Tuesday 14 July 2020


It may be a little known event outside the West Midlands, but today is Black Country Day.  The date recalls the inauguration of the regional flag on 14 July 2012.  Ahead of the event most of the region's MPs gathered for a photoshoot in Westminster, something that twelve months ago would have required significant more Labour involvement than it did this time around.  Prior to the general election Labour held eight of the thirteen seats, but were left with just three on December 13.

Warley's Labour MP John Spellar joined seven Tory MPs for the photoshoot, posing with a flag that one of his former colleagues dubbed 'racist' in 2017.

Black Country MPs pose with the regional flag, including Labour's John
Spellar (middle, left)

Every aspect of the Black Country flag symbolises the region's industrial past.  The black third represents the name for which the region is known, from the soot that is said to have blackened the sky.  The red third represents the sky at night, from the many burning furnaces.  The white cone shape that is formed in the centre of the flag represents the glass-making industry, while the chains represent another Black Country industry.  It was the chains that upset former Labour MP Eleanor Smith.

Smith represented Wolverhampton South-West for one brief term between 2017-19.  Just weeks after she was elected she slammed the local flag on Black Country Day itself and demanded that it be scrapped and redesigned in order to represent the region's multi-cultural communities.  Smith was not a Black Country native and saw the flag completely differently to everyone else, espousing views that would be perfectly at home in the Black Lives Matter cancel culture of 2020: "I have serious concerns about the racist connotations of the flag, particularly the fact that chains are being used to represent the Black Country.  The white on black imagery used together with the chains... when you break it down I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t worry me as a black person.  People have to understand that it can be seen as offensive".

Labour's Eleanor Smith

Smith continued her daft assault on the flag: "I understand the flag was designed by a young person, and I don’t for one minute think they realised its connotations.  I think it is time for an intelligent conversation about the flag.  I would look to have it changed.  Why can’t we have a flag that represents all of us united as a collective rainbow of people?  In my constituency there are 130 different languages spoken.  Let’s get a flag that actually says we are proud of where we come from".

Smith was roundly mocked by local people and she didn't garner any support from her Parliamentary colleagues who were only too happy to pose with the flag.  Perhaps it was no surprise that on December 12 her 2,185 majority was overturned as the Conservatives regained a seat they'd lost in 2015.

Labour MPs Ian Austin, Tom Watson, Pat McFadden and Adrian Bailey in
2017.  After the 2019 general election only McFadden remained in office.