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Leaders to be consulted ahead of flag decisions

Controversy: The raising of the flag and, below, councillor Julie Buttle

Controversy: The raising of the flag and, below, councillor Julie Buttle

Political leaders will be consulted before any decisions are made to fly flags above Preston Town Hall, it has been agreed.

In a heated meeting of city councillors, the Labour Group defended their decision to fly the Palestinian flag.

A notice of motion, submitted by the Conservatives’ deputy leader, was amended to remove references to an “embarrassing reversal of the decision”, but it was agreed that group leaders would be consulted before flags are flown.

Addressing the meeting, Coun Julie Buttle said: “The purpose (of the notice of motion) is to recognise there are alternative views and opinions, and it calls for procedures to be amended to ensure these views are at least listened to before a decision of this nature is made again.”

However, the original document was amended by Labour leaders to change a reference to “deciding to publicly support one side of an emotive and difficult conflict”.

It said instead: “The city council strongly supports the actions taken by the executive member in agreeing to the display of the Palestinian flag (...) in solidarity with people suffering and dying in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for community and environment, said: “We are doing this in the name of humanity. Who is right and who is wrong did not inform this decision.”

Labour Coun Elizabeth Atkins said: “I just feel I can’t let this carry on any longer without standing up and saying it was me, it was my original idea. I didn’t know it would take on the scale it did. All I can say is it was an entirely humanitarian impulse that drew me.

“It was a parental impulse – I’m a mother – and I couldn’t stand any longer watching the carnage on television.”

The group had been accused of “taking sides”, but Coun Atkins said: “In the Second World War in some quarters it was public knowledge the Jews were being herded like cattle and gassed. Some people knew about this and didn’t say anything. The majority of people only found out after the war.

“However symbolic flying the flag was, if that’s all you can do, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye. I think sometimes you have a duty to do what we do, no matter what fuss it makes.”

 

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