Senior council figures divided by Pride flag row

The Pride flag flies resplendently above the Westgate Towers

It is supposed to be a symbol of togetherness and unity.

But the decision to fly the Pride flag on the Westgate Towers ahead of this year’s festival has provoked a division between figures at the very top of local government in Canterbury.

Last night the city council’s communications department issued a statement in which chief executive Colin Carmichael officially apologised to anyone offended by the sight of the Pride flag alongside the Union Flag in a breach of protocol.

It follows a row which blew up in the days before the June 9 festival in the Dane John Gardens when a Canterbury woman called for the rainbow flag to be removed and replaced with the Union Flag which normally flutters from the 14th century gateway to the city.

Mr Carmichael’s comments sparked an instant reaction from council leader Simon Cook who defended the raising of the Pride flag.

Colin Carmichael, council chief exec

Writing on social media, the Conservative said: “Frankly it was the right thing to do and I’m glad we did it.”

The majority Conservative group made much of its sponsorship of Pride and counts a gay councillor as one its most prominent and influential members.

Cllr Cook also has the backing of Pride chairman and Canterbury Journal contributor Edd Withers.

He says the support the Conservatives had shown was “really appreciated”, adding that flying the flag was a “a nice symbolic way to show that the leaders of the local Conservatives are moving on from previous generations and showing new acceptance”.

In its statement the council pointed out that the flagpole atop the Towers is managed by The Pound which leases the building and that the district’s official pole is on the City Wall overlooking the Pin Hill section of the ring road.

The authority accepted that the issue of the Pride flag had “caused some discussion locally”. On the actual day of the festival the Pride flag had flown alongside the Union Flag which breached government protocol which states that just one flag should fly from a pole.

Mr Carmichael said: “The aim was to do a nice thing and celebrate two special events – the Queen’s official birthday and the wonderful Pride ​day in the city – and we advised our tenants this would be fine.

“But having subsequently checked, we accept this did not adhere to flag flying protocol and apologise to anyone who was offended.”

The council is applying for planning permission for a new flagpole in the Dane John Gardens near the Boer War memorial.

If granted, this would be used to fly flags on days such as Armed Forces Day, Pride Canterbury and for other occasions.


  1. I believe that in the first instance Coin Carmichael acted in good faith when he agreed that the Rainbow flag could be flown alongside the Union Flag. When he discovered that do so offended established protocol then he quite rightly withdrew permission which, in my judgement was the right thing to do. Am I not right in thinking that Pride is an organisation established to celebrate the differences in sexual orientation that makes up modern day society or am I missing something? I understand that it is completely apolitical, so why are the various political parties in Canterbury becoming so hot under the collar with regard to the degree of support that each is giving to Pride. There is, undoubtedly a high percentage of the electorate who do not support Pride nor do they necessarily support it. But they believe that if a minority wish to celebrate the fact that they enjoy different sexual orientations then they should be accepted as an integral part of society and allowed to get on with their lives. That does not give licence to our political leaders squabling over which party is giving the most support to Pride. The many ills of Canterbury cry out for our local politicians to address the problems of the electorate so why don’t they just get on with it.

  2. I’ve no desire to enter the political fray of who does/doesn’t support any kind of minority group, or in this instance, a happy band of them. That there is general comfort with the concept is good enough for me. On the apparently vexing vexillological question of whether flags should have been flown and how, I think the compromise worked well. When I walked down the High Street, the rainbow flag was flying below the Union Flag on the same staff. This is known as double-flagging and the rules state that the senior flag must be uppermost. Well, in the UK, the Union Flag is senior in precedence to all other flags, with the exception of Royal Standard. No politics required on this one. By luck, judgment, or a quick squint at the jolly old interwebthingy, whoever decided that double-flagging was a good way around a perceived problem got it 100% right. Well done!
    Nuff said!

  3. Saying that ‘senior council figures’ are ‘divided’ on the matter looks like rather a forced interpretation. The report itself belies that interpretation.


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