St George's Day gets political online

An image of St George
Image caption Many different groups and places have staked a claim on St George, who was born in what is now the city of Lod in Israel

In the run up to an election, pretty much everything can get political, and today's celebration of the patron saint of England is no exception.

It's St George's Day and #ProudToBeEnglish is one of the top UK trends on Twitter - that hashtag plus the more straightforward #StGeorgesDay were used a total of more than 50,000 times on Thursday morning.

But this St George's Day happens to fall two weeks before the UK's General Election, ensuring that - more than ever - celebrations of the patron saint of England (and Georgia, and Ethiopia, and Montenegro, and Palestine, etc) often turned into arguments over politics.

UKIP is the party perhaps most identified with the day largely because of its proposal to make 23 April a bank holiday in England. The party highlighted the idea in several tweets which were shared hundreds of times. Scores of Facebook users declared their support for the holiday proposal in comments under a St George's Day message on Prime Minister David Cameron's Facebook page. Others did the same under Ed Miliband's St George's Day Facebook post and Nick Clegg's tweet marking the day (none of the three leaders have announced any intention to support the public holiday idea).

There was debate, too, over St George himself. One image, retweeted more than 1,000 times, showed a Facebook user answering back to a man who urged his followers to vote "against the anti white anti english mainstream" on St George's Day. The man then urged people to vote UKIP, though there's nothing to indicate he's a party official or member.

"St George epitomises the multicultural world we enjoy here in the UK, in Europe, and in much of the rest of the world," another Facebook user responded. "His shrine in Palestine is revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews."

Meanwhile #ProudToBeEnglish attracted a range of opinion as to whether English people should actually be, well, proud. "We live in the only country where #ProudToBeEnglish is classed as 'racist,'" tweeted ‏@Alex_Malyon. Others, including ‏@thomasahannan, were more sceptical: "I'm as #ProudToBeEnglish as I am to have an appendix. I didn't have anything to do with it and only think about it when it causes me grief".

No such angst was expressed by the leaders of nationalist parties outside England, however. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon wished: "A very happy St George's Day to family and friends in England" and similar sentiments were tweeted by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.

Blog by Mike Wendling

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