A divided Britain is not new. So why do today’s schisms seem intractable? | Kenan Malik

Once, divisions were more clearly embedded in politics. Now they can appear arbitrary

A few years ago, we stayed in a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. One night, we went for a drink in the local. It was plastered inside and out with union jacks. The moment I saw the flags, the hairs on my neck stood up. Anyone black or Asian who had grown up in 70s and 80s Britain would probably have felt the same. The union jack in those days was a sign, meaning: “Beware, fascists around”.

Littondale in the 2010s is, of course, a very different place from east London in the 1980s and the meaning of the union jack very different too. The pub was welcoming and friendly and we returned there more than once. And yet I know that the next time I see a pub plastered with union jacks, the hairs of my neck once more will stand up.

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