum's family and was passed on to the police.

This gave the PR team a second bite of the media cherry and enabled the council to issue a defiant message about not bowing to bullying racists. When England's tournament came to an end, the council took down its flag.

Measurement and Evaluation
As Meldrum was subsequently out of the country following the launch of the campaign, councillor Donatus Anyanwu took part in a phone-in discussion on BBC London's Vanessa Feltz show on Lambeth's decision to openly support the England team.

The South London Press and Streatham Guardian also covered the campaign and the reaction.

Former Streatham Guardian reporter Adrian Kajumba says the campaign was topical for readers as many of the nationals were running pieces about taxi drivers in other parts of the country being banned from displaying the St George's flag.

‘It was a good contrast for us and a good way for the council to show that it was not bowing to the extremes of political correctness,' he says. ‘Lambeth is a diverse population, but England were in the World Cup, so I don't think the majority of people had a problem with the council flying the flag.'

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